Saturday, November 23, 2019

Share Four Somethings: November Edition

It's time for my friend Heather's Share Four Somethings monthly link-up, where we share Something Loved, Something Said, Something Learned, and Something Read. Although I'm terribly sporadic with this, it's a great way to recap the month and highlight what stood out, so I appreciate Heather heading it up.

Something Loved
It completely slipped my mind that moving to a new town a little further north would bring one of my life's greatest joys: fall colors! While Natchitoches is certainly the North Pole of the South with its renowned Christmas Festival, millions of lights, and Miss Merry Christmas pageant, I couldn't be happier to see its trees showcase some gorgeous leaves this time of year.

Something Said
Whenever I would apologetically ask a former coworker from my days at Nissan to do something that seemed un-fun to me, he'd always respond good-naturedly with, "It all pays the same."

It's only taken me 12 years to learn that whether I'm at work, play or home, by George, he's right! Cleaning the bathroom may not interest me as much as trying a new recipe, but it all has to be done to keep the train moving.

Something Learned
Putting up Christmas decor early doesn't murder Thanksgiving.

There. I said it. I understand that this does not present a highly controversial internal conflict for everyone, but it sure wreaked havoc on my first 42 years. However, a few life events (including moving to the North Pole of the South as previously mentioned) have led me to realize a few things:

  1. Life can be too hard on a regular day to not savor its beauty for as long as possible.
  2. Christmas decor makes me happy.
  3. Getting a jump start on Christmas doesn't have to discount the peaceful, easy feeling that Thanksgiving offers. That's my choice.
  4. We travel for Thanksgiving, so having the house decorated for Christmas when we get back actually cuts down on stress and helps us enjoy each holiday a little more.
  5. It costs zero dollars to form and have my own opinion about what's best for my life. ;-)

Something Read
I don't have something life-changing to share for this every month, so I'm pumped that this month is different. Every page of Lori Gottlieb's "Maybe You Should Talk To Someone" held my attention, and I want everyone I know to read it.

Visit Heather's blog to participate in her link-up or read more #sharefoursomethings.

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Smooth Move: Tips to Make Moving Bearable

Most of my IRL peeps are aware that we recently moved. Again. (Whoever's counting and guessed that we have moved to 3 houses in 4 years of marriage, you win! And whoever counted about 7 extra "mini" moves -- HA -- after our house flooded, you win extra credit.)

That said, even after all.these.moves, I still find myself asking for advice when a big one comes along. And thankfully, I have a tight group of ~500 online friends who have been with me through thick and thin AND who are willing to share a wide variety of wisdom in any circumstance you can imagine. I realized it would be selfish to hoard the great tips I got this go-round, so if you're looking at a move, whether close or far away, I hope these tips from real life friends of mine will help make your life a little easier.

(Please note that I sadly did not follow all of these helpful hints -- much to my family's collective chagrin -- but I hope that if the unexpected, unlikely day ever comes for us to move yet again, I will check this post before proceeding.)

These are categorized by topic and phase, but we'll start with the one piece of advice that everyone yelled unanimously: PURGE.

But I love my STUFF! (Stop it. Purge, purge and purge some more.)
- Moving is the best time to get ride of stuff you don’t use/need/like anymore whatever the case.
- It feels so good to go through everything. Marie Kondo the hell out of it!
- If it doesn't break your heart to get rid of it - throw it away!
- We got rid of half of our belongings before moving cross-country. The only thing I regret is not letting go of more. I did sell a ton through multiple avenues and the extra $ came in handy.
- Garbage!!! Trash and Marie Kondo the shiz out of whatever you don't need! It's refreshing.
- Purging gives you a good grasp on what you have and what you’ll need for your new place.

No really, I promise, I'll start packing tonight.
- If you pack yourself, don’t do any of that “just throw it in the moving truck” stuff. Don’t leave ANYTHING LOOSE. We buy plastic tubs (and have used them and used them and used them!) so that everything stacks nicely and is organized. Our friends love to help us move because it’s all packed up.
- Buy good boxes and packing materials (Home Depot, U-Haul, etc) and pack yourself, but hire movers!
- Craigslist for free/cheap moving boxes. If you're using a moving company, they may offer used boxes for free as well.
- U-Haul often has used boxes at their locations for free.
- Use your bedding/towels/potholders etc to pack. Free packing materials and your taking it with you anyhow.

We have a lot of stuff. Like, a LOT. Are we really gonna move all this?!
- HIRE MOVERS. It’s one thing to move down the road, it’s another to move a few hours away. Plus moving in the heat just sucks and it will not help you win friends. Y’all don’t have a lot of stuff so the moving costs should be minimal.
- Get boxes that are a uniform size. It makes stacking and sticking boxes in the moving truck a lot easier. Also, no shame in hiring somebody to move you. Also, wine and coffee are wonderful.
- For the love of everything, label EVERY BOX or bin. Even if it just says “kitchen” it will help you. - U-Haul has something called U-Haul help. You can hire movers to load and unload your truck. Well worth the money and way cheaper than bids from actual moving companies. We’ve used them as have our family members and it was awesome. You save but still have help.
- U-haul. Just U-haul. They have the best boxes (including wardrobe boxes which are the best thing ever invented imo). Plus they buy back unused boxes. And they have bags to put your mattress and box springs in so they don’t get dirty. And tv bags and just all. The. Things.
- If you label your stuff I’d suggest writing what’s actually in the box. Not kitchen stuff, but kitchen stuff (spoons, cups, forks).
* rebekah's note: a tip we could have used given it took 2 weeks to find real utensils
- Hire a moving company.
- We packed ourselves but we did hire movers to come and load the whole house.
- Find movers someone you know has used before and liked. Some are less careful than others.

I've packed up my life and I'm
- We decided to store packed boxes in the garage so they weren't taking over the house, so the day the movers arrived all the boxes were in the garage and all the furniture was in the house.

The moving truck is full. Both cars are full. Buckling my seatbelt set off a can of Lysol. Will I ever find anything when we get ther?!
- In your vehicles, pack a suitcase with a couple of sets of clothes and a trash can with cleaning supplies in it.
- Take your laundry basket and put two sets of towels and a set of sheets in it and toss it in a car too.
- Pack a suitcase with clothes and whatever cleaning supplies you’ll need when you get there. Also things like a bottle of hand soap, a hand towel, paper towel, a roll or two of toilet paper.
- Take your important documents with you on your person. I know this is a no brainer, but just....
- I have a laundry basket that we keep in the car with us that has the coffee pot (so critical), mugs, two changes of clothes for each person, a fresh towel per person, a bath mat, a shower curtain, all-purpose cleaner, a sponge, a washcloth, body wash, toothbrushes/toothpaste, a roll of paper towels and toilet paper.
- I pack a cooler in the floorboard with water bottles, a pound of ground coffee and filters, and some fresh fruit. It has saved me literally every time, in one way or another.

We loooooved our old house....and now it's empty...and dirty?! What the.....
- Hire people to clean your house. Full stop.

Yay! We're at our new house! WHAT.IS.HAPPENING TO MY LIFE.
- Make sure boxes go into the exact room you want them in at the new house. It will make unpacking so much easier!
- Tape a paper note outside rooms that you put on the boxes (kid #1 bedroom, etc) saves you time having to direct people unloading.
- I set aside a laundry basket with clothes and sheets for beds I need so I don’t have to dig for it when I’m tired.
- Make your bed first when you get to the new place. Order pizza for dinner.

We're here! New house! New chapter! (Ummmm....where's the iron?!)
- Cut yourself a break. It's not going to be perfect. It's not going to all be put away and pretty right away. A month later, and we're still working on getting the cars into the garage.

I don't mind one bit telling you that this is my last suggestion here only because I hope it will stick with you.

Attitude of gratitude:
- Corny but attitude is everything. We’ve had two major moves and both times it took me two years to acclimate and enjoy the new instead of mourning who and what we left behind. That’s a lot of wasted time! Enjoy the process and adventure. 🙂

Do you have moving suggestions to add? Please comment here and I'll update this font of wisdom. xoxo and happy trails!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Storm, Flooding + Tropical Weather Prep + Relief: How to Help

This is 100% my least favorite blog to update, but it's also the one that I think can actually help people the most.

Gov. Edwards to declare state of emergency ahead of severe tropical weather
Photo courtesy of
After our house flooded a few years ago, I swore I would use the experience for good. Unfortunately, that means offering tips because others are going through one of the worst times of their lives.

As a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I know from experience during and after Hurricane Katrina that it’s hard to watch disaster strike and not know how to help. So if you're like me and want to help friends and family who are being affected by the tropical weather system or who are currently flooding due to other weather systems -- hi New Orleans as I type :-( -- but you aren't sure what to do, here are a few things that helped us in the hours and days when several feet of water sat in our house, and in the weeks, months and even a year (!) after the floodwaters receded.

For people who are still in their homes and are in danger of flooding:

Put valuables in a high place, like the top of a closet. If they have a second story, that's preferable.

If you can get out:
- Fill your car up with gas.
- Park one vehicle in spot that’s higher than where your house is.

(If you’re under curfew, stay put. Please follow your local law enforcement's rules. Seriously.)

Put these things in a garbage bag and keep them close:
- Important papers
- Special pictures not on digital file
- Jewelry
- Electronics that would be difficult or expensive to replace, or that house your only copies of files. (I still mourn my waterlogged external hard drive with pictures from the last 15 years of life and friends and travel.)

If you know someone whose home has flooded:
Start a GoFundMe or other donation account for them ASAP. This feels odd to even type -- even after we benefited from so many people's kindness -- but whether or not your affected friends have flood insurance, being able to access funds quickly will be invaluable as the weeks and months after this weather event go by. Some people will prefer to do something "tangible," like donating some of the items listed below, but I speak from experience when I say that every $5 donation helps with insulation, paint, contractor fees, cabinet pulls, groceries...the list goes on. And the sooner the GoFundMe is active, the better. People across the country will see footage on the news and will want to help. A friend did this for us, and we are forever grateful.

Secure a storage unit that hasn't been flooded as near to their home as possible. Storage will go fast once the waters recede, and if anything can be salvaged from a flooded home, it will need a place to stay during the rebuilding. Also, people who have flooded may be given furniture or may be able to purchase some, and they’ll have to put it somewhere. It's better to pay for one month and not need it than to realize you need one when none are available.

If you are nearby and can get tangible items to people whose houses have flooded, some immediate needs after the flood may be:
  • Gift cards (Home Depot, Lowe's, grocery stores, restaurants - fast food and sit-down, hotels, Visa)
  • Bath soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Hygiene products
  • Laundry basket
  • Non-perishable food
  • Clothes (underwear, pajamas, gym clothes to gut/rebuild the house in, tennis shoes, work/school clothes, work/school shoes)
Please keep in mind that until your friends and family have settled into a temporary space, they will not have any place to store even the smallest things. The most helpful thing for us was when friends offered to hold onto our items for us, and told us to let them know when we were ready for them.

Some immediate tangible needs after the water recedes as they clean and restore their homes may be:
  • Contractor-grade trash bags
  • Heavy-duty work gloves
  • Tools to gut their house (pull up flooring, tear out sheetrock, etc.)
  • Tables to put items on that they will want to save.
  • These tables may be used for a long time afterwards -- we were still using one from our church when we moved back into our house 9 months later and didn't have countertops yet!
  • Ice chest(s)
  • Brooms
  • Shop vacuum
  • Rubbermaid bins to save salvaged items
  • Rake(s)
  • Hand sanitizer
Again, please keep in mind that until your friends and family have settled into a temporary space – and maybe even until they're resettled permanently – they will not have any place to store even the smallest things. It’s so nice of people to want to give tangible things, but the truth is, it’s incredibly stressful to find a place for anything when you’re in this situation.

Things that can help anyone who is affected:
  • Donations. (See the GoFundMe note above.)
  • Encourage anyone affected to keep a binder or expanding file for all documentation. It will be a long process, and they may have to move into more than one temporary space during the rebuilding. Starting out the process with that organization in place will be helpful.
  • Start an Amazon wish list for them. They will have many needs over a long period of time, and it could be helpful for you to move forward with a list of basics that they can edit and populate as they have time (which could well be a month from now in between work, rebuilding a house, and other responsibilities). This is also a great thing to share on social media so that others can help with tangible items instead of or in addition to donating money.
If you see anything I've left off, please leave a comment and I'll update this. And thank you for helping your people.

#lawx #mswx #txwx #tropicalstormbarry #tropicalstormberry #flood #hurricane

Sunday, April 14, 2019

One week left: steering clear of social media (most of the time)

I'm one week away from completing the Challenge I Never Thought I'd Take: giving up social media for a whopping 40 days.

Does it seem a little dramatic to call stepping away from social media a "challenge?"

Yes. It does.

Even though my work has included social media for the past 10 years, it's still a think of taking a 40-day break as, well, a break.

But whether I like it or not, I've come to grips with a few truths since making this decision the night of Fat Tuesday:
  • The same principle applies to personal life as does to corporate accounts: the conversation is happening, and I can participate or not -- that's up to me.
  • Some things are, in fact, worth sharing. A few examples I've learned are:
    • recipes
    • workouts (so.much.encouragement!)
    • random smiles throughout the day
    • quotes -- I'm a sucker for a good quote 
    • good sales (amirite, y'all?)
  • Some things are not do-or-die in term of sharing. For instance:
    • random things I see (is a beautifully framed image really viewed if it's not instagrammed?, is a meal really prepared and eaten if not shared socially?, etc.)
    • I occasionally -- the instances have notably decreased, thankfully -- feel as though I need a little verification of how I'm feeling. (I liked that sunset, but do you? -- definitely the weirdest thing I've admitted to date ;-) 
  • And some of my traits may not be, as I originally suspected, inborn:
    • ADD -- this is not my making light of this disorder; this is my thinking all these years that I may have had a disorder and then having it affirmed...but only by the presence of social media. Whether or not ADD or ADHD was present in my life prior to social, semblances of it certainly are now.
This collage of Ringo spectacularly depicts my reactions to many aspects of social media. Love it! Hate it! Over it! What is it? Etc.

Also, while I have popped onto social a couple of times during my intentional intermittent season (hey Michael's bday + a couple of work instances), I have tried to keep myself from looking at notifications. I didn't think this would be major, but guess what! Other People's Opinions are a big part of the "social" in "social media" ;-)

But because I am unfortunately not superhuman, in spite of my absence, I have automatically veered to that little red number indicating who's saying what about my social presence...or lack thereof. And even when it's not what I'd prefer, I definitely have strong feelings about people having fun without me. (Hi, have you met me? I thrive on social instances...for better or for worse. :-P) 

A friend asked just recently what I'd do after Easter...if I'd rather ease back in or jump back in. And I'm honestly not sure. 

Since I don't have to be on 24/7, I may limit myself to once a week. Or, as I've already seen in my intended short intentions to jump back on to check one thing, I could wander and browse for 30 minutes before I realize what I'm doing.

Either way, I have one week left of assured reduced screen time and increased reading efforts. We'll see. ;-)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Confessions of a Social Media Addict

The night before Lent, I decided to give up social media for 40 days and nights.

I've considered it in the past, but since this is the first time in 10 years that being socially present isn't a necessity for my job, I could actually go through with it.

Y'all. I wasn't prepared.

A few epiphanies 9 hours in:
  • I think I have legit, full-fledged Attention Deficit Disorder. This is not a drill. I'm serious. Why else would I do something for a little while -- let's say an hour, max -- and need to jump on another website or app to see what's happening while I've been away? 
  • If a photo is not posted socially, was it ever really taken? #facepalm It's startling to realize how many of my life's snapshots are being captured with the primary intent to share rather than for my own preservation.
Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash
More revelations one week later:
  • I spend a lot of time on social media. Like...a LOT. Exhibit A: in the past week, I've read four books. That doesn't count podcasts listened to or articles consumed.
  • I hadn't even thought about social media as a sharing outlet until my friend asked what outlet I was using during this fast. At the time, my answer was either "I'm not," or "Talking to people in real life." Today, I'm finally starting to feel an itch to write. I think that's a good thing. (Speaking of, and for the record, I also don't see blogging in my case as social media unless I obsess over comments or analytics, which I haven't had a problem with in the past.)
  • Speaking of categorizing social media, did you know that iPhones put texting and Facebook in the same group? That's weird to me. I mean yes, I'm interacting with people, but I'm also choosing specifically who I want to share things with.
  • I have been getting my news from Twitter. This actually became clear a couple of hours in when someone was talking about a current event that I had no idea had happened. Once I downloaded a few news apps and turned on some alerts, I then realized that I was itching to see what this reporter or that commentator had to say about news items. Weird.
And at the week-and-a-half mark:

  • Today was probably the first structured event I've attended post-social fast. My typical M.O. is to capture great shots, tag appropriately, hashtag as needed, and share ASAP. Guess what? That's not requirement! (I know. Shocking.) So here's how said event went: We went. We talked to people. We walked around and saw the sights. We ate. We laughed. I took a few pictures when a view really struck me. We left. We ran an errand. We came home. I glanced back at my pics, but only to see if I got some really good ones, and even then I didn't share them with anyone (yet).

    No tagging businesses, people or event venues. No making sure I included all relevant hashtags. No picking up my phone at random during the event. 
All of this is freeing, and a little disturbing, and an extremely curious experiment of psychology and sociology. And a week and a half in, I'm thinking I'll adjust my social exposure much more, even once Easter comes.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Progress, not perfection: lessons from #last90days

I’ve been thinking about the progress that I’ve made during the #last90days effort I started in October.

Unfortunately, I don’t have double digits of weight loss on the scale to show for it, but I honestly think what I have learned is worth more than looking my best in Christmas pictures. (And that's saying a lot.)

Image result for demotivational quote posters
Theory I do not subscribe to ;-)
  1. Renewed sense of effort. Trip-ups don't completely stop me anymore -- or at least not for long. Turns out that when I'm focused on being the best version of myself, there isn't a lot of room for mental and emotional self-mutilation. Who knew?!
  2. New love for motivational quotes. No, they’re not for everyone, but I love them. And good news: no one is making the people who hate them follow me! What has been fun is having people I've known my whole life and people I haven't met come out of the woodwork saying they needed some encouragement right then. Happy to help!
  3. Education on habits. I don’t want hard or harsh lessons to apply to me, and yet... they do. So when I heard Rachel and Dave Hollis talk about how to break bad habits, I gave it a shot. And I’ve learned — and am learning — that when I do stop and think about how I react to triggers and make a conscious choice to take a different action than what I’ve taught myself, I am starting a new habit. A better habit. I can’t change *what* makes me reach for chocolate, but I can change how I react to what has always driven me to reach for chocolate.
  4. Less concern about what other people think. As a chronic people-pleaser, this may be something I'll be working on for the rest of my life, but even baby steps have been HUGE for me. I'm not sure where I got the idea that making others happy equated kindness, but it's deeply entrenched in everything I am and most of what I do.

    But the fact is: happiness is temporary. Circumstantial. Fleeting, even. And because everyone is different, it takes something different to bring happiness to others -- especially when you surround yourself with a wide range of personalities and skillsets. So my not making sure every person in my life is happy with every interaction every second of the day is not rude. The only person I can truly please is the only person whose expectations and sources of joy I implicitly know inside and out. And that's me. So when I'm showing up for myself and becoming the best Rebekah I can be, the people around me will benefit, too. Long-term. 
So yes, I still want to lose weight as a result of exercising and eating right and drinking water like a fish. But I'm learning that the end result isn't where the valuable nuggets are learned, and that I can love myself in the journey.

Progress is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My week with 41.

The week before George H. W. Bush died, I looked forward to our chats every time I got in my car.

I mean, I was only listening to his audiobook of letters, but still. That sequence of events had me feeling oddly close to our 41st president when I heard he'd passed away.

My interest in presidents' lives was piqued after I read an article about Bill and Hillary's communication style years ago. Since then, I've read a little on Reagan, Obama, W., and FDR. I realize I have several to go, so I'm working my way down -- or up -- that list, in no particular order.

And that's what lead me to listen to All The Best, George Bush -- a collection of letters and diary entries from the former president from the time he celebrated his 18th birthday and enlisted in the military to the early 90s, when he was still meeting up with Ronald Reagan for lunch anytime he was near L.A.

Something about this book struck me, even before this recent news of his death.

You hear phrases about "the last gentleman politician" and "the last of the greatest generation," and y'all, I really think there's something to that.

His cadence, his tone, even the vocabulary used in those readings were so incredibly...respectful. It took me back to conversations with Pop Ball, the Air Force Colonel who entered our family by marrying Nan when I was in high school.

I've been trying to pinpoint the difference between the underlying tone of what this generation said and did, and I honestly feel like it's respect. I admire sarcasm with the best of them, but man -- even GHWB's humor was in check. Fun but not biting. Cheeky but not self-promoting. Happy without being jaded.

This definitely isn't an "Our generation is the worst, the world has gone to pot"-type post. I love technology. I will voraciously consume whatever (sarcastic) humor Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling throw out into the world. And Lord knows we are all always learning that we do, indeed, have to look out for our own selves.

But 41 did all that, while keeping respect for others (and patriotism and satisfaction in a job well done) at the base of all he did. And wow, did he ever do a lot.

I was encouraged last night while watching 41 on 41, a documentary that features his friends, family and even former competitors voicing their experiences with the senior Bush. (And this was made before he died, so it can't be chalked up to the posthumous sainthood we're so inclined to give the deceased.)

Clinton became friends with him -- or rather, he sought friendship with Clinton -- after Bush lost the presidency to Clinton. Obama doesn't have a bad word to say about him. Members of the opposite party still respect how he handled compromises, and decisions, and communication.

His children and grandchildren respect him, and in my most humble opinion, Jenna Bush Hager and Pierce Bush (and maybe others) have inherited or learned his and their grandmother's firm but gentle communication style.

I'm not petitioning to take our world back 20 or even 40 years ago, and certainly not 80. But these widespread, consistent reactions to the death of someone known for his respect and honor are certainly encouraging.

I don't hate social media or smart phones or geomapping. But I am encouraged, more than ever, to use the innovations of today to uphold what's good and right, and to make the world a better place. I know why Bush's generation was called the greatest one -- and it was for good reason.

But we can be known as a compassionate, strong generation, too. For using technology for good. For finishing the job. For humbly accepting when we win, and honoring our team. For laughing at ourselves when we don't win. And above all, for our love.

As the Navy tweeted, we have the watch. Thank you for your example, 41.