I’m Not Finished.

I tried so hard to find a video clip from Edward Scissorhands for this post, but I am not very video clip savvy. It’s the scene in which Peg goes into the mansion and tells him he doesn’t have to be afraid of her – she is his local Avon rep, after all.

Peg: “Oh my, what happened to you?”
Edward: “I’m not finished.”

Edited to include some super cool GIFs, thanks to my dear Echo:

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And now, it starts.


Do you ever feel like one day you’re on top of the world and can’t be brought down, and just the next day you feel like you’re barely at the surface – gasping for air- and at the verge of sinking down and drowning? And then it switches back.

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I’m not talking extreme mood swings and I’m not talking about any kind of depression, because I am well-versed in what both of those things comprise, and I don’t personally suffer from either of them. Sometimes there’s this inner pressure. It’s so big. I do have situational anxiety, and sometimes, life is just one situation – or one series of situations. It’s life. It changes by the minute, but also certain hidden triggers could pop up without warning at any point. Or circumstances could change – in or beyond your control. It’s just life and it is a situation to me. It’s a series of situations I’m not always, or ever, prepared for.

For a long time after spring came, and with it – new business, new flowers, new joys – I was at a new high. It was an all-time high of my new normal. My new normal is of talking about and coping with anxiety concerning my kids growing up, and about myself aging. Scarlet has surpassed the age I was when my father passed away, and she’s also past the age I was when my life changed dramatically with a new family, home and school. Des is not there yet but it feels different with him, somehow.

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Maybe he’s more like me. Maybe he’s less like me. Maybe he’s more like him, or less like him. Maybe I’m more like him in some ways, and less like him in health ways (I hope) because I am getting closer to the age my father was when he died.

My birthday is on Saturday and I’m a bit petrified. So we’re going on a very special trip for the weekend.

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No one is ever finished – not in their 30’s and not at age 100, but if I’ve learned anything in over three decades, it’s that there’s always a higher. There’s always a lower. You can always learn more about yourself, and sometimes that means admitting that you don’t know a thing about the world. Or yourself. But you’re learning. You’re trying. What else can you do?

We keep swimming. Finished or not even close. With or without fins. With and against the currents.

Sometimes that inner pressure is bound to implode or explode. I’ve worked really hard during the last year to be a better mother for my kids, a better wife for my husband, and a better me for myself. I think that last one slips the most. The other two are beautifully unfinished and will be always, but it’s nice to see them with some polish and sparkle. It’s nice to believe that we can all keep our heads above water, whether finished or not. It’s not about the finish, really. It never was.

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There will never be a perfect world and there will never be pure safety, but boy do I remember feeling that it could be so. The difference is in me. The world turns and it burns and it sighs and it delights, and we all think it’s going to end, and we all worry that we’re going to end, but we’ve all been through worse before, and we will be through worse again.

Unfinished but rotating perfectly in time.

It’s about knowing your little place in this big world, or at least learning to stand more firmly in it.

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For that, I’m not finished. I will never be finished, but at least I know there’s always a higher rung to climb towards, swaying and teetering all the while, but higher just the same. Every now and then I have to get off the ladder and stretch, so I can keep growing. I will never be finished, but at least I know there’s always a lower rung to fall down to – all to know that it’s ok to keep spinning and swimming, and rising and falling, and it’s ok to know you’re not ending, but beginning, over again.

Finishing and re-finishing, but never fully finished.

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  1. Happy Birthday, my twin and seriously couldn’t have said what I have been feeling since my birthday last month either better. Not finished in the least here either and we can totally navigate this new uncharted territory together if you want 😉

  2. I remember realizing I had lived past dad’s age, it was mind blowing, it still is….But YOU have your own journey, as do I. Love the photos and of course the cute Tshirt on Des !

    1. That will blow my mind too. I hope it happens smoothly! And like it did with you – not with stress.
      Des always rocks that shirt!

  3. You are so strong and recognizing these feelings and dealing with them is always the first step. I hope you have a wonderful vacation this weekend, you deserve it!

    1. Thank you! I’m so excited I have little butterflies in my stomach! They’re not so bad, though.
      I’m really trying to recognize and deal. It’s my new tactic.

  4. I adore you, Tamara! Oh, and Happy Birthday! I know how you feel about being unfinished. I also know about highs and lows. Believe it or not, I understand the “growing up” milestones that we are both facing, although mine are different than yours. Yet, they are still there. I hope you have a wonderful, special birthday weekend!

    1. I adore you! Oh, do you know how you’ve made my week? Seriously. I feel like a new me – someone worthy enough to get treats in the mail. I still want to have that party in October in MN, though.
      Our milestones are different but they’re there. And we’re all in that bit together.

  5. Tamara, this is beautiful. The words and photographs. I understand the angst of reaching the age of your father at his death. That was like me this year when I turned 40, my mother’s diagnosis. I’m thinking of you and wishing you a peaceful celebration with that gorgeous family of yours. You really have a birthday trifecta going on! Maybe soon you can breath and stretch and swim.

    1. It helps me to hear you went through that too. My friend’s mother passed away from cancer at 40 and she’s 39 now and thinking about it as well.
      We totally have a birthday trifecta. It is nutty! I kinda love it.

  6. i know this isn’t what this post is about, but I notice Des is in pullups. How is that going? Liese is peeing in her pants and right next to the potty on the floor. Also she is very good at backing her butt up to me and yelling poop at the top of her lungs when she has made a big one.

    I just turned the big 38, sheesh! I feel old, young, mature, immature, like I know something, like I know nothing, soaring on some days and flailing on others. My new favorite song is that one by Rachel Platten ” A lot of fight still left in me”. I guess as long as we keep climbing, moving and trying it’s good!

    1. He’s actually in underwear now! Oh, how fast it changes. We potty-trained him and then went to Cape Cod where it all went to heck, or so we thought. We came back and since Monday, he’s fully in underwear during the day and pull-ups at night. Cross your fingers – it’s going well. And Liese is much younger than he is, right? He was three in June.

      38 seems reasonable. For some reason 35 sounds worse to me!

  7. I’ve been enlightened by two inspiring blogs today! Constantly remaining optimistic and hopeful can be two of life’s biggest challenges, but it helps to motivate us to get through life. Stretching, growing and always trying to improve just as you said. You have it figured out, Tamara. Trying to make all that work on a daily basis is a work in progress for me. I don’t have very much strength most days. Still I try to do something productive for myself. Daily life can sometimes or even quite often throw a lot at us, but as long as we keep trying to expand our little space in this big world we will continue to stretch and grow and help one another to do the same too!

    1. Ooh! Isn’t it awesome when Lindsay posts? I love it.
      It’s nice to think about your outlook and how you do something productive daily. And it’s nice to think about expanding our little spaces, because as we stretch and grow, we all just get closer to each other.

  8. I am always in awe of your ability to put into words what so many of us are thinking. Some days I feel completely in control and other days I feel like I am spinning. But never, ever finished. Well, I take that back. Some days I do feel finished, but then I realize I’m just having a down moment and I pick myself back up. 🙂 Have a great trip! And a fabulous birthday!

    1. Ah, thank you. Some of these posts just flow out when they need to do so. It’s not daily. That would be too exhausting!
      It’s strange to have the up and down things, but I guess that’s life.
      And thanks about the trip and birthday!

  9. First, Happy (almost) Birthday Tamara! I hope you and your family have a beautiful weekend getaway. Second, I think you so beautifully put the challenges of having the high highs, and low lows, without having a label on the feelings. Thank you for such a beautifully written and thoughtful post once again.


    1. Thank you so much! I’m kinda excited about a birthday this year. Usually I downplay it.
      There really are challenges with high highs and low lows. Not enough creamy middles!

  10. OMG, you’re not even close to being finished. Me either. I’m sure the anxiety must be intense around your birthday especially if it’s the same number as your father’s last one. Rationally, these two things aren’t necessarily related but emotionally? They definitely are correlated. I hope your weekend is wonderful, Tamara and enjoy every moment of your birthday!! Love the sweet photos to go along with your inspiring words 🙂

    1. It is a little strange – the summer anxiety. I get where it’s coming from and even where it’s going, sometimes, but I love summer otherwise. It’s almost like a battle within me, and often, the sunshine wins. Good times!
      Thanks so much for the birthday wishes.

  11. Happy Birthday! Your kids are growing! and no, it’s not extreme moodswing. I think the pendulum swings back and forth, and depending on your situation, you’ll either feel like youre killing it or drowning. it’s just life i guess…

  12. You are a beautiful work in progress. None of us are finished my friend. Isn’t that beautiful?!

    I struggle with this back and forth of my children getting older. It’s so bittersweet.

    I love these photos and their glorious joy can’t be contained.

    Happy Birthday friend… I hope you have a delightful birthday weekend!

    1. Yes, it’s so beautiful!
      And I understand the back and forth with children getting older, because in some ways, it gets more freeing and exciting. And in other ways, it’s just sad. I miss having a tiny baby. Des is huge.

  13. Ahhh…Tim Burton. He’s an enigma wrapped in Johnny Depp. Who wouldn’t love to be wrapped in Johnny Depp? Keep moving Tamara. Up, down, sideways – it’s all in the movement.

    1. heh, I’m not actually sure I’d love to be wrapped in Johnny Depp! Isn’t that shocking?

      Totally all in the moving and the stretching.

  14. Happy Birthday to you! Maybe it’s something about your thirties that makes you realize that there is still so much left to learn and still so much better to be. We’re never finished, just getting better every day!

    1. The 30’s is kinda a magical time, I think. I don’t feel young or old – I just feel.. like whatever this is. The in-between?

  15. Thinking of you much. May this birthday bring you peace and loads of joy. I read something recently, we sometimes go through things, perhaps for us to learn, but maybe we go through them to inspire others who are watching how gracefully and gratefully we get muster through. That’s you, the one mustering through, and we all get to learn how to live life as you do, gracefully and gratefully. Thank you. Xo

    1. It’s so interesting to think about people watching me, but I watch others too. I see grace and gratitude and I know more and more what I want to be.
      Thanks so much. You’re so dear.

  16. We’re never finished, are we? I love your way of looking at life in this way – we are all just works in progress. Moments of starting, and finishing, and starting again. Happy almost birthday, Tamara!

    1. Yup, I honestly thought of this post while lying on the couch. “I’m not finished! Edward Scissorhands!” I shouted and then leaped up to write it down.
      My kids think I’m nuts.
      Actually they probably don’t, which is even better.

    1. Thank you!!
      And I would so need to hear what your kids think about that one? I saw it at age ten at a sleepover. It was a double feature with JAWS. Both movies changed my life.

  17. I hope you all have a blast this weekend celebrating your life and birth! As for not being finished, I figure this is part of life. I’m never really at any “destination” because things keep changing, I keep changing. And with that change comes growth and learning and doing and being. Because when I am, then no matter what I’m usually pretty optimal…even on those tough days or tines. 🙂

  18. Des is looking so grown up in these pictures. I hope you have a very happy, anxiety free birthday! I feel like I’ve been such a work in progress this past year – and I’m more aware of it than I have ever been before.

  19. This reminds me of a speaker we had at our church back in February. He said we are all “still under construction.” Of course, he was talking about religion, but I like the concept of being under construction and not finished yet. I don’t think we are finished until we’re dead – we never know what events, whether tragic or joyous, will happen in our lives and change who we are and how we operate. Have a great weekend celebrating and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  20. “Do you ever feel like one day you’re on top of the world and can’t be brought down, and just the next day you feel like you’re barely at the surface – gasping for air- and at the verge of sinking down and drowning? And then it switches back.” <—– Yes! I go through this in waves. Mostly it's good, but then I have the days where I feel miserable and like a failure. It's no depression, as you said, it's just feeling really down on myself. Of course in those moments I feel like nothing will ever be good, but then of course it is again (usually the next day or the day after).

    We are all very much a work in progress. If you aren't growing and changing, then are you really living?

    Happy (almost) birthday!

    1. YES! Not depression but it’s so funny how it changes courses.. by the day. Or even the day after that. It’s amazing.
      Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  21. First, happy birthday — you are stay way younger than I am, so you can remind yourself of that if you feel a cringe coming on:) Second, I have to tell you than when I saw that photo of Des with his stuffed animal in the small form along the top of the Bloglovin feed, I totally saw what he will look like as a teenager. It was a moment, and I thought, “Wow, he is looking so grown up” Isn’t that crazy?

    1. Aw, I really won’t measure my cringes against your age! I always think of my grandparents who passed away at age 100, but were buying new cars at age 95, and my grandmother was still ordering dessert up until the day she died.
      I totally get it about the Des photo. I can see the man sometimes..

  22. Happy (Almost) Birthday, m’friend!!
    I do not believe we’re ever finished. And even when we’re finished, we’re not finished. Our lives have impact. Well, if we live a meaningful life loving others sharing our thoughts, our words that connect- life lives on.
    I was watching a documentary on the Dalai Lama, and boy do I wish I had a little bit of what he has- pure joy.
    My birthdays, my kiddos’ birthdays, holidays, and first day of school days always make me consider my life… my mortality.
    Wishing you all the best m’love!!

    1. My friend met the Dalai Lama recently! I saw the photo on Facebook, of all places. You have to laugh at that.
      He never seems to take a bad photo and he never cringes. He just has pure joy.
      And yes, you totally get it. Mortality wrapped up into all these annual reminders of time passing.

  23. Sometimes I don’t even think there’s a blueprint, and other times, i can see just how I might turn out. who knows? Happy birthday Saturday, and I think the trip is the best way to do it.

    1. I hope so. When I have my mountain-top chowder, and maybe if I see a moose, or definitely if I eat ice cream, I’ll know the trip was crucial.

  24. I can really related to this. I don’t know what it is but on certain days I just feel horrible and others I feel on top of the world. I think like you said just keep swimming is all you can really do. Happy early birthday lady! I hope it is a wonderful one!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

    1. It sounds weird but it helps to know others feel that way. Not that I want anyone to feel horrible, of course. It’s just nice to know the highs follow the lows too.
      Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  25. Happy advanced birthday, Tamara! I think we go through different stages in life but life? No we’re not finished. I hope you enjoy your trip this week!

    1. So true. Thanks so much about the trip and the birthday. It’s weird to me these stages lately. I guess they’re always changing!

  26. hugs and happiness for a great birthday! Looking at these photos, there is no way you could ever deny birthing these children. They are carbon copies of you. You ARE the mother!!!! (wouldn’t The Maury Show say something like that?)

    1. It’s funny because I am a bit INSANE and after I had them both, I wondered if the hospital had switched them. Des was in the NICU for a week and I wasn’t always there.
      And then I look at his face and realize.. yeah. MINE. (greedy)
      I’m thinking of it in Maury’s voice.

  27. I was thinking the other day about how 40 used to seem so old and now it seems totally young! And I refuse to call anything mid-life now because then I’d be at 74 and that doesn’t seem right. Everything is just so middle-y though!

    1. I remember my parents turning 40! They joked about it being “over the hill” but they were still party people. They still are.
      I remember thinking 60 was old but now I think it’s middle-aged!

  28. Goodness, this post gets me in the feels today. I’m not sure why exactly, because I think our situations are vastly different, but there’s something in the way you speak and some of the underlying fears that you have that speak to me in a different way. Does that make sense?

    I can understand completely that reaching a certain age milestone when bad things happened to you will trigger anxieties in your life. I think that’s only natural. That said, you are incredibly self aware and in tune with your family and with your family’s needs and you’re doing your best to not only take care of THEM but to take care of YOURSELF as well. That’s a lot and it’s natural to put THEM ahead, always. But remember that your needs are just as important and without that balance, there will be a shift in the equilibrium of the home.

    You are SUCH a wonderful mother. I see it in your words, and in the way you write about your family and in the loving photos you take of everyone.


    1. Maybe our situations are different, but I think we’re similar in a lot of heart and mind ways, don’t you?
      I really appreciate what you say. You never really know how it comes across but I remember an ex of all people saying he could tell I was an awesome mother from how I talked about my kids.
      That felt powerful because I often feel crummy and alone. Or at least I used to, more often.

      1. Yes, of course I do 🙂 I think we’re incredibly similar. And I understand that, I do. It’s nice when you hear just the right words when you need them the most. XOXO

  29. Love all the pictures in this post. I don’t I’ll ever fell like I’ll ever be finished either. There is always something else to do or a new challenge to take up.
    I hope you have a great birthday!!!

  30. Your words are as always beautiful, but they’ve touched me even more so today. We had to put my dog to sleep this afternoon, so I have spent the day in a puddle of tears. Your post is a wonderful reminder that life is full of ups and downs, but it’s not finished.

  31. Girl, life and emotions are just a rollercoaster times 1000000!!! I used to be on a far more harsh rollercoaster a few months back, but I am coming to a place where I am just accepting it, and when I accept it, the coaster actually gets easier and more enjoyable! And sometimes I even scream with laughter when I am going DOWN. 😉

      1. I think about all the amazing things in my life. My support system. That I am doing what I have always wanted to do…. That sort of thing… And I always remind myself that there are worse things in life (when I have a bad day) and there are people in this world who have it far worse than I do, so I have to and must see the bright side of everything, even if it’s a sh**y situation. I also exercise – and I really think THAT helps with the mentality! I am generally a very happy person though too – Vitamins! The vitamins, like omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, multivitamins… YES! THEY WORK for your mood too!

        1. Ooh, I have one of those – a great support system.
          Vitamins.. any special brands you recommend? I’m tough because I don’t swallow pills unless I have to, and that limits vitamins, although there are powerful powders out there for us wimps. (me)

  32. I just took my girls to see Inside Out this morning, and your post reminds me of that movie! Joy says at the beginning, “Riley’s 11 now. What could go wrong?” and then of course, there’s all sorts of emotional upheaval. At the end, she says, “Riley’s 12 now. What could go wrong?…” Every year is better and different and difficult and unfinished all at the same time. Hello to a new year for you; happy birthday!

    1. I love that movie! And I giggled at what could go wrong at 12…
      Every year. It’s true. I used to think New Year’s was so symbolic of “good” and “bad” years and how they begin and end. Now I realize that all years are mixed bags. That’s life!

  33. Did I miss your birthday? NO!!!!! Maybe it’s this weekend? I’m all off around here… I read your sponsored post and saw I couldn’t comment, then realized I hadn’t read this one!

    I love you T. I love the way you live life so intentionally and seem to grasp the deeper meaning in it all through your words. I love that your reflections of parenting and those roller coaster rides we take, through time and experience and circumstances are truly the ones that catch our breath… both going up and speeding down.

    Oh girl, you’re not even close to being finished yet.

    1. You didn’t miss it! It was Saturday.
      I had commenting off for my newest post – oops. It was rather refreshing, though!
      I love you too. I love the way you live life. It’s really.. a challenge sometimes, but the best kind.

  34. happy birthday! i hope you have a wonderful, relaxing getaway. i can’t believe how big des is getting! he is like a little man already. he seriously just sprouted up. enjoy every phase 🙂

  35. Happy happy birthday and I hope your trip is amazing! I know what you mean too about not being finished and you’ve got lots ahead of you – I know it. xo

  36. HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY LOVELY!! Where are you going??? COME HERE!!! Lol. No one will ever be finished with anything ever. Tis the story of the world, there’s always something to improve to work on to create to destroy etc, etc. Did you *gasp* turn off commenting on your recent post about Back to School Shopping Like A Boss?!?! -Iva

    1. We went to the White Mountains of New Hampshire! A VERY good time. I recommend.
      I think I did turning commenting off and forgot about it! I just checked because people kept asking and sure enough, yup. I loved it, though.

  37. Happy Birthday!! I’m so not finished either. And also, I want you to know that I get so high from BTS shopping–I had trouble commenting on that post, and there is something in my unfinished brain that LOVES BTS shopping and way over-buys..

    1. I think I had turned commenting off on the other post, and then forgotten about it and gone away this weekend! ha! Thank you, though. This is our first year with back to school shopping.

  38. HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY Tamara! There’s a lot to do in this lifetime and you’re right, we’ll never be finished. In life, we just keep going. Wish you all the best on your birthday! 😉

  39. Happy belated birthday, Tamara! It sounded (on fb) like you had a wonderful trip. And I am sure we’ll be seeing some gorgeous photos soon. Maybe even some landscape ones, you posted a pretty awesome one on fb 🙂 I don’t think I’ve seen any other photos from you. Then again, your portraits are so wonderful… why would you?!
    Anyways, I am hoping to be getting back to normal, a little bit, so I may be visiting more regularly again…

    1. Oh thanks about the FB photo! That was a quick phone one. I took others – but I didn’t have the lens I wanted, and the camera got distracting, so I’m not sure how many photos I really took. Probably more than I think.
      Glad it’s getting back to normal for you, assuming that’s a good thing!

  40. I hope you had a wonderful birthday!! I know what you mean about adjusting to the #NewNormal – mostly good stuff for sure! I agree we are never fully-finished as there will always be new things to do, learn and enjoy! Sending hugs to you!!

  41. Happy Birthday! Did Des get a haircut? SO cute. Birthday’s are hard form me – and today is my brother’s birthday. He would have been 44. Not me though – I’m definitely not done!

    1. He did get a haircut! About two weeks ago or so. I did too! Actually Scarlet and Cassidy did on Saturday.
      My father died about three weeks before my fourth birthday and I know that must have been a terrible birthday. I’ve always had apprehension about them since. So I decided I didn’t want a party. I wanted a trip!
      I’m so sorry about your brother.

  42. Happy Belated, Tamara! (I was on vaca during this post). I know the swing of back and forth. Know that you aren’t alone and I understand the dissonance between the two. On some days, it is hard to digest. xo

  43. “just the next day you feel like you’re barely at the surface” – Truer words couldn’t be spoken. The dog days of summer are almost like February and March are to winter. It starts off so beautiful and fun with spring, but then by mid-July you’re just burnt to a crisp and ready for a nice cold break.

    I hope you had a fantastic birthday Tamara. I’m not sure I know many other people who embrace birthdays so well.

    1. OH, so true!! And we’ve had a heat wave lately, for us. It was above 90 three days in a row. For us, that’s hot. Luckily it’s getting back down to 75-80 next week. Whew.

  44. I hope your trip and your birthday were fantastic!!!
    And I hope that we are never really finished — I can’t imagine not always learning and growing and reaching. I feel like life would lose all it’s awe and wonder if I just …. stopped. There’s being still… being present – and then there’s being stagnant. You just gotta get that stink off ya some times, right?

  45. This post is classic Tamara. So open, so descriptive. I hope you had a wonderful birthday!! I’m burnt to a crisp lately, I’m so over everything and reading this made me feel a little better!!

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