Tag Archives: growth

A plastic bag tumbled across the road, and I became ready for 2016. And 32.

A week ago, Seth and I were sitting at a stoplight somewhere between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on our way to brunch when a white plastic bag tumbled across the road in front of us. When it caught Seth’s eye, he barked at it. A brief fit of barking punctuated by suspicious growls.

To anyone else, this would have been insanity. Random, bizarre, and inexplicable. But to me…

I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my face and my heart filled to bursting with love for this man and for our little family — me, Seth, and our sweet Curls, whom he was mimicking.


Seth had been working in Florida for a week and I went down for the weekend to join him as a birthday treat and to attend his company’s end of year party. Besides the Miami-style kiss-kiss greeting, which makes me all kinds of awkward, it was just awesome. We ate good food and enjoyed the warm air. We treated ourselves to Godiva truffles after lunch and a nice view from an upscale hotel room. We went to a movie and found an Original Pancake House. We dressed up and drank good wine. We were together.

And together, we welcomed 2016 and my 32nd year.


(Or actually, my 33rd year, right? I mean, I turned 32, which means I’ve completed 32 years… so yeah… hello to 2016 and my 33rd year. But to be clear, I’m not 33. Yet.)

I’m not sure what it’s like for everybody, but for me, with my birthday being so close to the New Year, the two weeks between the rolling over of the calendar on January 1st and the additional candle on my birthday cake on January 14th always feels like a time for reflection and reset. A brief window of time where I prepare to take on what’s next. The notion that was on my mind this time came from Dean Koontz’s latest, Ashley Bell:

“Home is where you struggle, in a world of endless struggle, to become the best you can be, and it becomes home in your heart only if one day you can look back and say that, in spite of all your faults and failures, it was in this special place where you began to see, however dimly, the shape of your soul.”

Until I read (well, heard, actually — it was an audiobook) that line, I had been so over 2015 it wasn’t even funny. I had chalked it up as a bad year and I was ready to move on, forget about it, and never repeat it. I mean, 2015 was hard — it started with our last failed attempt at IUI, was characterized primarily by the physical, emotional, and financial hardship that is IVF, and ended with profound pain at the loss of our baby. So 2015? Goodbye and good riddance.

But then again, as my family briefly grew and then shrank, as my body and heart endured things I didn’t think it possible to endure, I somehow in the end found myself more at home in my life and in my body than I ever had been before.

Same as every year, actually.

Every year does that — it gives me another opportunity to struggle, to do the best I possibly can, and to examine my faults and failures in the context of my growth and my place in this world, ultimately making me a little more at home in my own skin, in my own life, and perhaps more so this year than every before, in my own little family.


I’m currently taking a semester long e-course by Brene Brown through her COURAGEworks website. It’s called the Living Brave Semester and is based on two of her books — Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. At present, we’re really digging into the idea of vulnerability as presented in Daring Greatly and one of the first exercises we did was to identify the values that light our way, that provide us with the foundation for our behavior and guide us toward the person we want to be. After considerable reflection, I believe that for me, those things are connection, grace, and humor.

Although it didn’t necessarily strike me at that moment, when I later considered the fullness of my heart as Seth barked at that tumbling plastic bag, I thought about how it really represented my own personal value trifecta. Yes, Curly is a dog, but she is also our baby and we love her, weirdnesses and all. And we’re connected enough to one another and to her to laugh hysterically at the fact that an unexpected anything seen out of the corner of her eye is enough to make her crazy — even something as simple as a tumbling plastic bag. When Seth barked, I insta-understood. We were connected to each other, to our pup, we expressed our humor, and we gave grace to our darling girl as we laughed. It was just one moment, but one of millions… it is these moments that fill my heart. They are what make this time and place and space and body that I occupy my home.

Re-framing the new year in this way, I can imagine myself inhabiting a spread in 2016/32 magazine, standing on the doorstep of my metaphorical house, a smile on my face, the door open behind me, ready to welcome others to experience the connection, grace, and humor on which my foundation is laid. I am at home, in spite of and because of this last year and all those that came before it, and home is a good place to be — a place to to grow and to rest, to love and to laugh.

Perhaps most importantly, home is a place to weather the storms that will rage around us… and the very next year becomes the place that weathered the storm.

Home sweet home.
Home sweet home.


***Earlier in the week, before I headed to Miami, I talked to my niece Emma via FaceTime. Midway through the conversation, she demanded to talk to my boy. “Auntie Rachel, where’s your boy???” My boy? She got frustrated with me, like she couldn’t believe how dense I am, and explained: “Uncle SEF-Y!” So that’s what Uncle Sethy is to me — my boy. Ugh. That girl gives me a million moments too!

I went to Aldi. It’s a bigger deal than you might think.

There’s an Aldi grocery store in the little city of Marshfield. I shop most most often at Festival Foods and I’ve been to the Pic N Save  and Super Walmart on a number of occasions for groceries, but despite frequenting the Menard’s right behind it and even the Applebee’s and Goodwill next to it, I’d never set food in Aldi.

About a year or so ago, Aldi put up a sign advertising open positions at a starting hourly rate well above minimum wage and Seth and I liked that– we thought maybe we ought to patronize Aldi to support their willingness to employ people for a living wage. And yet, month after month went by and I still hadn’t set a foot inside.


Honestly– because I was scared.

A grocery store is a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, I realize, but in addition to that bass (no treble!), I’m also all about that truth– and there you have it. I was scared to shop at Aldi.

Turns out, my fears were completely founded. I didn’t understand how the quarter-based cart release thing worked and stood there for what felt like an eternity (probably 45 seconds) trying to figure it out (think Zoolander, Hansel, and the computer), I somehow couldn’t find a pen in my purse (which contains pretty much everything else) so I couldn’t check items off my list which made navigating the unfamiliar store to find all of my items ridiculously challenging (up and down and up and down and up and down the same aisles over and over again– the store is not that big, I’m sure I looked like an absolute loony toon), and I didn’t understand how the after-the-fact bagging mechanism worked and was super confused by the ledge on the far well meant for bagging groceries after being checked out (also I dropped my bags on the floor not once or even twice, but three times– admittedly, that has nothing to do with Aldi and everything to do with me). So, basically, all of my fears came true– I didn’t know what I was doing, I was unprepared, I had a hard time navigating the store, and I looked stupid. (I did remember my debit card though– mini-win!)

Yet, here I am today. Surviving to tell the tale. The consequences of all my fears coming true? Negligible, save a bit of embarrassment, which in the grand scheme of things is pretty insignificant considering that I’m a 31-year-old woman walking around with two skinned knees and perpetually frizzy hair.

(I’m working on the frizzy hair though– I just brought the hair products that made Sister Athletic Trainer look this this!)

My hair was so huge I had to pin it up completely before we even went downtown-- Kayla's curls were perfection until the NEXT MORNING! Unreal!
My hair was so huge I had to pin it up completely before we even went downtown– Kayla’s curls were perfection until the NEXT MORNING! Unreal!

And after all of that, I will definitely be going back to Aldi again. Regularly. Because my grocery bill was ridiculously low AND I know that by shopping there, I am supporting a company willing that pays it’s employees a reasonable wage. But seriously, selfishly, the bill was so much lower. And the food, especially the produce, is just as good as any other store in town. (Ok, comparable to Festival, better than Pic N Save… I said it. I hate Pic N Save’s produce section. Hate it!)

All of that to say that Joan is right today. Right freaking on. Because change.

 “Change is the manifestation of our ability to grow and become.” –Anne Wilson Schaef

“I am still becoming: I am becoming myself — independent, different, free. Those are dangerous, unacceptable, qualities. They violate groupness. And yet, without this kind of change, can we possibly die adults? My problem is that this kind of change came so late and more in response to rejection than to process. But whatever the circumstances, the leap was worth it. I am not the person I was before. I am changed forever.” –Joan Chittister

Change is growth. And even little changes, little seemingly insignificant changes, like screwing up the courage to shop at a new grocery store, can be a big deal. Process, rejection, embarrassment and fumbling through– whatever the reason for change, change is growth. Growth is good.

Even though change is hard… and consequently, growth is hard. Worth it though, yes?

Especially because this particular change affected not only my actions (inexpensive groceries? heck yes!), but also my perspective– I saw a lot of predatory marketing at Aldi. Off-brand everything, but inexpensive Lunchables? That bothered me– those things are horrifying. It opened my eyes. And when I walked into Festival Foods immediately after completing my shopping trip at Aldi to pick up a few things I couldn’t find (and/or did not actually need, but wanted) I realized that I have definitely spent years paying the premium for appearance and space and little conveniences that are, all in all, not necessary.

Quite frankly, I’m lucky to have a choice of where I do my grocery shopping at all. A little gratitude never hurt anyone.

I recognize that it seems small, but to me… not so small.


Hopefully, when my hair changes, it will be small. Exaggerated WINK.

Oops, I forgot a title. Hence the 669. Weird. Fixed now. Still not a good title.

Kind of a rough day. But some days are like that. Even in Australia, or so they say.

Maybe Joan has something to perk me up a bit.

“We cannot afford not to fight for growth and understanding, even when it is painful, as it is bound to be.” –May Sarton

Understanding really can be painful can’t it. You can hope and wish and what not, but really understanding the landscape and where you fit into it can be tough stuff. Boo.

“When we grow enough to understand that we are at a dead end, then what? Is it time to be resigned or time to struggle for breath, for new life, with all our might? I always thought that life got quieter, more settled, happier as time went on. But that’s not true. On the contrary. We simply become more aware of what we’ve missed, what we’ve given ourselves to that was not worth the giving.” –Joan Chittister

We always expect quiet and a feeling of being settled. We may even get lulled into sense of complacency and the notion that things are as they should be, but alas– change really is the only constant. And as we grow more, understand more, we once again find ourselves becoming increasingly unsettled and unsure. Is this the right place? Am I truly dedicating myself to something worthwhile?

When the answer is no longer yes, then the fight for new life begins. And what a struggle.

I can appreciate the desire to become resigned, complacent. Sometimes the temptation is so strong, but the quiet is false. And deadly. I’d rather struggle for breath, I think. Push forward for new light. A chance to be re-rooted and to bloom again.

Growth and understanding may be painful, but the most worthwhile things in life usually are, eh?