Two weddings, two babies and a funeral … a pandemic love story

Two weddings, two babies and a funeral … a pandemic love story

Eighteen months of life during pandemic.

How can time feel like a slog and a sprint in the same moment? How can our hearts process it all when life comes at us with this kind of intensity?

The bittersweet joy of a wedding, with the oldest generation notably absent, followed four weeks later by Dad’s death. 

The thrill of a new engagement, at the beginning of that oddly quiet and strange holiday season we all stayed home, miles apart.

That Christmas day itself, the early morning “we’re pregnant!” call from the newlyweds, followed that night by “it’s a girl!” from  the not-so-newlyweds. The anxiety and concern. When will it be safe to visit? Will all this be over when the next baby arrives? 

A moment of serendipity with my sister, finding the perfect dress for next spring’s wedding (Will we all be able to gather safely by then? I have hope. I buy the dress.) during time that was meant for visiting Mom … until the latest lockdown at her facility nixed that plan.

Through it all, a growing realization that some of my closest family is my chosen tribe, the ones who are just enough removed from the immediacy of it all to open their arms wide and let me rest there a bit. 

There has been love. Big, heaving gobs of love that rose from frustration, celebration, disappointment, anticipation, grief, joy, loneliness, and uncertainty. My heart now understands it can hold two or more emotions in any given moment, where happy sits hand-in-hand with sad, and grief is comforted by grace.

The past 18 months have been an epic love story for this family, with enough requisite plot twists and revelations to make it a juicy read. We are stronger together than we’ve ever been. I am grateful.

Some might call it a drama; at times it feels more like a rom-com. Really though, it’s a mystery. It’s life, in 2021. It’s love, pandemic-style. And there is no telling where this beautiful, crazy love story goes from here. 

To the beautiful, amazing, soulful people in my family — by blood, by marriage, and by choice — you are my heroes.

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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We are not prepared for this …

We are not prepared for this …

I learned at a young age the value of being prepared. The snow scraper and kitty litter stayed in the trunk October through April (if you get it, raise your hand). Now perched in coastal NC, I replenish the “Spam, hash and Oreo stash” faithfully every May (again, show of hands and shout out your own variation of storm prep essentials).

I’m back in Central NY this week. Relentless rain leftover from Fred the Storm finds me and my sister digging up memories of Mom furiously digging ditches around our childhood home during another leftover storm to keep the water from pouring into the basement. I had no idea at the time how strong she was.)

Emergencies we can handle. We are completely unprepared for the long, slow drawn-out crisis of “life as we know” it at this age, at this point in our lives, during this season in our country’s history. My long-planned visit to see Mom (the main reason I’m here this week) has been cancelled due to Covid. I know what to do in an emergency … but what about this kind of non-urgent yet highly important non-crisis?

How have we been prepped to watch our parents as they age, as the people we know slip away and are replaced by people still familiar yet wholly strange? 

How are we prepared for being the grownups in the room, on social media in online conversations or face-to-face interactions in the world, as society convulses in the weirdest ways? What prepared us for waking up from the American Dream to the reality of masks, hand sanitizer and relentless debate?

Nobody told me to be ready for any of this. And it’s not just me. It’s so many of my friends when we get real about what’s going on in our lives. 

Nobody warned us about dying parents and stressed out kids and ugly neighbors and divisions that can’t seem to be bridged by simple common empathy. Nobody mentioned we might go days without a decent night’s sleep, for no apparent reason. Nobody thought to tell us that our mental health was as real — and as vulnerable — as our physical health. Nobody warned us there would be days when, after a productive and largely successful earlier part of our lives, we would have to learn all over again how to do life.

I’m tired. I’m worn out with it all. Trying to make sense of it all. Trying to keep a positive light shining. Trying to hold on the what matters, even as we accept what’s new. It’s too much. And it has to be done regardless. So I go back to what I know. 

I know my way around a bag of kitty litter on black ice in a freezing wind. I know how to recover when the car starts to fishtail. I know where my portable Coleman stove is at all times. I can always boil water. 

So that’s where I’ll start … with what I know. 

I know the world is absolutely loaded with gorgeous, kind souls. I also know that many of those gorgeous souls are feeling the same way I am. Disoriented. A bit adrift. Wondering how we got here, yes, but not wasting too much energy on that question when faced with the more urgent questions of what do I do now.

What I know with all my heart is that I can’t let my questions distract me from the joyous parts of the life … the reunions, new beginnings and happy stories deserve, no, demand, my attention. Your tribe, your circle, your people deserve your presence.

We are not hothouse flowers. We do not wilt when things aren’t just so. We have good roots, strong stems and lasting beauty that changes with us. Our voices are still clear and true.

So maybe we have not be adequately warned so about life as we now know it. Let’s lean in to the gorgeous, kind souls that surround us, and figure it all out together. 

Feeling it.

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Repositioning

Repositioning

I pulled the rug out from under myself once.  Yanked the band-aid off a situation that seemingly wasn’t there.  
And after a brief, yet painful, moment of sheer awfulness, I FINALLY knew EXACTLY where I stood.
And I didn’t like the end result.  
Not even a little bit.  
Yet after months of guessing and table playing ‘every possible scenario’, one had ultimately presented that hadn’t even crossed my mind.  
And after pulling myself together, and resetting my sights, I realized I was in a much stronger place for having gone ahead and made the call.  
That there was very little guess work left and the answers for going forward much more clear.  
That gathering facts and asking questions outright, monitoring things a different kind of closely and making no assumptions, digging deep and not taking ANYTHING at face value had now gone to a whole new level.
And with one horrible call the pieces had suddenly been placed differently on the game board and I was now in a difficult, yet stronger position to do just that.
But accepting that some things will never change, and having the courage to support changing the things that can is rarely easy.  
And maintaining strength in the wisdom to know the difference almost always comes at a price.  
And I can’t say that I haven’t made the occasional misstep since that incredibly valuable learning lesson.  
But my ability to think clearly and navigate more smoothly has improved ten fold.  And EVERYTHING gets easier with experience.  
So rest easy my friend.  Rest easy in the knowing that big changes are often nothing short of terrifying.
Rest easy in knowing that the first step is almost always the hardest.  
And rest easy in knowing that we cannot become what we NEED to become by remaining what we are …
See you when you get here ❤️

Amy Hege Atwell is the author of 10 Little Rules for Mermaids, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at retail outlets including her shop The Painted Mermaid in Southport, NC.

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The rule of threes

The rule of threes

It’s interesting what comes in threes. And because ‘losing your identity’ / ‘letting go of what keeps you from going to the next level’ just did, I have a tale …

I was sixteen when I started in corporate retail and worked at all levels – full time, part time, several at one time – for 26 years. Many were spent recovering ‘broken buildings.’ Two overlapped with owning my own store.  

When I left, I was over the moon pregnant with a long awaited wee one and beyond ready to make the shift to full time mommy / store owner.  

At three weeks old he and I took over The Painted Mermaid, working open to close together, seven days a week. (Naively insane, but wonderful all the same) 

And as the dust began to settle I inadvertently sought out the next ‘fix’ – after all, solving problems was my designated forte. It was oddly unsettling when the need lessened.  

I’m not sure when I realized that in and amongst all the glorious chaos and bedlam I had somehow lost ‘me’ in the shuffle …

Writing a book like mine opened up A LOT of fantastic conversation, and at some point a dear friend had offered that she didn’t miss the man she divorced, she missed the man she’d married. That one statement helped lead to my realizing I missed the girl that HE had married.  

The book has been on my mind a lot this week – it’s been a year, and we are soon going into its third printing. And if I leave you with nothing else from these random thoughts of mine, I give you this: You are not alone my friend, with ANY of it. We just don’t always talk about it.  

It is up to US, men and women alike, to discover who we TRULY are and keep that truth alive for OURSELVES.  

For we MUST be happy separately if we ever hope to be solid and happy together.  

So do what you can to let go of what you cannot change.  Take the steps YOU need to find or rediscover you.  Focus on the SOLUTIONS, and I will see you when you get here.

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We forgot to tell the bees …

We forgot to tell the bees …

I don’t remember where I first heard of “telling the bees,” but I had a beautiful reminder of the soulful tradition when I read The Beekeeper’s Promise last summer. 

The practice of notifying the hives or telling the bees when a momentous event (usually the death of the master or mistress, but also births, weddings, children, etc.) appears in many European folklore traditions, as bees are often seen as a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Some say it has its roots in the Celtic culture; this resonates with my soul beautifully.

I though back to this when my dad died in October. He wasn’t a beekeeper … yet he had a large and far-flung “hive” of family and friends. His address book (translated to an Excel spreadsheet over the years) was massive. My siblings and I spent hours on the phone reaching out and sharing the news of his passing. In the process we shared laughs, tears and a reconnection with people we hadn’t talk to in years. It was healing just to have those conversations, even while we knew we were sharing sad news.

Because Dad died during the pandemic, gathering was limited to family and the closest friends, with a private funeral Mass and no calling hours. Still, we felt so very grateful we at least could gather in church to send Dad on his way. His faith was strong; not having a funeral would have been unimaginable.

So many thousands of others this past year weren’t so fortunate. The unimaginable became the everyday. So many missed funerals, cancelled weddings, newborns with no grandparents to visit … so much loss of all kinds. Lost jobs, lost incomes, lost friendships, lost beliefs, lost hopes … in too many cases even lost faith as the things we used to believe were bedrock began to crack into pieces.

Collectively, we had no way to tell the bees. 

Life continued.

For many it looks entirely different now … even if nothing really changed on the surface. For me, it’s a greater clarity of what’s important in my life, and what I can (should) gracefully and gratefully let go. It’s the gathering of the tribe, when we reconnect back around a central hive and share our stories. It’s the moments around a fire pit, the shared meals, seeing the band play live again.

Just beginning to tell my stories again, I’m exploring my feelings and realizations — even though I don’t have it all figured out. For me, writing is how I get there. Putting the foggy gray feelings into black and white forces me to makes at least some sense of it all. 

I’m not the same person I was in the winter of 2020. Yeah, I miss her. She was a lot of fun, relaxed, happy, productive. Still, I’m learning to embrace who I’ve become. She’s still fun, with an extra portion of grace and strength and some eyes-wide-open disbelief at some of the things I never noticed before. 

I need to speak my truth of the loss and fear and darkness of last year, so my hive begins to understand. 

I need to tell the bees.

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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No, I’m not a hot mess

No, I’m not a hot mess

I’m walking along the beach listening to one in a series of mediations from the Chopra Center on the energy of attraction and manifesting desires.

I’ve listened to this series probably five times; each time through it I have a powerful experience of manifesting a particular dream or desire — a new client, a buyer for my house, an outcome with a relationship. And each time, my faith in the process is renewed.

This time it was a simple idea that rang through me: The more whole we realize we are, the more powerful our intentions.

“When you pursue love, beauty, creativity, innovation, meaning and a higher vision of life, the energy of attraction becomes much stronger.” Deepak Chopra, M.D.

The key to easily manifesting desires is remembering we are indeed whole, at a deeply spiritual level. We are not the hot-mess train-wreck lovable disasters we joke about. Yes, on the physical plane we may have lacks, needs, struggles, traumas, scars, yoga hair, bad credit scores and frustrations that keep us mired. Yet when we move deeper into the core of who we really are, we find that center where we are indeed whole. Unbroken. Undamaged.

Still resonating with this idea, I looked down at the sand on the edge of the surf, and saw the tip of a conch shell sticking up. I unburied the shell with my foot, and pulled out a beauty … 6 inches long with gorgeous coloring and a beautiful swirl. And just to reinforce the lesson for the day, there was a hole in the outer level of the shell.

It was exactly what I needed to find.

Here was this thing of exquisite natural beauty, not perfect by a shell hunter’s standards, yet absolutely whole. I held the shell in my hand, almost in tears at the perfect lesson. (This shell will live on my desk so I never forget that the outer “damage” doesn’t matter … wholeness exists on a much deeper level.)

The dreams and desires that come from our deepest selves hold the key to bliss. Honor what your heart is telling you, and set aside the idea that you have to fix yourself, or anything and anyone else, before you can be worthy of your dream.

You just have to look past what you think is missing to see the complete and beautiful reality.

Bliss on …

Carol Pearson is the founder of the 10 Little Rules book series, and the author of 10 Little Rules for a Blissy Life, available at www.10littlerules.com, on Amazon, on Etsy, and at select retail stores. Follow 10 Little Rules on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Squirrels Need More Pockets

Squirrels Need More Pockets

When you think about how to make your home safe for children, you think about sharp corners, outlets and stairs. When you have a child with severe allergies, you look to your pantries, beauty products and cleaning supplies. Something that you may not think about are squirrels. Yeah, squirrels. Those cute little furry rodents carry all sorts of stuff, only to drop them all over the place.

We have this neighbor who feeds the squirrels. I don’t mean that he leaves a peanut or two out for the squirrels, but that he has made his entire backyard into a squirrel city. There are squirrel homes, cameras aimed into the squirrel homes and lights that is reminiscent of a red-light district. It is a bit much. His backyard is fenced, but some of the cameras and the tires and the houses and random junk meant to be a squirrel playground, loom over the fence line.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know that this odd zoo was a neighbor when we bought the place. Just like we didn’t know that peanuts and their shells carried over to our yard would be an issue for us until after we had Hank. We certainly didn’t know that squirrels don’t have pockets. Ok, we knew that, but like, seriously. They drop nearly everything; I am convinced that they are the reason why I have an abundance of wild raspberries.

When we realized what an issue the peanuts were, I did talk to the neighbor. I was met with a shrug.

Since then, I’ve heard stories from other neighbors that he has been feeding and providing squirrel love nests for at least 35 years. I guess every neighborhood has that *one* neighbor, right?

Because of our neighbor’s love of nature, we worked with Hank when he was younger to make sure that he knew what a peanut shell looked like and to not touch it. I take care to do checks in the yard to pick up any shells/nuts that have been carried over from one of his squirrel children.

It really just goes to show you, when you think that you have it all under control, a squirrel could change everything.

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Endlessly, beautifully, creating ourselves

Endlessly, beautifully, creating ourselves

We’re supposed to have a dream right? 
Some big fat uber sexy goal? One we’re ‘never supposed to lose sight of?’ 

But what if we don’t? 

What if just getting through whatever day at any given moment is about all the dream we can handle, let alone sexy? 

And what if we’ve let ourselves get so loaded down with whatever it – good, bad or otherwise – that we’ve all but even forgotten the concept? 

What if we have gotten so far away from thought provoking conversation and stimulating brain activity that we feel all but invisible? 

And what if we’re essentially very happy – but there’s just that little something missing? The thing you just can’t quite put your finger on? 

You look to the only person who can change that. 

The one person who may not know how at this very moment – or even what. 

The one person who in the end you DO KNOW you can ALWAYS go to to get things figured out. 

The person who knows to grab a good book, crank up the dance music, take a shower and do – or not do – her hair. 

Take a class. Research a small project. 

You Sunshine. It’s you. YOU are the one with ALL the power. 

You just may not remember it. 

And yes, the only thing more important than accepting help when you need it is asking for it. 

Good. Solid. NO STRINGS ATTACHED, open, honest help. 

Just never EVER forget – no matter what – you absolutely CAN take care of you my strong and MOST BEAUTIFUL friend. 

So do that …

and the rest will come. 

See you when you get here. ❤️

Amy Hege Atwell is the author of 10 Little Rules for Mermaids, available at www.10littlerules.com, www.thepaintedmermaid.com, on Etsy, and at retail outlets including her shop The Painted Mermaid in Southport, NC.

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