A blogger looks at 40.

I'll be 40 in two weeks. 

I typically approach my birthdays in a thoughtful and celebratory way, and this year is no different. But there is something different about birthdays that have a "0" on the end. 

I remember turning 10, and how that meant saying goodbye to single digits. 

I remember turning 20, and how I felt melancholy about losing the “teen” at the end of my number. 

And 30. Maybe that’s when I finally felt like an adult? It's definitely when I began to shed a whole bunch of internal weights that had determined a lot of my steps in my 20s. 

My 30s have not been as much about reinventing myself as it has been about becoming more like my actual self.

Now, two weeks away from 40, I’m at a place where I’m ready to apply what I know. I mean really apply it. In this season, it feels vital to live it out. 

What does that even mean? That’s what I’ve been thinking about and moving towards during the past couple of months as this blog sat silent.

This summer, I saw new things. I visited Chicago for the first time.

The fabulous Melisa Wells gave me the grand tour. Love her. 

The fabulous Melisa Wells gave me the grand tour. Love her. 

Where am I?

Where am I?

The Bean totally tripped me out. And everywhere I went, I felt myself being drawn into all of Chicago's curves and lines. 

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And, I spent a lot of time staring out my hotel window. It doesn’t matter where I go, this kind of view—up high, looking out—always lifts me up and settles me. 

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Later, my family and I spent a week at the lake. And I soaked in the images, as I do. 

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And the entire time, my eye was on the calendar. That date in August, circled in my mind. The day when my middle child went to kindergarten. The day he walked into a big school, alongside his brother, my oldest child, my first baby. I imagined this scene for years, before it ever happened.

Then, in early September, I sent my daughter off to preschool. Three days a week, for only three hours. Just like last year. But still, her walking away signaled the shift. 

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It’s time to embrace the new season, and everything I hope it will be. 

All along, behind the scenes, I’ve been writing, and sketching, and brainstorming and planning. I’ve been moving, living, doing all of the things the day requires. 

But internally, I’ve been pausing. I made myself do it, even though I was ready to launch back into this blogging space with all my refreshed ideas. I knew that it was important to simmer down and breathe through this transition. 

Yesterday, I was driving and listening to Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant talk about something that felt perfect for where I am right now. I went home, found the segment online and wrote down what Iyanla said, word for word:

It doesn’t matter what it is, here’s the lesson:

When you find yourself in a new situation, everything that requires healing is going to rush to the surface.

And if you don’t a take a minute to breathe, to gather yourself, to pray, you will do what you’ve always done. So you gotta be clear enough, grounded enough, centered enough to say, ‘How am I going to handle it this time?’

So the lesson is, Pause. Okay?

We go from being 20 to 30 without a pause. 30 to 40 without a pause…

Pause, Boo. Take a breath.
— Iyanla Vanzant

And that makes so much sense to me. Because here, at 40, I know the parts of me that are weak, and insecure. I know my traps and the places I get stuck. I’m intimate with the things that drag me down. Even though I’ve done a lot of inner work over the past decade—a lot of inner work—the work has also made me clear about what trips me up mentally and emotionally. 

So I'm approaching 40 like this: Grounded. Centered. Breathing. I’m in a good place. 

Because y’all! I’m about to turn 40! 

What an amazing gift it is. 

***

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The "to-do's" that inspire me (plus two great summer reads!)

I sit at my desk by the window. I look up, and I see the stack of books and the camera sitting on top—my colorful tower of lofty summertime goals.

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There's something about the beginning of summer that prompts me to create this long, ambitious lists of projects: read lots of books, take more photos, write, declutter the house, plant flowers and herbs (remember to water flowers and herbs), frame family photos and kids' artwork (remember to hang family photos and artwork). 

Summertime inspires my creativity, and the projects on my list don't feel like work. But since it's already July, it's time to shape these goals into something more realistic. These "to-do's" won't get crossed off and discarded—they feel too important and necessary for that—but they definitely won't all get accomplished by summer's end. I'm trying to retrain my mind to stop the panic-like thinking... time is running out. Living like that creates anxiety and makes me counterproductive. 

Slow down. One thing at a time. 

***

I decided to start here:

Earlier this summer, a book arrived in the mail. Mary Alice Monroe's publisher sent me a copy of The Summer Girls, which is part one of a Lowcountry Summer Trilogy. The story is set on Sullivan's Island, one of my favorite beaches and located just a half hour from my house in Charleston. The novel begins as three sisters return to their family beach house to celebrate their grandmother's 80th birthday... a party that ends up falling apart when old, dark secrets come flooding out. 

But, as the salt air and the sea work their magical powers, the sisters discover a chance for healing and new beginnings. Even though it's fiction, I believe in this magic because the Lowcountry is my home. And I'm grateful for authors like Mary Alice Monroe who capture its essence so beautifully. 

The Summer Girls also includes an excerpt of part two in the trilogy, The Summer Wind, which was just released last month. Will you join me in finding out what happens next? You can grab your copies by visiting Mary Alice's Monroe's website.

Meet Mary Alice Monroe: 

If you live in the Charleston area or are visiting this week, coming up this Friday, July 11 at Noon Blue Bicycle Books is holding an Author's Luncheon to celebrate the release of The Summer Wind. Tickets are $35 and include lunch, author talk, and a signed copy of the book. To purchase tickets, click here, or call the store at 843.277.2666.

Then, on Sunday, July 13 at 2:00 p.m. Mary Alice will also be signing books during a special event at The Lowcountry Artists Gallery (148 E. Bay Street, Charleston). 

I was given a free copy of The Summer Girls but was not paid to write about The Lowcountry Summer Trilogy. My opinions are my own, and as a general rule, I only share news about and promote the people + places + things that I love.

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"No day but today"

A few months ago, I learned about 17-year-old Hannah Warren. In April, Hannah found a lump on her back which was diagnosed as a Ewing sarcoma. Facing this new reality—which she was told included nine months of chemotherapy and surgery to remove lump—Hannah started a blog. In her first post she wrote:

"A long time ago I decided that if given the option to do something or stay home, I would do that thing. I always chose the uncertain over the comfortable. I did so because I live by the mentality that no moment is guaranteed. I am glad that I live this way: I have had more fun than I deserve to have, and I have enough amazing memories to span three people. Now, facing this challenge, I am not regretful. There are no “if only's..." No day but today."

I reached out to Hannah and her mom for permission to share this part of her story, and they graciously agreed. Hannah's words don't need analysis. For me, they say everything. 

I wonder if her words are what sparked my desire to live with intention? Maybe that, and the fact that this is the year my husband, my friends and I turn 40. Forty feels neither young nor old, but it feels important. Forty makes a statement. 

No day but today. 

I spend a lot of time wandering the internet. On my laptop, on my phone. Scrolling, "liking", sharing, status updating, and clicking. If I'm not careful, it can become a mindless sort of activity, a source of distraction rather than connection. 

Hannah's words remind me why I participate in this virtual world... my true intention. I'm seeking words of inspiration, sermons from everyday people. My eyes roam and lock on the snapshots and scenes of others, living and embracing their lives. It reminds me to log off and do the same. 

No day but today. 

***

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