Archive of ‘Bear’ category

JUMP

My husband has this uncanny ability to face fear right in the face and march right through it.
I have an uncanny ability to cry during This is Us.

When he decided to open his own business a year and a half ago, I decided it would be my job to help him. I worked tirelessly, day and night, for weeks getting his licenses and insurance policies and payroll set up. The problem was that I hadn’t ever done anything like this before, so not only was I incredibly stressed out, I was terrified.

Terr. I. Fied.
Three words.

If what Bear was doing, starting this business, didn’t work…there was no safety net. There was no back-up plan. There was absolutely nothing guaranteeing that I was doing any of this right or that it would work.
My stress levels got so high that I literally lost my hair. A third of my hair.

And every time I looked at him, sitting over on the couch with a movie playing and his laptop in his lap, I felt incredibly resentful. He didn’t look scared. He didn’t look stressed. He didn’t even look tired. And I couldn’t understand why I was the ONLY ONE freaking out…

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t even look like he’s going to make it…

Now, as I embark on my OWN major risk-taking experiences for the first time in my entire life, I can look back and see what he was doing. He was doing what every great guru and business coach says to do: he created a vision, made a plan, and executed without acknowledging the possibility of failure. Because he simply didn’t need to deal with failure until he’d failed. And nothing, yet, was failing. He grew faster than people suggested he should, not to prove them wrong (though that his a great motivator), but because he knew exactly what he was doing. He envisioned all of it long before it happened, so while we were all feeling surprised and rushed, he’d had it all planned out well in advance.
Granted, my husband’s brain is very, very, very different from mine. I think about steps. Linear steps. I think about the map, the order of operations, and all the possible outcomes. He thinks about all of that and more, all at the same time, with attachment to none of it. So I am most definitely not comparing the two of us. But what I am starting to realize is that making moves, any moves, leads to massive chain reactions. Making no moves leads to a very safe, predictable life. And that can be nice. But if my 10-years-in-the-future self looked at me right now and told me either to move or stay put, what do you think she would say? And how disappointed do you think she would be if I chose to stay in the same place and put the pressure on her to make the moves?

I don’t like change. I don’t like instability. I don’t like not knowing whether or not something is going to work. But as Mike Dooley says, when you put a new address into a GPS and you start driving, you literally don’t know if it worked until you arrive at your final destination, and not a moment sooner.

I have a few opportunities in 2018. One of them is to publish my first book with Hay House publishing (which will happen). There are others, too. And so I’m trying to be like my husband: see the vision, make the plan, and execute without paying much attention to the end results until I get there. I get waves of deep-stomach anxiety a few times a day. I feel angry that I’m even being given these opportunities because it means I have to grow out of my comfort zone (and I like it in here). But guess what? This all fell in my lap. It landed and I can literally choose to move it over and walk away if I want to. And I want to. But the truest part of me want to see what happens. So I’ll keep moving and it if all goes to shit, I’ll start a GoFundMe for my mortgage.

A Deep Tuesday Blog

My husband told me the other day that we become completely different people every 5 years; meaning that if you look back at who you were 5 years ago, it’s almost not even recognizable as your life.
He’s totally right.
I got to thinking about who I was 5 years ago…

Blissfully ignorant.
People pleasing.
Kind of self-righteous.
Feeling a rumble of dissatisfaction and ignoring it.
Scrappy.
Confused.
Yearning.
Restless.

…to name a few.

We pride ourselves on being reliable and loyal without really being honest about what has to CHANGE in order to remain reliable and loyal. I desperately sought people who would remain loyal to me five years ago, assuming that once I’d “nabbed” them, they’d stay.
Hardly anyone stayed.
We love to be able to say, “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” Except that who we are inevitably gets different. We don’t mean to be different. I used to be proud to be me until I started realizing how often “me” changed, and then I got very nervous being me.
I even held “me” in place to try and maintain the illusion of sameness.
We love to stand for things and have opinions. I don’t know about you, but in the last 5 years my opinions about a LOT of things have changed. I mean, I COMPLETELY understand why don’t want to just let your child stay up late “just this once” now. The more I see, the more I understand the sheer number of facets that make up any one human being (and that I don’t have to like all of them to be their friend).
My opinions are more wishy-washy than every before. And I’m a lot more forgiving.
Like 1000% more.

I’m stronger, physically.
I’m stronger, emotionally.
I listen (a little bit) more.
I have a harder time relaxing.
I’m a way better mom.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I like everything about my 5-years-ago self because “she brought me to who I am today” and blah blah blah. There’s a lot about that woman that I am glad is gone. I never want to rely that heavily on other people for my own happiness again. I don’t allow people to use me or to tell me what’s right and wrong for me anymore, either. And I won’t give up so easily anymore, either. She ran and hid when things got hard and I’m not going to do that anymore.
I do miss some stuff about her. That blissful ignorance stuff was nice. And her skin was so much tighter around the jawline…

I like most of my differences. I’m not a fan of getting older and I don’t love how some of what I now know leaves me jaded. But I’m definitely growing in a better direction and with more clearly defined goals.

Think about you 5 years ago, the week before Thanksgiving. What were you doing? Were you happy? Happier than you are now? Were you living in pain or in fear?
What’s different? And are you happy about the differences?

That’s a deep Tuesday blog for ya…

No More Excuses

If you didn’t read last night’s blog, might I suggest you click here and read it…

I didn’t look over the email from Trina. I avoided it like the plague. Publishing my book now was too much, too fast. Unfortunately, though, I forgot to program Trina’s number into my phone, so when she called again a few days later, I accidentally picked up…

“Erin? Hey, It’s Trina! Did you get a chance to go over that email?”
“Yeah, hey Trina! I did!”

I hadn’t. I lied.

“Great! Are you ready to do this?”
“Welp, here’s the thing, Trina…” Somewhere between my fear and being completely uninformed (because I hadn’t read the email), I decided it would be a good idea to get really bitchy. “I understand you say you ‘want my book’, but I also understand you want me to pay to publish it. The whole point of the authors’ workshop was the opportunity to be given an advance and be PAID to write and publish my book. It’s feeling very sinister the fact that I paid all this money to go to a workshop and now you’re calling me and asking me for more money.”
It was quiet for almost 5 minutes, or possibly 7 seconds, before Trina replied…
“Listen, Erin. I’m from New York. You want me to shoot straight? I’ll shoot straight. If you send your book proposal to a publisher, it’ll get thrown away. If an agent sends your book to a publisher, you’ve got a 1 in 3,000 shot of getting published and a 1 in 1,000 of even landing that agent in the first place….
The writers’ workshop participants have the option to participate in a contest to get published without an agent. There were 300 people in the workshop. A third of them will actually finish their book proposals. So that’s a 1 in 100 shot next April, after which it will take 2 years before your book is even available and you have no creative control of any of it.
Publishing your own book through Hay House means we’ll edit and design your book the way you envisioned it. It means you own the rights forever and it means you get to decide when to publish. And, as you read in my email, I’m offering you a huge discount because I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I know a Hay House book when I see one.”

Oh. Super-should have read that email.

“The book isn’t ready yet, Trina,” I said.
“That’s fine. But I’m not offering you this discount forever. If you wait until the contest in April and you aren’t chosen, I’m not offering you a discount to publish then. I’m offering it now. And if you win the contest in April? Then that’s just a cherry on top. You can still go that route because you still own your book.”

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work in the publishing world. I used to TELL people those stats and figures. I used to explain to them why it’s so important they own the rights to their books and how publishing on your own doesn’t mean selling your books out of your car. The irony is that I already knew everything Trina told me. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I didn’t want to know it. Maybe I was terrified that it’s finally time to apply everything I know.

Trina interrupted my train of thought. “Erin, I’m going to get your book into every book retailer in the world. I’m going to have press releases sent to over 70 outlets when your book is ready. I’m going to get you on radio shows and TV shows and while I can’t guarantee any of this will make a difference in your life, it sure could. Why don’t you take the weekend to think about it and I’ll call you on Monday?”
“Ok, Trina. Thanks.”

I hung up the phone feeling really stupid.

I’ve prayed to finish my book, get it published, and speak on the topics therein. I’ve prayed for years that my writing would finally be my job. The chance for all that to happen was just on the phone and I couldn’t possibly believe that it was really meant for me.

The weekend came and went really quickly and my anxiety chilled out quite a bit, especially once I finally read Trina’s email. She was offering me a really huge opportunity…she wasn’t lying. Bear, of course, said do it. “Do it!” he said. “Let’s do this! You were born for this!” Isn’t it funny how we can pray and pray for something, and when the path eventually reveals itself, we don’t immediately jump on it and run?! We’ve lived in the “it’ll never happen” for so long that it’s hard to believe it when it actually does.

That Monday morning, I called Trina before she could call me. In her fact-based tone, with a twinkle of a smile, she asked, “Erin? You ready to do this?”
“Yeah, Trina. I’m ready.”

On Tuesday I signed the contract. And on Wednesday I started writing my book again. A book I hope to have completed by the end of the year. I am officially an author with a publishing contract and a book about to be born. I’m pregnant, kinda.

I’ve been writing this blog for almost 10 years under various domain names. I’ve been writing since I was 15. I absolutely love nothing more than to sit down with a pen and paper or a laptop and write. I want it to be my work. I want it to be my career. And I want it to change my life the way I know it can.

I think it might be starting right now…

 

Those Neighbors

If you followed along with me on FB, you know I was lucky enough to buy a beautiful home in 2015 AND to meet our incredible neighbors up and down our cul-de-sac street within days of moving in.
You also know that our next door neighbors are…Those Neighbors. Everyone has those neighbors. The ones who do weird stuff like leave desks on the front lawn for weeks at a time or never mow their lawns in lieu of leaving desks on the front lawn for weeks at a time…
These particular Those Neighbors failed to removed a giant, 60′ oak tree prior to the hurricane season here in Florida and when Hurricane Irma came barreling through, she took out the tree and all the power lines as well. Those Neighbors did NOTHING to help the entire neighborhood cut apart and remove the tree (which we did over the course of 3 hours the day after Irma hit) except take pictures. THEY TOOK PICTURES. The massive, gnarly tree stump with shards of tree still attached remains angrily perched in the ground to this day, just as it did over a month ago. Because they’ve done nothing to remove it.

Anyway. Bear was out of town for a job Monday night. He’s out of town a lot, so I did my normal evening routine of locking doors and windows and pushing chairs in front of doors and leaving legos on the floors in front of the windows. (You do this too, right?)
Now, I don’t like to brag, but I typically go to bed at 9:30. While many people function on 6 hours of sleep, I typically function best at 10 hours of sleep, though I usually end up getting around 9 hours.
So at 9:30 I got into bed and turned on a podcast and began to drift off into dreamland, both dogs on the bed with me in the surrogate-husband position. Suddenly I heard…

BOOM.

It sounded as if someone had slammed one of the house doors shut REALLY HARD and the entire house shook.
Charlie, my big old Boxer, barked. Bella, my little old Boxer, whined.

And I turned into a single man Swat Team without ANY of the gear.

I jumped out of bed and immediately begin flipping all the lights on, one room at a time. I check the motion-sensor lights outside on my way to Abe’s room; none of them were on. Abe was asleep and safe. I moved more chairs and legos in front of his window before moving on to the other rooms and doors.
I checked every room, door, and window. I didn’t see anything unusual, but at this point my blood pressure was dangerously high so I double-checked everything. Our house was glowing like it was full of radiation. I searched the house twice more and look out every window 100 times. I even honked my car alarm a few times from the key fob just to let the murderer know I can hear him/her.

I walked back into my room to find that both “guard dogs” were snoring. I texted Bear and told him what was going on. He stayed vigil, reminding me to check the outdoor motion detector lights to see if they’d been tripped (little did he know, I’d checked them 74 times already). I kept my phone right next to me just in case I needed to text him that I was actively being attacked in our bedroom while our dogs slept…
I got out a book and left all the lights in the house on and settled in to never sleep again.

About 5 minutes later…

BOOM.

I fly out of bed and stand in the middle of the room, frozen, arms out, in the “if I suspend all of my other senses I will be able to figure out where this sound is coming from” position.

Boom. The house shakes again.

The dogs looked up at me as if to ask me to stop shaking the house while they try to sleep.

Boom. The house shakes again.

I finally decided to peer our the window one last time to make sure it wasn’t The Hulk, and what do I see glimmering in the moonlight?

AN AXE.

At 10:30 at night, Those Neighbors decided it would be a good time to begin chopping away at what was left of the fallen tree with a full-size axe. With every chop, another giant chunk of the tree fell to the ground and rattled the house.

Mystery solved. I texted Bear and fell asleep within 5 minutes.

MOVE

About a year and a half ago, I endured one of the most difficult time periods of my life. The week Bear and I got married, he was laid off. He also decided he wanted to start his own business in the construction field (a field he’d worked in for 18 years).
His business began in our living room over the summer. While both boys were home, and I struggled to make the mortgage and ALL the other expenses using just the money I made and our savings, he sat on the couch for 3 months with a laptop we paid for with a credit card. He wrote emails, bid jobs, create and built relationships, and set up lunch meetings with suppliers. On the days that he left the house, I’d stare at the coffee table covered in notepads and pens and pencils and cry.
Why?
Well, because when one loses a loved one or gets divorced, people show up. They bring food and comfort and love to you and cuddle you up in all their kindness to help you feel seen and understood.
When one sits on the edge of losing everything…well, there’s not really a protocol for that. They don’t send checks. They don’t bring cash over. They don’t cuddle you up in their savings accounts. They can’t, and even if they could, it would feel very strange both offering and accepting wire transfers from friends with notes like, “Good luck on the business, hope you don’t lose your house!!”

And so, we sat in what felt like a horrible, lonely, broke bubble for months while he got his business up and running, with no guarantee that it would ever make money.

Except that Bear always guarenteed that it would.
In fact, he never second-guessed his choice to go into business for himself.

It was during this time that I started focusing on prayer and manifestation. I had this idea that if I prayed and I focused and I visualized enough, our woes would come to an end, our bills would be paid, and our life would be comfortable again. Of course, we did not miss a meal and we were never late on a single payment, so it’s possible to say that my little manifestation project worked.

Except that while I was busy manifesting, Bear was busy on that grind.

His very first job started three months after he opened the business and on that faithful Monday morning it was over 100 degrees outside…and Bear woke up with the flu. Being that he was his only employee, he had no choice but to get out there and snot his way through it. He completed the job over the course of three, awful days (luckily the job was at a drug store so he could just walk inside and buy more medicine) and about 45 days later we received our first check. The first slice of income.
But during those 45 days, Bear landed his second, third, and fourth jobs…

And as the jobs rolled in, he rolled out. Everyday. Building. Working. Talking. Shmoozing. In the field. On the laptop. On the phone. He never stopped grinding.

It has come to my attention in the past few weeks that my manifestation project is lovely, but utterly worthless without a grind. You have to have both, faith and movement. One foot in front of the other does nothing without an ultimate goal, and a beautiful vision board is meaningless if you sit at home staring at it while you sip tea and wait on Oprah to call. (That last part may not apply you, but I definitely want Oprah to call.) So I’m taking steps with all those beautiful dreams in mind. And soon, I’ll be able to make some kinda stinking awesome announcements about where my steps are leading me. The Universe and I are singing an amazing duet of “When I move you move (just like that?).” It’s so amazing what happens when you focus, get clear on your dream, and then MOVE.

By the way, Bear’s business is successful beyond even what HE imagined it would be. He’s still grinding every single day, out there, and he’s still dreaming about how much bigger it can be…

Friend-Stuff

When ya get divorced, you lose stuff.
It ain’t all stuff-stuff, either. A lot of it is people-stuff. Job stuff. Memory-stuff. Feeling-stuff.

But the very worst of it is friend-stuff.

I lost a LOT of friends throughout my divorce. Some of them were my decision. Some theirs. And a few just sort of drifted off into nothingness with no one really taking the oars to row in a certain direction.
This past weekend at my writers’ conference, I made a few commitments to myself.

  1. I will take this process seriously and invest in it.
  2. I will give myself a timeline that’s realistic but also pushes me.
  3. I will call an old friend who helped me tremendously in the writing of my first book and ask her if she will be my friend again because I realized I miss her.

Yesterday, Monday, I made a consultation appointment with a professional editor who costs big bucks. I started writing out a calendar timeline for myself, too.
Oh, and I sent my old friend an email and asked her if she would be my friend again. Just that way. I sent her a message that said, “I’d like to know if we could be friends again.”

She hasn’t answered yet.

Now, it doesn’t mean she won’t answer. She might. She might not. It was a risk. Love, even friendship love, is a risk. But I’m not dwelling the way I would have a few years ago…

I recognize who’s here now, and I’m grateful for them. I have really good friends. Friends who do life with me, not just take selfies. And I have a husband who literally forced me to attend a writers’ workshop and forced me to stand in the lines to speak directly to the authors and forced me to take full advantage of every minute because he loves me that much.

Friends who love you and force you to do the things that scare you are the best kind of friends.

 

 

After every speaker, at every bathroom break, lunch break, and headline lesson of the day,
the doors opened to the breezeway outside the convention center conference room, and there was my husband. It didn’t matter if it was a quick kiss. He was there, making the weekend all about me. So many people said to me, “Wow, it’s so amazing to have a partner who supports you that much.”

It is.

At the end of the day if she doesn’t want to be my friend, it’s not that I won’t be sad. I will. I’ll think about her and the cool friendship we could have had just like I think about all the other important friendships that have come and gone. I’ll be missing her and hoping someday she changes her mind. It just so happens I might also feel grateful that I have more friend-stuff now. I’m really lucky for that.

 

 

Hurricane Irma – Part 3

I tried to fall asleep around 11pm. The wind was picking up and the rain was sloshing around outside. I envisioned the pretty little tree on the front yard that I’d grown from a sapling someone gave me. It was almost 11 feet tall now. I was so sad about the abuse that tree was getting.

I fell asleep at about 12am and woke up again around 1am. The once cool room was starting to get hot. “Should we plug in the generator for the refrigerator now?” I asked Bear. Bear was awake.
He stood up and looked out the window. “Maybe.”
Bear got back in bed and we sat there, listening. It’s a helpless feeling, hearing the winds whip through your neighborhood, wondering if one of the gusts will be big enough to do damage…

I learned something new about hurricanes during this one. The northeast side of a hurricane is the stronger, most devastating side. The worst wind, the worst rain, it all resides in that corner, which was the exact corner hitting us. Having sat through Category 2 and 3 storms before, they all came at us from the east. This storm swung north from the southern-most tip of Florida, carrying it northeast. Hence. We got the strongest side of the storm. No wonder Category 2s never seemed that bad to me in the past.

And then. It happened.
Bear and I tried to go back to sleep after making no concrete decision on the generator. The winds began to die down and the next sound we heard was like nails on a chalkboard.

Those Neighbors
You remember Those Neighbors? Well, not only do they have an ominous 55ft oak tree waiting to fall over in a hurricane, they also have a completely abandoned back yard and pool. If you peak over the fence, the pool is black. The once beautifully manicured palms are now covered in vines and moss and weeds. And in that pool, in that black, shadowy pool, live about 500 frogs.

As Bear and I lay in bed around 2:30am, contemplating an attempt at more sleep, we realized that the frogs once taking up residence in the black pit next door had been swept up and out of the pool onto the side of OUR HOUSE. And as the winds died down, we stared into the darkness of our room, half chuckling, half crying, listening to the frogs plastered to our windows…

Starting a generator isn’t all that hard. Starting a generator in a hurricane in the dark is a challenge. As soon as Bear fired it up, though, we realized we would have to run the extension cord through the living room sliding glass door, which meant the entire house would soon smell like a car engine. That teeny, tiny crack in the sliding glass door we rang the extension cord through was enough to fill the house with fumes within a few minutes. My ingenious husband duct-taped the opening of the sliding glass door to minimize the carbon dioxide so we could all live to see another day. The refrigerator was on and running. It was 3:45am and we opened a few roof-covered windows to air out the smell.

We sat listening to the rain, the quick whisps of howling, angry wind. In the pitch black of a hurricane, there’s not much else to do but sit and listen. Occasionally we would stand up together and walk around the house with a flashlight to check on my mom and the dogs. It’s a very strange feeling.

I finally decided I would try to sleep again around 4:30am. Bear laid next to me as I finally drifted off to the sweet sounds of 80mph gusts when a boom that sounded like God tripping on a lego shook the entire house.
I startled awake.
Bear leapt from the bed, which is a story unto itself. My bones were shaking. He plastered his face against the almost opaque window.
“It’s down,” he said with an authoritative voice.
“THE TREE?” I screamed as I raced to meet him at the window.
“Hoooolyyy shit. It came feet from our other neighbors’ house!”
Through the power lines, across the street, and onto our neighbors’ front yard landed the old oak; the oak that Those Neighbors have been asked to remove for 2 years. And just like that…we were trapped. Electrical lines down in our front yard, a giant oak tree blocking the driveway…no matter how the storm played out, we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The sun started coming up about an hour later, and when I peered out the other window at the still-raging storm, I saw it.
My sweet little tree I grew from a baby sap, snapped at the base, flipping around the front yard.
I was more upset about that little tree than the big one…

Hurricane Irma – Part 1

I think it was Labor Day when most of us became aware that a storm was organizing, but like most storms, no one panicked. If you don’t live in Florida it might seem a little insane not to panic about a hurricane. But the trouble with hurricanes is that we have days and days of warning for a storm that all the well-dressed meteorologists in the world can’t honestly track with any certainty. We’ve had SO many Hurricanes Who Cried Wolf that we’re cynical about Mother Nature.

We Floridians know how to follow the models. There’s the Hurricane Weather Research model, the Euro model, the UK model, The Global Forecast System, and about 12 more. Most Floridians have a favorite (mine’s the Euro) and we compare it to the other models all. day. long. We know when to listen to the newscasters and when not to. For example, when a journalist is standing in a light breeze announcing that he can BARELY stay standing as a plastic bag floats by, we know there’s not much to report yet. And we know if Storm Tracker Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel shows up in our town, it’s time to run for our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday – 7 full days before the hurricane hit.
“Are you going to evacuate?” people ask me.
“I have no idea.”
I really didn’t. Without any clear indication of how strong this storm would be, where it would be, and when it would be…we just didn’t know.

Tuesday –
“YOU NEED TO EVACUATE RIGHT NOW THERE’S A HURRICANE COMING,” shouted concerned people across the rest of the south.
We Floridians have been doing this for a really, really long time. In fact, almost every birthday party I ever had got evacuated because my birthday falls at the peak of hurricane season. We just aren’t used to the entire country having an opinion about when we stay or leave, and calling us idiots if we make a choice others don’t agree with. The last MAJOR set of hurricanes to hit Florida were in 2004 (the last El Nino). Social media was not in our hands 24-7 back then. We listened to the forecasters and the state officials and made the decisions that were best for us. All of a sudden, this year, the entire country became meteorological forecasters and told us to get out or we were fools. “IT’S JUST STUFF! GET OUT!” If one more person said that to me, I was going to change my profile picture to a naked photo of Bea Arthur and throw my phone into the Florida muck.

The trouble with evacuating was two-fold:
1. We’d potentially help clog the only 2 interstates out of Florida, which at the time the people south of us needed far more than we did. They were guaranteed a hit.
2. We’d potentially get stuck in the location we evacuated TO (maybe somewhere near Atlanta) after the storm because all of South Florida would be heading back around the same time. My husband has a local business. He couldn’t afford to be stuck in Atlanta for a week.
Bonus problem 3. We’d potentially evacuate and get stuck on an interstate with no gas and be left to weather the hurricane in a Cadillac SRX.

Of course, if we were under mandatory evacuation, we would be OUT of here. But without the city making that call, it was up to us to make the smartest decision for everyone involved.

We decided the best thing to do would be to stay and invite my mom to come be with us since she lives in South Florida.

Wednesday –
With no real idea as to whether or not the hurricane would make it to North Florida or not, Wednesday is better-safe-than-sorry day. Stock up on water, canned goods, gas, non-perishable foods, batteries, propane, and buckets. Also grab important documents, lift important things up off the ground (in case of flooding), buy extra dog food, and prescriptions. My husband was out of town for work so I was left to do most of this prep by myself. It’s a stressful thing, trying to ensure you’ve got everything you need in case you have to run, stay in one place for days, or die.

I decided to go shopping for hurricane supplies after I dropped my son off at school that morning. When I arrived at the grocery store, I started walking up and down the aisles. I passed the same people three or four times because they, too, were sort of walking around just looking at things.
Should I get diapers? I don’t need them, but what if someone does?
Can I buy eggs right now? How long to hard-boiled eggs last unrefrigerated.
Do I buy paper towels or toilet paper? Do I need both?
Ooo chocolate Teddy Grahams, it’s been so long…
It’s a bizarre feeling knowing you’re mulling over these questions when you could potentially lose everything within a few days or be called to a mandatory evacuation and leave it all behind. So you buy everything you could potentially need and then hope you don’t need any of it but also kinda hope you do so you didn’t just spend $50 on canned goods you’d never eat on a non-hurricane day.

Thursday –
My husband came home from his work trip and brought the generator his business bought earlier in the year for a big job. We were SO lucky to have a generator that would keep our refrigerator running so we wouldn’t have to replace every single condiment.
I filled every container we own with water and put half of them in the freezer and half of them in the fridge.
I washed everything we own. There’s nothing worse than being stuck without power AND no clean underwear.
I charged everything that’s chargeable in our home. Flashlights, backup batteries, portable DVD players, iPads…there’s no telling if we’d need any of it.
I watched a LOT of weather reports. It looked like my city (Jacksonville) would take a hard hit. The other issue is that this storm was the SIZE of the entire STATE. That’s never happened before. Not even CLOSE. So no matter what, we were going to experience some kind of weather, but the reports were suggesting anything from a tropical storm to a Category 2, which on the hurricane scale of 1-5 is a nasty, nasty storm. I’ve survived 2s before, but anything higher and I evacuate.
I also bought more food. I don’t know why.
My mom arrived from South Florida.

Friday –
We moved the vehicles into the warehouse.
I filled the bathtub so we could flush the toilets and wash the dishes with the big buckets my husband bought.
I bought more food. I don’t know why.
I brought in all of our potted plants and outdoor furniture.
I let the dogs run around the neighborhood knowing they’d be stuck inside for a while once the storm was upon on.
I checked the weather reports again. There was still a good chance the storm could pass directly over us and that it could gain strength. It had already begun to devastate the small Virgin Islands and islands near the Bahamas. And I mean it flattened them. Those people had nowhere to go.
After learning that we had until at least Sunday night before the weather made it to us, we decided the best thing to do would be to invite all of our friends over for a Hurricane Party.

Tomorrow, we start with Saturday…

Stormy

My husband bought a boat.

It came as only somewhat of a surprise to me the day it went down. You see, when he met me, he turned his every thought, every focus to ME. Everything he did was for or with me. And when he “got” me, his focus began to even out.
What I’m saying is…it’s not like I didn’t go into our marriage knowing about his ability to obsess.
He’d been flipping through boat brochures non-stop for a month. He talked about boats incessantly. He asked me a hundred questions about what I wanted in a boat. He tried to purchase one in particular but the financing fell through (apparently it’s difficult to finance a boat when you own your own business?!) and, yet, the obsession was not quelled. Not even a little.
Then one day at a oyster roast downtown we came upon…you guessed it…a boat show. We walked around for a while, had some oysters, listened to music, and on our way out he bought a boat.
I’m not kidding. Just like that. That’s how it happened.

It took almost 2 weeks to actually get said boat and when he did, it was delivered in the middle of a rain storm. The next night, our first boat date, it poured again. The third day, our boys were both home. The sun was shining. The water was flat. And we scooted on down the river to a great seafood joint on the water. Finally, perfect boating weather and his dream come true: taking our family on the boat to dinner.
The boys immediately took off to play the ring toss and find other little adventures on the dock while we ordered drinks on the deck of the restaurant. Boat-type drinks.
We all sat at the table a little while later waiting for our food when my husband started to cry.
I’m not kidding. Just like that. That’s how it happened.
No warning. No trigger. The boat was fine. I was fine. The boys were focused on other things. I said his name, completely confused, and finally he whispered across the table, “Stormy is being moved to hospice.”
Oh. 
He continued to cry for a while, right there at the dinner table; even while our food was being delivered. He cried a little bit after dinner, too. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t even sitting next to him so I couldn’t put my arm around him. Abe said that he hoped Bear felt better in between drawing an elephant and the new boat, and Cub leaned his head on him. It started to rain. Really hard.
We took a long, wet, cold boat ride back home. And that night Bear told me he wanted to go visit her.

Have I mentioned yet that I don’t know Stormy? At all?

When Bear was young, late teens, he met a girl. He liked this girl. Lots. And she liked him back. They were friends for a while until dating officially commenced. Then he met her family.
I didn’t know about his relationship with her family. (I really didn’t know much about his relationship with her because it was 20 years ago.) I’d heard him talk about her and them, how he needs to visit her family more often, but I didn’t realize how much love was there. How could I? I’ve only been in the picture for three and a half years.

I also didn’t know was how close Bear was to his the girl’s sister, Stormy, and how he played a huge role in her kids’ lives. He described himself as their “big brother” and told me stories before of how they were always climbing him and asking him to play soccer outside (and he did). I had not a clue about why this change in Stormy’s health was such a gut-punch for him or why he kept murmuring, “Those babies. My poor babies,” on the dinner deck.

Being the amazing wife that I am, I suggested we go up together to see Stormy in hospice.

I also immediately regretted this suggestion after I made it.

Bear eventually got engaged to his girlfriend and lived with her family for almost 7 years. That meant I would be walking into a room with a family of people I don’t know and an ex-fiance whose HEART he broke who undoubtedly had since healed but I mean geez and also a woman whose health is in tremendous peril who I’d never met but was visiting in hospice and then I’d just be sitting there for hours trying to remember who was who and praying to God that there was no drama for my being his wife and this being his ex-fiance’s sister…my brain became a run-on sentence.
But I know my husband’s ability to obsess. I know what it would have done to his focus if he went the rest of his life having never said goodbye to Stormy (if this was, in fact, goodbye) and how he would feel if I never met her. I hopped in the truck for the 6-hour drive up to Atlanta and said little of my concerns because, as much as it’s hard to believe, not everything is about me and OH MY GOD THIS IS SO WEIRD AND UNCOMFORTABLE FOR ME.

Here’s the thing, though: When we arrived at the hospice center, we walked into a little blue and tan room where two red-headed women (the cousins) greeted me like I was their long-lost family member. One almost-regal woman, Stormy’s mom, hugged me extra-long. Another young woman with dishwater blonde hair hugged me like it was a PLEASURE for her that I’d arrived. And Stormy. Stormy sat up in bed and called my name. She seemed to barely open her mouth and her voice was raspy, but my name was clear. “Yes!” I rushed to her bedside, feeling like I was in a small tornado of southern women, and she hugged me. I mean really, really hugged me. The tornado stopped. When she finally pulled away she grabbed my hands in hers and said, “Your writing. I love your writing. And your videos. And I just love your blog. You’re so wonderful and inspirational and I’m so glad you’re here!”

Keep in mind – this woman is in hospice hooked up to machines and fighting for her life, has never met me, and she’s telling me she loves my blog.

It was everything I had to keep it together and we’d just walked in the door.

Bear held her hands and chuckled with her when she was able to, and fed her ice chips when she asked for them, and stroked her hair. Occasionally she’d ask him a question, or she’d just stare at him and smile and he ask, “Need anything, darlin’?” And she wouldn’t answer. Just smile or go back to sleep.

I sat next to her daughter, the dishwater blonde, and listened to the other women in the room. They joked and quipped with each other in such a traditional southern style you’d have thought we were INSIDE Steel Magnolias.
“Has her skin always been that perfect?” I asked.
“ALWAYS,” her mama said. “She always had that beautiful skin. I think she wants ice chips, Bear…”
But it was the stories the women told about “Bear did this with Stormy’s kids” and “Remember when Bear took Stormy’s kids to the…” and “Remember the condo in Panama City Beach” and “Oh, that one trip we took to Disney World…” I listened for hours to these stories. It painted a whole new side of the picture of a man I thought I knew. I had no idea that little dishwater blonde depended so heavily on Bear as a male figure. I had no idea he had this whole other family who loved him so tremendously. I…I just had no idea.
Bear fed her ice chips while her mama watched. After a few moments she whispered, “Can you believe this is our Stormy?” Bear shook his head.

We sat in the room, trading chairs and stories in between long, silent moments when we all seemed to remember why we were there simultaneously.

“Erin,” Stormy whispered. I jumped to attention and grabbed her hands. This didn’t feel like a woman I’d never met. “You’re an angel. An angel from heaven. A diamond. Take care of him the way he helped me take care of my kids. I don’t know what I would have done without him. Promise me.”
I stared into her glassy eyes before I answered because I didn’t want my voice to crack.
“I promise you.”
I think she went on to say something about having no place to park her airplane. But she also told me I could wear any of the dresses in her closet. The medications she was on began to take effect and she dozed off.
When we left that night, we stopped in the parking lot to cry. Both of us. He for this woman who meant so much to him, and me for this woman who now meant so much to me.

We drove back to the hospice center the next morning to spend a better part of the day before driving home. Stormy was sleeping, her daughter perched in the seat next to her, the women in their chairs where they were the night before. Stormy opened one eye whenever she heard Ryan’s voice.
People I didn’t know filed in and out to see Stormy. I could tell the people who were there to offer their energy and love to her and those who were just visiting to say they did – simply by the way Stormy reacted. Obviously, her reactions weren’t grandiose in any occasion, but she seemed warm and tried to smile when she noticed people visiting because they were lifting her spirits with love. The ones who weren’t didn’t seem quite worth waking up for, let alone conjuring up a memory to share before the visitor walked away 15 minutes later (and they all left after 15 minutes).

Stormy’s dad came in that day, too. He was short, grey, wrinkly, and full of spunk, I could tell. He played a major male role in Bear’s life, too. He got him a job, fished with him, did projects around the house with him…he smiled a very genuine smile when he saw Bear and gave him a long, hard hug. He gave me a hearty squeeze as well. I was really getting a sense, at this point, of where Bear learned so much of what he knows by seeing all these puzzle pieces come together.

Her doctor paid a visit just before lunch. She couldn’t have been more than 40 years old, but looked 20 on account of her porcelain skin and long, light brown hair. Her huge, southern blue eyes dropped when she saw Stormy. She walked to her bedside and told Stormy she had to get better so she could come back to the office and have some more “appointment parties.” Stormy smiled and held her hands. When the doctor stood up and thanked the family for letting her visit, Stormy attempted to give the doctor a hug. She leaned back down to oblige…and she couldn’t hold it together anymore. She wept the kind of tears the look like they hurt coming out. She got down into Stormy’s face. “Stormy. You’re going to be ok, honey, ok? You’re going to keep fighting. I love you Stormy. You can do this.” I think we all cried watching this doctor give what felt like a pep talk.

It was after lunch when Bear suggested it was probably time to head back. I began hugging the people in the room, one by one, and when I got to Stormy, Bear stood next to her bed with his head on her pillow. She wasn’t awake and I told him to wake her, that he’d regret not waking her.
“Stormy, honey. It’s me. I’m leavin’ now.”
She opened her eyes and sat up immediately. She hugged him so tightly and told him how much she loved him. When she noticed me on the other side of the bed, she hugged me. I hugged her as long as she’d let me, and I didn’t let go first. I tried not to cry because it felt wrong to cry when it wasn’t me in the bed. I gently laid her back down when she pulled away, and I kissed her cheeks again and again. She held my hands to her chest and wouldn’t let go, not even when she began to fall asleep. Bear stood arm in arm with Stormy’s daddy, tears streaming down his face.
“It just don’t make no sense, do it?” Stormy’s dad asked.
“No. No it doesn’t,” Bear sniffled.
We hugged everyone else a few more times before we made the 6-hour drive back home. We hadn’t even been in Atlanta a full 24 hours and we were leaving. We drove home and both went back to work.

I’m not kidding.
Just like that.
That’s how it happened.

 

Epilogue
Stormy is still in hospice. I’m reluctant to share more than that as I wouldn’t want to share details her family prefers remain private, but it’s been a harrowing six months for Stormy. I’m just praying everyday that she keeps fighting to be here with us. I haven’t gotten enough time with her yet. She is fun and smart and bossy and amazing. I really, really love her.
If you’re the praying-type or the good thoughts-type, please send all of those to her and her family. They deserve nothing less than a miracle and I’m fervently devoted to that miracle. I believe it can happen. Like Stormy’s mom said, “I don’t need to know how. I don’t need the doctors to know how. I just need her to get up and come home.”

 

 

 

 

 

Take this Car and Shove It

Steven’s been calling and texting me for days. He wants to know when I’m coming back to trade in my car and buy a new car from him. Trouble is, I don’t yet have a car to trade it. Remember? It’s broken…
I spent Monday and part of Tuesday scrambling to get my car fixed. My mechanic (Sam) sent it to the dealership because the part Sam needed to replace was warrantied and he didn’t want to charge me for it. While my car was at the dealership, the dealership manager was unceremoniously fired. This meant there was no one in charge at the dealership anymore. Hence, I became the manager for two days. And it took me one of those two days to get someone to answer the damn telephone.
When I got someone on the phone I immediately announced, “PLEASE DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD AND PLEASE DO NOT HANG UP. I NEED TO KNOW WHERE MY CAR IS AND WHEN IT WILL BE FINISHED. PLEASE DO NOT HANG UP.”
The gentleman explained that my car needed a new fuel pump (covered under warranty) and a new fuel pump hose (not covered). “Why does it need a hose?” I asked.
“Because the last people to replace it broke it and it could cause a fire.”
“You were the last people to replace it.”
“Oh. Oh, well…no. No the other guy, uhh…Sam…probably removed it when he was trying to diagnose the problem last week. He used the wrong tool. So it’s broken. Fire hazard.”
“Then why wouldn’t Sam replace it? Why would I pay you to replace it?”
“I don’t even know if you can drive it back to Sam’s like this after I replace the fuel pump. Could catch on fire.”
“Yeah, no, I’ll take my chances. Replace the warrantied part and call me when it’s done.”
I called Sam. By this point it was late Monday afternoon and I had until Tuesday to buy my car, as Tuesday was the last day of the month and I was guarenteed the best deal.
“They said the fuel pump hose was busted?!” Sam asked me.
“Yeah. That you broke it.”
“Ok. I’ll go pick it up in the morning and take a look, but I’m guessing the dealership needed to make a little money off your warranty work.”
Sure enough, Sam picked up my car Tuesday morning and brought it into his shop Tuesday at lunch to ensure the hose was safe.
“Safe,” he called me and said.
“No fires?”
“No fires,” he assured me.
So I called the babysitter, picked up Abe, and came home in my fixed up car to make dinner and clean my kitchen because I would NOT let Abe’s babysitter see the way we actually live…
On our way to the dealership, Bear and I talked about our approach. We want a white car. But they only have a gray car. We’ll settle for a gray car but only under the terms we set. And we won’t be swayed into something else. We are firmly planted in our decision.
We walked into the dealership like we owned the place, expecting Steven to be THRILLED to see us. After all, I’d texted him a few hours before to let him know when we’d be in. He texted back he was “excited to have us back.” But when we saw Steven, he seemed surprised. And not excited. Nervous. Shorter than he was before.
“Oh, hey guys,” he said. His eyes were darting around.
“Hey man,” Bear said and shook his hand.
“Hey, um, Alan is going to take care of you today, ok?”

Okaaaaaay.

Alan is also a car salesman. Alan is 18 feet tall and has been smoking since he was born. (Or he just shouted really loudly throughout the entirety of his 20s and 30s.) He started asking us questions; questions we’ve already answered a lot of times. Finally, I said, “Did you get a white car in?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Alan said.
“Then we want to see the gray one.”
Alan started telling me how these cars sell so fast and they’re the most popular trim package and this and that and I was like whatever Alan. I don’t even know you. I know Steven. And Steven wanted to make me a deal and you want to tell me how I’m trying to buy the most popular car hence I can’t be choosy or pay what I want to pay. You’re an asshole, Alan. I can tell.
Alan walked us all the way upstairs to the roof where we’d first been introduced to the car I intended to buy. And guess what?
It was gone. Sold.
“Well I told you this is the most popular trim package on these cars…”
See, Alan? You’re an asshole.
He walked us back downstairs where I explained to him that I never would have gotten a babysitter if I’d known the car we wanted wasn’t even here. First Alan said that Steven doesn’t really know the inventory that well because he “doesn’t go upstairs a lot” so that’s probably why he didn’t mention it when he told me he was “excited to have us back.” Then he said Steven needs to learn to “listen better.” Then he told us he had several of the exact car I want “in freight”, which means someday they’ll have more of them. What day? Oh. Some day. Maybe a few days or a week or late March.
We both nodded and left and got margaritas.

Steven called Bear today and told him that it wasn’t his fault because no one told him the gray one sold. He also said we never told him we wanted to buy the gray one. He also said it wasn’t his fault again.

So I have the same car. I have no idea when I’ll be replacing it. But I do know that I’m probably not going to invite Steven and Alan to my birthday party.

 

 

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