Princess Leia, Hurricanes, and Tatas.

Have you ever had an out of body experience? Where you are pulsing with energy and your life just doesn’t feel real; almost as if you are hovering above yourself witnessing something too complex for the human mind to process? I have. In fact, it was so profound that it has taken me weeks to put pen to paper–errr, finger to keyboard.

I’m talking about Mardi Gras.

Yes, you read that right. Mardi Gras was a profound experience for me and DEFINITELY not one I expected. All I set out for was a girls weekend of guilt free debauchery, and I left with a pocket full of wisdom and a suitcase full of beads.

This was a girls weekend that was planned a year in advance- organized by one of my favorite girlfriends.  She has a joyful spirit and spontaneity about life that is infectious. Truth be told she’s one of my favorite people in the world because she makes me feel alive when I am around her. She lived in New Orleans for several years, and is the only person who could make my true Texan blood crave a N’awlins address.

From the minute we arrived, the city felt electric. You know that feeling in a stadium when the music starts blaring as the team runs out and it feels as if everyone in the stands is bouncing in excited unison? It was palpable.

The first thing the Uber driver said to us was, “I need to hurry and go see my son walk in tonight’s parade- I count down the days until Mardi Gras, it’s better than Christmas for our family. We live for it.”  He was smiling ear to ear and it brought an immediate feeling of joy to me to see this man revel in the Mardi Gras spirit. There was a sparkle in his eye that was full of truth- a sparkle I couldn’t quite forget.

As I sat back in the Uber, pulling out my phone to check work emails, I pondered do I take myself too seriously? Do I not have enough fun? There is a true importance in stopping to recognize that life should be celebrated and embraced- are we underestimating JOY? At that moment, I tucked my phone back into my bag and said f’ it. I’m here to experience life in a way I never have before- I wanted to see what that sparkle was about. I vowed to myself to let go of my phone so that I could have two free hands (well maybe just one free hand…one hand is for hurricanes) and a completely free spirit.

I know the Mardi Gras reputation can weigh heavily on overly gluttonous drunkards all parading down Bourbon street wreaking havoc on the city- but to be honest, I have never witnessed such authentic joy. People could walk down the street naked, at any size, with glitter pasties and be celebrated- not mocked. People of all shapes and sizes stand shoulder to shoulder in the name a of a good time. People from all different walks of life come together to celebrate more than just Mardi Gras- they come to celebrate freedom. Freedom to be whoever the hell you want to be, to let your true freak flag fly, and to find a little youth and rebellion at any age.

The spirit of the city was so intoxicating that I found myself totally comfortable dressed as Princess Leia throwing beads off a float. In fact when we got back to the hotel that night I almost crapped my pants when I looked in the mirror and remembered what I left the hotel wearing…I will say some of that is due to alcohol, but most of it is attributed to being in a place of acceptance of all absurdities.

no2

At the end of the trip, I had learned a huge lesson about acceptance. I even had to accept that I was now 5 lbs heavier and would have a headache for days- but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I saw the true beauty in humanity, I saw the fire that lit a spark in our drivers eye. Pulling back from all the negative connotations I had about the chaos of Mardi Gras, I was able to open my eyes to what was going on between all the tatas, costumes and public drunkenness. I was able to see people celebrating each other for being exactly who they are in that moment.  Allowing myself to let go and live in the moment with my friends- laughing, being overly indulgent, and even doing downward facing dog in public (clearly I was overserved), is something I will cherish for a lifetime. I’ve already found myself trying to find ways to bring a little Mardi Gras spirit to my life here in Houston and I’m even saying ‘Dah’lin’ a little more too.

no1

XO, E

 

 

 

 

Expectations vs. Reality: Spring Break 2017

Greetings, friends–

Expectation:

Reality:

Seriously, do families like the one in the “expectation” picture really exist? (The teddy bear pushes me over the edge.) Well, not my family. We are more like the “reality” picture.

The first words uttered out of my children, and for that matter, my husband’s mouth as we de-plane at our spring break destination are:

How long is the drive to the hotel? (12-year-old daughter)

Why is our rental car so lame? (16-year-old son)

I’m starving. (47-year-old husband)

Why do I consistently tell myself that our vacations are going to be these dream-like experiences where everyone gets along, holds hands and sings in unison to The Sound of Music sound track? Elaine, wake up!

You should have seen me as I packed for our San Diego trip! I told myself that even though we were actually going there to appease my 12-year-old daughter, Marlie, who has been begging to go to Legoland for over five years, that I was going to wear my gorgeous Elaine Turner kaftans and possibly even hang by the pool, and get this – – maybe even catch up on a some overdue reading.  (Um…yes, here is where you insert a bomb going off to knock me back into reality.) Suffice to say, our trip was far from dream-like, but dare I say, it was REAL.

Let’s call it like it is — traveling with family can be highly stressful and at times somewhat contentious. I assume many of you have just returned from your yearly family spring break vacay. Well, let’s just say ours was a bit more stressful than anticipated.

We set out to conquer San Diego, and when I say conquer — I mean CONQUER. We hit every big theme park in town — Sea World, The San Diego Zoo and Legoland. Marlie was over the moon. My 16-year-old son, Harrison, on the other hand, was a bit moody but trying to be a good sport.

On the flight out, as we found seats 35 A, B, C and D, the very last row on the airplane, which happens to be right next to the toilet, I knew it was bad sign. We also had a very large man situated in between us all. Please don’t get me wrong — I am sympathetic to the fact that we are all different sizes, but even I struggle to find a comfortable position while squished in an airplane seat. He looked so uncomfortable that it made me even more uncomfortable than I already was. I wasn’t sure if he would make it. All I could do was pray for him (and me).

We finally landed in beautiful San Diego and got into our tiny rental car (a frugal decision made by my husband which further exacerbated my 16-year-old) and headed north for La Jolla. When we arrived at the hotel, there was a dense fog that had settled over the entire city.  (Yep, you guessed it, it never “burned off” as they so conveniently say in southern California.) Our room wasn’t ready yet, so I had the unfortunate task of trying to make three people happy who were already frustrated, hangry and reaching the point of becoming plain mean. After several futile attempts to meet their needs, I ended up in the bar. I digress.

Once we got to our room, the kids had a little skirmish about who got what bed. I plopped on the sliver of bed that had been assigned to me and didn’t move for the next twelve hours. I told myself, “Okay, Elaine, you will get a great night’s sleep and be ready to seize the day tomorrow.”

The first park we hit was Sea World. At this point, I was still in a “things will turn around” mode. This trip will be everything I had hoped it could be. I won’t bore you with the all details but several sun burns later, I humbly realized the trip was not going as expected. By day two, when my Lululemon pants ripped on the gondola ride at the zoo (in my idealized state while packing for the trip, I had made the brave yet tragic decision to bring only one pair of leggings), I tipped — I needed a better attitude. I accepted my fate. This was a rough and tumble, sweaty, run-around-with-your-moody-kids trip. Period. I needed a new lens, a new perspective.

Here’s the deal, it’s all about expectations versus reality. We talk a lot about this stuff on the blog, but actually practicing it is another story. I decided to do all I could and practice finding joy in what is, not in what I wished it could be. So, I got back to the room that night, packed up my kaftans, hand washed my Lululemon pants in the hotel sink, ordered another pizza in, took a hot bath, grabbed my book and settled into the new trip I was going to have. Some call this “reframing.”

By examining and adjusting our expectations to better fit our reality, we are committing a very loving act toward ourselves. There is no limit to what you can discover about yourself with this approach. And as a wise person once said, “You cannot hold water in a clenched fist.” So take a deep breath, relax, and let go.

Instead of living in the illusion of what I wanted it to be, I began to see it for what it was and once I did that, I could start to see the real beauty peeking through. Idealizing people, places and things is robbing yourself of what real happiness looks like. I know there are many wise gurus who preach that the first step in manifesting your dreams is to visualize what you want, yet I dare to differ. It’s not the vision in our heads that is perfect — it’s the reality of what you see, what you experience and what you feel that takes you to the promised land.

I was able to see the simple things more clearly, the random acts of kindness and the beauty of being in the moment. Like my husband, Jim, climbing into the rides at Legoland with Marlie that he could barely fit into but smiling the entire time. Harrison and I grabbing dinner, just the two of us, catching up on school, life and, I can’t lie, our brackets for March Madness, while Marlie and Jim went to bed early. My kids spontaneously grabbing each other hands as they walked through the parks together. These are the real moments of magic that happen when we open our eyes to what’s real.

On the fifth day, we arrived at the airport to head back to Houston. I was feeling relieved to get back to our routine. My entire body had taken a beating on the trip. Harrison was taking a different flight and heading to Denver for a lacrosse tournament. I walked him to his gate and gave him the usual ten-minute Mom speech about making sure he had enough cash and to call me when he lands, etc. I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry this trip wasn’t exactly the most relaxing spring break.” He replied, “It’s okay, Mom. All that matters is that Marlie had a great time.” I kissed him on the cheek and gave him a huge hug and walked away. At that moment, Marlie was running towards me with her Mario t-shirt and jelly bean back pack on yelling, “Hey Mom, I think I saw a toy store. Let’s go to it NOW!” She got closer to me and saw tears running down my face and said, “Wait, why are you crying?” And I said, “Because your brother said something really nice to me.” Then she said, “Oh Mom, you are so cute when you cry.”

Four Matchbox cars and an hour later, our plane took off for Houston. The three of us gazed out the window and saw the crystal blue coastline fade in the distance. Marlie rested her head on my shoulder and said, “Mom, I’m going to miss this place.” Her eyes closed and I whispered, “I know. We’ll come back soon.”

XOXO,
Elaine

P. S. Epilogue…
But wait. The story does not end there. The funniest thing happened when we landed in Houston. We got to the car to drive home to find we had a dead battery. Seriously??? Needless to say, I was a bit rattled and challenged to “find joy” in a hot parking garage as we attempted to jump the car for two hours with no luck. Another lesson: sometimes you just gotta’ power through reality. (No kidding, this all happened. Ride home courtesy Uber.)


P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be thrilled if you’d share it. And don’t forget to follow and subscribe to Join the Collective!

 

California Dreamin’: Finding ME, again

Friends, this is my Santa Barbara story. Enjoy! XOXO, Elaine

E1My best friend, Rebecca and I do an annual girls’ trip every summer. She works in the public school system so summers are her time to roll and my business slows down in summer. It’s a win-win for both of us. Most years we hit local or easy to-get-to spots, like Austin or Galveston, but this year we splurged.

I found an incredible deal on Expedia.com for a four night stay at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California. Well, I could lie and say the reason I booked it was because it was a good deal or I could tell you the truth and say that I’ve always wanted to go there and I felt like NOW was my chance.

The good news is, I could literally call Rebecca and tell her we were going to watch fireflies mate in Fulshear, Texas and she would be game. As long as we had a few days of freedom and each other – all was good.

We got into our fancy new rental car —  a bright red Dodge SUV. I took it as a good sign for the trip because red signifies power and love. Little did I know, the latter would become a running joke throughout our trip.

We plugged our destination into Google maps and I casually suggested we take the longer, more scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway so we could see Santa Monica and Malibu. I wasn’t quite sure how Rebecca would react but she immediately replied, “Yes! Are you kidding me? I’m up for anything. We don’t have anywhere to be and nobody depending on us, so let’s do it!” Those few, yet profound words became the mantra of our trip — screw everyone who depends on us, we are in California, damn it!

We headed towards paradise and felt an easy energy take over. The song Take It Easy by the Eagles played in my mind:

Take it easy, take it easy.
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.
Lighten up if you still can.
Don’t even try to understand.
Just find a place to make your stand
And take it easy.

We hadn’t talked much on the plane because I fell asleep. Any moment I can doze off, I take full advantage of because life feels a bit overwhelming right now. But we started to find our center and acclimate to the awe and wonder of our surroundings and began to catch up. We discussed kids, jobs, summer plans, etc.

As we drove through Santa Monica and then Malibu, the natural beauty was mind blowing. We fell silent as I’m not sure we could process what we were actually witnessing. Dramatic cliffs butting up to the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean was a jaw dropping sight to see.

4seasons1We rolled the windows down, and as a slight breeze crept through the car, our conversation became giddy, uninhibited and hopeful. I felt overcome with excitement and an internal levity began to take over. I think it was actually hitting me that I had four full days of freedom — freedom from people, freedom from time, freedom from schedules, freedom from stress. In essence, freedom from MY LIFE.

We decided about half way through Malibu that we should stop and eat. We Googled restaurants and stopped at a place called V’s Restaurant and Bar. I suddenly realized that there was something quite liberating about the sequence of events that had just unfolded — we both were hungry, decided on a restaurant, and happily found ourselves sitting in an adorable place with a front row seat to incredible people watching in gorgeous Malibu. I kept thinking: this never would have happened with my family. Not everyone would ever be hungry at the same time, no one would have agreed on a place to stop, and we would have argued over where to sit and who’s sitting where at the table.  Read More