Today I did something different

standard April 4, 2019 Leave a response
Photo by Clever Visuals on Unsplash

In 2012 my father had a double lung transplant from which he never really recovered. He passed away less than three years later after spending most of those years in and out of the ICU.

A few months after my dad passed away, we discovered that my mother had a form of frontal lobe dementia. Some weird rapid progressing type. 6 months or so later, we discovered that she had metastatic breast cancer. Terminal, metastatic breast cancer, as if there’s any other kind.

So, in short, and not to be crass or cold about it, for the last seven years, I’ve had a parent who was dying. Which is horrible, and sad, and all the things that you’re supposed to feel, but also absolutely utterly exhausting. Because of all the waiting for bad news, waiting for “the” call, waiting for grief to start even though you’re already grieving.

I could go into all the crazy mixed-up feelings I have about all of this, but you don’t want that, trust me, and frankly, I don’t want to, which, in a round-about way, brings us somewhat to the point of today’s post.

For those last 7 years, longer really if we also take in the disastrous experience that 2011 was, I have used books as a solid form of escape.

Because, duh, books. Other people’s lives, other people’s problems, other people dealing with them. The ultimate escape. Especially when they so kindly wrap things up neatly in the last three chapters leaving you feeling like some things DO have nice tidy resolutions.

Only I’ve taken it further. Way way further. I fell HARD into the bottomless pit of magical fantasy. Werewolves, vampires, witches, warlocks, magicals, faeries…you name it, if it was the focus of a book, preferably a very long rambling series, I dove in headfirst.

Because you know what’s even better than escaping into someone else’s scripted reality? Escaping into a reality that in no way at ALL could possibly ever resemble mine and therefore force me to confront any of the zillion complicated feelings that I so desperately don’t want to feel or even acknowledge. (Oh, how glad I am my therapist doesn’t read my blog or I know exactly where our session would be starting next week…)

Oh, you’re a witch given up at birth because your parents knew how magically strong you were and wanted to protect you from the evil magical council overlords? Sign. Me. Up.

A werewolf pack with an unusual pack member? Tell me more!

Evil heartless fairy discovers he has a heart? Please go on…this has potential!

Vaguely interesting sounding series about a vampire boarding school that has 25 books in the series. OMG, could there be anything more perfect?

And then last night I finished a book in a series (Demi-God meets super strong magical abandoned at the age of 3 if you must know) and I found myself opening a realistic fiction novel.

Picking up a realistic fiction novel feels momentous to me. Like I’m finally ready to crawl out of my safe little cave and face the world and possibly my own feelings.

This novel is about a woman whose husband walked out on her and their kids and has just reappeared in their lives. So not too relatable for me, but it’s a start because the focus of the book is on how she spends her summer rediscovering herself and, frankly, that’s what it feels I’ve been doing since we moved last July.

Beyond just hiding from my feelings, I’ve spent the last two years putting off “figure out who post-40 Jessica really is,” figuring that I’d better get through the process of grieving my mother before I even bothered. Because, remember, I’ve already done the dead parent thing and I know first hand that grief is this unwieldy monster that can’t be tamed and must rather be endured or rather waited out. Back in 2015, grief took over my life and stole months of it away and I just know that’s what my not-so-distant future holds for me.

But sometime in the last couple months I realized that I’ve spent the last seven years waiting for grief to wallop me upside the head and derail my life. And, to be fair, it did for a while, but then I just went right back to waiting for it to do it all over again.

Seven. Years. 1/6th of my life. Putting me on hold because big bad things were coming.

I can’t do it any more.

‘Taking back my life’ is a process that is starting small. I’ve started investing in my physical health. Paying for a fat loss plan that’s actually working, partly because I’ve stopped being defeatist about my weight and partly because the plan is awesome*. (If you follow me on Instagram you can enjoy my endless gushing and raving about it.) Paying for a yoga studio membership, because spending a couple hours each week breathing deeply and actually being in my physical body rather than my mind is good for me in every way possible.

I’m not sure what comes after that. Reading more realistic fiction and less fantasy fiction for sure. Possibly diving into the edits of the last two NaNo Novels I wrote. Maybe, gasp, figuring out what I would do if I ever granted myself time “off” from homeschooling, working, parenting and running a household (I’m open to any and all suggestions!).

I remember once hearing a joke about a guy who lived in an apartment. The guy who lived right above him and the terrible habit of coming home late at night and stomping into his room where he would take off his heavy work-boots and drop them on the floor. Every night, the neighbor below would bitch and moan about jolted awake by the loud THUDS and, in the morning would go upstairs to complain loudly to the offender.
Then, one night, the upstairs guy came home and clomped his way to his room, took off one boot, dropped it, and suddenly remembered to put the other boot down gently. Three hours later he was jerked awake by a loud pounding on his door. As soon as he opened it, the downstairs neighbor yelled “OH MY GOD, JUST DROP THE SECOND BOOT I CAN’T STAND THE SUSPENSE ANY LONGER!”

I’m tired of being tired, tired of waiting and putting my life on hold while I brace myself for the news I know is coming. My mother is still dying. She could pass away tomorrow or in six months. No one knows. Her doctors are frankly baffled that she’s still alive. That call is coming whether I brace myself for it or not. I might as well live my life instead of keeping it on ice while I wait.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click it then sign up for the FASTer Way to Fat Loss, I will receive a small commission. That commission will in no way impact the amount you will be paying.

2018: Your word is Intention

standard January 2, 2018 Leave a response

Intention is my word for 2018

Two years ago, still reeling from my father’s death and trying to put my life back together, I opted to give myself a break from choosing a single word to strive for during the year. That break stretched into the next year without me even noticing.

This year my word came to me as I was flying home from visiting my terminally ill mother. The trip to and from her house is pretty much endless. First you have to get to the airport. Then you take a first flight to somewhere in Europe. (My personal preference is to fly into Iceland. Because WOW is incredibly affordable.) Then you take a second flight to Paris. There you rent a car and drive the 2.5/3 hours to my mother’s house in the middle of nowhere France. It takes about a day and a half to go from door to door. The trip back is even worse because, thanks to the 9 hour time difference, you cram the whole trip into one simply endless day.

In short, all of that traveling leaves ample time for some deep, deep reflection. And watching a LOT of movies. Like a lot. Do you know how many movies you can watch in a 9 hour flight? It’s a lot.

So there I was, on my way home after spending a very peaceful five days with my mother and her husband, trying to pinpoint what had made that trip so much more pleasant than the last two I had taken to visit them. The location was the same. Her health was no better than it had been the last time I’d been to visit. If anything, it was way worse. Her mental decline over the last 6 months has been devastating, to say the least. I had no sisters or husband or kids to help buffer and distract from the illness that is rapidly stealing my mother away. And yet, I was flying home feeling oddly at peace.

In between movies, I came to a startling conclusion.

The difference? Intent.

I headed to France with the sole intent to spend a few quality moments with my mother. I didn’t go with the hope of fixing anything, or having a wonderful week, or even having deep meaningful conversations with anyone. Instead, I went with a totally open heart, intent on noticing the little good moments amongst the big sad scary stuff.

And I was rewarded. My mother and I spent long afternoons in the car, driving around neighboring towns. Her speech is confused and usually makes little to no sense, but I followed her instructions without worrying about the destination. Each day I was rewarded. One day she navigated me to a butcher. Another to a grocery store. The last to a yarn store because she had noticed me knitting the night before. We had a couple laughs and just enjoyed being together.

I didn’t try to hold on to the moments or control them. I just let myself enjoy them as had been my intent upon arrival.

As the miles between my mother and I stretched further and further apart, I thought about how I can’t actually control anything in my life. I can’t control other people’s health, my daughter’s anxiety, what jobs I get offered, or how my life generally flows.  What I can control is the intention that I bring into situations.

I can be intentional about the jobs and invitations I accept or reject. I can be intentional about doing things that make me happy. And I can be intentional about how go into challenging situations.

For years I’ve needed to just go with the flow and let the river of life take me where it wanted to meander. I’m excited to see how bringing a little intent to the mix changes things for me this year.

What's your word for 2018

*****

Did you get everything you wanted this holiday season?

No? Well, then, maybe it’s time to treat yourself to something special.

A WOW Air Review – Get the Lowdown

standard April 20, 2017 1 response

Please note: I am writing this WOW Air Review of my own volition after having experienced WOW Air at my own expense. 

WOW Air Review

A few weeks ago I got a call from my sister at 7 am that had me sitting at my computer 5 minutes later googling flights to Paris. From San Francisco. Leaving that morning.

Crazy, right?

Well, turns out, not so much. In fact, that’s how my love affair with WOW Air began.

I hadn’t even heard about Wow until that day. And yet, moments later I was booking a flight and getting ready to pack my bags.

Cost of the round-trip flight? Just under $500.

That’s right. I booked a transatlantic flight three hours before take-off and paid less than $500.

I have to admit that I didn’t waste much time questioning my luck. I booked, and hustled. In less than three hours I had to make childcare plans, prep school lunches, and pack a bag. It wasn’t until I was sitting at the gate that I paused to wonder if I’d gotten myself into a situation I was going to regret.

It’s one thing to fly a cut-rate airline when you’re going just a state or two away. It’s a whole other ballpark when you’re going to be traveling to the other side of the world and it’s going to take the better part of two days. That said, I didn’t exactly have a choice. Time was of the essence and I really didn’t relish the thought of shelling out $2k to fly a more “traditional” airline.

Turns out, I worried for nothing. Suffice it to say, I was so delighted with my WOW Air experience that I have since taken my whole family back to France with meWOW Air flights all the way!

I heard from a friend yesterday that it was hard to find a legitimate WOW Air review, so I’m sharing my experience with you all in case you’re intrigued by these ridiculously low prices and are worried you’ll be flapping your arms all the way to Europe.

The WOW Air Review: what to expect when flying WOW Air

1 – You get what you pay for

Everything on WOW Air has a price, from whether you can choose your seats to how much luggage you can bring with you. The price you see is the bare bottom price. Seat + personal item (aka purse or backpack). You can pay for each carry-on or suitcase, or you can “upgrade” to the other two fare levels (Plus or Biz to include the price of luggage etc.)  The four of us just flew to Paris and I purchased two “basic” seats and two “pro” seats so that we could bring two suitcases and two carry-on bags. It was perfect. (I did have to purchase my tickets in two different orders because I couldn’t select two different price points. I have a feeling this is a glitch that will be eventually addressed.)

You can purchase food and beverages on board for about the same price as on every other flight. (Pizza or sandwich for about $9.) Food was very adequate. Nothing is free. Not even water. They take all major credit cards. No cash.

2 – No TV screens or music

WOW Air is pretty minimalist, so no screens on the backs of the seats or music playing from your armrest. That said, you can rent iPad minis on board that come pre-loaded with a bunch of movies and games for $16. Considering the fact that on other airlines you sometimes have to pay $8/movie, it’s a deal and a half. Good movies too. With a few that are kid appropriate. Oddly enough, they seem to be partial to Benedict Cumberbatch movies, but who isn’t?

So far all WOW Air planes I have flown have had outlets at each seat, so no worries about running out of juice.

3 – Great staff

So far I have been delighted with the WOW Air staff, both at the airport and on the planes. They’re helpful, gracious, and polite. Way more so than some airlines I won’t mention. Plus, they wear uniforms that hail from the 1950’s and it’s beyond charming.

4 – They don’t mess around with carry-on luggage size

Every bag is carefully assessed when you’re checking in. Small “personal” items are tagged to go under the seat. Bigger items for the overhead compartment can be paid for, but must also meet weight and size restrictions. You will not be able to skate. If your bag doesn’t fit the bag sizer it will not go on with you. End of story. If your back-pack is too big, they will charge you. There’s something kind of nice about this no-nonsense approach to the whole thing. Maybe it’s my European blood, but I like a good rule enforcement.

5 – No boarding groups or such shenanigans

WOW Air boards planes on a first come first serve basis. (Except for families and people with special needs who are invited to board first.) They start boarding almost an hour before the flight takes off and, because they’re so strict about the carry-on situation there’s none of the usual overhead luggage drama that can sometimes make boarding so damn stressful.

6 – No first class – everyone in the same boat…er…plane

WOW Air considers all customers to be equal. So, good news, you can totally use the bathroom at the front of the plane! Need a bigger seat? You guessed it, you can buy one. Want to sit closer to the front of the plane? That’s right, you can buy that too.  Need extra leg room? Need I say it? Seat options can be found here.

7 – Iceland? Yes.

Every WOW Air flight lays-over in Reykjavík, Iceland. The Keflavík International Airport is small and somewhat reminiscent of a freshly built Ikea. There are limited options for food, but you can definitely find a couple sandwich options. There’s also a well stocked Duty Free store where you can purchase some Icelandic knits and stuffed puffins along with your booze and chocolates.

 

So, to recap, WOW Air is a minimalist airline that believes in only making people pay for exactly what they want. The seats aren’t overly plush, the offerings aren’t overly abundant, but for an incredibly reasonable price, you can fly to and from Europe quite comfortably.

Would I fly WOW Air again? I already have and am planning on doing so again soon.

Would I recommend WOW Air to a friend? Already have. And now I’m recommending it to you.

WOW Air Review

Please note: I was in no way compensated for this review. I am writing this of my own volition after having experienced WOW Air at my own expense. 

 

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Celebrate the Successes

standard January 6, 2017 Leave a response

There is a sign that lives above my desk that reads “Celebrate the Successes.” It’s something my sister once told me as I related to her how I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy and stagnation. About how life sometimes just feels so hard and how everything feels like just one long series of failures.

We had that conversation long ago, maybe last year, maybe the year before. I can’t remember, but the paper the sign is printed on is pretty tattered, so it certainly wasn’t recently.

And yet, today I need it more than ever.

Because life is hard, yo. It’s a constant struggle. And, yes, it still feels like one long series of failures.

I was going to come here to whine about just how hard it all is and how low I feel right now, but then the sign caught my eyes and I realized that maybe, just maybe what I need today is a moment celebrating the successes instead of going over the list of failures one more time.

  • I have work. I even enjoy some of it.
  • I’m successfully working from home.
  • The kids are having great years.
  • I’ve started working on a new novel.
  • I’m making time to make more family meals.
  • I’m making more time to walk and take care of myself.
  • I’ve cultivated and nurtured some amazing friendships.

When I stop to think about the successes in my life, both big and little, it’s like a weight lifts from my shoulders and the dark clouds over my head get a little less heavy.

It’s been a rough few weeks. So much angst and worry and sadness. So many burdens to shoulder. I know I’m not the only one struggling this month. I see it all over Facebook and among my friends. January is hard. Brutally, unapologetically hard. It’s good to stop and remember that finding a little light to make the darkness more bearable is within our reach.

The other day when I was organizing my office, I moved the signs on my wall around. I think I need to move this one sign back to where I can see it easily so I keep reminding myself that success lies everywhere and it’s up to me to look for it.

Celebrate the Successes