Your vote. Use it or lose it.

Your vote. Use it or lose it.

It won’t make a difference. 

The system’s rigged. 

I don’t like either candidate. 

Why bother? 

It’s too much trouble. 

It’s too much of a hassle.

My vote won’t count anyway … 

The reasons are endless.

The reality is, as soon as you choose not to vote, the reason is you. The system, run by humans and their astonishing ability to be flawed, isn’t perfect. But we still need to participate. 

And I don’t mean blindly voting along party lines. I mean understanding who those people are, and what they stand for. From the top spot to the smallest local election.

When I started really diving into the people on my ballot, the real humans, their backgrounds, their affiliations, their donor base – yep, even their social media feeds, which can be eye-opening  – my choice became much easier. 

Ballotpedia is a great tool for that. Just enter the address where you are registered to vote, and you can find your ballot for any upcoming elections. 

Yep, it takes a bit of time to do this research. But it will take a whole lot more than time to dig this country out of the current mess we have created for ourselves. 

In our country’s history, a vote was precious and hard-earned thing. For women, it was harder still. Now, all you have to do to earn the right to vote is turn 18. For now. 

Think of your right to vote like a muscle … if you don’t exercise it, frequently, you could lose it.

We are heading into the Independence Day weekend … one way to celebrate? Register to vote. (Not sure how? Message me for info. I’m a volunteer poll working in my home county and can help you find the info you need. And no, I don’t care who you vote for, as long as you do your homework and understand what they stand for.)

Oh, and are you registered to vote? Check at Vote.org

 

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F*ck around and find out

F*ck around and find out

F*ck around and find out. 

The over-used Twitter meme says it all. Do something; reap the consequences. Take something away; reap the consequences. Unintended consequences aren’t always predictable. It’s the intended consequences that scare me.

Take away existing human rights, and the unintended (but c’mon, not unexpected) consequences might be a backlash at the polls, public protests (nonviolent or not), economic pushback, social chaos.

The intended consequences are quite different … and we can only guess the motive. Economic hardship for a particular group? Ostracization? Criminalization? Shame? Worse?

The recent Supreme Court’s ruling, worded to grant a return to state control on abortion, will have consequences of both kinds.

The publicly touted social consequences this – to eliminate or at least significantly reduce abortion under the banner of morality – is a fallacy.

Abortions will only become more expensive, more dangerous, with more dire consequences for all people involved. 

Is that the true intention here? 

Because let’s not kid ourselves. If you’re wealthy or well-connected, safely ending an unwanted or medically dangerous pregnancy will continue to be quite possible. 

Prohibition did nothing to rid the country of alcohol. Instead, it plunged the industry into the hands of criminals. And that is what this ruling will do – create an entire unregulated industry to meet the need. As a country we’ve seen that horror show. The highest court in our nation decided years ago to not let that happen anymore.

And what’s next? We already know the stated intention of at least one SC justice – to “reconsider” existing rights around birth control and same-sex relationships (married or not). 

What are the unintended consequences of this? And more importantly, what’s the intended? 

Listen to your heart – speaking far deeper and quieter than the rhetoric in your brain – does it abide by these consequences in a society founded on basic, inalienable rights? If so, you have a right to believe this is all a good thing. If not, you have a right to be horrified, and to raise your voice against it. This is not a political statement.

Honor what you hear in your heart … at the end of the day it’s the only way you’ll be able to authentically face the consequences. Unintended or not.

Own your truth and speak it. If it helps just one person, it’s worth doing.

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Rule #1 — Get to Source

Rule #1 — Get to Source

Get to source.

It’s the first rule in my book. It’s helped me make tough decisions and wade through grief. It’s helped me stay focused in my work, and balanced on the roller coaster of the last two years.

Today I was reminded it’s also a good policy when you’re reading and sharing information. The news lately wavers from the disastrous to the unbelievable, as our country convulses politically and philosophically. And people are quick to share … all too often without getting to the source of the news.

It’s human nature to latch on to information that confirms our world view — or the world view we many think we should have because the people around us do. So it’s also human nature to hit that like button and share without digging deeper.

How refreshing to have a friend text back today and say, “Hey, about that thing you shared with me … do you have the original source? I want to learn more.”

It was a good reminder for me to slow down a bit and be more thorough in my own sharing, verifying the the sources and context of the conversation.

The news is coming fast and furious these days. So check the source … and then check in with yourself. Are you sitting with the information you consume, letting your authentic self feel it out for truth?

It’s okay to have an opinion that doesn’t agree with mine, or theirs, or anybody. Just make sure it’s honestly your opinion. Our truth will resonate within our hearts when we take the time to get to source.

On the other hand, pardon me if I don’t share your enthusiasm, if your opinion sits as ugliness in my heart. That’s the way it is sometimes. I choose to surround myself with the resonance that works for my heart. Anything less would indeed be inauthentic.

We don’t have to believe as our spouse or sisters or brothers or kids or neighbors do, or our co-workers, clergy, politicians or anyone else. To live a truly authentic life, we must take time to be still, to listen to our hearts, decide how we feel, then choose how to act on those feelings … or not.

Get to source. Oh, and register to vote 😉

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Telling the hive … once more

Telling the hive … once more

(Earlier this year I wrote about Dad’s passing, and how life during pandemic made it so hard to “tell the bees.” Now we mourn my mom, who died earlier this month. These are the words of remembrance I spoke at her funeral, shared here with the encouragement of my hive, especially my sisters and my brother. I love you all.)

It’s time to tell the bees … again.

I don’t remember where I first heard the legend of  “telling the bees,” but I was reminded of this beautiful tradition when I read The Beekeeper’s Promise last summer. 

Telling the bees is the practice of sitting quietly and notifying the hive when a momentous event occurs in the family, typically when the master or mistress of the family dies. 

Families do this, the legend goes, out of respect for the bees’ position as a link between the physical and spiritual worlds, and their importance to the health of the farm.

If we don’t tell the bees, the delicate link between the bees and their human host is disrupted, and the bees may abandon the hive. 

Now it’s our turn to tell the bees …

It’s time to sit quietly and tell the bees of our sadness at Mom’s death.

It’s time to let the bees help us mourn the loss … of  a mother … a grandmother … a great-grandmother, an aunt, a dear friend.  

It’s time for us to speak openly of the gaping hole at the center of our hive. It’s why we come together like this, in a safe, sacred space to shed our tears. 

Yet there’s another part to this practice of telling the bees. We also tell the hive of our joy … when a baby is born or      when a couple gets married … when a new home is built or a fresh field is plowed. 

We tell the hive when our hearts are full of the awe and wonder and joy of simply being alive.

So let’s speak that part of Jan’s life today. Let’s tell the bees about a life grounded in faith and rooted in love.

Jan’s often unspoken mission was clear: our job is to leave this place a little better than we found it.

She lived this mission. Coaching Little League softball, teaching religious education and leading Brownie and Girl Scout troops, she gave her time and smile and encouragement to countless kids. 

Through her work at Pompey Outreach, she gave families in need hope, support and love. 

She and Dad provided counsel and support to so many couples through Engaged Encounter and Marriage Encounter.

She showed her love in her magical talent for whipping up a party at every family gathering, special event, holiday and Sunday supper. 

To her husband she provided a life of unwavering support and dedication   throughout their 60+ years of marriage. 

To all of us, she provided a rock solid foundation of faith … faith in a greater good, in something so much larger than ourselves, and in the greater potential available in each of us.

Her life was a series of reminders to help us realize our real purpose here. We learned to move through this world with hearts wide open and ready to give. 

We learned to leave firewood for the next camper. 

We learned to plant flower gardens where our neighbors could see them, and where the bees could come and work.

We learned to volunteer in our community, to share our talents and our light, to simply pay attention to the people around us. To realize when they might need a hand … or a hug …  or an extra dollop of Cool Whip. 

And we learned to create family memories through our holiday rituals and a well-loaded table. We learned how to turn the most every-day  day  into something special with a well-timed dose of sprinkles. (In this family, sprinkles mean love and that’s a fact.)

Jan leaves behind this incredible legacy, in a strong, loving extended family that learned by her example how to love unconditionally and support each other with our whole hearts.

I see that legacy in my siblings, so clearly now, especially during these past few difficult years.

I see Mom’s legacy in Marianne, who chose a career in which her talents and contributions are magnified by the teams she has assembled to help some of the most vulnerable. Like Mom, Marianne’s impact is a lasting one, in the legislation she’s helped create and advocated for …  in the organizations she has strengthened … and in the community she’s motivated. I also see her in the way she and Karan grow food in the city, to eat and to share, and the way their very presence creates true community wherever they go. 

I see Mom in Patty, in the nearly magical way her home expands to accommodate anyone who wants to be there, and the table fills with food at just the right times. I saw Mom in her the other night, when she turned a box of graham crackers and a couple of bananas into the perfect bedtime mini-feast for a crowded house. I see it in her work with students, helping them realize their greater potential and find a new level of confidence. And I see it in her life with Bill, growing a family with an unshakable faith in God’s goodness. 

I see Mom’s legacy in Frank, as he’s morphed his career into a true mission to leave the planet better for the generations to come.  Not in a lofty, theoretical way, but in real time, through his ability to leverage the connections he makes with creative synergy. And I see it in the family he’s created with Rachel, in the way they’ve both instilled a love of being outside and a respect for the natural world in their boys. And I see it in a faith that becomes manifest as he walks through his days. 

And I see Mom in myself. I hear her speaking to me when I’m working in my garden, tending the flowers while the bees and the butterflies go about their chores. I see it in my work as a ghostwriter, helping others tell their stories. And I see Mom in myself as the seasons change and John and I haul out the bins to decorate for the seasons. … The seasons of renewal, the times of growth, the gratitude of the harvest time, and the rituals that herald the wonder and joy that see us through the darker part of the year.

Lately though, I see Grandma’s legacy most clearly in her grandchildren … 

in Chelsea and Kade in the way they recognize their unique talents and embrace the hard work needed to amplify them … 

in Miriam and David, in Natalie and Jeffrey as they buzz around their own hives doing what needs doing with ease and laughter, always ready with a hug or the right words or an impromptu yo-yo lesson … 

I see it in Luke and Colin as they embrace a life lived closer to nature, staying in harmony with this earth as they celebrate the pure, grand adventure of just being alive … 

I see it in Valerie and Jessie, both in the careers they’ve chosen, providing advocacy and support to young and old, and in the good-hearted men, Ryan and Will,  they’ve chosen to spend their lives with. 

And now we have the gift of discovering Grandma’s legacy in her great granddaughter and namesake Eleanor Jean. How Mom’s legacy will show up in this next generation is a gift tucked under the tree, just waiting to open … as we see glimpses of Mom and Dad and so many others flit across her sweet face.

We see Mom in all the faces here today … her friends and extended family, the people she loved in so many different ways, people she has touched in the community, on the golf course, in her church community. If she was to plan a party, I’m pretty sure you all would be on the VIP list.

Our queen bee might have flown this earthly hive, but her presence and her legacy of love is stronger than ever. 

We will remember her in every apple pie, every flower garden, every jar of sprinkles, and every campfire. It’s that legacy of love that we will remember and celebrate.

So let’s all go together and tell the bees. 

So yes, we’ll tell them of our loss. Speak to them of our sadness. 

And then we’ll tell them of our joy  …  of our unbounded gratitude that we have been so graced to have her in our lives. 

Postscript: As we gathered to bury Mom at the graveside on a gorgeous fall day, one lone bee flew in and slowly circled the casket, buzzed each one of us, visited the priest and paused near the Bible in his hands, then flew away. The bees know.

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

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

Almost two years 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.

Then, just two weeks later, another baby born and given Mom’s middle name; we couldn’t know Mom would pass just six weeks later.

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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