on Going Home (Part Two)

Read on Going Home (Part One)

“Never let your desire to have an accepting heart towards others keep you from your strong boundaries. The hurricane may come blasting at our door; yet it doesn’t mean we have to invite it in for tea. Sometimes, it’s important to recognize that the hurricane is a powerful and damaging storm, not a light spring shower.”
–Alaric Hutchinson

Before making the trip back “home” to Texas, I made a series of choices designed around keeping tight boundaries.

  • I chose to stay at a hotel in Arlington rather than in my hometown. It put me 15 minutes from my dad’s, but also 5 to 15 minutes from friends. Not to mention within moments of restaurants and shopping. I also turned down my sister’s offer to stay out at her house, 45 minutes from my dad’s and an hour (or more) from friends.
  • I arrived late on a Sunday, so set up a late night rendezvous for pancakes. To ensure the first interaction I had in town was loving and positive.
  • I set up an early morning appointment at the salon and spa I regularly visited for over a decade. I haven’t found a good esthetician in Ohio and my dad isn’t his best in the mornings.
  • I set up a lunch date with my oldest daughter and coordinated with my sister for dinner on my first full day in town. I left the second full day in town completely open. I thrive on having plans, but feel stressed when they don’t work out or are too tight.

These were all good choices.

Seeing friendly faces soon after arriving was the right way to begin. I was able to chill in the hotel and get my bearings a bit. When I rose the next morning, I headed to La Madeline’s for breakfast, a spot I frequented often with my daughters. It was nostalgic and nourishing on many levels.

I had some time to kill before I headed to meet my daughter, so I decided to pop into Barnes and Noble, another frequent haunt during my daughter’s childhood.

I almost burst into tears.

When Emily was a toddler, my (then) husband worked overnight shift. My job on Saturday mornings was to keep her quiet so he could sleep. For anyone who has dealt with an active (and talkative) two-year-old knows, that’s practically impossible.

So, every Saturday, we went to Barnes and Noble (which opened at 9 AM) for a little while and then to the adjacent mall (which opened at 10 AM) and explored until it got beyond lunch time. And it was close enough to his waking time for us to go back home.

This is not an easy way to manage young motherhood. But let’s be honest: I was afraid of how he would respond if she woke him. And I needed a way to feel more confident in being a mom. And when she was loud (aka a normal little kid), I felt I was failing.

But Barnes and Noble served as our sanctuary for many years.

We attended most of the “Harry Potter Release” parties there. It was a good space to get a coffee and some quiet time when the pace picked up with two kiddos. When my marriage began to disintegrate, I would take my laptop there to work and escape the tension at home.

Long before I understood that my home could be a sanctuary, I found that sanctuary at Barnes and Noble.

Lunch with my daughter was wonderful. This is the child  – or should I say woman now that she’s twenty-five – that battled / battles with depression. And there were days when I wondered if we would all survive those teen years.

She has a great job, a healthy relationship, and four fur-babies. I asked her if she needed anything from Target or the grocery store before we headed back to her place and she rolled her eyes and said “I am like a real adult now, Ma. I even have extra toilet paper.”

Ah, a gal after my own heart….

Then it was time to go see my dad.

“That was when the world wasn’t so big and I could see everywhere. It was when my father was a hero and not a human.”
― Markus Zusak

My father still lives in the house I grew up in. We moved there in April 1975, on a rainy weekend, and the most exciting thing to me about the house when I was six was that we had CARPET!  Our old house had hardwood floors and rugs, and that carpet seemed pretty darned luxurious.

He has always been a handy guy. Over the years, he’s replaced wallpaper and flooring. The carpet, once an avocado green shag, is now a plush cut pile in a neutral beige.  I looked at the house with a somewhat critical and compartmentalized eye: are things in shape or have they deteriorated? Overall, the house is in good shape. And one of my nieces comes by on a regular basis to clean.

A farmer during his childhood was something he wanted to leave behind, yet he never lost his love for digging in the dirt. The once luxurious backyard full of roses now sports hedges and ancient, sturdy trees. The yard he once toiled over has faded some now that he’s no longer able to care for it himself. He had a yard guy, but that just isn’t the same and nourishing the land yourself.

Though he has done all the home improvement in the past, he no longer can manage stripping wallpaper, replacing flooring, or painting.

In his retirement years, he should be able to garden and play golf and go to lunch with friends. Yet, thanks to the ravages of the COPD, all those things he loved to do, he just can’t.

The tall, thin yet sturdy man he was exists in the shadows. He needs suspenders to hold up his pants as the COPD demands the majority of his caloric intake just to fuel his breathing. Walking down the hall to the bathroom and back leaves him out of breath and he spends most of his waking hours at the kitchen table in front of the TV, usually on a channel that shows either westerns or sports.

He can’t even get the mail easily anymore, sometimes resorting to getting in his car and going down the steep driveway to retrieve it. Grocery shopping is a burden, so my sister fills his fridge with meals he just has to heat up.

What truly bothers me the most is his inability to participate in the one sport he loved the most: golf. My mother berated him and tried to make him feel guilty over the years for the time he spent on the course. He’s been a widower for almost seven years now and at eighty-two, should be spending a couple of days hitting balls on the driving range and playing several rounds of golf a week.

My dad is a true extrovert, but many of his peers are gone or his inability to breathe – and his embarrassment around that – keeps him mostly housebound. My sister complains about the mess the cats make, but he shuts her down with a stare and the words “they are good company.”

He blames no one for his disease but himself. He is quite shrewd in his condemnation of his choice to smoke and how that has contributed – caused – all of this pain, discomfort, and inability to participate in his own life. I don’t believe I know anyone else who is so forthright and honest about their health situation. Most folks look for someone else to blame, and as much as I hate this disease, I admire my father for his ability to be honest with himself.

What hasn’t changed about my father is his kind disposition and sense of humor. He has a gentle way of disarming folks, most noticeable when he banters with a waitress. For that, I am grateful.

Being an ENTJ, I am great at disconnecting from my emotions and evaluating a situation logically. This trait does not exactly endear me to others, but I have learned to make peace with it. This doesn’t mean I am unfeeling, but it does mean that even when I am in emotional turmoil, I can compartmentalize.

My sister painted a picture of my father as frail, losing his memory, and being on Death’s To Do List.

Yes, he has greatly deteriorated since I was last in town, but he isn’t as far gone as she has insisted. Does he have another decade or even five years in him? No. In all likelihood, he has another year or so. Is he getting dementia? Not really, but he is a bit forgetful. This is truly due to not getting enough oxygen to his brain.

Is he ready for hospice care? Not hospice, yet. But the doctor’s comment that the most humane thing that could happen to him is to go in his sleep so as not to suffer the way COPD basically “drowns” its victims is something I agree with. Palliative care over prolonging life in order to squeak a few more weeks out of a life filled with pain is unconscionable to me.

When I wrote of never being as “safe” as I am now, it was never about my father. He was always the spark of light and joy for me as a child. My mother, though, well, I never did quite measure up to what she wanted from me. I wasn’t neat enough, pretty enough or popular enough, especially when compared with my perfect sister. My ESFJ sister who was the homecoming queen and fell right into step in playing the role of the perfect, dutiful daughter.

My sister is that perfect, dutiful daughter. And I know she compares how much she does with how little I do. I know she compares her devotion to my absence.  She sees how overburdened and busy she is and how seemingly easy my life looks to be.

It is human nature to compare the actions of others against how we might choose to handle things. It’s the default go to as we traverse this human experience, not to compare or always judge, but to see if we can discern the choice a person makes. Even in all my experience working as a coach and the fact that I’ve worked with MBTI since the mid-90’s, I still fall into the trap of seeing life through my lens rather than the recognition that everyone is different.

I may not  agree with my sister, yet I don’t want to criticize. SHE is the one on the ground. SHE is the one doing the work. SHE is the one ensuring that he gets to doctor appointments and has food in his fridge. Being 1000 miles away doesn’t exactly lend itself to being of daily help.

And, frankly, getting back to Texas isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I still have a business to run. I coached clients throughout my time in Texas, but I was unable to get any writing done. Writing is the lifeblood of my business and the way I tend my own soul. Though money isn’t everything, a trip “back home” adds up. I used miles on this trip, but the lowest advance fare ticket from Dayton to Dallas averages $687. You have to also consider the hard costs of a rental car, dining, and a place to stay.

I also have a life to tend. I have a loving, supportive partner in John. I also have a responsibility to the life we’ve created. I have a household to run and details to tend to. I can’t abandon that, I have a responsibility to myself and my life.

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
― Maya Angelou

I  know that my life looks easy and ideal in many ways from the outside. Like others, my Instagram feed is full of a highlight reel of those picture-perfect moments and no, I don’t typically share the messy, less than glamorous parts. It’s certainly more appealing to share a photo of a beautiful latte while writing in a cafe than it is to share the days when I am feeling lonely and dealing with writer’s block.

I also know that I am extremely blessed in so many ways, and the truth of the matter is, I’ve done a ton of personal growth work to get here. This daily life that I live isn’t one that just happened, I’ve fought for every second of happiness and cultivated a relationship and environment where we each feel safe in being ourselves.

It also means that I must be diligent when it continuing to care for this life that I have created and the person I’ve become. Most folks get that you have to work hard to accomplish something,yet underestimate that you still have to be devoted to ensuring the quality of your life remains.

It doesn’t self-maintain, we have to be willing to continue to fight for our own happiness.

Those boundaries I set before the trip were part of what allowed me to remain logical and sane. To not give into emotion of any sort.  I’d made an appointment for a facial before I arrived in Texas, and sure enough, the morning of my appointment, my dad was having a challenging morning.

When I arrived, I inquired if they could add a body scrub before or after my facial.

I was taken back to the serene locker room by the spa attendant, a lovely woman I’ve known for twenty years as she used to be the office manage at the daycare the girls attended. She gave me a robe and slippers, and when I emerged, she gave me a glass of water, which I sipped in a plush chair while I waited. The esthetician arrived and let me know they were able to add the body scrub and she’d be doing both.

For an hour and a half, I was treated like a porcelain doll. I was lovingly tended in ways I can’t tend myself by a talented and compassionate young lady. I’ve been afraid to change too many of my face care products from my “dry, sensitive skin care” to anti-aging products with active ingredients.

I left feeling cared for. And, with a list of products to add into my routine as I work through what’s already in my bathroom.

“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by my self.”
– Brian Andreas

I – both fortunately and unfortunately – know myself well. When I am binding myself to all logic and no emotion so that I can deal with matters at hand, any kind of tenderness for myself is abandoned.  I share this part of my trip, not to paint a glossy image over my father’s health or to illustrate escape, but as the reminder that we must continue to curate and cultivate our life, no matter the circumstances.

Sometimes, in the midst of a storm when we are unsure how to care for our own needs, allowing someone else to show us a way or to care for us is the only path to compassion.

This is the year of Unbound Grace and this single act was the best path I knew to that.

100 Days of Fiction

When The Great Discontent featured the lovely Elle Luna and introduced the 100 Days of Making, I was intrigued. luna-100dayproject-pledge1Though I didn’t know exactly what my project would be, I felt a deep call to do it.

It’s a scary prospect in so many ways. Committing to doing it would be committing to doing something for 100 days straight. It would mean that others would see me and possibly judge me.What if I slipped up? What if I lost interest?

And, with the project on Instagram, it would “have” to be visual, right? I am not an artist (my Mandala class has made that obvious). My photography is passable.  I’ve done month long photography projects (like In Plain Sight), but I didn’t want to to take 100 days of Coffee Photos, no matter how much I love coffee or photos. Because, photos are not my art. Words are my art.

But no matter how many ways I tried to talk myself out of it, I decided to commit. Because my heart asked me to.

What would 100 Days of Making something – anything – show me? About myself. About my body of work. About my process. About my muse.  What would surrendering to 100 days lead me to?

I wanted to do something out of my norm, yet something that would feel nourishing. My art is writing, yet I write all the time. The average week produces between 4000 and 8000 words of content.

I didn’t want to commit to 100 days of writing in my journal because often those words aren’t meant for anyone else’s eyes, and making it this project would taint my journal, a demon I’ve sought to banish for the last decade. I didn’t want to commit to 100 days of blogging, that felt like work, too. The thought of one more piece of consumable professional content per day felt like a prison, not a delight. And writing consumable content that was reflective of my business brand felt contrary to the goal of the project, which is to show up each day and commit to luna-100dayproject-pledge3the process, not fetishize the finished product.

Then it hit me: write fiction.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” –Rumi

Though I read a lot of great non-fiction and creative non-fiction. And though I enjoy poetry. What I most passionately consume as a reader when it comes to words is fiction.

I spend the bulk of my writing time deep within the bowels of non-fiction these days. I write blog posts and newsletter articles that directly support my coaching practice. I record recipes. I craft eBooks for subscribers with worksheets and exercises. I put my coaching tools to work in the form of courses. I write articles for YourTango and other websites. I ask the questions that need to be asked so that people can fall in love with their own story.

And the thing is, I used to write fiction. I used to write vignettes. I used to write short stories. I used to work on a novel.  And as I was pondering ideas for 100 Days of…. I realized I hadn’t written fiction for at least four years. The thought of writing fiction when “I have so much writing for work that needs to be done” felt frivolous and UN-productive.

Yet, it feels so right and aligned with the intent of the 100 Days Project.

Beginning Monday, April 6th, I will be writing fiction for 100 days. Some days may see full paragraphs. Others may see two. Many days will likely see a single sentence. I’ll be handwriting my fiction in a segregated notebook purchased just for this project so that there is no “cross contamination” in my journal or work papers.

If you’d like to follow along, I’ll be sharing my project over on Instagram  which I will sometimes post to Facebook or Twitter) and will be tagging it with the official  tag: #The100DayProject as well as my personal one #100DaysofFictionByDebra.

What would 100 Days of Making manifest for you? What would it show you? I’ll be looking for other 100 Days projects for inspiration, so be sure and let me know if you’ll be participating, too!

Sixteen Years and Sixteen Months

It was 1998 and the internet was “new”. After creating my first website, I created a daily web-log. Web-logs were initially about updates to the website, so folks could see the history. It wasn’t long before the web-logs became blogs. Because I loved words, I soon joined in.  I wrote about file5951239550691daily life, seeking balance while working full time, managing children and trying to keep my marriage together. The blogging community was small back then.

Blogging wasn’t in vogue. We didn’t write because we were focused on building our “platform”. And it wasn’t about business – it was personal. We wrote because we needed to share our stories. We wrote because we needed to connect, be seen and be heard.  I made friends through my blog. We didn’t have comments, so we communicated via email and on the phone. To this day, I am friends with people I met in the early days. I wrote daily and hand-coded my blog in the early days. I had tried Blogger, but it wasn’t consistently up. I bought my first domain and migrated to hosted service. Eventually, I migrated to B2 and because I wanted to service the needs of other bloggers, I created website themes for them.Writing allowed me to begin to understand who I was and what made me tick. Writing helped me work things out.

When life changed, my blogging habits changed, too. In the midst of my divorce (2004), I stopped writing so much. Then, like all habits, I slowly got away from the habit of writing. The work I was doing demanded more discretion.

I missed personal writing. Yet, it didn’t fit my lifestyle and didn’t feel like a safe way to express the happenings of my world. Besides, blogging was changing. Folks said we needed a “niche” for our blogs. People blogged about their businesses.

I wrote on and off. Mostly off. My website name and location changed. I did some anonymous blogging here and there.

I kept coming back to blogs because I missed writing. I missed sharing the pieces of my story.

When I began the process of moving to Ohio, creating a shared life with JB and then restructuring my business life, work began taking the lion’s share of my writing time. A weekly professional blog demands attention. A weekly newsletter demands more attention. The creation and maintenance of courses around clarity and unleashing the core of who you are take time – as does the maintaining of my professional social media spaces and “growing my platform” by writing for larger websites.

It’s been sixteen months since I’ve written anything publicly personal that wasn’t work related in some way. And, here we are sixteen years and sixteen months later.

I’m making no promises about how long I’ll be writing here in this space again because I wish to tell no lies.

I re-opened and refreshed  this space so that I would be able to participate in Holidailies. Writing daily feels like a stretch and a push and a pull, yet deep down I know that it’s something I need. To nourish myself and nourish my muse.

Continual Improvement

One of the beliefs that seems to be floating “out there” is that coaches have all the answers.  And that on the path between here and there, that we must be there.

In my personal opinion, that’s a bunch of baloney.

As a coach, I have my brilliant days. My instincts lead me along the path of suggestions and nuances and tweaks that others can make in order to love themselves and their lives. One of my biggest talents is assisting someone in pulling apart the pieces and reassembling them into a life that feels right.

The truth behind my talent is that I lived it.  My world shattered and I found out that if I wanted to be happy, I was the only one who could figure out where each piece of the puzzle needed to go.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that there is no official there.

Yes, you create goals and you reach them. That is a sort of “there”.  But to believe that there means that everything is perfect every moment of the day?  Nope.  That there doesn’t exist.

In my consulting days, much of my professional expertise centered around Quality Systems.  While quality control is a part of that, the theories behind quality systems and planning are slightly different.  Learning the difference between “continuous” and “continual” was huge for me, and it’s a concept that can be applied to life and this whole “there” idea.

Continuous would be like a straight line while continual improvement allows more flex.  Overall, Continual shows an upward trajectory, but it’s not even.  There are sharp spikes and gentle spikes and sometimes a dip, but never does it dip to where it began.

Life is not about being “there”.  Life is not about always having to be bigger and better each day.

One of the keys to a happy life is learning and embracing the concept of Continual Improvement.

We create goals and we strive to reach them.  Once a goal is reached, we revel in that success and celebrate it.   When you are growing, things aren’t exactly comfortable.  But in order to catch your breath and prepare for the next leap, you may need to coast for a bit and revel in what is comfortable for a time. Sometimes we need to lean into the comfort of space and time and love and being.  Only after a time are we ready to begin to make new goals.

It’s the quality process of Continual Improvement: 

Plan♥ Do♥ Check♥ Act.

There is no there.  It’s simply a wonderfully imperfect journey. Doesn’t that sound like more satisfying way to approach life?

I Believe

I can tell you that my heart and soul believes to the very depths of my “I am Not a Waitress” toes that I am a writer.

Fear plays into the part of every creative when it comes to their work.  We may pretend that it isn’t there, yet we procrastinate our time away from the keyboard by cleaning the grooves of the tile with Q-tips and polishing family silver.  Or we while away our time on Facebook and Twitter when we are at our desks.

I believe in myself as a writer.  I believe that part of my dharma is to use my written words to connect with others.

For the last month, I’ve averaged four or more hours a day writing.  I write a weekly blog for my professional site.  I write a weekly newsletter.  I am 3/4 through an eCourse I created focused on clearing Brain Clutter, where I am editing lessons and later doing the course along with my class.  I’m also heavily involved in a couple of joint  ventures where I flex my pen.

Day in, and day out,  I sit at my desk, face the fear monsters, and write.

But let me be a little vulnerable with you.  Though I face my fear monsters and write, I don’t always release into the world the deepest writings.  In the last year, I have stopped maintaining a personal blog of any sort.

I was blogger before blogs were commonplace and began my first blog in September 2001 and was a daily writer up until my divorce in 2004.  Since that time period, I have blogged sporadically.

But I believe that in order to be a better writer, you have to get uncomfortable.  You have to step outside of your comfort zone and get naked in front of a crowd of strangers.  As a professional coach, I hope to share my wisdom.

As a human being, I am am more vulnerable than my professional persona.

So, here I am today, facing fear and being vulnerable with anyone who happens to pass this way.  I created this fresh space to hold personal writings, knowing that what I have in my heart with be fodder for Google.  (I’ve already received my first Google Notification that it has found me).

Believing in ourselves is about taking courage by the horns and riding our fears no matter where they may take us.

And  devoting  the first two hours of my morning  at my desk  – without the distraction of email, social media, or any kind of random surfing.

Because believing in myself also means keeping my priorities in line and knowing that I embrace my own funky view of balance.

For there is nothing more beautiful and seductive as writing while the dew is fresh upon the grass.  And allowing the stories to breathe a life of their own as the individual words go from my mind onto the page, creating sentences, which create paragraphs.  And naked pieces of my heart.

I’m a Writer

It is April. I am in Brussels at the Midi Train Station. Transitioning from Amsterdam to London.

I step up to the British Customs Agent.  He is the fourth customs agent I have been in front in the last five days.  The second today.

He asks me a question no one has yet to ask me.

“What do you do.”

I stare blankly at him.  Is this a trick question?

I swallow.

“I am a writer.”

He does a double take.  Looks down at my passport.  Looks up at me.

He raises his eyebrows.


The critic in my head begins.  “Who do you think you are?  Who do you think you’re fooling? Do you think you can get away with lying to this official?”

I shush her.

I allow my heart to answer him.

“Yes.  I am a writer.”

And I smile.

And he smiles back.

“I hope London inspires you.”

I thank him.  And I walk away to join JB.

And I know that I won’t allow the critic in my head to quiet the still voice of my heart.  For I have announced to the world, that I am a writer.