About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Year of Gratitude

As Thanksgiving Day rolls around, I am reflecting upon my"year of gratitude" and hope that my musings lead you to think of your own.  Imagine us sitting around a large table loaded down with turkey, stuffing, casseroles and pie. And let's not forget the wine before we go around the table for our "what we are thankful for" declaration...I'll go first.

I began my year with a freak household accident that gave me my third concussion.  I couldn't walk straight, slurred my speech, had vision issues and experienced blinding headaches.  Good friends once again showed up to drive my kids to their practices, to tease me about my "dizziness" and to make sure I knew I wasn't alone.  The gratitude for people who "show up" without being asked is immense.

In February,  I reconnected with an old boyfriend from 24 years ago--yeah, I'm getting old, I know.  Facebook reunited us, even though I almost ignored him (and sometimes think I should have).  But after all is said and done, I am grateful that I allowed him back into my life.  Knowing him again--even briefly--unlocked my heart.

March meant passport renewal...another ending, another closing of a chapter.  The stamps in my old passport represented more than places visited; it represented a life lived with my deceased husband.  Getting that new passport in the mail, though, renewed my sense of possibilities. I was grateful for the clean slate.  As the Dr. Seuss book says, "Oh, the places you'll go"!

April, my birthday month, brought to the forefront of my mind how lucky I am to be healthy.  I know too many people my age who are dealing with heart problems, cancer or other grave illnesses.  I am grateful to be healthy...a little banged up and still trying to shed a few pounds...but overall I am healthy.

When I think of May, I remember an insanely busy schedule.  Lacrosse, swim team, work, friends, and staining my deck.  Thank God I have a deck to stain, healthy kids who can run and swim, creativity that won't let a concussion stop it, and places to be.

I spent two weeks in June in my home state of South Dakota.  I found myself cramming too many people and events into my schedule.  The result was...well, not so good...but I am grateful that I have a problem of too many people in my life that I love and enjoy.

The kids and I traveled to San Jose, California in July.  I love traveling with my children, especially when we're visiting wonderful friends and experiencing new things.  It is incredibly gratifying to watch my children discover a new place.  It's like I am seeing it all again through fresh eyes.

By the time August rolled around I was simply thankful that the kids were returning to school!

Quite honestly, I got down on myself, my writing and my life in general in September.  Thanks to Kasey, a good friend and salon owner, I shook the cobwebs from my brain and took her advice.  I started this blog, ventured into the world of social media marketing, and injected some much needed mojo back into my life.  Shout out to Kasey!

Wow, did I get sick in October.  Influenza led to pneumonia. Thankfully, my parents drove out to Colorado from South Dakota to help with the kids because I could barely get out of bed.  I am eternally grateful that my parents are healthy enough to travel and are active grandparents.

Here it is in November.  My productivity is in overdrive.  I am writing, resurfacing the cabinets in my house, painting walls, preparing for my brother's visit and getting healthier every day.  I am grateful that I have the energy to get it all done.

Gratitude is a way of life.  I try to think about what I am grateful for every day, but admittedly there are days when that's a challenge.  I know there are a hundred things I could have listed, a hundred people who have touched my life in ways they can't imagine, and a hundred ways I have grown because of each of them.

I lift my glass in a toast.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Talking into Thin Air

For a brief time after college, I worked as a disc jockey at a small radio station in South Dakota.  There was something odd about sitting in a booth talking to people who I couldn't see.  It made me nervous at first.  I stumbled over reading the AP wire.  I jumped when the phone rang with someone asking for a request because it reminded me that people were out there listening.

To get over the jitters, my boss suggested I place a picture on the microphone of people who made me feel loved and supported so that I could pretend to talk to them instead of thin air.  It helped.  I chose a picture of a group of friends huddled together in drunken glee on a dock in Greece.  I carried that picture with me to and from work each shift.  The plan worked.  That was 19 years ago and I still have that picture pinned to my office bulletin board.  The picture has some tape marks, pin holes and creases; but it still makes me smile when I see it.

No longer a disc jockey, I am still someone who feels like I am talking into thin air more often than not.  Email has taken the place of the microphone.  My desk has taken the place of the booth.  Social networking sites have taken the place of an office building.  Writing this blog--even writing fiction--is similar to sitting inside a booth in a darkened studio talking into that microphone and wondering if anyone is listening.

There must be a part of me that enjoys baring my soul to invisible strangers.  There is something therapeutic about talking into thin air...all expectations are removed...all bias is erased...agendas disappear...defenses come down...leaving only authentic thoughts and emotion.  Raw.  Uncensored.

I have and always have had a burning need to connect with other people. It is this need that keeps me moving forward and hoping for a happy ending.  It is also this need that leads me to confide more than I should, usually at inappropriate times and with less than trustworthy people.

But this need also drives me to be a trustworthy confidante.  I treasure the responsibility of shouldering someone else's burden and being the one they reach for when they need to connect. That's what we are all here on earth for, isn't it?  To connect despite distance, time, social status and what not?

I believe we all have that innate hunger to connect with another human being; hence the success of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  As with anything, technology has both pros and cons.  When it comes to staying connected, I say do whatever works for you, do whatever nurtures the human spirit and brings you happiness.

Despite life experiences, maturity and education, I haven't changed much in 19 years.   Here I am in my darkened office with only the glow of my computer screen to keep me company.  I'm listening to my own playlist on iTunes and sharing my random thoughts with invisible strangers who may or may not give a damn.  Pictures of moments of pure happiness still dot my desktop and walls, but they are there because they bring back a memory of joy instead of as an antidote for stage fright.

I am feeding my need to connect and the hunger is insatiable.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bending and Expanding

Pilates.  I looked through the window of the studio and shuddered with apprehension.  Those machines looked terrifying with their straps, springs, and handles. I entertained visions of myself upside down tangled in various devices with my shirt over my head and firemen rushing through the front door to save me.  Despite this fear and my wild imagination, I walked through the front door. 

At first Pilates seemed like just another exercise routine, but it has revealed the bubble of limited thinking that has shrouded me.  When I look at the instructor contorted in a pose that I am then supposed to duplicate, my first reaction is, "yeah, right, there is no way I can do that without snapping my bones."  But thanks to peer pressure of not wanting to look like a complete idiot, I give it a try and always surprise myself by twisting my limbs correctly.  It is as if my body is rebelling against my mind's verbal abuse and I hear myself laughing in disbelief.  

Pushing beyond my comfort zone used to be the norm for me.  I am not sure when it changed, but somewhere along the way I started thinking in terms of limits.  It doesn't really matter when it changed; all that concerns me now is breaking free of that pattern, breaking free of the fear that held me back from fully expressing myself.  

And that's what I am getting at:  the initial fear that creeps up right before I do something I really, really want to do.  Once I push past that fear, the world greets me with open arms.  And I am doing it!  That's good news.  Every day I become more like my true self again instead of the "also known as" version of Amber that has taken over for a few years.  

Most people don't know that I could not write creatively after my husband died.  It was as if all of the energy I used to create had rerouted itself into daily survival mode.  Talk about an identity crisis!  I thought, "great, my creativity died with Sean and being a writer is all that I know."  It took over 2 years before it started coming back and an injury earlier this year created another hurdle on the road back to normal.  Now I am interacting with fellow writers again, am back to freelancing, have written more manuscripts and am participating in National Novel Writing Month.  I was terrified of getting back in the game because I was afraid I had lost "it", but am so damn grateful to be in the flow again.  

After Sean's death, I allowed fear to whisper in my ear about all of the things I wouldn't be able to do anymore.  Traveling with my kids out of the country was one of fear's constant echos in my head.  But I rejected that voice.  I travel out of the country alone with my kids and don't think twice about it anymore.  Adventure did not die with my husband. Our first trip as a threesome rather than a foursome was to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico that first Thanksgiving after Sean's death.  I admit I had some trepidation when the plane landed and the reality of being a single mom traveling in Mexico with a 7 and 9 year old set in; but that fear quickly passed as we walked into the tropical air. It ended up being one of the best vacations we have ever had and there have been plenty since that one.  Thank God I didn't let fear limit me.   

Limits creep up on a person and create an invisible shield against possibility.  Each day I poke through a layer of limited thinking I hadn't known existed.  Each day I bend a little further and my mind expands to allow a new perspective.  Each day I surprise myself by conquering a new challenge.  I don't know how long it will take to erase the limits or if that is even possible, but simply trying is freeing me in ways I never imagined.  

Back to Pilates.  Three months later, I am still walking through that studio door four times a week.  I love it.  Each class gets more challenging and I still have moments of thinking, "I don't think my body bends that way".  Guess what?  My body does bend that way...and my mind expands each time with the thought, "wow, I learned something new about myself.  Again."  

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soaking Up Some Sense

I have a stubborn streak that I smash up against from time-to-time.  There is no sense in denying it.  Anyone who knows me well, knows how stubborn I can be so let's just call it as it is. My stubbornness fools me into thinking I can handle anything thrown my way...be it remodeling the kitchen, fixing the deck, staining the house or chasing off a bear.  I suppose this could also be classified as delusional, but I'll stick with calling it stubborn.  

Whatever role pops up in the moment, I do my best to improvise my way through it.  But as I stared at water pouring from my laundry room early this morning and soaking the hallway carpet, I realized that there are some roles I am not meant to play.  Plumber is simply beyond my improvisational skill set.

We all play a variety of roles in our lives: mother, daughter, sister, friend, counselor, carpenter, artist, caretaker...just to name a few.  The list of roles is endless, but knowing when to stop adding to the list is the trick.

My friend Zoey is brilliant at delegating the roles of her life. She knows when she needs help and asks for it.  She manages her life on every level by delegating what she knows is either beyond her ability or is a task she simply doesn't want to tackle.  Because of this skill, she is a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.  

Intellectually, I know there is nothing wrong with asking for help.  So what's my problem?  What am I trying to prove by overextending myself on every level?  Am I trying to prove that I am ridiculous or just plain crazy?  No!  Stop the madness!

As I knelt in inch deep water using all of the dry towels in the house, I had an epiphany.  Digging through the drain trying to solve this problem was the last thing I wanted to do.  Images of God-Only-Knows-What plugging the drainage system popped into my mind as I hauled armfuls of towels from the laundry room.  

I scratched the role of plumber from my list and improvised by picking up the phone.  Finally.  Common sense prevails over stubbornness...at least for now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bella Mia

This past July the kids and I needed to put down our beloved yellow lab, Taz.  Arthritis had wrapped itself around his spine.  The time had come to say good-bye. 

Taz had been a real character.  He could climb any fence, open any gate or door, and made it clear that staying confined had been his choice not his obligation.  Even though he definitely added flavor to our lives, I swore that he would be our last lab.  No more labs, no way, no how...never. Well, a month later, we adopted a 2-year old black lab named Bella.  So much for my firm resolve and self-discipline.

Bella had been brought to Colorado from New Mexico where her history is sketchy.  She had a litter of 8 puppies shortly after being brought here in early summer.  Following that, she went from foster home to foster home while waiting to be adopted.  The people at the humane society said that they needed to teach her how to get into a car, said she had been afraid of the tiled floor because she had been kept in dirt, and said she didn't know how to play with toys.  When we brought her home, the stairs freaked her out; but her eyes seemed to say, "don't give up on me, show me, take a chance on me, I can do this."

My other dog, Dusty, and my son Ben demonstrated how to use the toys and how to play.  It didn't take long before the two dogs were tossing the ball against the ground themselves and racing for it like two kids loose on the playground.  She didn't quite know what to make of the dog bed we bought her.  She tapped it with her paw a few times and then backed away.  Again Dusty came to the rescue.  He jumped onto the new dog bed, circled around a few times and settled in.  Bella's eyes seemed to say, "this is for me?"

She came with some serious baggage, there is no question about that.  I wish she could talk and tell me her story.  Or maybe I don't, maybe it is too heartbreaking.  Even when her tail wags, sadness lingers in her eyes that seem to say, "I don't trust that this is going to last."

Although the shelter warned me that she hated being alone, I underestimated what that meant.  When we leave the house, she destroys anything within reach.  The other day she tore off part of the screen door. And there are other kinks, too.  When we had a few feet of snow last week, she learned she could get out of our fence.  Even though the snow is now gone, she leaps over the fence like a deer and laps the neighborhood.

None of these things are good, but they are fixable.  She just needs us to show her right from wrong, to be patient, to always look for her when she wanders off and to give her a break.

We all deserve second chances to get it right.  When I look into Bella's eyes, I see hope.  I see a survivor.  I see beauty.  I see love.  Maybe I even see a bit of myself.  I see a reason to keep trying to get it right.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Against the Storm

The Dalai Lama said, "Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion." 

This is a simple concept, yet rare to find on an every day basis.  I hear too many stories lately of insensitivity in our day-to-day lives.  I am not sure what is causing this lack of compassion.  Perhaps it is the stress of a struggling economy or the dehumanization in our technological world.  Or maybe we have become a society of "I" instead of "we".  

I have experienced great loss in my life, as have many people.  During this time of grieving, I have learned that the concepts of kindness and compassion need some tweaking.  

For example, my son was only 7 when my husband committed suicide, yet was told soon after that his daddy had gone to live in hell.  I, who had found my husband hanging in a closet with kids screaming "daddy, daddy" over my shoulder, was told to "wake up one morning and say today is the day I am over this."  One of my closest friends told me only months after the suicide that she simply didn't have the "energy to deal with it all" and completely stepped out of my life.  My daughter suffered severe anxiety attacks after witnessing this tragedy, yet people to this day fail to see her dad's suicide as the trigger for her ongoing insecurity and nervous habits.  You may be shocked to read these examples, but they are true and all said by someone who called us a friend.  We wounded souls needed compassion, but instead received judgment.

My experiences have caused me to change my view of the world and to redefine my definition of friend.  To me, a friend is someone who gives the benefit of the doubt at all times until proven differently.  A friend is someone who encourages and inspires rather than doubts and mocks.  A friend is someone who loves unconditionally rather than bails at the first hint of trouble.  A friend does say "I'm sorry" when necessary.  A friend has boundless energy when needed to help another in crisis.  A friend sees the best in me and loves me even at my worst.  

Friendships are like palm trees that bend and sway against a hurricane, but only those with deep roots stand tall at the end of the storm.  Be the kind of friend who grows deep roots.  More than that, be the person who is kind without keeping a running tally and who shows compassion for a neighbor or stranger expecting nothing in return.  

Kindness and compassion are habits we cannot afford to lose in today's busy and tech savvy world.  Today I ask you to not only show these traits to others, but to feel them down deep in your heart.  When you see a stranger, smile rather than avoid eye contact.  See what happens!  I bet you'll get a smile in return.  When you feel irritation churn in your gut, replace it with compassion and look at the situation from someone else's point of view.  You may be surprised at what you see.  And if there is someone you know who is struggling, have the energy to express kindness rather than judgment.  

As the saying goes, everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle...the man who cuts you off in traffic...the cashier at the supermarket who mutters beneath her breath...the teller at the bank who won't make eye contact...the neighbor who never waves back.  Looking through eyes filled with kindness changes our perception of the entire world.  

What can you do today to show kindness and compassion while expecting nothing in return?  Trust me...when you expect nothing, you receive more than you ever imagined in the long run.  

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's a Dog's Life

"Greet everyone with same enthusiasm you would use when greeting your dog", declared words emblazoned across a t-shirt I saw recently. These words spun around my mind for awhile. I started thinking about how I greet my dogs when I see them and how they greet me. Pure joy mixed with enough love to light up the sky.

This prompted a social experiment. I decided to put this into practice one stranger at a time. No, I didn't knock anyone down and start licking them or speak to them in a silly voice. I thought that might get me arrested rather than appreciated.

My first stop was the grocery store. I walked in looking for targets for my cheerfulness. The first was an elderly woman who struggled with her cart in the breakfast aisle. Caught up in my intention to reconnect with my former cheerleader persona, I asked what she wanted to do and how I could help. She eyed me a little strangely while trying to fight with this cart that seemed to want to only go sideways and said, "I'd like it if the cart would go forward." Ah...of course. Forward. I grabbed the front of the cart, glanced at the wheels, kicked the front right one and wa-la...forward momentum.

My next specimen was a man looking at the Asian food. He dropped a can of Chinese noodles, which I promptly picked up for him. I looked him in the eye, handed him the noodles and made some inane comment. What I said wasn't important, my demeanor was. The oddest thing happened...he laughed and looked me in the eye, too. Strangers out for errands connecting on a superficially cheerful plane of existence. What a nice change of pace.

"Greet everyone with the same enthusiasm as you would use to greet your dog". I silently repeated that phrase as I moved on to the gas station and the recreation center.  My experiment was full-speed-ahead and the results were making me smile as broad as humanly possible.

Experiment in mind, I entered the pool area where I normally read or work while I wait for my daughter. Ignoring the pile of work in my messenger bag, I waved at the other parents and nodded at the coach without letting the smile slip. People I have known superficially for a few years opened up to me for the first time on the bleachers near the swimming pool. Pulling my head from my to-do list and interacting with the world around me paid off with happiness.

I experienced the energy shift everywhere I went. I greeted everyone I met with that same enthusiasm that comes so naturally when I see my two dogs racing up to meet me when I get home. Simply by shifting from unconscious to conscious I dramatically changed my day.

This is not new information, I know. I am not breaking new ground here in any way. But putting the information into practice became a gratifying experience where I only attracted the joy I extended.

I mentioned this concept in my Facebook status last week and have to say I was surprised at how many people mocked this simple idea. Yes, it is a simple idea. Perhaps too simple for some to take seriously, but it is true. Perhaps if I had used the golden rule, "treat others as you would like to be treated" people would have responded differently to my happy declaration on Facebook, but I doubt it.

From my perspective, we have become too cynical of a world, too immersed in fear and competition to embrace the simplest idea of all: loving each other.