My Word for 2016: Simplify

Depositphotos_46522753_m-20152015 was a good year, both personally and professionally. (Remember I have two jobs, so it’s easy to find some kind of success to point to in at least one of them! I’ve also been in some form of sales long enough to be able to twist any little thing into something that could be considered a success… hee hee).

But here’s the thing:  I have some bad habits. Well, really I have plenty, but some of them I enjoy too much to get rid of this year, and some of them are just too fundamental to who I am as a person to really worry about. At least right now. So when I look around myself and inside myself and consider what I can make better in the next year, I come up with one thing that makes a lot of sense to me on lots of levels.

I just want to keep things simple. In my house, in my work, in my mind. I abhor clutter, but with two small boys and one big one–all of whom adore toys–I have a lot of it in my physical environment. There is only so much I can do about that, and learning to look past it sometimes has been the best way to handle it. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept clutter in other parts of my life. In my 42 years, I’ve figured out a couple things that relate to this. For one, when my house/office is cluttered, I’m grumpier. (I say grumpier because I think I’m moderately grumpy kind of all the time…) When my workspace is cluttered, my work is harder to accomplish. And when my mind is cluttered, nothing gets done at all.

I’ve got a few plans brewing to attack the physical and mental clutter in my life and allow a little more light into the dark corners that have been blocked by “stuff”:

  1. AT HOME: I’ve got a donation pickup scheduled for early January. We have old bikes and toys, clothes and things like dishes and towels that we don’t need, but that have been with us through more years and moves than I’m happy admitting. Time to cut back. How much stuff do we really need? I’m guessing a whole lot more than we have.
  2. IN MY BOOKS:  I went through a semi-crisis as a writer from October through early December. And part of it was that I think I had lost my voice, or my purpose as a fiction author. I’d begun pulling in all kinds of crazy subplots, trying to build out or bulk up my stories. And it wasn’t working, but I couldn’t identify what was wrong. I write romance. These are stories about PEOPLE. Not so much about three thousand other things. With some help and guidance from other writers whose input I respect and treasure, I think I’ve managed to find some clear space to begin again. And I literally have done just that. I had a complete book that I was revising, but it was getting nowhere. Except bigger. But these wise folks made me realize the best path was a clear one. And I started again, with a blank page on. The story I want to tell is finally evolving nicely, and I’ve finished about a third of it in just over a week, during the holidays with everything else going on. When the path is clear, I write quickly because I can see where I need to go.
  3. IN MY MIND:  I have a tendency to get wrapped around the axel. I focus on details, losing sight of the bigger things in my life. I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying if things are not “just so” — especially with the boys. And I forget to be thankful and happy that they are smart, handsome and healthy. I think this one grows from wanting to control everything. And after 40 plus years, I might actually be realizing that I just … can’t. And that’s okay. I’m going to try to let go a bit and enjoy what’s in front of me, not what I could potentially FORCE to appear in front of me.
  4. IN MY LIFE: Bigger picture stuff here. Day to day. Life is pretty good, and I need to spend more time appreciating that. I’d like to streamline my work, and find myself making a happy income doing what I love. But I’m willing to accept that, for now, that may not mean working 100% for myself as a writer. I once had a successful freelance career, where I made a legitimate and respectable income writing from home (before I wrote fiction at all). But it was a hustle, and it was stressful. And while that grass looks pretty green at the moment, there is something to be said for going to a job where I just do the work and come home. As “real jobs” go, mine is pretty good. So I’m going to strive to stop pulling against the invisible chains and just be. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still have goals that might one day see me writing full time for myself, but much of that is out of my control at the moment. (Reference #3 above). Relaxing and just living the life I have will give me more time to spend enjoying my boys while they’re little instead of wishing them away, or wishing them quieter so I could worry more about everything holding me back.

I always look at a new year as a chance to do better. I don’t really make resolutions. As a former personal trainer, I’m well aware that those things are temporary. To me, the word “resolution” is a lot like the word “diet” … maybe only in the way we use it, not in its true definition. With that in mind, I admit that I’m going to TRY to honor my word for the year — SIMPLIFY.

What’s your word?

 

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This One’s For You, Gate Guard Guy

I work on base most of the time. So that means that every morning after I wave my tiny people goodbye as their little bitty heads peep up over the bottom edge of the windows on that huge yellow bus, I hop in the car and drive myself to the base. And every morning I whip out my CAC and wait in line and then take my turn being checked by the various security types who man the gate. Some days it’s policemen, other days it’s sailors. I might be a bit biased, but I prefer the military gate guards to the civilians. They’re nicer most of the time, and sometimes they salute me, which just feels like a win any day of the week (though I know the salute has little to do with me and is more a show of respect for the rank of the dude I happen to be married to. Regardless, I like to think of it as a nice “you go, girl!” kind of affirmation that I did well in my choice of spouse.” Whatever. Not the point.

The point. And I do have one, irrelevant though it may be… Is that most mornings I get something along the lines of, “thank you ma’am. Have a good day.” I pretty much became “ma’am” the day I married the Major. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that age-advancing term of respect has smacked me in the face any time I’ve been near a military facility since that day more than a decade ago. I went from “miss” to “ma’am.” And it’s completely stupid, but it sucks. Especially if I’m due for a color or if I’ve recently noticed that the forehead crease is looking more pronounced.

But today, not only did I get the totally-not-intended-for-me-but-damned-cool-anyway salute, I also got a “miss”! WIN! I haven’t been called miss in ages. I nearly pulled over to hug the cute little sailor guy in his cute navy blue camis. But the guy in line behind me probably wouldn’t have been too pleased. And it might have been misinterpreted and started some kind of security incident. So instead, I just drove on through, feeling much younger than I did when I woke up.

The Spouse Event

"Sara, look at her shoes! They're gorgeous. Bitch."

So tonight I’m going to my first spouse event here at our new base. This is kind of a weird situation because normally the Major is part of a squadron, so there is an automatic wive’s (spouse’s, sorry) club that has regular meetings and social events. Additionally, when we’ve first checked in before, I’ve been contacted right away by the CO’s wife, welcomed, offered babysitters and shopping tips. Here, not so much. But that isn’t anyone’s fault — it’s because the Major is working more of an administrative position. It also has to do with his being one of only about 200 Marines on a Navy base. There’s no squadron to “take care of us” and there just aren’t that many other Marine spouses around. But the Marine Aviation Detachment is trying to take up the slack, which is nice.

I’ve never been a huge joiner when it comes to spouse events. I guess part of me thinks that it’s silly that we’d all be friends just because our husbands work together. At least if WE worked together we’d know that we had similar backgrounds or interests, maybe, but the spouse groups are often quite the hodgepodge of people from every corner of everywhere. And I’m all for a diverse group of friends. And I don’t like stereotypes in general. But to me, throwing together a group of women becuase of who they’re married to is kind of like assuming that two gay guys will be a perfect couple because, well, they’re both gay. That being said, I have also always found a small subset of these women with whom I’ve gotten along great and forged good lasting friendships. And I’ve made other friends who are great to know while we’re at whatever base we’re at, but those are often the types of friendships that  you sort of know won’t last when one of you moves on. And those are nice to have, too.

And it wouldn’t be a wives’ club post if I didn’t mention the “knives club” aspect of these groups. As in any gathering of women, there are often a few who prefer backbiting and gossip to actual friendship and see these groups as an ideal setting for making snap judgements, saying nasty things and excluding people when possible. I haven’t run into a lot of this myself — aside from a few cases when attendance at such events was disputed due to being a ‘fiance’ rather than a spouse; or once when someone’s hubby deployed for a non-squadron billet and some ladies said that the wife left behind was not actually a squadron spouse anymore and should not be coming to events (nor should she receive any support from all of us despite the fact that she was left at home without her hubby, caring for the house and family… cuz that’s not hard.) And there are always a few wives who believe that they have somehow earned their husband’s rank and should be treated accordingly…that’s pretty fun. ANYWAY, crappy things do happen, but generally these organizations are a good source of support. And I have to say that even if you don’t really bond with anyone, even the nastiest of biddies will tend to rally around another spouse when they are truly needed. I didn’t cook my own meals for months after having my kids… that alone was worth more to me than I can ever express.

So I go tonight not knowing anyone. Actually, that’s not true. I know (and like!) one other Marine spouse here, but I don’t know if she’ll be there. Maybe I’ll actually make a new friend. Friends are nice. Wish me luck not being shy and also not being an asshole. Sometimes I struggle with both.

Trying to be Hip…

Round Head
"No, it's really, uh, cute!"

I am having a problem. With my hair. I know — this is on track to be the most interesting blog post ever, right? Read on, fascinated followers!

My hair is kind of gray. Not totally but enough to make me want to hide those pesky harbingers of all things wrinkly and tired. So I have been coloring my hair for years. But lately, no matter how much I spend or how much of an expert my colorist believes herself to be, within two weeks of coloring my hair I find myself topped with a glowing mass of brassiness. It turns kind of an auburn shade, which isn’t as offensive as the orangey color that follows closely behind. So recently I read that Courtney Cox swears by Clairol’s no-brass brunette, and it’s only $9. Being easily swayed by celebrity recommendations, I went out and got myself a box. And you know what? It’s about the same as what my extremely talented Redken colorists were achieving. But about $91 cheaper. So that’s one problem kind of solved.

Then there’s the style, or lack thereof. I like pictures of myself best when I had longish straight hair with no bangs. But it has been suggested to me that this isn’t the most becoming style for my longish face, that bangs would cover the nascent wrinkles on my forehead, and that I should have some kind of layering going on. So I’ve had some layers added, and have had sideswept bangs for a while. But I’m not much of a hairstylist, and with all that going on, I still manage to make it look straight, flat and boring, and usually end up with all of it in a ponytail or at least with my bangs pinned back because I can’t stand feeling them on my face.

So with this history, I trotted into the salon last week. The salon, here in this smallish town, is supposedly ranked one of the top 200 salons in the country. (I will confess that the reason I went was because my friend told me that they offer you a glass of wine while you get  your haircut. I actually told the stylist that, and she looked at me with just a bit more fear than she had before while telling me that since my appointment was at 9am, she hadn’t thought that would be appropriate, but that if I wanted it, she’d go get me a glass. After the briefest consideration, I assured her that I did not actually WANT a glass of wine, but that I liked knowing I COULD have one if I wanted one. We talked less after that.) Anyway, we consulted initially. (This was before the wine conversation). She told me the same stuff everyone has always told me and I consented to layers and softness around my face, and even let her cut it pretty short. I might’ve uttered the word “bob” at some point, which I think led to the current issue. Which is that I have round head now. It’s a little shorter in the back and I still have bangs, and some stuff coming forward into my face. It actually looks cute when I look in a mirror at the back of my head, but when I turn around and see it with my face it looks quite weird. Maybe because it’s new. Maybe because it’s cute and that is one word that I just have never felt described me in the least… (I’m kinda tall, and not teeny weeny, and just not…cute.) The Major’s first reaction? “Oh, you got ROUND HEAD.” Just what every girl wants to hear when arriving home with a new do. Thanks, buddy!

Maybe it will grow on me. (At least I’m sure it will grow out.)