The beauty of being tourist in your own city

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It is easy to take the place where you live for granted. I appreciate my hometown a lot more now than I ever did while living there. Normal often becomes mundane, but it doesn’t have to be.

My husband and I had visitor in town recently (her second visit this year). I was excited for her visit and wanted to try out a happiness tip from Gretchen Rubin which is to experience your city like a tourist.

When I travel, I try to take in everything. I force myself to take pictures. I force myself to actively look and experience the area. I close my eyes and take in the sounds. I watch people. O how I love to people watch. I become mindful, and I slow down.

So I tried to do all of those things in the comfort of my city, and it was amazing how many things I noticed that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I noticed tiny leaves in the shape of hearts growing through a fence row. I noticed art on the side of the restaurant that in my 3 visits had never noticed before. I heard tiny conversation in the midst of near silence. I watched the sunset over the city. I felt the warm, summer heat while sitting on the patio enjoying cocktails, wine, and conversation. I heard the absence of live music. Yep, I actually noticed the absence of music.

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This tip definitely provides a happiness boost. Taking the time to focus on my surroundings intensified the experience. I felt like an explorer as I actively searched for the newness and that is the beauty of being a tourist in your own city.

Try this the next time you enjoying a night out. Heck, try this in your own neighborhood when you get home from work. A couple of weeks ago after a long, rough day at work, I was unpacking my car. I do this everyday. Normally I stay on task, but I saw my neighbor teaching his grandson how to ride his bike. Instead of gathering up my stuff and running inside,I took just a few seconds to close my eyes and listen to their laughter, smell the fresh flowers, and feel the suns warmth. Then, I smiled. Mindfulness at its best.

Have a hard time getting into the spirit or mindset? Try throwing off your senses. Put on noise cancelling headphones and force your eyes and nose to take over. Or close your eyes and let your nose and ears do the work. Or do my personal favorite and set a totally different soundtrack to what is going on around you by putting on headphones and listening to music. Listening to the La La Land soundtrack while grocery shopping definitely enhanced my local Kroger dramatically.

Your overworked brain will appreciate a few extra moments of happiness(or at least mine does).

 

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Disability, defects, and keeping your mouth shut

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As I was perusing People.com, I stumbled upon a story about Zach Roloff, of Little People, Big World fame, and the birth of his son. His son was born with achonodroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, the same condition as Zach.

The article discussed how Zach’s childhood has prepared him to help his son through his journey. He is happy to see that the world is more accepting of difference now, and he hopes for an easier time for his son. It was just a simply sweet article.

Then, I did a bad thing. I read the comments section. I know that I should never do this because I always become a cartoon animal with fire blowing out of my ears.

This is one of the actual comments (edited for clarity and grammar):

“Please tell me why anyone would do this? It is completely selfish to knowingly have a child with dwarfism knowing the poor baby will have all kinds of health issues. I have heard, as a child, they have many surgeries often.”

Here is a snippet of another comment:

“If they knew the probability of having a child with this deformity was high, it’s completely irresponsible to do this.”

Say, what?

The issue that these very insensitive commenters brought up is very near and dear to my heart. I was born with spina bifida (if you don’t know what that is, see the Spinal Bifida Association website.)

I have lived a, by societal standards, “normal” life with my defect. Most people who knew me pre-college had no idea that I even had spinal bifida.

That doesn’t mean that I am without ill effects: moderate back pain, moderate scoliosis, a slight limb, a little, paralyzed foot, and bladder problems. Even still, it hasn’t slowed me down from living the life I want.

This brings me to my point. Since I was born with spinal bifida, a neurological disorder, I am at a heightened risk of having a child with a neurological disorder. Does that mean that I should never have a child because it COULD be born with the same defect

I do understand the sentiment of these comments. I worry that I could set my child up to have more difficulties than others might face. I don’t want my child to be called names, joked about, or bullied because of something he cannot control.

I have been made fun of, and it was not fun. I spent many nights reading my DARE book called It is OK to Be Different in order to cope with the jokes. (Interestingly enough, I got made fun of for being short. Just imagine if that mean girl would have seen the giant scar on my back.)

On the flip side, I have many personal reasons for wanting to eventually add a child to my family.

One of the major flaws in the commenters’ argument is that disability and defect is a possibility for everyone. My parents had no reason to believe that they would have a child with spinal bifida, and boom, here I came.

Secondarily, even with a genetic disposition, it is still only a possibility. I get their argument was focused on the increased risk factor which I understand. Even still, it may be MORE likely than it is for other people, but it is still only a possibility.

Finally, if a child is born with a disability or defect, it does not mean that that child should not exist. It also does not mean that it was a selfish or irresponsible decision on the part of the parents. It simply means that the child will have to overcome some difficulties in comparison to their “normal” counterparts. Just think if my parents had decided “well she has spinal bifida (a fact they had no clue about until I was born btw), so let’s just not have her”.

I mean family dinners would be lot quieter without me, but I, a person who is enjoying a fulfilling life, wouldn’t be here.

I realize those comments represent the opinion of only a few people, and it is not a general sentiment. I get that, but big life decisions are hard enough anyway.

The decision to become a parent is a tough one. The decision to become a parent with the chance of defect is an even harder decision. I don’t believe in my heart that the Roloffs or any other couple who are at risk of having a child with a defect go into the decision “irresponsibly” or “selfishly”.

Bottom line: Take the time to soften your heart when you choose to comment about the decisions and lifestyles of others. You never know what other people are dealing with. And if you can’t do that, keep your mouth shut (physically or virtually).

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Introducing a new passion project

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I have never been one to enjoy the moment and take in the great outdoors. Lately, however, it seems being outside, smelling the flowers, and riding with the windows down is the only way to center myself.

I have been so inspired by nature, my love for Tennessee, and my enjoyment of photography to start an Instagram to celebrate Tennessee and all of its beauty.

Follow Home is Tennessee.

Submit your fabulous Tennessee photos to home.to.me.is.tennessee@gmail.com

Include your Instagram user name, general location, and any other relevant information. I will post your photo to the Home is Tennessee Instagram and tag you in it.

Follow the blog for updates, Home is Tennessee.

Hopefully, someone who have never gotten to experience the beauty of Tennessee will stumble across this account and smile 🙂

“I was born here and raised here and I’ll make my grave here, It’s home, Tennessee” – Drew Holcomb, “Tennessee”

Update: homegrown collection found a home

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This weekend, Cory and I found a happiness missing puzzle piece for both of us: a cabinet with sliding doors.

The missing puzzle piece concept is the ideal that if you had that one “thing” then it would eliminate a certain stress or stresses and by extension boost happiness. (Concept courtesy of the Happier by Gretchen Rubin podcast.)

We are in the process of updating our kitchen. A process that is somewhat frustrating and time-consuming. Anyway, I  lost my spice cabinet when we had to move our microwave up to meet code, so my spices had to be relocated to our already overcrowded pantry.

Meanwhile, Cory’s ever-growing whiskey collection is taking over a whole shelf in the pantry, so we decided a decorative piece for the living room that could contain the whiskey and spruce up the living room was the answer.

Enter this beautiful cabinet. Whiskey is contained. HomeGrown figures found a home. We gained a whole new shelf in the pantry. Win! Win! Win!

(My Hamilton books and grandfather’s mini cooper model car also found a home here)

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One of my happy places: Muir Woods

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In 2014,  Cory and I visited San Francisco for the first time. Cory was attending a conference, and I tagged along because – San Francisco. I worked from the hotel during the work day and we explored the city at night. After several days in a mostly concrete jungle, we had a full free day. There was plenty of nature in San Francisco, don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of water and cute sea lions, but I needed trees. I needed clean air. We jumped in the rental car and drove across the Golden Gate bridge to Muir Woods. What a blessing!
Muir Wood is a redwood national park near San Francisco that is home to thousands of beautiful, massive redwoods. Redwoods are found only in this area and into Oregon. These trees truly are magical.
As soon as we hiked from the parking area to the actual park, I was at peace. Under the mass of trees, it was cool and calm. The redwoods, themselves, were strong and impressive. The wildlife was quiet and slow. The air was clean.
After the fast-paced week of being in the city, nature was just what I needed. I have fond memories of the hours that we spent at Muir Woods, and I will never forget the feeling of being humbled by nature – the peace, the quiet, and the time for quiet reflection.

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On Collections

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I love the idea of collecting things.

I thought of this while scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed and seeing a famous TV news writer and his collection of Smurfs. How fun! I, of course, then wanted to know the story of the smurf collection, his criteria for selecting an item for his collection, how long he had collected, and so on.

If you know me then you probably know I am obsessed with the Happier by Gretchen Rubin podcast because I have probably tried to indoctrinate you once or twice. Gretchen and her sister have discussed collections many times on the podcast and how collections relate to happiness.

Gretchen collects bluebirds, the symbol of happiness. I am not sure whether she purposefully started collecting them or if it was chosen for her based on her career field. Either way, now she has a healthy collection of bluebird items. She even has enough bluebird Christmas ornaments to fill a small tree at Christmas.

The interesting thing about collecting items is the journey. Some items are so easy to find that collecting can become a burden. In that case, you have to develop a strict criteria for the item (which I do for many of my collections). Less common items are fun because it is like a hunt and when you find the item, it is a true treasure.

I started collecting Home Grown figures by enesco several years ago. These figures bring together two of my favorite things: animals and food. The figures are vegetables depicted in the form of animals. Think, sweet potato alligator, mushroom lion, cabbage dog and one of my favorites, cauliflower sheep. It is too cute!

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I had kind of slowed down on my collection because I wanted to put them in my kitchen, but I had / have no where to display them. On one of our yearly cabin trips with our college friends, we stopped in at a coffee shop in this little, tiny town. One of my friends found radish mice that looked to be maybe 5-10 years old. It was dusty and faded by the sun, and I was in love. I am not even sure if it was truly for sale, but my husband worked his magic, and the little mice came home with me.

I think I like the idea of collecting so much because it is a celebration of our personal uniqueness and style. I collect many things. Here are a couple of my largest collections currently:

Unicorns: I have been fascinated with unicorns since I was 3 or 4 years old. Someone, probably my mom, bought me a unicorn shirt, and I was hooked. Unicorns are depicted in many different styles. I am very specific in my collectibles. Currently, I have purses, adult onesies (yes, plural), figures, stuffed animals, and prints. I recently added a unicorn coloring book and unicorn color by numbers book to the collection.

Cat stuff: After becoming a cat mom at 22 years old, I inadvertently became a collector of cat items. I like my cat collection because it is more of a reflection of how people view me than how I view myself. It was such a logical fit that I ran with the idea myself.

Growing up, my papa Leonard collected many things, but one of my favorite collections of his was model cars. I am not a huge car enthusiast myself, and I do not keep up with current trends, but the way in which he cared for his collection was so intriguing. As soon as he got a new model car, he would clean it with a Q-tip and place it in a protective display case immediately. The passion for his collection showcased his unique (maybe slightly obsessive) personality.

Many people get overwhelmed with stuff. I happen to be one of them, but I think collecting items that are important and valuable to you, if only for your happiness, is worth it. As I continue on my journey to find my happiness, I am uncovering the things that promote happiness and the things that detract happiness. My collections definitely promote happiness for me!

Do you have any collections? Did you start the collection or did someone else start it for you? I am curious to know your story.
Here is my whole Home Grown collection:

Life in grieving

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*This was written several months ago.

 

I have never been so glad to see a year leave as 2015. Christmas was shadowed with pain as we watched our 16-year old Cocker Spaniel slowly pass away. Shadow left us a couple of days after the holiday, and the gut-wrenching pain that I felt was unbearable.

 

Crying took up most of my days. I am not sure if being off work was a good thing or a bad thing. I tried diving into things I enjoyed like my favorite episode of Angel. Nothing really worked.

 

I reminised about all the times that we spent together. We got Shadow as a pup. He along with his siblings were all ready for a good home. Shadow seemed to have a better digestive track than his fellow siblings, so we choose him. The truth is I think he choose us.

 

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Baby Shadow and I


I became attached immediately. While my parents figured out the details, I carried him around the back yard singing to him. He was sweet and perfect. He was warm. He made me feel happy. Content.

 

From then on, Shadow was my buddy. I remember waking up on cold mornings to let him outside, him nipping at my feet with his little puppy teeth. I remember it hurting, but his sweet face got him a pass. I remember his little puppy breath and his accidents that I cleaned up while he was learning to house train.

 

After I got my license, Shadow and I hit the open road in our small community. Music and driving with my faithful companion. That feeling is something you can never get back. The innocence. The lack of responsibilty. The freedom.

 

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Shadow with Cory and I – my senior prom


Going off to college was tough. I missed my family and my pup. Going home was always exciting. We reconnected. We played. We rode.


Shadow was more than a dog. He was my friend — one of my best. He knew my secrets. He knew my heart. He was my confidant. He was my love.


His passing made me feel like all of that was gone. I felt empty. I still do. That part of my heart is gone, and I can never get it back. To everyone else, I lost a dog, but to me, I lost me. He was me. He was all of me. He was the best part of me. I miss him. I miss me.


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Miss you, sweet boy