It’s That Time of Year Again…

November 1, 2014—a day writers around the globe wait for with baited breath. We don’t even bother putting away the Halloween candy. Nay, we will need all that sugar in the coming days. Instead, we grab our notepads, our laptops, and our flash drives, and we psych ourselves up for THE Writing Marathon Of The Year.

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Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. A novel in a month.

Let’s do this.

Preparations come first. We gather the tools of our trade, preparing our space for the ultimate exercise in creativity. Coffee mugs are filled. Dictionaries are dusted off. Our favorite pens are located and put somewhere safe. We neaten our work stations, clear our minds and our desks of detritus that will keep us from our goal. This is NaNo prep at its finest.

Nano desk

The idea we’ve been marinating on for weeks, or days—or for some of us, minutes–begins to take form in our brains as we open that blank word document. It’s a clean white slate. Zero words, zero expectations, zero thoughts expressed. The time to start is now.

…But first, a selfie…

Nano selfie Day 1

…not just because you’re having a particularly good hair day, or because you happened to be wearing the same color as the prominent shade in this year’s banner. No. You take that selfie because it is commemorating the start of something great. Something amazing. Something AWESOME.

Plus, it’s probably the last time you’ll look this good for the next four weeks. Let’s be honest, here. By day 2, you’ll probably look like a zombie.

Now we turn back to that waiting word document. The cursor flashes expectantly, and the protagonist of your story surges forth with a tale to tell.

Oh. Wait. You forgot to update your Facebook profile pic. And your Timeline cover. OOH–and Twitter. Twitter is important, too. So you head over to the NaNoWriMo website–your home base for the next thirty days–and download your inspirational photos for your many social media sites. You might as well go ahead and create your novel while you’re there, too. I mean, now’s as good a time as any. You may have to do a little research to figure out your working title—that’s ok, you’ve got time. And your profile needs some updating–this is your FOURTH year, not your third. Oh hey, look—you have new messages in your inbox! YES—-a link to the Blue Book you’ll need for the meetings!!….

You chuckle at yourself because, minutes into your first day, you’ve already found yourself sucked into the time honored tradition of procrastination. Well, no more, writer.

NaNoWriMo 2014

The time is now.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

365 Days (Times Four)

Today I observe a tradition that I started on AbbyGabs 3 years ago, at its inception. It started as a post to honor the battle my husband fought, and won, against a rare cancer that threatened to destroy our lives. It ended as one of the most honest, heartfelt things I’ve ever written.

I share it every year because it serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come since that devastating diagnosis. The “C” word doesn’t get used that much around here any more, and considering it filled our lives for so long, that’s a major accomplishment in itself. But more than any other reason, I share this post every year on the off chance that there’s someone out there in the webiverse who’s going through the exact same thing we went through 4 years ago. Maybe there’s someone looking for comfort, or words of wisdom, or a shred of hope. So I share our story, in case it brings comfort. Take it from one who knows–having a lifeline, no matter how thin, helps. Tremendously.

This is the story of the day we got our lives back.

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The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. We wake in the same position in which we fell asleep: flat on our backs, staring at the ceiling, our hands still clutched together between us. It brought enough comfort in the night to allow us to sleep, even for a few short hours.

My husband gets up without a word. The shower and the antimicrobial surgical soap are waiting.

I make the bed, wake his Aunt Tina, and start the coffee maker. I debate for 5 solid minutes over whether I should lay out his clothes for him. I decide to do it. This isn’t a normal day, so why should I act like it is?

Dressed and completely awake, we decide to get an early start to the hospital. The interstate is deserted. I’m unused to driving in the dark, and the empty highway startles me. Our headlights slice through the pitch black, and only road signs greet us along our asphalt path. For twenty minutes, we are silent. The radio plays quietly in the background. Tina asks me a question, I answer it. Brian sits in the seat next to me, hands folded in his lap. He tries to appear calm, but I can see the nerves dancing under his skin.

As we pull into the parking lot the sky just begins to turn pink. Morning has officially arrived. We gather our belongings–bags and afghans and books and sweaters. Changes of clothing. Warm socks. We trek to the sliding glass doors, a small caravan of modern day nomads.

The fluorescent lights are much too bright. I feel like I want sunglasses. Tina takes our stuff and makes a beeline for the waiting room “to get us comfy seats near the coffee maker.” I smile. Brian and I head the other direction. I stare at the dark blue veins under the skin of his hand as he signs his name and hands over his driver’s license. I rub my fingers down his back, feeling every bone in his spine. He smiles weakly.

We sit. We wait. It feels like days, but it’s only minutes. He plays Angry Birds. Tina and I make small talk. I want to stand up, pace, fidget. Finally, they call his name, and we walk back to finish the paperwork. I could let him go alone, but I can’t abide it. So I squeeze in to the little cubicle with him. I listen as he answers the same 25 questions he’s been asked so frequently these last few weeks. He jokes with the nurse who taps away on the keys of her computer. We sign where we’re told to sign.

They send us to another office. Here we go over how the surgery will happen. What the doctors will do. What we can expect. This nurse has less information for us than she likes. She keeps looking as his file, glancing at her computer monitor, swishing her mouse in search of more facts.

“Did the surgeons tell you what recovery was going to be like?” she asks gently.

No. We don’t know what to expect because they won’t know how bad it is, and they won’t until they open up my husband’s abdomen.

She nods once, plasters a smile on her face, and continues to walk us through the surgery plans she’s aware of.

At this point we are separated. They take him back to prep him. I can’t go. It’s the first time we’ve been separated since the cytoscopy. I feel the panic start to creep up and I stamp it down quickly. No time for that now. He kisses me, squeezes my hand, and disappears through the thick wooden doors.

Thirty five minutes later my parents arrive. Dad hugs me, Mom squeezes my arm. I tell them all that has happened. They ask if they will get to see him before the surgeons take him to the OR. I say yes, we should get to go back any minute. Moments later they come for me. We pick up our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head to his room.

Brian lays on the gurney in his blue cotton gown. It looks so thin, I immediately want to ask for a blanket. He has a shower cap on his head, and blue booties on his feet. He’s already got an IV in each arm. His skin looks grey in the too-bright lights.

Mom goes over to him immediately and smooths back his hair. “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” she asks. She’s been so strong throughout this whole ordeal. My heart swells. Dad and Tina talk about everything but why we’re here. The C-word hasn’t been used once today. We’re denying its existence even as we are trying to eradicate it from my husband’s body.

One of Brian’s surgeons knocks and comes into the room. He is young and handsome and calm and kind. Brian and I share a secret smile–he’s known in our house as Dr. Superman. I can feel Brian’s nerves begin to settle as Dr. Superman walks us once again through the procedure. He reaches out a hand to me when he mentions how unsure they are of the outcome. “We won’t know how much the tumor has spread until we’re able to get a good look at it. It could be attached to his colon. It could be on his bladder. If it has infiltrated the wall of his bladder we will have to remove it. I don’t think that will happen, but you need to be prepared for that.” He gives my hand a squeeze. My heart is in my throat.

The activity in the room increases. There’s no room for us in there anymore as nurses and doctors hover over my husband. We’re allowed to kiss him goodbye. I lean over him and we lock eyes. A tear escapes even as I swallow a sob. “I love you to the moon and back,” we say. And we’re ushered back to the waiting room.

I can’t stand it. I can’t sit there and wait. So I leave Tina and my parents and I head to the financial aid office. I spend an hour asking questions, filling out paperwork, discussing our options with a social worker. I get a sense of calm knowing I’ve accomplished something. When there’s nothing left to do I go back to the waiting room.

I keep waiting for the phone at the nurse’s station to ring. It doesn’t. Why aren’t they calling? Shouldn’t they call for an update? It’s been nearly 2 hours and I’m beginning to worry. I’m contemplating getting up and asking the volunteer about it as Dr. Superman rounds the corner in his scrubs. He looks grim. My heart begins pounding so loudly I can’t hear anything else. He asks to speak to us in a private room. Episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy flash into my mind. The private rooms are bad. They only take you to the private rooms for bad news. My knees buckle. Someone steers me by the arm.

Dr. Superman turns the knob on the private room’s door and it is locked. “Well, I don’t have a key,” he says. “And I don’t want to keep you in the dark anymore. The surgery was a success. We got the entire tumor.”

I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until it all comes out at once. The tears that have been living behind my eyes for 3 weeks come out in a flood. My Dad is smiling, my Mom is crying, and Tina has a look of relief on her face I didn’t anticipate. She never looked worried for a second before this moment. Now I realize she’s been holding me up for days.

I hear only bits of everything else Dr. Superman says. The tumor was larger than they expected. His surgical scar will be about 10 inches long. The tumor was the size of a Nerf football and was only attached by a fiber to his colon.  Brian is going to be fine. He won’t even have to endure chemotherapy. Dr. Superman gathers me into a hug and his reputation as a superhero is solidified.

We flutter back into the waiting room like so many birds. We are light on our feet, there’s a song in our hearts. We each grab for a cell phone and begin the process of spreading the good news. I call Brian’s Dad first. Then my brother. Then Brian’s boss. I email and Facebook and text message. I could literally dance a jig in the middle of the hospital.

We’re told Brian is on his way from recovery to his room on the top floor. We grab our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head for the elevator. We beat him up there. We stand in the hallway, afraid to occupy a room this isn’t rightfully ours yet. The nurses see our posse and begin rounding up chairs. It’s a private room, and we’re all impressed that Brian will be treated like a VIP while in house.

I hear the elevator doors open and a gurney coming down the hall. There is my husband, back in his blue cotton gown. The booties and shower cap are gone. They maneuver the bed into the room, plug in all his equipment, and retreat. I dash to his bedside, lean over him and say his name. I’m desperate to touch him, to connect with him, but there are so many wires.

Groggily, his eyelids open and I all see is ocean blue. He takes a moment to focus on me, and smiles weakly. “How’d I do?” he asks.

I run my fingers carefully through his hair, down his face, and smile at him, wanting him to see nothing but joy and excitement and exhilaration in my face. “They got it, baby. They got it all. You’re gonna be just fine.”

“That’s good,” he says, and drifts back to sleep.

My family talks quietly in the background. I watch my husband sleeping, and I allow myself to take in everything I see. I wrap my fingers around his bony wrist, stare at his chest as it rises and falls, wait for the pulse I can see in the vein of his neck. I’m no fool. I know recovery is going to be long and difficult. I know he’s going to wake up when the drugs wear off and he’s going to be in tremendous pain. I know we’re going to be living at this hospital for a week, maybe more.

But nothing could tramp down the feeling of good fortune in my heart. Brian was going to live.

It’s October 25, 2010.

Brian and his balloon

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Four years later…

The alarm clock goes off as sunlight peers through the blinds. It’s 8:00 a.m. I know what day it is immediately upon waking. I make the bed, yawning, then pad into the living room where my husband is playing a video game with headphones on. I smile and walk over to him, clearing my throat so I don’t startle him.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he says as I lean down to kiss him. Our eyes linger a little longer than usual. No words are needed.

I say them anyway.

“I love you. I’m grateful to have you.”

He smiles and kisses me again. “You’d better hit the showers. We’ve got a big day today.”

And so I leave him and follow through with my usual morning routine, knowing that later today, we will celebrate as two of our closest friends get married. We will celebrate love, and life, and happiness. It couldn’t be a more perfect way to spend the day.

It’s October 25, 2014.

us again

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Tacky Fun Day

Today is our Tenth Wedding Anniversary.

wedding

We could’ve done any number of things to celebrate this momentous occasion–and in truth, we discussed MANY of them. A trip to somewhere tropical, a giant fancy party, a whirlwind tour of Europe–but when it came right down to it, we figured out the PERFECT way to celebrate the ten years we’ve shared together as man and wife.

We drove to Myrtle Beach–aka Tacky Capital of the East Coast–for the day and pretended like we were tourists.

Now why did we choose to partake in Tacky Fun Day, instead of those other fabulous celebrations I mentioned earlier?

It’s easier if I show you rather than tell you.

So we started our trip at one of the hundreds of beach ware stores you see littering Highway 17 between Georgetown and the North Carolina border. This particular one was a Pacific store, and we went in with a mission.

Find the tackiest t-shirts we could find to wear throughout our adventure.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure we succeeded. Brian couldn’t look at me if I was standing in direct sunlight because, well, my shirt was the color of a fresh new highlighter pen. (PS: I totally should have bought the hot pink sparkly fedora. I rocked it. Hard.)

Once we’d bedecked ourselves in All Colors of 1987, we booked it on over to the Hollywood Wax Museum. Guys? Seriously? Fun doesn’t come any tackier than this. We whiled away the morning jaunting around in the quiet halls of the building, taking selfies with pretend versions of our favorite celebrities. I took a TON of pictures, so I’m only going to share a few of our favorites here.

Top: Our separate reactions to meeting Captain Jack Sparrow. Bottom: The always lovable Tom Hanks, on the set of Forrest Gump.

Top: Our separate reactions to meeting Captain Jack Sparrow.
Bottom: The always lovable Tom Hanks, on the set of Forrest Gump.

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My handsome husband proving he’s just as tough as Vin Diesel (and in my opinion, a MILLION times cuter.)

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Y’all better watch out. Bruce Lee and Brian just opened up a can of whoop ass in here.

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I may have squee’d and run past Jamie Foxx, some race car driver, and Mariah Carey to have my picture taken with The King of Pop. Can you tell I’ve been practicing my dance moves? Can you?

It really shouldn’t surprise you at all that I was willing and eager to jump in a photo with just about any celebrity that the Wax Museum had to offer….

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Clockwise, from top left: Me with Hugh Hefner (not sure what he’s looking so smug about); Disappointed in Mark Wahlberg’s height; But not so disappointed I wasn’t willing to snuggle him; Dolly’s may be big, but I think mine are bigger; OMG y’all it’s Samuel L. Jackson; Walking like an Egyptian with Elizabeth Taylor.

But probably the most poignant moment, if you can have one of those at a wax museum, was when we came across Robin Williams. I felt compelled to pose for a shot that may have turned out to be the best one of the day.

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We wiped away the tears and headed downstairs to find the BEST portraits that had been taken as we arrived. “Pose here with King Kong,” they said. “Make funny faces,” they said. And so we did. And I’m SO pleased with how they turned out!

Wax Museum 10001

Wax Museum 10002

We are champs at taking goofy pictures. I think we proved that at the Wax Museum yesterday.

After all that fun, we were still left with hours to fill up our Tacky Fun Day. So off to Ripley’s Aquarium we went. While it isn’t as large or as grand as some of the aquariums Brian and I have visited over the years, it still had a certain charm about it. And the moving pathway underneath the giant shark tank? Super cool. And hard to photograph. So you’ll just have to take my word for it and be satisfied with this blurry picture of me in front of it instead.

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After a bit of lunch and shopping, we traveled a bit north to the MAIN attraction. We didn’t decide to just go to Myrtle Beach on a whim. Nay, good friends. We went with one specific goal in mind.

Mini Golf.

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And not just ANY mini golf. Nay, good friends. We drove ALL THE WAY to North Myrtle Beach for the opportunity to play at Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf. After paying the price of admission, and collecting our clubs and balls, we were shuffled off into a train car and driven to the top of the hill.

That’s right. It’s a putt putt course with a TRAIN.

Now you know why we drove up to North Myrtle Beach. (Sheldon would be proud.)

Just to set things up for you a little, Brian and I are pretty competitive when it comes to things like mini golf. We play on a pretty regular basis, and whoever wins bragging rights…well, let’s just say it’s a fun little jab that we use in day-to-day life until the next mini golf game is played.

I’d also like to mention that the last time we played, I didn’t just lose. I lost SPECTACULARLY. By dozens of strokes. I was slaughtered on the greens.

However, luck was in my favor yesterday. I beat Brian not just once, but twice. And here’s the shot of the hole-in-one that sealed my husband’s fate as a mini golf loser:

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…and Brian’s subsequent “I’m not happy” selfie.

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Ha HA! Suck it up, loser! … … … I mean, don’t be glum, chum. There are SO MANY OTHER THINGS in life that you excel at … … … I mean, you played so well, sweetie! You should be proud of yourself! You came in SECOND PLACE!!! … … …

Ok, I’ll stop. The next 10 years of my marriage may depend on it.

The final stop of our whirlwind tour of tackyland was actually a bit of a fluke. We wound up at WonderworksI’d seen the wonky, upside-down building from the highway many times before, and never wondered what was inside. Lo-and-behold, it was an entire attraction filled with fun scienc-y stuff. YAY! Science is fun!

We experienced hurricane-force winds, learned about gravity and the pulley system, played trivia games based on everything from geology to theme songs from the 80s, and attempted to land the virtual space shuttle. (Brian’s aside: he SUCCESSFULLY landed. I crashed three times.) (But that’s ok. Because he sucks at putt putt, so it’s all relative.)

We also got electrocuted:

Made giant bubbles:

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And got to pretend we were real live astronauts:

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It was a Nerd’s Paradise.

We capped off the evening with a quiet dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, whiling away the moments between bites of awesomeness with recounted memories from that blissful day.

So, you see, I don’t need a week in the Poconos. I don’t want a cruise in the Mediterranean, or a big fancy party. Because what I have is a partner, a best friend, a teammate, a playmate, and a husband, all rolled into one. I’d say that makes us winners.

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Except for at mini golf. At least in Brian’s case.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Writing, Again.

Joss

It comes to me in fits and starts, at first. Flashes of a scene; bits of errant dialogue; a character’s face, even if the features are still a bit fuzzy around the edges.

My desk fills with bits of scrap paper and post-its: names, places, plot points.

I find myself experimenting with conversations in the shower, talking out loud as I flesh out who these characters will be, and what their histories have been.

It’s not a book, or a blog, or a short story yet. It’s all abstract. Ideas. Snippets. A sky in shades of blue, an oak tree dripping with Spanish moss, a creaky front porch with a screen door falling off its hinges. A woman with a painful past coming home to lick her wounds, to find herself amidst the overgrown hydrangeas and too-tall crab grass of her home town.

Will it turn into another novel? I don’t know. Maybe.

But for now, my creativity begins to spill out again. I relish it; I close my eyes and let my mind wander as the story sews itself together. Something deep inside begins to glow again, and I wrap my hands around it, warming my hands on the hope of something shiny and new.

Yes, it’s true, I haven’t written anything in quite a while. Quite a LONG while. But that doesn’t take away from who I am, at my core. I am a writer, a creator. I am a weaver of words and a chronicler of stories.

I may have taken a sabbatical from the thing that I love most, but it doesn’t make me any less of a writer–despite what Pinterest and Twitter and other writers might say.

“Writers write!,” they proclaim. “Even without inspiration a writer should be honing her craft, without fail!” Their vehemence sends me cowering. And that’s no mind frame for healthy creative thinking. At least not for me.

writers write

For me, when inspiration wanes, and creativity wanders, I need to “refill the well.” And so I spent my summer reading, observing, experiencing. Living. Scrubbing all the cobwebs away from the recesses of my brain. And as the weather begins to change, and the rain patters softly on my window, I find the desire to write is slowly returning. For that, I am thankful. For that, I am excited. I am no longer cowering.

And so, a new project begins.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Because I’m Happy

You’ve read my blog before, right? For the most part, it’s all sunshine and light (and occasional slap-stick humor.) I have a few mottoes that I live by, and one of my favorites is this:

happiness

It’s not always easy to be happy, I know. Believe me, I’ve had my fair share of days in the dump. But I make a decision every morning. And most days, I decide that I’m going to be HAPPY. Why? Because life is too short to be anything else!

So when I stumbled across a little internet challenge called “100 Happy Days,” I knew, even before I clicked onto their sunshine-y website, that it was going to be my cup of tea. The gist of it is this: Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? And if so, can you prove it? I took 100 pictures, 100 days in a row, of things that make me happy. Those photos were shared on my Instagram (and subsequently on Facebook and Twitter, for all my friends and followers to see.)

As the 100 days went on, I had several people ask me if it was challenging to find something to be happy about every single day. Truth? Not at all. Even on days where I was cranky or sad or irritable, I still managed to laugh and smile and be happy during those days, too. Snapping a picture to document those moments turned out to be fun, but also life-affirming. Whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it right. So…go me. I rock.

Here are a few of my most favorite happy moments in the last 100 days…

Day 8: Edge of the World

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Because a day at the beach is ALWAYS a happy day.

Day 18: Geordi LaForge, Crochet Style

How adorable is he?? I also have a Minion that I adore. You can shop for your own nerdy little Dude at their Facebook shop: https://www.facebook.com/Rekindled.Spindle.

How adorable is he?? I also have a Minion that I adore. You can shop for your own nerdy little Dude at their Facebook shop: Rekindled Spindle.

Day 36: Songs That Remind Me Of Old Friends

You've experienced it before. A song comes on the radio and you're instantly transported back to high school, dancing around with your BFF. Love that feeling.

You’ve experienced it before. A song comes on the radio and you’re instantly transported back to high school, dancing around with your BFF. Love that feeling. It’s an instantaneous grin-maker, for sure.

Day 40: Besties Beach Day

Is anyone seeing a theme? It is summertime, after all. And a day at the beach with a FRIEND is an even HAPPIER day!

Is anyone seeing a theme? It is summertime, after all. And a day at the beach with a FRIEND is an even HAPPIER day! (Pictured with me is BFF and Weight Loss Buddy, Melissa.)

Day 43: My King

Because he makes me laugh. So much. I'm the happiest girl in the world when I'm with him.

Because he makes me laugh. So much. I’m the happiest girl in the world when I’m with him. (You try and look at this photo without laughing. Go on.)

Day 46: My Adoption Fund Minions

This series of photos was taken at one of our yard sales, to benefit our adoption fund. Every single one has been hot, miserable, and exhausting. But having my friends and family around has also made them FUN and HAPPY! (From L to R: Minion Name tags I drew for each team member; Head Minion and BFF, Tina; the lovely Kat; Expert Crocheter and General Happiness Expert, Jaime; Gru, aka Brian, and Office Manager Minion Rick aka my Daddy.)

This series of photos was taken at one of our yard sales, to benefit our adoption fund. Every single one has been hot, miserable, and exhausting. But having my friends and family around has also made them FUN and HAPPY! (From L to R: Minion name tags I drew for each team member; Head Minion and BFF, Tina; Cat Wrangler Minion Kat; Expert Crocheter and General Happiness Expert, Jaime; Gru, aka Brian, and Office Manager Minion Rick aka my Daddy.)

Day 47: Date Day Dress

Sometimes all it takes to put a smile on a girl's face is for her husband to say "You look really pretty," and to offer to take her picture in her new dress.

Sometimes all it takes to put a smile on a girl’s face is for her husband to say “You look really pretty,” and to offer to take her picture in her new dress.

Day 76: WERQ Week, Day TWO

WERQ makes an appearance several times in my 100 days countdown, but this picture was my favorite. Why? Because WERQ makes me feel strong, sexy, and, you guessed it, HAPPY!

WERQ makes an appearance several times in my 100 days countdown, but this picture was my favorite. Why? Because WERQ makes me feel strong, sexy, and, you guessed it, HAPPY!

Day 86: Happy International Cat Day!

 You KNOW celebrating my furbabies makes me happy!

You KNOW celebrating my furbabies makes me happy! From L to R: Dizzy, Pip, Harry and Scooter.

Day 95: Baby Brother’s Birthday

Family makes me happy. Birthdays make me happy. Even celebrating birthdays of people who stabbed me once makes me happy. :)

Family makes me happy. Birthdays make me happy. Even celebrating birthdays of people who stabbed me once makes me happy. (In case you missed it, that’s my little brother, Adam, aka: the Great Pencil Wielder of 1989.)

Wanna take up the challenge? Just visit 100 Happy Days, read all about it, and commit to making your life a happier place to be. I’ll be cheering you on! I had so much fun doing this challenge that I might just start over!

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

The Day My Brother Stabbed Me

On this, the day of my baby brother’s birth, I would like to share with you a story that we tell around the dinner table on a regular basis. After all, it isn’t every day when you kid brother stabs you. Enjoy.

It was a chilly Saturday afternoon sometime before 1990. Trapped inside with no access to our swingset, my little brother, Adam, and I, had to get creative when it came to keeping ourselves entertained. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reruns only work for so long. And so, I whisked off to my room to dress up in one of my favorite playtime outfits. Adam, not to be outdone, grabbed his favorite plastic sword, and his newly acquired plastic snake.

This snake was ENORMOUS. It wasn’t particularly realistic, but to a 9-year-old with an over-active imagination, it was real enough. And so, when Adam started chasing me through the living room with the snake, I did what any little girl would do.

I screamed bloody murder.

snake 1

“Abby, honey, take it down a notch,” my mother scolded gently.

Not wanting to anger my mom, but unwilling to let the moment of intense pretend-land go to waste, I immediately climbed to the back of the couch and wailed (a little more quietly), “Oh help me, Adam! The big nasty snake is after me! SAVE MEEEE!!!!!”

Always the helpful toddler, my brother said, “OK, seesy…I save you.” He grabbed the nearest weapon he could find and charged after the nasty snake.

“I gonna wescue my SESSSSY!” was his battle cry, just before he buried the pencil deep into the flesh of my palm.

snake 2

Needless to say, Mom didn’t get the peace and quiet she was hoping for that afternoon. My wailing went up a notch, only to be joined by Adam’s hysterics at having stabbed me with a pencil. Super-Mom swooped in, carefully extracted the pencil from my hand. She rushed me to the bathroom, dumped half a bottle of peroxide on it, all while telling me that I was being silly—I wasn’t going to die of lead poisoning since pencils had been made with graphite since before I was born. Adam snuffled in the corner–whether he was worried for my health, or for his own, was never truly discovered.

I still have the tiniest scar on palm of my right hand from that puncture wound. The fake snake is long gone, and my brother hasn’t stabbed me since. But I think, after almost 25 long years, there’s something that went unsaid that day that deserves to be said now.

Thank you, Adam, for saving me from the big bad snake. I’ll always remember your bravery…and your particularly bad aim.

Snake 3

Happy Birthday, Adam Wadam! XO

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

I Learned Something About Myself Recently…

I suck at puzzles.

How? How can I be horrible at something that requires such precision, such concentration, such….OCD? I mean, I ROCK at sock-mating, and color-coding, and label-making. How can I be bad at putting together a puzzle??

bad at something

You’re probably wondering why it is that I’m discovering this little tidbit about myself so late in life. Well, Brian and I are gearing up for yet another adoption fundraiser, and this one involves a 1,000 piece puzzle. (For more info on the fundraiser, you can click on the handy-dandy little tab at the top of your screen titled “Puzzle Pieces.”)

I just knew, when we read about this fundraiser, that it was gonna be a winner. I mean, not only was it going to give us a project to keep us focused and busy, but we were going to get to spend a couple of days putting a puzzle together, too. And I just KNEW, down to the very fibers of my soul, that I was going to kick ass at puzzles. I mean, I know I rocked them  hard core when I was in kindergarten. Watch out, alphabet puzzle. I’m coming for you.

But the puzzle we chose is…difficult. As in, if puzzles came in difficulty levels, with 1 being the alphabet puzzle and 10 being super-duper puzzle of hardness….well, we chose a level 25 puzzle.

The pieces are TINY. Not kidding. See:

tiny puzzle piece

And to make matters worse, the puzzle we chose is ALL words…so there’s lots of blank space. Ever tried putting together a bunch of plain white puzzle pieces? Yeah. It’ll make you go cross-eyed faster than reading ‘Dune.’

But I had no idea what was facing me as we happily dumped the puzzle out onto the table to get started. I jumped into organizational mode and promptly separated all the pieces by color, then bagged and labeled each color. Boom. Puzzle master.

We decided to start at the bottom and work our way up, and so I chose the correctly labeled baggie, and dumped the pieces out in front of us. After about 10 minutes, I had shuffled the pieces around and felt relatively confidant that, very soon, I was going to be able to locate 2 pieces that fit together.

That confidence was shattered when I looked over to my right and saw that my over-achieving husband had already successfully put together an ENTIRE WORD. In, like, 10 seconds.

Brian the puzzler

This is Brian’s smug face.”

“Ok, fine,” I thought to myself. “So he’s great at puzzles. No surprises there. But I’m sure I can be good at this, too….I just need to concentrate.”

So I stared at the pieces in front of me with a higher intensity, urging my brain to work at the level I know it’s capable of. And still…nothing.

After an hour of staring at the same 25 pieces, I managed to put together about 10 of them.

Abby's pieces

And no, it doesn’t say “YOLO.”

Brian, in the meantime, had managed to put together the rest of the phrase in its entirety, and had started on the next line, giving me the time I needed to feel like an utter and complete failure.

Oh well. There’s always sock-mating.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

A Study in Patience

Waiting.

My alarm goes off and the first thing I do, before I’m even fully awake, is reach for my cell phone. I never used to leave it on overnight before…but I do now. I don’t want to miss that call. You know…THAT call. I wipe the sleep from my eyes as I scroll through the messages that came in while I slept. Junk emails, news alerts, a few stray comments on Facebook and…nothing. I toss my legs over the side of the mattress, make my way to the shower, and scrub it all from my memory banks.

Ten-Thirty A.M. I’m in the throes of checking my work email, perusing the internet, or playing Farmville, when my phone sounds. “DING!” It’s the sound I’ve designated for an email coming through. I close my eyes for a millisecond and wish. Hope. Then I reach for my phone again, swipe with my thumb, and guide my operating system to the email folder. When I see it’s another promotional email from this company or that store, I send it to my trash folder, sigh, and go back to whatever I was doing.

Lunchtime, and my four cats are not-so-gently reminding me that they’re hungry. I fill their bowls, and they follow me to their spots, meowing the whole way. Scooter goes on the dining room table, Pip to the bathroom, Dizzy to the master bedroom. Harry goes last, and follows me into the guest room. I pause after setting his bowl down; he doesn’t see me well up as I look around the room that will eventually, hopefully, become a nursery. For now, it is just where he eats lunch, and he goes about the task with gusto. I pull the door closed and dash the unshed tears from my eyes before Brian can see.

As the clock ticks on toward five o’clock, I know that the likelihood of an email, or a phone call, becomes slimmer. I begin to relax. Brian turns to me and says, “What’s wrong? You have your sad face on.” I brush it off. “Oh, it’s nothing,” I say. But I’m sure he knows. I see the same look on his face from time to time.

I stand at the kitchen counter, chopping onions, and the thought occurs to me that somewhere in the world, you may be brand new. The woman who carries you, who will eventually choose us to be your parents, may not even know about you yet. But there you are, waiting to come into the world, our world, to fill that void. I smile as I have that thought, and the excitement quickens in my heart. But I shut down the thought process when I start to wonder what your face will look like, what color eyes you will be, what your voice will sound like. It’s too early for that sort of wondering, just yet.

Dinner is served, and we sit and watch the television, enjoying our meal in silence. A commercial comes on depicting a couple who have finally put their children to bed. She offers him his favorite fruity cereal, and they celebrate their victory over parenthood by playing old school video games. Brian turns to me, a huge grin on his face, and says, “That will SO be us soon.” And there it is. I can see it in the glimmer of his eyes, in the smile on his face–his love for you. You’re not even here yet, and we already love you.

As I climb into bed, I check my phone one last time, setting it to “Do Not Disturb,” but leaving it on. Just in case. I dive into my book, or into conversation with Brian about our plans for the weekend, or a chore we need to accomplish, or a fundraising idea to add to the list. After awhile, my eyelids start to get heavy. I turn off my light, kiss my husband, and snuggle in to sleep.

Just as I begin to drift off, I think of you again. I whisper the words into being, so they have a life of their own, “tomorrow. It will happen tomorrow.” Only then do I allow myself to fall to sleep.

Waiting.

waiting

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

To Me, From My Fiercer Self

Dear Self:

So, you hurt your knee while working out yesterday, huh? I see your ice packs, and your ibuprofen, and your frowny face.

Bum knee

I’m guessing you’re pretty down about the whole thing, and worried that this injury could impact your progress with weight loss. And those tears you cried yesterday? Those were less about the pain you were in and more about the possibility that you might have to miss WERQ© classes for the rest of the week.

Well buck up, little camper. I’m here to remind you of some amazing things you’ve learned about yourself since you shed those 30 pounds while dancing your tush off. And between you and me—it’s a pretty substantial list of AWESOMENESS. Enjoy.

You Can Do 300 Squats In One Day…
…and you’ve done it more than once. That’s right, sister—those legs that you are currently cursing for landing you on the injured list are the very same legs that can squat till the cows come home. All you needed was a distraction from the DIY Network, the ceiling fan set on high, and your hubby behind you reminding you of how dope your bootie is looking. Oh, and those super-awesome, super-shrinking, super-strong legs.

You Are One Funky Cold Medina, Honey.
Oh yes. Yes you are. Turn on some current top 40, put a round fan in front of yourself on high, and watch yourself Werq, girl. You’ve got some moves hidden inside of you that you had no idea you were capable of. Don’t believe me? Turn on Beyonce’s “Countdown” and watch your face in the mirror. See that? Your hip hop stank face is rivaling Bey’s.

Stank Face With BeyonceYou Are a Sweat-er.
And I don’t mean the kind you wear to a Christmas party. When that music starts playing, and you start grooving, you start sweating like a line backer in the third quarter, girlfriend. And believe me, that’s a GOOD THING.

Your Self-Confidence is Showing.
You’re not the chubby girl hiding in the back corner any more. Oh no. Why would you be? You are fierce and sexy and strong. You stroll onto that dance floor like you own it. Take your spot front and center. Wave hello to all the folks watching you embrace your inner goddess and smile. THAT is the power of transformation. THAT is the power of WERQ©.

You LOVE What You See In The Mirror.
For the first time in what feels like forever, you don’t shy away from your reflection. Sure, there’s still lumps and rolls and dimples that you dislike. But no longer do you look at them and see permanence. They may be there now, but they won’t be forever. This, your adult body—the one you’ve hated for 11 years–is becoming leaner. Stronger. And you are loving it…and yourself. Victory.

Click for source

Click for source

 

So, Sister Warrior, Lover of Pop and Dance, Sex Pot in Sneakers—-I’m just going to leave this list here for you. Now you can come back and revisit it while you’ve got your knee propped up on a pillow. When you’re feeling defeated and like you’ll be fat forever, when you just couldn’t resist that chocolate ice cream and you’re beating yourself up over it, or when you need a friendly reminder that you are SUCCEEDING at LIFE, you just come back here and read it.

Signed,
Your Thinner, Healthier, Sexier, Fiercer, HAPPIER Self

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Summertime Woes

Going to the beach requires a lot of work.

Before you start throwing things at me through your computer screen, let me explain.

See, I live 45 minutes from the actual ocean. Yes, I’m luckier than most because I can still make it a day trip, whenever I want. But still….a lot of planning goes into a trip to the beach for me. There’s the weather watching, and the guesswork that goes into whether it’ll be worth an hour long car ride, only to get to the beach and be rained out. There’s the logistics of the thing: will I also have time to stop for groceries on the way home? Can I make it to the post office before it closes, or should I leave early and go first? I wonder if I can eat at that little cafe nearby in a swimsuit and cover-up?

Then comes the packing. Beach towels for me, an extra for a friend, and another extra because you can never have too many towels. Sunscreen: SPF 50 spray for my body, special baby formula lotion for my face, SPF 15 chapstick. Can’t forget my hat, my sunglasses (because I have to wear my real glasses while I’m driving), headphones, a book or two, maybe a magazine if I’m feeling so inclined. Oh…and the cooler. I’ve got to fill it with ice and add healthy snacks, tons of water, and a trash bag for use at the actual beach.

I load it all into my car as the sweat drips down my brow because HOLY CRAP it’s A HUNDRED FLIPPIN’ DEGREES OUT HERE.

I’m all loaded up, all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s crossed. I kiss my husband goodbye, grab my keys and my wallet, and hit the pavement. Twenty minutes into my drive, I’m ignoring the giant black thunderhead that decided to pop up in the direction I’m heading. It’s July in Charleston…if there’s a thunderstorm this early in the day, it’ll be a quick one. I forge ahead, determined to get my time in the sunshine.

There’s traffic; so much traffic my nerves begin to fray. A dude driving a giant blue pickup cuts me off (because it’s always a dude in a pickup), and those nerves snap. My “Yay For Me, I’m Going To The Beach” mood begins to turn into my “If This Poo Face Doesn’t Start Driving The Speed Limit I’m Going To Scream” mood.

And then, finally, my car crests the bridge over to the Isle of Palms, and I see palm trees, and wide expanse of sand, and an even wider expanse of blue, all the way out to the horizon. My heart releases in my chest, and the smile creeps onto my face without my realizing it. I grin at the giant pelican as he flies lazily over the bridge into the marsh below. I stop at a red light, gladly waiting for a few minutes because I know I’ve almost reached my destination. I allow a tourist, then another, to merge before I cross the street, since I know they’ve probably never been here before, and I want to share this little section of my world with everyone and anyone. I greet the volunteer at the gate and happily hand him my parking fee, and we chat, momentarily, about the weather and the tides.

Parking achieved, I unload the bounty that needs to make the trek across the sand with me: my beach bag, my cooler, my lounge chair. I strap it all around my chest, all twenty pounds of it, sweat dripping down my back, but I do it all with a song in my heart. I nod and smile and speak to all I pass: people are just happier at the beach. And so am I.

And finally, I choose my spot and set up camp. There’s no better moment than this. I whip off my cover-up, douse myself in sunscreen, don my hat and sunglasses, and take a seat.

It is always worth it, in the end.

Beach 3Beach 1 Beach 2

Between you and me, friend, I probably won’t think about how much work it takes to get to the beach when I go again next week. These are the kinds of summertime woes I can deal with. And happily.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website