Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day: Memories of a Hero

Maybe it's the 4th of July holiday or maybe its all the time I've spent in the hammock recently, but my Grandaddy has been on my mind.

Yesterday was the 4th so like any good and patriotic American, I strapped on my stars and stripes bikini while I whistled Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American and walked out to the hammock in our all-American backyard, waving to neighbors and anticipating dusk so the husband and I could see our small-town fireworks display.

How much more American can you get than a yellow lab?!

Swinging and whistling on the hammock made me go back to my fondest 4th of July memories, those hot Florida days when we would eat hotdogs and watermelon until our stomachs ached, and I would beg my Grandaddy, my best friend, my main man, to put up his Pawley's Island hammock between those two perfect trees in the backyard. He would always oblige and we would swing and swing. Maybe we were there for 10 minutes or 2 hours, I have no idea. All I knew was that it was a beautiful and happy day because I was surrounded by love and Red White and Blue. 

I was young and didn't understand the importance of such a holiday. I didn't understand why we celebrated or why there were fireworks. I didn't realize at the time that even though I was always celebrating my Grandaddy because of my love for him, the rest of America was celebrating him right then because of what he did for his country.

Carroll Ray Morris, fondly known as Grandaddy, was born in West Virginia, served in the US Army during WWII as a military policeman in Germany, and was your true American Hero. I don't know what all he saw while he served his country or what memories went through his head on any given day years later, surfacing in any given nightmare, and I don't know what kind of pride, loss, hurt, or relief he felt on those holidays that are meant to cause memories and patriotism.

He died when I was 16 and there are days, so many days, that I think of yet another question I wish I would have asked him or a situation I could sit down and talk to him about. Maybe he didn't want to talk about his Army days and that's why I don't know more than I do. Maybe they were uneventful, although I truly doubt it. Maybe he was too humble to admit any of his brave acts of valor.

All I know is that he served his country and when his soul went to Heaven and his body was buried 10 years ago, an American flag was there. America lost another WWII veteran and I lost my beloved Grandaddy.

Whenever I swing in the hammock or think of our brave American veterans, I think of that blue-eyed gentleman and our sweet time together in the fleeting sunshine. His memory presents itself to me in a few other special ways, too, and I can never help but smile. Sometimes that smile is accompanied by a tear but always a smile.

As a child, I didn't realize my Grandaddy was an American Hero, I only knew that he was my hero. And I think that was enough. For him, and for me. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Anxiety Underwater: SCUBA is not for the Faint of Heart

I began a SCUBA certification class last weekend.

If there was such a thing as "living crap," it has been scared out of me (see my previous post of other examples of scaredy-cat Libby) . There is something so unnatural about breathing out of a moutpiece attached to a heavy tank attached to a vest that blows up attached to your back. While looking through goggles and swimming with fins. Nope, not natural at all. Not to mention, each classroom lessons starts and ends with, "if you do ____, you will die. If you do ____, you will die. If ____ happens, you will die." Hmm, I'm not sure why, but that doesn't exactly sound super positive to me.

Saturday's class consisted of a swim test with various feats, a basic lesson on setting up your gear, and getting used to the gear underwater. All of this at 4 feet down isn't so bad... it was moving down to the 12 foot deep end that started giving me the heebie jeebies. It took a few tries and a panic-ridden almost-drowned why-the-hell-cant-I-get-to-the-top (is it normal that its not second nature yet to INFLATE the foreign object strapped to my back!?) trip to the surface, but I eventually accomplished the skills at hand. I felt okay and tried to focus on one thing: Bermuda. Bermuda. Bermuda with my new Hubby. Headed home,  I knew I would be back at it the next morning and tried not to let the fact that I wasn't "a natural" get me down.

My first time trying out SCUBA
Sunday morning came and I geared up, jumped in, and began the lessons set before me. When it came time to redo all of the tests from the day before, this time at 12 feet, I took a deep breath and attempted my descent. I watched the other three pupils go through their skills with ease, all the while a little twinge of unsettledness creeping up on me. I wanted to open my mouth and breath. I knew I shouldn't look up to the top of the water but I couldn't stop myself. I was trying to think of Bermuda but instead of images of coral reefs and fish, I saw only blueish concrete pool walls closing in on me. My brain was flooded with the thought that in Bermuda, I will have to be under much deeper water than this for 30 minutes. 30 minutes?! That was just too much for me to handle. I don't think I had even made it to 3 minutes at this point when my chest started heaving and I montioned to the instructor that I was OUT OF THERE. Thankfully, I remembered to inflate and I got to the top and breathed (okay, more like gasped just for the beauty of it) that sweet, precious, natural, God-given air. And immediately, I started to cry. Ugh, crying in goggles is not pretty. While the class and the instructor were down 12 feet, I removed my goggles and swam at the shallow end trying to get myself together. I still don't know whether I was crying out of panic or because I was upset at myself for not being able to do this thing that so many people can't get enough of. That I wanted to do. I couldn't control my mind and quite honestly, it pissed me off.

I wanted to say I hated SCUBA but I couldn't. That wasn't the case. I wanted to say I was done and that SCUBA wasn't for me but I couldn't say that either. I was pretty certain this specific day was over for me, but I was almost prepared to say that I would try again another day.

Something crazy happened after that episode. I was drained, tired, feeling quite defeated, but I was suddenly overcome with the feeling that I wanted to rise above this. I may not be the best at SCUBA, and I may not do it every weekend or even call myself a Diver but I want to at least accomplish this class and get certified. It scares me to death but I want to know what it feels like to go through something so terrifying and come out on the other side victorious and in control.

I was faced with a choice of either being a quitter or being a gladiator (Scandal reference, for my other fans out there!). I thought that if I couldn't do everything perfectly during that class, that I would have failed and I couldn't go on. I learned though that you have to trust your gut, not compare yourself to those around you, learn (slowly) to control your thoughts, and that some days, it just isn't going to happen. I gain nothing if I beat myself up and let the obstacle defeat me. What I want to be defined by is that I have the ability to face something head on, pick myself up after a stumble, and fight. I want to have that quiet strength that says "today may not be the day, but I will try again tomorrow."

I will keep you posted on my progress. Pretty soon, instead of Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, SCUBA will stand for Scared Crapless but Undefeated Bad Ass.

That's my hope, anyway!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Note to Self: You are Beautiful.

Dear Self,

I owe you an apology. I have known you for 25 years and you have been very faithful to me, but you have consistently been taken for granted and not treated with the respect you deserve. 

I need to tell you that for the first time in 25 years, I realize that you are not only capable, you are beautiful. Did you hear me? I said you are BEAUTIFUL. I am sorry it has taken me this long to understand how wonderful you actually are and I promise to compliment you more often- not because I am vain but because you are a gift. 

image by EP Widor Photography

I am sorry I have filled you with sub-par things and expected you to work to your fullest potential. I am sorry I deprived you of sleep, nutrition, laughter, and made you spend way too many hours staring at, and obsessing over, a number on a scale. I judged you by that number and I realize now how wrong that was. You should have instead been judged by the strength you possess, the lines around my mouth that point to how many smiles we have given to others, and the freckles that dance around my skin for they remind me of all the wonderful days we have spent in the rays of the pleasant sun. 

I am sorry for all the excuses that were made to not fuel you with exercise. We are so much happier and full of energy when we are active! I am also sorry for all the times I filled you with improper food because I thought I deserved it, or the times I deprived you of calories all together because I thought I didn’t deserve them. I deserve to be fueled. I deserve to give my body nutrition to live and thrive. This is just another thing it has taken me so long to realize. 

I am sorry I have compared you to others. I am sorry I didn’t think you measured up to them because let me tell you, you are perfect just the way you are. Everyone has their battles and if I can love others through theirs, I can love myself through my own, too. I can’t take back all the times I stared at pictures in magazines or at strangers on the street and wished to look more like them, but I know now how foolish that was. You are capable, miraculous, and wonderful. 

I am sorry for thinking a number on a scale was enough to define everything about you. It sounds pretty ridiculous said aloud, doesn’t it? Someone who loves us very much recently took that scale away, and at first I was angry because I didn’t think I would be able to measure my progress. It’s funny though- I haven’t seen this much progress in a very long time and it all started with the scale no longer being a fixture in my bathroom and in my life. 

Getting to this point of loving you has not been easy. It was hard to even admit at first that I didn’t love you; however, people take care of and nurture the things they love. They treat those things with respect and honor for the blessing that they are. I have not done that with you and that stops here.
Image by EP Widor Photography

One day I hope to have a little girl and I don’t want her to go through these hard feelings like I have. I don’t want her to know what it feels like to not love exercise, not love good food, and I certainly don’t want her to know what it feels like to be obsessed over a scale. I don’t know that little girl yet, but I know that she will be beautiful and miraculous and capable. I know she will be unique and have so many characteristics about her that everyone will love. I know this because she will be a part of me. She will be a part of her dad, who is wonderful, too. These are all the things that will only begin to define her. 

So, Self, with this sincere apology, I also want to say thank you. Thank you for continuing to work and thrive despite the obstacles through which I have put you. Thank you for being patient with me while I learned all of these lessons. You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are cherishable. You have been good to me and it is time now that I return the favor. 


Your Newest, Greatest Fan

Psalm 139:14: "I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

What would you say to yourself if you had the courage?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wedding Planning: Lessons From a Bride in the Trenches

I have been officially planning the magical, whimsical, flowery, purple affair that will join my beloved and I in wedded bliss for nearly nine months (let’s be honest though, I have been thinking and plotting about it for far longer!). I am in the home-stretch now with just two weeks to go. As much as I love to plan and love having my brain on wedding channel 24/7, I am to the point now where I can reflect a bit, look forward to a few quiet evenings in the near future where my husband and I can chomp popcorn and watch Netflix and not be surrounded with paper samples, vendor contracts, and this DIY project or that. I am just so excited to be his Mrs. and share life with my best friend. I know I will always be a list-keeping, type-A, semi-neurotic planner and I will always look forward to the next big thing or event to coordinate, but nine months with one solid focus (a big, stressful focus for which I am the sole decision-maker/manager/slave driver) has begun to take its toll on my sanity. I am ready for a bit of peace.

Although I have not yet finished this journey, I have learned a lot through this process. A lot of these lessons perhaps reach further than just the realm of wedding planning and are things I hope to never forget. Maybe you can benefit from some of these lessons and maybe I can remain mindful of them as the crazy two weeks ahead of me commence! 

 (Us. Insert "awww" here.)

1.     People who offer to help mean it. 

I know when I offer someone a ride, a hand, a meal, or a shoulder, I genuinely mean it and am happy to deliver! If I didn’t want to for whatever reason, I would not have offered. I have to believe that other people are generally the same. If someone offers to take some weight off my shoulders, I cannot feel bad for taking them up on their offer!

The kicker- I have to remind myself to ask them to do things they would enjoy and will be good at (don’t ask someone who enjoys creative, fun things, to deal with something budget or contract related). Bonus: if you give them a job, it’s best not to micromanage or tell them how they have to do it. You just have to be okay with the way they wish to get the task done. Yes, this is incredibly more difficult than it sounds.

2.    Flexibility and honey will get you far. 

 I spoke to a wedding vendor yesterday who said I was “the most flexible bride.” When she said that I was flattered, but I also thought, “What does she expect? For me to pitch a fit and tell her no?” To me, that is not only pointless in a situation beyond your control, it is just tacky. I have been treated so well by many of my vendors because we were flexible with what we wanted and were willing to discuss things rather than present a “my way or the highway” mentality. Shane and I knew a general idea of what we wanted to provide our guests, so we decided to have it on a Thursday instead of Saturday so we could afford all the niceties we wanted. I provided my photographer with a general shot list so he was aware of who was family and what images was important to me, but my approach was that providing a 3-page shot list of every single photo I wanted taken would insult his professionalism and hinder his creative process. I gave my florist a color scheme, style, and a few blooms I didn’t care for, and I am letting her take it from there. If I had something specific that I couldn’t live without, I would have told her, but mostly, I love her work, she and I are on the same page, and I am excited about being surprised and wowed on my wedding day!

I want to help people out and do more than my share of the work, but if someone else is the expert, by all means! I think this approach has served me very well and honestly, will remove a lot of disappointed on the big day. I guess we will find out for sure after May 1, but mostly I have had the nicest interactions with my vendors and they have been very willing to work with me on things because I was courteous and flexible (see my previous post on attracting bees with honey!).

3.     It is one day.

Albeit the most stressful and important day of my life, I have had to constantly remind myself of this when I put unnecessary pressure on myself to make this the most perfect, ornate, creative, romantic, awe-striking event my guests have ever been to! In the end, I am putting a large amount of money into an event that lasts 5.5 hours and yes, I want it to be perfect and memorable, but it still just one day. Which leads me to…

4.  There is a single, ultra-important goal of this day.

It could rain (it better not!). Someone imperative could come down with the measles and not show up (take your vitamins, people!). There could be a freak snow storm and my beautiful gazebo ceremony could be forced to move inside amongst space heaters and down blankets (this Southern girl did decide to get married in New England, after all.) I could worry about all of those things and have a bridal meltdown of epic proportions in the event they do happen, or I could focus on the sole purpose of the day: to marry my best friend and merge our two lives into one amazing partnership. To be surrounded by the 75 people that love us enough to travel from all over to witness our matrimony and celebrate with us because MARRIAGE is important. Without marriage, a wedding would just be an overpriced family reunion.  

5.     The people who want to be there, will.

I had to make some very conscience decisions early on in the wedding planning process to                 understand that I can only do so much and there would inevitably be loved ones who would not be on board or able to make the trip to our destination soiree. This mindset has really helped me avoid freak-out sessions because Shane and I could have had a ceremony overseas (I tried), could have done something more expensive and therefore would have had to shorten the guest list, could have picked a different continental location that wouldn’t be in driving distance for the majority of guests like the one that we chose is. Not everyone will understand the thought process and sacrifice behind the decision we made on location and plans, but that’s okay. The people who love us and know that we did what is best for us have been so supportive. Life and circumstances have forced some very eager individuals to not be able to come and they will absolutely be missed. Others may have had different ideas, but bottom line is this: the people who want to be a part of our big day will make every effort to be there. Period. I am choosing to focus on those people.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Eight-Year-Old Passion Stuck in a Grown-Up's Body

Who were you in second grade? 

Eight-year-old Libby carried a Lion King backpack, learned how to do a ponytail all by herself, discovered “stage fright” was not in her vocabulary as she shimmied and pirouetted across stages for dance recitals and local plays, and got her first (and last) parent phone call for writing “STUPID” on a boy named Harry’s sophomoric pencil drawing. 

Eight-year-old Libby learned the words to “I Believe I Can Fly” (if you’re not humming right now, we’re not friends) and learned the artistry of everything monkey bars. Eight-year-old Libby loved making up songs, rhyming words, and she soared through vocabulary tests like a champ. 

What does all this have to do with anything? I read something recently that said if you were wondering what you should be doing with your life and career, go back to the person you were in second grade because this is the time when people really start attaching themselves to a personality that travels with them through life. The heart of what you enjoyed in second grade is still the heart of what you enjoy and are passionate about as an adult. You just need to be honest with yourself about what those things are and how to apply that to something that, ya know, ideally makes a little money.

I’m not sure I could gather many concrete passions from what I remember of my second grade self but I do remember third and fourth grade, which were taught by the same teacher, to be exceptionally pivotal. It was there that Mrs. Stinnett’s class wrote in daily journals and were greeted by a cheerful written response the following day; it was there that I was complimented for bringing my Winnie the Pooh story “full circle” (the story began with Pooh looking in the mirror, deciding he didn’t like his look, Piglet gives him a make-over, and it ends with Pooh looking in the mirror and loving his look! I’ll read it to you sometime. If you want.); it was there that Mrs. Stinnett foreshadowed my adult writing career and made me promise that when I write my first book, I would dedicate it to her. I fully intend to make good on that promise. 

Why then, does “growing up,” having bills, starting a family, and “being in the real world” suddenly choke me of my one true passion? Why do I feel as if writing isn’t good enough and won’t pay the bills? Why have I put my blog on the back burner for so many months (my truest apologies. I was going to write about why I haven’t written but quickly thought better of an excuse-laden post) when this is the one outlet I have that I feel adequate, at peace, in love, and the truest and best version of myself? 

I honestly am not sure. I do think that this is why a lot of parents encourage their children to become whatever their little hearts desire! Want to be a firefighter? Do it. An astronaut? Do it. The president? Please, dear God, do it, because somewhere along the road, mommy and daddy may have strayed from the path they were once on and they don’t want their children to have regrets. They don’t want those dreams to be scoffed at for being too big or shrugged at because they suddenly seem too difficult to attain.

I am truly blessed by my current career and am happy to wake up each day to take on such an exciting venture of which I am proud. I do get to write, exercise my creative muscles, help people, listen to stories of success, and create new and better ways to reach people and help my company thrive. 

I would just hope that we do not lose sight of the things that truly get our heart pumping, smile beaming, and feet moving. Life is too short to do anything less than what we are passionate about and retirement is too late to do all of the things we were waiting and hoping to enjoy. 

Who were you in second grade? Are you bold enough to get to know that person again?