Whiplash

Change is good, right? Change means growth. Progress. New directions, perhaps?

When I was young and single, I was also fairly driven and focused. I set goals, and I went after them. When one goal was achieved, I set another one and went after it with a single-minded ferocity unique to those who are responsible only for themselves. The operative word here, of course, is “I”.

It’s easy to be goal oriented and focused when you’re the center of your own universe. Add a husband and daughter to that equation, however, and all that drive has to soften. The focus expands to a broader perspective. The single-minded ferocity gets redirected from personal interests to family interests. And personal goals? Well, they get prioritized along with everyone else’s.

It’s been three months since my last post. When I wrote that post, I believed wholeheartedly that I’d have my real estate license by now, and I’d be working full time in sales. It was easily an attainable goal, until it wasn’t. By the end of November, it was clear that my husband needed to find a new job soon. On Christmas day, we got a huge wake-up call in the form of a major medical event on my side of the family. By the second week of January, the instability at my husband’s workplace came to a head, and we went from a single income to no income at all.

Dead end. Time to change directions.

Matt found a new job quickly. He started today, as a matter of fact, so he was unemployed for just one month. We did what we could to make the best of the situation. We tightened our budget and prepared ourselves for what could have been an extended period without a steady income. The fact that he was home during the day and able to shuttle our daughter back and forth to school between job interviews gave me an unexpected opportunity to spend a few precious days with my best friend, Jenn, before she moves to Reno, Nevada this month. As an added bonus, the eleven hours of solitude I had during the drive to and from Jenn’s current address in Kansas gave me a welcome opportunity to think, refocus, and reprioritize.

Real estate is my dream job, but unfortunately, it’s also a job for which you have to spend money to make money. The loss of Matt’s income made me realize that we’re not quite in a place where we can comfortably afford to finance the pursuit of my dream job. We have more important objectives to meet first.

So, the dream job is on hold for now. Losing our sole income, even if only briefly, made it clear that what we really need is multiple streams of income. The steadier, the better. Real estate hardly fits the bill as it provides sporadic income at best in the first year, yet the expenses are both immediate and steady.

Another change of direction.

I’ve resisted selling my jewelry for as long as I’ve been making it, but desperate times call for drastic measures: Door 44 Jewelry was launched on January 28th. I’ve also resisted going back to my old line of work, but there are times to do what you want to do, and there are times to do what you must.

Let’s see where this new road leads…

 

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Going After the Dream Job

I don’t remember exactly when or how my love affair with houses began. Was it when I attended my first Parade of Homes with my mom when I was ten? Or was it when I bought my first house at twenty-three? Perhaps it started even earlier. After all, I grew up in a small town with some pretty spectacular old homes and architecturally significant buildings.

Whenever it started, it’s grown into a personal passion with very deep roots. Houses are infinitely fascinating to me because they say so much about the people who inhabit them. Materialistic people live in ostentatious homes. Humble people live in modest homes. Warmth and love are palpable in the homes of the kindest souls. A good interior designer can make any house look beautiful on the surface, but she can’t infuse a loveless home with warmth.

Being a life-long student of interpersonal relationships, I suppose it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to residential real estate. The truth of the matter is that I’ve wanted to be a real estate broker since I bought my first house nearly twenty-five years ago. Having been single for all but the last two of those years, however, I never felt secure enough financially to make the leap from a corporate job with a steady paycheck and benefits to being self-employed and wholly dependent on the feast-or-famine nature of a commission-based income.

Timing is everything, though, and the time is finally right for me to go after my dream job. Thanks to my incredibly supportive husband, Matt, I’ll soon be a licensed real estate broker.

I’ll be wholly focused on preparing for my licensing exams over the next few weeks, so you may not hear much from me between now and the end of the year. Once I do get my license, however, I look forward to sharing my experience with you.

Wish me luck!

Five Important Things I’ve Learned About Myself Since Getting Married

My husband Matt and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary today. Our marriage has been a bit of a wild ride, thus far. Not in a bad way, but we’ve dealt with an awful lot of change in what seems to be (at least in theory) a pretty short span of time.

The following are a few surprising things I’ve learned about myself along the way:

I can cook!

I don’t mean that in the sarcastic sense that I can order takeout or heat up a processed box of chemicals that sort of resembles food. I mean I have a genuine knack for cooking delicious and healthy meals from scratch. Who knew?!

Cooking was never a priority for me while I was single. I regarded food largely as an inconvenient necessity that I had to address two or three times a day. Since getting married, though, I’ve discovered the joys of both cooking and eating. Dinners at the Reamys’ house are pretty spectacular.

I love being part of something greater than myself.

This one really wasn’t a huge revelation. I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger. I’ve always been a company girl wherever I worked. I’ve always worked for the greatest good of whatever organization I was a part of at any point in my life. What’s always been missing, though, is the sense that my commitment was reciprocated.

It wasn’t until I married my husband that I fully understood what it means to be part of something bigger than myself. Before Matt, I knew what it was to be a cog in a machine, a means to an end, a decoration on an arm, and a crutch. With Matt, I’m finally part of something that really is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s pretty amazing. And a little daunting at times, which brings me to my next point.

I’m not as emotionally mature and rational as I like to think I am.

Not having good role models as a kid made for a pretty tumultuous start to my career. I was headstrong and inflexible; and being a naturally strong personality, I wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with. It took a few years and a lot of hard knocks for me to develop the emotional maturity necessary to work well in a professional environment, but I eventually learned how to keep my cool when dealing with difficult coworkers.

Dealing with my husband and stepdaughter are an entirely different ballgame, though. It’s easy to keep your cool with coworkers when you’re not emotionally vested in those relationships. Conflicts with people you love are infinitely more difficult to handle. Jobs will come and go, but the stakes are so much higher when the two most important relationships in your life depend on your ability to behave like an adult twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I have a far greater capacity for love than I ever imagined.

I’ve been told all my life that I’m a selfish, self-absorbed, spoiled rotten brat. My own sis… um… a female relative who’s insisted she not be named on my “worldwide bully pulpit” called me a narcissist (among other poison barbs) recently. You hear those things often enough from people close to you, and you start to believe them. I’ve also been told that I’m not a team player by a few managers and supervisors in the past who didn’t like anyone challenging their authority.

Let me tell you something about those statements: they’re wake-up calls. That’s the universe telling you, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time to do some interpersonal housekeeping. We are social creatures by nature. Thus, it is our nature to love and to collaborate in ways that are mutually beneficial—not one sided. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If someone accuses you of not being a team player, it’s because you’re on the wrong team. If someone close to you spews toxic venom without provocation, it’s because they’re so filled with self-hatred and rage that they’re incapable of love.

Walk away. Cut the cord, and give yourself permission to find the people you are meant to love—the ones who will love and appreciate you for who you are rather than who they need or want you to be. Find those people, and you will be amazed by your own capacity for love. You will undoubtedly discover, as I have, that to truly love and to be truly loved is an experience like no other. Finding it isn’t easy, but there’s no mistaking it once you do find your way back to the love that is your birthright.

I am incredibly blessed.

IMG_6633I always knew I’d ultimately marry the right man for me, but it took me a really long time to find him. Every time I walked away from someone I knew wasn’t The One, people would tell me that I’m too picky and that I’d never meet anyone who was perfect. They were wrong.

They were wrong in so many ways, I can’t begin to count them. Matt isn’t perfect. Neither am I, but we’re perfect for one another; and that makes all the difference. Thank God I trusted myself and chose to ignore the naysayers because it was my own intuition that lead me to my husband.

Great risk brings great reward, they say. It’s also true, then, that unwavering faith brings tremendous blessings.

Happy anniversary, Matt. I love you.

Going With the Flow

The Florence Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The Florence Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

Something broke loose recently. I’m not sure what or how, but after months of being stuck in what felt like a mental logjam, I’m finally back in the flow. Back in a flow, that is. I have no idea where the current will take me, but I’m so relieved to finally be moving forward that I don’t think I care.

On the jewelry front, I’ve been busy. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working through Sarah Thompson’s new book, Fine Art Wire Weaving. I’ve been making jewelry my whole life, and I’ve been focused on wire jewelry specifically for about five years now.

The Calligraphy Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The Calligraphy Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

I feel like I’ve explored just about every wire wrapping style and technique there is at this point, but the techniques I’m picking up from Sarah Thompson are proving to be the key to unlocking my own personal wire wrapping style. After years of creating jewelry that was almost, but not quite, what I’d envisioned, I’m finally starting to find my own creative “voice”.

The Raindrop Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The Raindrop Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The three pieces featured in this post are Sarah Thompson’s designs–projects from her book. Sarah’s book has not only been instructive, but it’s been tremendously inspiring as well. Stay tuned for some of my own original designs, which I can create to my own satisfaction now that I’ve finally found the right weaves and construction techniques to translate my ideas into finished jewelry.

Back in the Creative Groove

The original intent of this blog was to share my jewelry, my creative process, and the ways in which my life influences my jewelry and vice versa. My plan at the beginning of 2013 was to step my life-long jewelry hobby up to a business, but I got married that year instead.

I thought I’d try again to launch the jewelry business in 2014, but instead I became a full-time mom when my stepdaughter came to live with her father and me. The first half of 2015 was an absolute whirlwind with job changes and lawyers and school and cello lessons and moving to a new city, but things are starting to settle down now, and I’m finally finding the time to get back to my personal goals.

Having been out of the daily habit of making jewelry for a very long time, I decided to get back into the groove by honing my metalworking skills and experimenting with some new wire-wrapping techniques. The following images are the results of some of my first focused attempts at wire work in… well… a very long time.

Nicole Hanna of Nicole Hanna Jewelry has long been an inspiration for me. Where she finds the time and energy to do all that she does is beyond me, but besides making gorgeous jewelry and writing fabulous tutorials for aspiring wire wrappers, she also runs a great page on Facebook that’s become a sort of gathering place where artists help artists by sharing tips, techniques, and tutorials. The page is relatively new, but I’m amazed by how quickly its membership has exploded, and that’s largely because Nicole has a huge following in the wire wrapped jewelry world. Seriously, if you’ve never heard of her, it must be because you’re not a wire worker. Or a hand crafted jewelry lover.

Anyway, long story short, Nicole has this way of getting people to step out of their comfort zone and create stuff they might not ordinarily attempt. This month she issued a challenge for group members to create something with a leaf theme using only wire, a single bead, and no tools besides wire cutters and a single pair of jewelry pliers.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not. Particularly if you’ve taken a couple of years away from wire work in order to focus one some huge life changes. Add to that the fact that I love tools. I generally work with a minimum of three different sets of pliers, so committing to using a single pair for this challenge was almost physically painful for me. This piece fought me every inch of the way. I scrapped my first attempt and restarted the design. I broke several wires. Nothing flowed properly or ended up looking quite the way I saw it in my mind, but I finally ended up with a piece I liked enough to submit for the contest. And then I broke the bead while I was doing the final polish. Ugh! Another repair (and more wire added to my scrap bin), another round of the whole clean/patina/clean/polish routine (my least favorite part of the whole process); and this is the result of all that wire and frustration (not to mention some pretty colorful language):

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Dew-laden Aspen Leaf – design inspired by Nicole Hanna of Nicole Hanna Jewelry.

It’s my interpretation of a dew-laden Aspen leaf in the fall. The colors are peaking here in Colorado this week, so it’s a timely tribute to my favorite season. The design is also a nod to Nicole Hanna’s style, which I adore even though I’ve never quite been able to do her designs justice.

As a jewelry artist, I don’t wear a lot of jewelry that I didn’t make myself, but I make an exception for Nicole’s work. I own three Nicole Hanna originals, and I gush about her work like a proud parent whenever someone compliments me on one of those pieces.

The second big challenge I took on this week was a pair of earrings designed by another jewelry rock star whose work I shamelessly worship. I mentioned Sarah Thompson in  a previous post after I’d taken her online course through Craftsy.com. I first discovered Sarah’s work a couple of years ago while I was looking for wire wrapped inspiration on Etsy. It was there that I first saw her Scorpio earrings, and I fell in love with her work the moment I laid eyes on them. As luck would have it, Sarah included that particular earring design in her new book, Fine Art Wire Weaving.

Here’s my first attempt at that design:

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Scorpio Earrings – Design by Sara Thompson

Fricken fabulous, aren’t they? I can’t begin to explain how inspiring her work is, so go check it our yourself at Sarah-n-Dippity! And tell her I said hello. Cuz that’s not creepy at all.

Now that I’m finally back to focusing on jewelry, this blog might start to have fewer words and more pictures. Probably not a bad thing, given my tendency to ramble.

Oh, one more thing… Welcome to all the new followers I’ve picked up over the past few weeks. Thank you for taking the time to read and share my blog.

Now, go make something beautiful!

Raising the Bar

I was never the sort of supervisor anyone wanted to work for when I worked in the corporate world. I had a reputation for being demanding and “all business”, as if that’s a negative quality in a manager. Given the choice, most people would prefer to work for someone who expects little and who is content to be perceived as “one of the gang.” I was never that boss, and I’m not that parent. Neither is my husband.

People will generally achieve whatever expectations you set for them, so you might as well set the bar high.

As both a supervisor and a parent, I have always subscribed to the philosophy that people will generally achieve whatever expectations you set for them. Whether you set the bar high or set it low, your staff or your kids will consistently be right on target; so you might as well set the bar high. There are always exceptions, of course. There will be the occasional overachiever who will consistently surpass your expectations. Likewise, there will be the odd underachiever who will rarely be on target. I have some ideas about how to deal with those exceptions, but that’s a topic for another post and another day.

I received a very interesting phone call from my daughter’s 6th grade math teacher this morning. Apparently my daughter’s name came up in the core education team’s weekly meeting, and the team agreed that my daughter should be bumped up to the advanced placement curriculum for all of her core courses. The chairman of the team just wanted to clear the move with us before they went ahead and placed her on the AP track.

When I replayed the voice message for my daughter, her eyes grew wide with amazement. She didn’t really know what to expect when I told her I’d received an interesting message from her math teacher, but a promotion to the AP track was clearly not on her radar.

The discussion that followed went something like this:

Me: Are you interested in moving up to all advanced courses?

Dear Daughter: Yes.

Me: You realize that this is going to mean more work, right? The classes are going to be more difficult, and you’re probably going to have more homework.

DD: That’s okay. I’m up for the challenge.

I’m up for the challenge.

Those words are sweet, sweet music to this mom’s ears, and here’s why: Two years ago, shortly after we got married, my husband and I discovered that our little girl was struggling in math. At the time, my husband didn’t have primary custody, so we only had her every other weekend. We know our daughter to be very bright, so we had no reason to suspect that she was struggling in school. As we began to test her understanding of math with simple problems involving money or distance, however, we realized that she didn’t have a solid understanding of basic math functions. And so began our quest to gain primary custody so we could have more control over her education.

We were incredibly lucky. Not all custody cases work out in the best interests of the child(ren), and so many dads face an uphill battle when it comes to convincing a court that they are the stronger custodial parent. If I had any doubts about the existence of God prior to our custody case, those doubts would have been obliterated by the time our case was settled because everything worked in our favor. From the timing and circumstances to the random assignment of a district judge, it all flowed seamlessly, as if guided through divine intervention.

And all the while, we were working overtime to get our daughter caught up academically. We had her tested through Sylvan Learning  in the middle of her 4th grade year. At that time, her math skills were somewhere in the 3rd grade range, while her language skills were a little above her current grade level.

She spent the summer between her 4th and 5th grade years learning her multiplication tables inside out and backwards. During her 5th grade year, she discovered the payoff for all that effort when her friends started referring to her as “the calculator”. We had her re-assessed at the end of her 5th grade year, and (not surprisingly) she tested well above grade level in both math and language skills. Today, she readily admits that she’s glad we forced her to memorize her multiplication tables, which brings me back to my original point that kids will hit whatever target you set for them.

What’s most rewarding for me after all the tears and frustration over the past two years of working to fill the gaps in our daughter’s education are the tremendous leaps she’s made in terms of her overall willingness to take risks and the ferocity with which she rises to a challenge. The growth in her academic performance, as remarkable as it is, pales in comparison to the growth we’ve seen in her self-confidence and her work ethic. School is fun for her again, and she’s back on track to achieving her full potential.

We don’t do our kids any favors by setting low to no expectations for them. Too many parents are disengaged and disinterested in their child’s education. As a society, we all complain about the quality of our education system, and we’re quick to blame teachers when our kids fail to be prepared for the next phase of their lives upon their high school graduation.

What my daughter has clearly demonstrated for me, however, is that it’s not the school’s fault that she was falling behind in the 4th grade. It was clearly our fault as parents. The Ex is the sort of parent who was never fully engaged in her daughter’s education while my husband and I took it for granted that our very bright child was breezing her way through elementary school. Once we took a more active role in her education (and once we set some very clear expectations) our daughter went from struggling to keep up in 4th grade to leading the pack in the 5th and 6th grades.

Whether you’re a supervisor or a parent, set your expectations high, and establish clear standards. It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do for your organization or your children. They may grumble about it in the beginning, but there will undoubtedly come a time when they’ll be grateful that you cared enough to raise the bar.

What Makes a House a Home?

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and felt immediately at home? It’s as if the house itself embraces you in a warm hug when you walk in and says, “Welcome.”

What  about the houses that, although they’re decorated tastefully–even professionally and expensively–still seem to lack that sense of warmth and coziness? Personally, I always feel sort of sad for the occupants of a house that isn’t warm and welcoming. I imagine the lives of such a house’s occupants are missing something crucial for their personal well-being. Living in a house that is cold and lifeless is like being in a loveless marriage–you’ll survive and your basic needs are likely to be met, but you’ll never thrive there.

Personally, I’ve lived in every sort of house you can imagine: old/new, modest/extravagant, house/apartment/mobile home. My first place in Alaska was a sorely neglected little one-bedroom mobile home that had mushrooms growing in the hallway. I was flat broke and starting from scratch to rebuild my life after leaving everything I ever knew behind in Colorado a few months prior. The rent was $300/month, and the owner was willing to let me clean the place up and make repairs in lieu of the first month’s rent. I’m pretty handy, and the one thing I did have the sense to bring with me to Alaska was my (rather large) collection of tools, so it was a really good deal for me. Within a couple of weeks, that neglected little singlewide was clean, dry, warm, and cozy. I only lived there for six months, but it was my first real home in Alaska, and I adored it.

About three years later, I’d managed to get back on my feet financially, and I bought a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Anchorage. It was an eighties tract home that had been built during the tail end of the Alaska Pipeline boom, so it wasn’t built well, and it was one of those houses that lacked any hint of warmth when we first met. Still, that house spoke to me. It wasn’t the nicest house I looked at, and it was in desperate need of TLC and some expensive repairs. It needed a new roof, and it had some serious drainage issues. It had been neglected for a long time, and its most recent residents were heavy smokers, so the entire house needed to be deep cleaned and repainted. Yet, there was something about it that compelled me to make an offer on it anyway. I felt the strangest sense of camaraderie with that sad, neglected house. It was as if we were long-lost friends.

A couple of months later when I moved in and started working on the place, it slowly revealed its secrets to me. That house, much like my childhood home, had witnessed terrible acts of violence and substance abuse. As I stripped the walls in the bedrooms and living area, I discovered dozens of fist-sized holes that had been patched over. When I tore out the drywall in the second bath, I found piles of dirty hypodermic needles that had been stuffed through one of those holes. When I finally stripped the walls in the room I chose to use as my home office to the original wall covering, I discovered pale blue walls that made me think it must have been a little boy’s bedroom originally. That room, too, was scarred with fist-sized holes, and even a few boot-sized holes above the base board. I cried for that little boy one night while I worked to smooth over the poorly patched holes, and I cried for the little girl that I once was.

That house, much like me, had an awful lot of healing to do. We sort of healed one another as I worked, room by room, to infuse it with the warmth and love that was missing when I bought it. I sold that house in 2006 just before I moved back to Colorado, and I’ve often wondered if the house retained its warmth. I hope it did.

As I mentioned in a recent post, we recently moved to Colorado Springs. We’re living in an apartment for now. The complex is brand new, and it seems to appeal primarily to young, single professionals, though there are several families living here as well. I look forward to owning another house soon because I miss having a dog, and I’m anxious to grow a garden. Our apartment will be our home for at least the next eleven months, though, and now that all of our furniture is in place and our artwork is on the walls, it’s starting to feel like the sort of warm, cozy sanctuary that every home is meant to be.

Simple Pleasures

At what point do newlyweds stop being newly wed?

My husband and I are coming up on our second anniversary soon. We tied the knot on October 29th, 2013 at the Jefferson County Courthouse. It was a cool, rainy morning, which must have kept everyone else at home because we were the only two customers in the County Clerk’s office that morning. We didn’t plan to get married on the spot, but we did. No lines. No waiting. No drama. Why wait?

Matt and I are big fans of simplicity, a fact that’s plainly evident by the title of his blog, Simplify. We’ve been a low-key, easy-going couple from the start. And one of the ways we maintain that ease is that we appreciate the little things, like simply spending time together.

In the first year of our marriage, one of the most simple pleasures we shared was a standing lunch date on Mondays. I’d drive to his office to pick him up, and we’d go out for lunch together. It became something we both looked forward to because it was a pleasant diversion from the inevitable Monday madness.

We came to appreciate our Monday lunches all the more when our daughter came to live with us full time in July 2014 and our former couple time turned into family time. Then last November Matt took a short-term gig in downtown Denver. I love my husband dearly, and there’s not much I won’t do for him. But driving into the bowels of downtown Denver at lunch time on a weekday? Um, no.

Such was the end of our standing weekly lunch date. For the next nine months, we didn’t get to see each other at all during the day. Until we left Denver, that is. Matt’s current office is just a 10-minute drive from our new apartment in Colorado Springs. Not only have we been able to resume our regular Monday lunch dates, but he’s also able to come home for lunch most days.

One of the things I’m enjoying most about living in Colorado Springs so far is getting to spend quality time with my husband again. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest differences in our lives.

Mastering the Impetuous, Impulsive Id

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I grew up in an abusive home dominated by a violent alcoholic. Certain friends and family members have expressed concern (and in some cases, extreme displeasure), that I am “airing dirty laundry” here on my blog, and I get it. I understand their concern, and I respect their view. I share neither their concern nor their view, however. I believe that the only way to effectively address our darkest impulses and behaviors is to shine a light on them and examine them objectively.

I vividly recall a certain argument I once had with my (then) fiancé way back in 1995. I was just 25 years old at the time, and I’d very recently moved to Seward, Alaska to be with the man I planned to marry. The image of that argument is so clearly etched in my mind that I can literally close my eyes and watch the replay like a movie. Occasionally I’ll experience something in my present life that will bring that memory flooding back to the forefront of my mind.  I had one of those experiences yesterday, and that memory is now keeping me awake—compelling me to write about it at 3:48 AM.

We’d only been ‘home’ in Seward for three days after spending the three days prior driving from Fort Collins, CO to Alaska. The trip was extremely stressful, and I found myself continually on edge from the moment “Sam” (not his real name) arrived at Denver International Airport. We fought a lot on the drive to Alaska. We were completely out of synch with one another, and it seemed that the more we tried to get back in synch, the further out of phase we ended up. I finally resorted to sleep as a means of escape. The 3-day drive (which should really have taken more like 5-6 days) was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. So much so that I was basically reduced to a petulant toddler ready to throw a raging tantrum at the slightest provocation.

My third day as a resident of Seward, AK was gloriously sunny and clear—a rarity in that tiny coastal town. I woke up that morning determined to get back on the same page with Sam, and we got off to a really good start. I made breakfast and promised to help him do some work in the yard as soon as I tidied up the kitchen. Meanwhile, he went out and washed my Bronco, which was still caked with mud and road grime from the long drive to Alaska. We were both clearly trying, and the bright sunny day seemed like a positive sign that things were going to be okay. Almost immediately after I joined Sam outside, however, the energy between us shifted back out of phase. We were stacking some wood together when my approach to the job prompted Sam to mildly criticize my technique. He wasn’t particularly tactful with his criticism, but he wasn’t malicious about it either. Yet, the fact that he had (what I assumed was) the audacity to criticize me at all ignited the hair-triggered temper I had back then, and I flew into a rage.

We both started shouting over one other, and then he suddenly lowered his voice and asked me, “Why are you so angry?” I was stunned silent because I didn’t have an answer to his question. I racked my brain to come up with a particular slight he’d made that was at the root of my rage, but I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific. So, with all the maturity and grace of a petulant toddler, I stormed off into the house and refused to speak to him for the rest of the day.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that moment marked a major turning point in my life. It was in that moment that my quest to truly understand myself, my past, and the ways in which my upbringing influenced my behavior began. Until Sam stumped me with that very pointed question, I’d never seriously questioned my past or how it shaped me. Once the urgency to break away from my father’s tyranny had passed when I first moved 250 miles away from home, I naively assumed that I was free of my past. I later realized, of course, that I had a lot of work to do in order to shake the influence of my volatile father.

Things didn’t work out with Sam. We struggled to hold it together for about three months before we finally gave up and went our separate ways. When I reflect back on that experience, however, I’m incredibly grateful to him for asking me that crucially important question at a critical juncture in my life:

Why are you so angry?

Those words became sort of a mantra for me from that day forward. I began to monitor my moods and my behavior, and whenever I became aware that I might be overreacting to something trivial, I’d ask myself that question. Gradually I realize that the perceived slights that ignited my temper—someone cutting me off in traffic, a snarky remark from a coworker, bad service at a restaurant, etc.—were not worth the energy I gave them. Yet I still struggled to come up with an answer to that question. Why was I so angry, anyway?

To this day I can’t put my finger on it. The rage that I’d unconsciously internalized at some point in my life, and that I’d been blind to until Sam called it to my attention, couldn’t be tied to a specific person, place, or thing. The closest I ever came to identifying the root of my internal rage was acknowledging that I’d experienced more betrayals of trust than the average individual. I was betrayed by several family members in early childhood and later by friends, classmates and peers. My first boyfriend cruelly executed a malicious act of revenge against me that I think stunned even him once he realized how badly he’d wounded me. My discomfort with vulnerability can be clearly traced to that very specific event, but not my anger. So, where does the anger come from?

I don’t know. I spent years seeking a definitive answer to that question, but somewhere along the way I realized that it ultimately doesn’t matter. All that really does matter is that I’m willing and self-aware enough to ask myself that pointed question (which, to this day, I still hear in in Sam’s voice in my mind) in the heat of a moment so I can re-balance my perspective and behave accordingly.

Why are you so angry?

I’m able to recognize that the things that make me angry today aren’t big enough to allow my impetuous, impulsive id to throw a temper tantrum. And now that I’m a parent and a role model for a very perceptive preteen who grows more independent every day, I’m acutely aware that I may be influencing her through my own reactions to the perceived slights we all encounter daily on the road, at work, and in our daily interactions with random strangers.

The next time you find yourself seething with rage because someone cut in front of you in the checkout line or because they weren’t driving fast enough for you to make it through an intersection before the light turned yellow, ask yourself:

Why are you so angry?

I’ll bet you’ll learn that the answer to that question has nothing to do with the woman who cut in line or the driver who was more engaged in conversation with his passenger than he was with the act of driving at the moment you happened to be behind him. Like me, you may never be able to pinpoint a specific answer to that question, but in this instance, just asking the question is far more important than answering it.

Internalized anger is like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode at the slightest provocation. Take it from someone who survived the volatile temper of a raging alcoholic as a child and then spent a lifetime working to master her own impetuous, impulsive id as a result: get a grip on your internalized anger before it turns destructive.

Don’t allow it to hurt someone you love or to destroy your relationships. It’s just not worth it.

New Beginnings

We’ve been living in Colorado Springs for just over two weeks now, and it’s already starting to feel like home. Our little 6th grader thoroughly enjoyed her first week of middle school, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how competent and organized the school’s administration and staff have proved to be thus far. They took virtually all of the fear and anxiety out of the first day of middle school for the 6th graders by breaking them into small teams of 10-15 students and assigning an 8th grade mentor to help show them the ropes and make them feel welcome. The mentors are called WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Kids, and they are some of the brightest, friendliest, and most polite 8th graders I’ve ever met. All this from our second choice school. And a public school at that! Not bad, Colorado Springs. Not bad at all.

Things are going to work out for us here, I think. My husband likes his job. Our daughter loves her school. As for me, I am cautiously optimistic that I’ll find my own brand of personal satisfaction and fulfillment here, too. Just as soon as I finish unpacking boxes and getting our new home in order.