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20 Things I Learned in 2020

1-I need to stay away from pet stores. I went to buy wild bird seed in July and came home with another new cat. I LOVE him. Three cats is my limit though. 

2-Orange (peach) colored cats shed terribly.

3-Stock up on toilet paper at all times. This one is obvious.

4-There is a reason for everything that comes and goes from our lives. Jobs, people, everything. Find comfort in the fact that things not meant for you will fall away and the things meant for you will find you when they are supposed to. I’m not sure this is a direct result of 2020 but something I’ve just accepted this year. 

5-The pandemic has actually made some things easier, especially for introverts. We hate going into crowded stores and suddenly most places offer online ordering and curbside pickup now. This would have saved me a ton of panic attacks had this service been offered in my 20s and 30s. DoorDash, Grubhub, Instacart are amazing services as well…you don’t even have to leave your house for a cheeseburger anymore.

6-Don’t take spending time with your loved ones for granted. Not that I have, but actually, I kinda have. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to see my Dad face to face since March. Before that I visited him at least once every week or two since he was admitted into the nursing home in 2008. When I was finally allowed to visit him for 30 minutes back in the summer (through a plexiglass booth while wearing a mask and face shield and he didn’t even recognize me at first) I cried. Looking forward to being able to give him a hug again, someday. 

7-“Movements” that take place in the United States of America tend to divide people rather than unite them no matter what the original intentions were.

8-I hate to bring up masks because I hate wearing them but it’s another obvious one. You can basically roll out of bed and put a mask and face shield on and go out in public looking like you’re dressed for Halloween and nobody will bat an eye or think oddly of you. IT’S SO WEIRD.

9-Check the diameter of the base of your new Christmas tree before you bring it home. 

10-You can cook pasta in the microwave if you have to go without a stove for two months. Also, don’t advertise your old stove on Facebook marketplace and sell it the same day if you don’t know when your new appliances will be delivered. Don’t assume anything will arrive on time anymore for that matter. Pandemic = everything is on backorder.

11-No matter what side you’re on regarding politics, nobody really “wins” elections anymore.

12-You can survive an entire year without attending a concert. Seeing live music is one of my favorite things to do though so I really HOPE this changes in 2021. 

13-A frozen glass container of roast beef dropped out of the freezer directly on your big toe hurts like HELL. And then people look at you like you’re crazy for wearing a boot the ortho doc gave you for the broken toe. But you learn to not worry about what people think because if they ever drop a cement block on a toe someday they will understand…although I do not recommend or wish that on anyone.

14-You really are one decision away from a different life whether it’s a small thing like choosing to eat sugar again after abstaining for 14 months (Yes, I did and I’m starting fresh again in January but for now I’m enjoying some chocolate) or making the decision to move from an apartment you rent to a house you purchased.

15- You can’t always have everything you want. And sometimes you get things you don’t want. God really is the only One in control. Might as well let Him do His job and step aside. Let life surprise you. The ride has no meaning if there aren’t a few bumps along the way to make you appreciate the good parts.

Ok, so I was going to make this 20 things I learned in 2020 but I changed my mind. So I guess this can technically be number 16. You always have the right to change your mind and do something different. Starting over completely is always an option. Every single day. Not doing anything at all is an option too. Stillness is a choice. We have all probably actually learned hundreds of things this year! But I think we’ve also learned to be still a little more and to be ok with it.

We made it through the best we could so there’s no need to look back. Looking forward to new adventures and experiences. Happy 2021. 

Peace and Blessings,

Stacey ~ iamalive

Home

I bought a house earlier this year. Yes, in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. I hadn’t had my own place since 2012. My apartment was fine enough but it felt so temporary. It wasn’t mine and that bothered me. I realized I was finally at the stage in my life where I needed to plant roots again. I had been in limbo long enough. I needed something to take care of and call mine again. I had been half heartedly looking for a house for about a year before I found this place. I saw several that would have worked but nothing I fell in love with. With my other two places I had in the past I just knew when I saw them that I had to live in each of them. I wanted that feeling again. I didn’t want to move just to be moving. 

So, back in March, when things were just really starting to get super weird with the Coronavirus, Covid-19, the Chinese Virus…or whatever you prefer to call it, I saw the house I am sitting in now pop up as a new listing on my realtor’s website. It looked to be the perfect size, in the perfect location, and the perfect price. It looked like it needed some work but I knew in my gut I had to see it. I contacted my realtor immediately and we went and looked at it two hours later. 

From my experience with half hearted looking over the year prior I learned that the market was super fast and if you weren’t certain you wanted the house, you probably wouldn’t get it if you dragged your feet because houses were literally going on the market one day and sold the same day or the next. I looked at it. I knew I wanted it. I made my offer that day. My offer was accepted that same day. 

What just happened??? I didn’t even have time to think about it. I just acted. But it felt right.

That is how quickly I went from living in limbo and unsure of where I might end up to making a move and becoming settled again. It happened in one day. 

The entire buying process from meeting with the mortgage company, to the home inspection, to the closing and everything in between was just WEIRD. Most businesses were closed during that time so it wasn’t exactly convenient. Neither my realtor nor myself were present during the inspection for FEAR that someone might have “the virus.” I was alone signing all of the paperwork at the title company at closing so that nobody from the mortgage company or my realtor were put at risk. Everyone was just a phone call away but I basically had to maneuver most things during the process alone. I didn’t tell any of my family, friends, or coworkers I bought a house at first. I didn’t want anyone to think I was **crazy** for doing so in such uncertain times. I couldn’t even tell my dad about it because I wasn’t allowed to visit him at the nursing home anymore. Everyone was quarantined. The entire world was on lockdown and Stacey buys a house. 

But I made it through it. And I have been in my cute little fixer upper since May 18th. As sure as I was that I wanted this house I do wonder sometimes if I did the right thing. My depression and anxiety come and go like waves these days. I worry I won’t be able to take care of it and it might just crumble around me. I don’t even own a lawnmower yet. I haven’t taken care of many things I need to take care of yet. I just discovered this week that there was no furnace filter in the furnace. I just assumed the previous owner left one there. I have been without a stove for over a month because I ordered new appliances and sold the stove I had prematurely. I have been struggling to eat healthy as a result. 

Do I have a clue what I am doing most days? No, I do not. 

I still see the number 41 constantly…every single day. My sign for years now that everything is ok and to just keep going. But sometimes I lose faith. 

I was sitting outside on my patio this afternoon and a hummingbird came to visit me, twice. He hovered in front of my face as if he was trying to figure out if I was a flower or not. He left and then came right back and did the same thing. It kind of scared me the first time and I ducked out of the way. I wondered if he was going to zoom at my head with those fast little wings and tiny body. But when he came back again I just sat there and looked at him as he fluttered in front of me. I think he was telling me all is okay. You are right where you need to be. 

If you are having any doubts during these crazy times, remember, you are right where you need to be too. Trust God, the numbers, your gut, and the hummingbird if you are lucky enough to receive a visit.

Blessings, 

Stacey ~ iamalive

Changes

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would’ve been 77. She died just 9 days shy of her 60th birthday in 2003. I miss her. I have a nephew getting married today in Pennsylvania. Wish I was there. Found out one of my great aunts passed away yesterday. She was almost 102 years old. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since turning 41 in 2013 and I began to “wake up” is that nothing stays the same forever. Change is inevitable and no matter how difficult it is or how hard you fight it, life goes on. People are born. People die. People get married. People get divorced. People leave your life that you thought you couldn’t live without and would always be around and others show up out of nowhere like magic that you never knew you needed. It’s kind of amazing and beautiful when you think about it all. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. God has a big plan for all of us. I’m finally at a point in my life where I’ve surrendered all and just trusting Him.

Happy birthday, mom. Never knew you were a duck hunter. Maybe you’re shooting ducks in heaven right now. But more likely smoking a cigarette and drinking a coke and eating a Hershey bar with almonds… and laughing. You had the best laugh. ❤️

Blessings,

Stacey ~ iamalive

Grace Times Ten

My friend and coworker, Bradley Troutman, published his first book last year. I read it recently and I asked him if I could share it here.

In Bradley’s words, “The purpose of this book is to help you see and recognize how God is at work in your life.  To build a testimony of miracles, small and large, that have occurred in your life.  Last, but certainly not least, encourage you to share your testimony every chance you get.”

This book is very personal and you feel as if you are having a conversation with Bradley as you are reading it. The biggest takeaway for me is that no matter how far you walk away from God, He is always right there waiting for you to return. I have personal experience with needing God’s grace, as I am sure you do as well.

Click here to purchase Grace Times Ten.

Blessings,

Stacey ~ iamalive

 

Light

My mom died a slow horrible death that took years to finally take her life. She took a bottle of pills. She slit her wrists. She beat her head with a hammer. But the thing that finally “did her in” was when she stopped eating. She starved herself to death and her body finally shut down.

My biggest fear with my battle with depression is that I’m going to end up like my mom. Sometimes I feel like I’ve come so far in this journey to getting back to ME. And sometimes I feel like I’ve just walked in a big ol circle and I’m right back where I started. But I’m still moving. When you stop moving, that’s it. Depression is real, y’all. It’s a disease and people can’t just “snap out of it.” It takes time. It takes medication. (Even when you hate to take pills). It takes  A LOT of self care. It takes support. And sometimes it takes its toll before healing occurs. It’s not just a “phase.”


When someone reaches out to you and tells you they are depressed, don’t ignore them. They are looking for support. (It takes a lot of courage to ask for help when you are depressed…don’t be afraid to ask). I’ve lost a lot of friends because of my struggles with this monster on my back. People don’t want to face hard things so they look away. They leave people behind. I’m sure I’ve done the same thing too. I’m going to try and do better and be a better listener and a better friend.

I’m fine. I mean, I will be. I don’t have a support system or an emergency contact or someone to come home to every day to talk to and get a hug from. I’m pretty much alone. I do have a God who loves me and will never leave me, even though I leave him sometimes. I don’t want to let him down.

I’m not a perfect person. I battle with anxiety and depression. But I’m strong. So very strong. If you knew about all of the things I’ve dealt with over the last 47 years you’d probably agree. Maybe you relate? I’m not looking for sympathy or adoration or anything like that really. I’m just willing, still, to share my story in hopes that someone else out there who might be feeling the same reads it and realizes they are not alone. There are many of us out here fighting on a daily basis to just get through the next day. The next hour. The next minute.

And we will. And we will look back and be grateful for getting through these times. Because the light on the other side is pretty damn spectacular. It doesn’t always last long. Darkness always seems to come again. But those moments of light? Those are the moments I live for. Just keep moving. You’ll get there. I’ll get there. We will get there together.

Blessings,

Stacey ~ iamalive

Joy and Faith

I haven’t written much this year. Actually, I just realized I have not posted here since August. Instead of writing, I have been doing a lot of reading, thinking, working, cooking, sleeping, listening to music, and just living a quiet life this year. I am learning to be the me that exists in the now and accepting who I am and where I am at in life at this moment.  

I have had this idea to write a book about my spiritual journey over the last five years. It is mainly about love, heartbreaks, victories, failures, endings, and new beginnings. I also throw in bits and pieces from my past for good measure. Because the experiences that I have gone through influenced choices I have made more recently. Past experiences shaped and molded me into the person I am today. Job changes, my mom’s mental illness and her death, past marriages and relationships with men, my dad’s illness, friendships, loss of pets…all of these experience and more created an image in my head of who I am that is unique from anyone else on the planet. We all go through “stuff” but we all deal with things differently. What might be a huge deal to me might be meaningless to you.

My word for 2018 was “joy.” I am not exactly sure if I found it for good, but I have had moments. Moments are better than nothing, and besides, we cannot be happy all of the time. That would just be weird. I don’t have the energy to smile 24/7! And I don’t expect to do so.

This year I have dealt with a lot of feelings of FEAR when I wasn’t feeling joy. I was afraid to leave my apartment a lot of the time because I suffered from more panic attacks this year than I have for a very long time. Being afraid tells me that my faith is lacking. Living in fear is crippling in so many ways. By not wanting to leave my apartment except to go to work, I have become isolated from friends and family. I have felt really alone this year. My cats are my best friends. (I did adopt a new cat this year. Her name is “New-cat”, of course).

The moments of JOY I felt this year happened when I left my apartment and did something besides curl up in a ball on the couch with my cats. I went to Mexico for four nights back in January with my friend and saw Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, Brandi Carlile, Carlos Malta, Joseph, and others perform in concert on the beach three night in a row. I went to Indianapolis for a weekend in June and saw DMB perform for two nights. And in late August I did something I have never done before. I took a road trip out west by myself. I flew from Louisville, KY to Seattle, WA and spent several days in WA state then drove my rental car down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. I have vowed to go somewhere I have never been before at least once a year and I had never been to SF, so I can check that off my list now. With all of the driving I did in WA state for four days combined with the trip down the coast, I put 1,683 miles on that Nissan Murano. I loved that car. 

My trip was magical and was THE highlight of my year. I made several stops along the way that were suggested in a travel guide I ordered from Amazon. (I don’t leave my house except to go on road trips on the other side of the country, so of course I didn’t buy the guide at a store). I visited Pike’s Place Market and walked around the pier and ate salmon at my favorite little restaurant there. I left WA and crossed over into my favorite state, Oregon. I walked around Astoria and dreamed about the Goonies. I stayed in Seaside and visited Cannon Beach. I just stared at the big rock there for a couple of hours. I didn’t want to leave but I had a schedule to keep. I ate cheese and ice cream in Tillamook. I visited Yaquina Lighthouse near Newport, and Heceta Head Lighthouse on the way to the Sea Lions Caves (the sea lions were unfortunately out to sea feeding in early September, bummer). I stopped in Bandon and visited Face Rock, then Cape Blanco Lighthouse. I then crossed over into California and slept at the Curly Redwood lodge the night before I drove through Redwood National Park. I took a detour from Highway 101 after driving through the big trees via Highway 1 and almost pooped my pants. It was a crazy, winding road that seemed to never end. White knuckling is an understatement. I saw a cat walking along Glass Beach. I fed squirrels popcorn at another lighthouse (can’t remember the name). And then I stopped in Mendocino, which turns out was my favorite place of my entire trip. If you ever make it there, eat some pizza at Flow, then take a walk to the beach and watch the sunset over the ocean. Sleep at the Hill House Inn and I promise you will have the Best. Sleep. Ever. I made it to SF the next day and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (did the bridge overlook photo op thing), then checked into a nice hotel and ordered dinner. I sat there in the restaurant at the Westin by the airport thinking about everything I had just seen and I wondered where all of the people in the restaurant had been and where they were going. I had a joyful week to say the least. I hoped they did too.

Then I returned home. I was sad after I returned. I knew I would be. Going back to work the day after a trip like that wasn’t my idea of “joy”…I just wanted to transport myself back to the west coast where I was smiling nonstop. I could breathe better out there. I felt the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I touched the sand and dipped my feet in the cold water. I ate some good food and drank a beer or three every day. I felt peace. 

But I am not rich. In order to afford to take vacations, I must work. The vacation high wore off and I settled back into my apartment with my cats. Work, sleep, work, sleep. And that has been life since September. No trips or anything exciting really.

I’ve been thinking more about that book lately. The one I have been trying to write for five years. That story I want to tell is just a glimpse into my life. Five years is nothing in the grand scheme of things, yet I have been through so much since 2013. I got divorced. I have moved multiple times and changed jobs a couple of times. I took an entire year off from working in a lab and spent several weeks in Japan and then came home and worked as a farm hand at a local charitable CSA. I am back in the “lab” now and I feel like I have come full circle in many ways. I am stable now. Even if I do have some bad days. (I had a panic attack yesterday for no reason at all). I do feel joy sometimes. And I do have a story to tell. It is a story about how God takes care of me no matter what. Even if I go through periods where I feel incredibly alone and abandoned and I don’t believe He will take care of me anymore, he still does. I don’t have to be on a roadtrip or a grand vacation or at a concert to feel joy and peace. It surrounds me all the time if I allow it to. 

My word for 2019 is FAITH. Because without it, that means I have given up. And I owe Him more than that for everything He has done for me.

Keep on keepin’ on you guys. That is the only way.

Happy new year and many blessings for 2019. It’s all going to be ok!

Stacey ~ iamalive