The Decade Challenge

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life65 Comments

I suppose it’s bound to happen on the cusp of a new decade—the inevitable hashtag that encourages to you compare the past 10 years. What can I say? I’m a #decacdechallenge sucker.

I thought it would be fun to see what comparisons I could draw between 2009 and 2019. And so I present a list of 10 Things I’ve Learned or Changed in This Past Decade, which I imagine will eventually be referred to as The Teens. (For the record, the 2000s are literally one big chunk to me… but I digress…)

1—I used to dye the shit out of my hair. I say that with zero regret. With every short cut, I would stop off at Target and pick up a nice bottle of Miss Clairol Dark Chocolate No. Something and wash that gray right outta my hair. The last time I dyed my hair was in 2016 when I accidentally bought a bottle of blue black and sported an otherworldly blue tinge you’d see in just the right light. It made me realize that I actually liked the light and dark interplay created by the gray and since that time, I’ve just let it go. Some people love it. Some people wonder why I’m not coloring it any more. Me? I think it’s looks really good and truth be told, that’s kind of what matters. It’s ALL good.

2—I am a different person thanks to therapy. In November of 2009, I was moving closer to becoming more of a neurotic hot mess than ever. Sure, from outside perspectives, I might have seemed like a woman who had it all together. I assure you, I did not. Even though the following year found me taking up running and getting into shape, it wasn’t until early 2011 when I decided to do a little work on the inside. It started out as me and Dan wanting to improve our marriage. Funny how I thought that was the No. 1 thing I would get out of therapy. (Well, mostly that I could blame him for all of our problems!) It’s nine years later and I’m still learning that I have to take responsibility for my own issues and figure out how to offer love to others. Suffice to say, I like the me of 2019 much more than the me of 2009. She’s better at a lot of interpersonal things and she’s still up for the work.

3—My children are not children anymore. In November 2009, I had a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. And while some things have gotten easier in the parenting department, some things have not, in the sense that when you think you have a good read on something, life will show you again and again that the current is unpredictable. This is part of therapy, too. I need to figure out what they need from me and it is always changing. It is a wild ride that I was in no way qualified for at the start, but I’m learning more and more and am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

4—My husband used to run a coffee shop. Today, Dan is entering his fourth year as an elementary school teacher. I told him recently in all honestly that I’m so grateful that his mid life crisis was reflected in going back to school and changing careers, as opposed to something nutty like having an affair or buying an inappropriate sports car. But it’s not easy work for him. What respect I had for teachers before has exploded in this modern era. He works ridiculously hard and cares deeply for his students. He also had more free time a decade ago. It’s not always the best thing for our relationship, if I’m being honest, because if he works, then figure, I might as well work, too. It’s a balancing act that we are figuring out. We are in danger of working more on work than on us. Wish us luck.

5—For the love of all things holy, I need new glasses. 

6—I was finding my way professionally in 2009. It was a crazy year for work a decade ago. My illustrious career at Simple Scrapbooks magazine had come to an end with the demise of CK Media and I was moving forward with my friend Stacy Julian, developing classes for the original Big Picture Classes. It was the hay day of online scrapbooking classes. I still cannot believe that there were over 1,200 people who signed up for my first online class. If you were one of them, thank you. You helped me to stay in the craft industry and for that, I am eternally grateful.

7—I still had my period in 2009. Sometimes we are uncomfortable with words like period or menopause. It doesn’t make for polite conversation, right? But it IS a big deal. I mean, The Change brings with it, well, changes. A decade ago I had no idea what a hot flash was. In 2019, I have multiple each day and have for six years running. Another unexpected less-than-stellar side effect? Chin hair. But the upside? No period. I’d like to talk more about menopause in the coming months. Or not. I’ll think on that.

8—I make cards now. That might seem like a funny thing to include but getting into the card world has changed my professional life. And that’s a good thing because if you refer to No. 3 on this list, it complicates the whole “I tell stories” for a living angle of my business. My kids’ lives are their own. What they are doing should be private. I only share the broadest of strokes where they are concerned. But cards? No approval is needed, friends, and I’m quite possibly the craftiest I’ve ever been. Who knew heat embossing was fun? In 2019, I’m raising my hand.

9—I have about the same amount of wrinkles. What can I say? I avoid the sun like a vampire. And not beacause I’m sparkly.

10—I have more to offer today. I’ve had some people say that I seem like I have more life… or a glow… or that I exude a level of joy. To that, I will say this: I think that I do, but it’s not without a price. The price is that I have fewer absolutes than I had a decade ago. The things I thought I knew about life and how to live it have changed quite a bit. I really am trying to be in harmony with life and what life offers. I’m working on dropping my judgements and ideas and connecting to what is real and needed. This process, while not easy for me, is actually changing who I am. I think that is the glow. That is the energy. And you know what? I’ll take it.

So that’s my #decadechallenge. If you were to pick one thing from your decade—something of change, growth, loss, life or learning—what would yours be?

Cathy ZielskeThe Decade Challenge

65 Comments on “The Decade Challenge”

  1. #1
    Barb E

    Oh Cathy, this is so good… all of it. I’m so glad to still “know” you, ten years later. ❤️

  2. #2
    Monda DeWeese

    We need a cover template – THE perfect mini paperback book to churn out quickly, 2 simple, minimal photos of US and ten gut honest truths! Pretty please?

  3. #4

    Thank you so much for your transparency!
    I quit coloring my hair at age 60. I have received more compliments in the last year- now that the gray is more visible- than I ever received about my colored hair!
    My health and well-being and PEACE is more important than ever. Do yoga. Take walks. Play with the dog. Go on a drive to see God’s handiwork. Try your hand at new things- like art, sewing, quilting, etc. Dress to be prepared for hot flashes. Layers. Always layers.
    Thank you for sharing your talent.

  4. #5

    Please please please do talk about menopause (if you feel okay with it). I’m 30, but I feel like pregnancy and having a kid hit my naivity so hard that I’d really like some warning about menopause 😂 and you talk so openly and freely and have such a strong voice!

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I should. And I will. And that’s the thing: we SHOULD feel okay with it. It’s normal and human and it happens to all of us who are lucky enough to reach a certain age. : )

  5. #6

    Now THIS is how to do a #decadechallenge and you have me really thinking. You express your thoughts so well – thank you for sharing them with us. My husband and I lost our last living parents this decade, so becoming “adult orphans” or the “elder generation” in our family has been the biggest “one thing” of this decade. Getting a dog has been the most wonderful thing for our family and helped us heal tremendously.

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      There are many days I find myself peeking at the Humane Society web site. Not quite ready for a pet yet. But maybe one day…

  6. #7

    Wish we lived close enough to have a cup of coffee (hot chocolate for me, thanks) I think it’d be fun.

  7. #8
    Amanda Schnabel

    This is just so great–thank you ever so much for sharing–you are impacting others’ lives in little rays of light and insight and may we go forward having learned and been inspired. Grateful!

  8. #9

    This is a great read and got me thinking of doing my own comparison. I still scrapbook 12 x 12 layouts so this will be a great topic. The last 10 years have been an emotional rollercoaster. I had 2 kids graduate high school, one of them passed away 3 years later. My oldest got married and has since given me my first grandchild and my daughter is engaged to be married. I have found a tribe of women that has been supportive of every one of those events and for that I am truly grateful. so much has changed in such a short (relatively) time.

  9. #10
    Peggy M

    I wasn’t going to do this challenge but your list reminds me what a great scrap page it would make. Thank you for your thoughts over the last 10. It makes me realize how much change there is even when we think there’s none.

  10. #11

    Thank you for sharing. I like you inside and out. At 41 I still need to find myself … and that’s hard seeing everything I believed in is was a lie.

  11. #12

    Love this!! Thank you for spilling your brain & heart on all these things. I think the biggest thing that’s changed in these ten years is I’ve learned and embraced the fact that I am only in charge of my own happiness. It’s lead to a lot of scary, new, amazing & necessary places in my life. ❤️

    1. #12.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Nisa, yes… I silently stalk you on the facebook and it definitely looks like you are in a LOT of change and transition.

      Expectations that others will make us happy… one of my personal roots of all frustration. I mean, I’m sure there are relationships that work like that, but I’m not sure the person who makes someone else happy for a living is living their best live. ; )

      It all boils down to personal responsibility. I did not know this 10 years ago. That said, I’m happy you are doing what you are doing. Keep at it, former neighbor.

  12. #13

    This was a great post and your honesty is inspiring. It’s a good time of year for us all to reflect on the good, bad and even ugly (grey hair and menopause). And for the lady who posted about finding herself, I’d like to share a thought someone once shared with me: You don’t need to “find” yourself. You need to CREATE the person you want to be. I think that is so true, don’t you?

    1. #13.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I definitely believe you need to learn about yourself, offer yourself understanding, and then heal your incongruencies. We all have the choice to work on developing, yes!

  13. #14

    I’ve seen so many people post their pictures, but I love how you really went back and wrote about the changes! In this past decade, my two daughters graduated high school and college, moved to Los Angeles and Fort Worth, I’ve gained 7 great nieces/nephew, with 3 more on the way and lost one of those great nieces. She became our angel who saved her grandmother’s life (my sister) by finding out she had the BRCA II gene and Breast Cancer. I found out I also was BRCA II positive and had a double mastectomy (no reconstruction) and a hysterectomy, which put me into menopause (not fun). I’ve gained a bunch of weight, and lost some, to just gain it back. The past few years, I have been dealing with aging parents; my dad with parkinson’s and my mom with dementia. I used to be a planner, but now I just take it one day at a time. Life is good and even though I miss some things from 10 years ago, I am content with where my life is now and look forward to the next 10 years.

    1. #14.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Beth… wow, SO much in your life, as well. I think we would all be more compassionate people in hearing how people’s lives are just as complicated and challenging… we would be kinder. That is what I want for the planet. Wishing you the best.

  14. #15

    Hi Cathy!

    Although I am a newbie to “the” Cathy Zielske, I have been with you as you started down the card making lane…and I am grateful to have learned so much from you already! That being said, I find I learn SO much more in your reflections and wisdom on life. I was fortunate to see & hear Maya Angelou speak years ago at a Smart Women’s conference, where she said, “a smart woman should/will keep a woman 10+yrs her senior, as a guide for her own journey”. She said that a younger woman having such a resource will offer her a better understanding to accept what is, let go of what isn’t, and learn to laugh at the rest! She also said, “…if you teach a man, you teach a man. But, when you teach a woman, you teach a village”! I share all of that with you because you have become another wise woman who also offers guidance and wisdom to those of us on the cusp of some of the same changes you have experienced on your own journey. And I am VERY grateful you offer with a reflective humor, while also accepting what is… Or isn’t. Namaste.

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well that is cool to read. My mentor is my therapist, if I’m being honest. I continue to learn so much from her. She’s in her early 70s. I hope she never retires.

  15. #17
    Sharon Suske

    Seriously, your color of gray is exactly what I strive for! It’s lovely! I love this list and should take time to think about it! The biggest change is after 27 years of teaching special education, I retired in May. I’m finding my way with that. I spend more time with my grandsons–two of whom I didn’t have in 2009! I’m making more cards and reading more books. I have a shiny new hip so I’m pain free for the first time in years. Keep up the good work! I was so happy when you started making cards.

  16. #18

    Once again you’ve said it all so beautifully! Ten years ago I know we would have been friends, and I still feel that way today. It’s been really good to ‘know’ you for almost 20 years!

  17. #19

    So good! And yes we need more menopause discussions. I’ve seen alot of decade pictures but I love the commentary that went along with it. That would be a good thing to reflect on for myself so thanks for the idea!!

  18. #20
    Surekha Galagoda

    Dear Cathy
    I always loved your creations and now i love your honesty. About your looks you look really graceful and elegant. I got married at 21 and now i am 53 and i never liked the idea of dying my hair. I have grey hair and i am fine with it.
    I am a journalist by profession and crafting is my hobby. Unlike a year ago i have a different view about everything. I gave up worrying and put all my trust and faith in Jesus. That has heped me to heal from teh many wounds i have and move on positively. I take respnsibility for all my actions and think thrice or 4 times before taking a decision. Life is Challenging but good. May God bless you and your family
    With loads of love and Gratitude

  19. #23
    Ruth Gilbert

    As always reading your journaling makes my day!! I have always loved reading everything you write and you were the first person that made me realize feeding my child cereal for dinner did not make me a failure! Thank you for always being honest and being so “human.”

  20. #24
    Kimberly O.

    And your collar bones are much more visible!! 🙂 I’m also thankful for no more periods (although mine was due to a hysterectomy – best thing EVER). Hot flashes are a pain the ass though. My mom still gets them and she’s in her 70s. Great… 20 years of this. :O

  21. #26

    Your post inspired me to think about my last 10 years…and when looking back, it’s been a doozy of a decade.
    The boy graduated from HS, tried college and is now happy in the Navy.
    I finished my Bachelors and went on to get my MBA.
    My Mr and I have had 5 job changes between us, along with a change of residence.
    I had a stroke, open heart surgery, and a neck fusion – and feel like a bionic woman now who is in charge of her health!
    Loss of people special to us (grandparents and parents) drove us to change how we lived – which lead us to travel and visit 10 countries internationally, with more on the horizon.

    And best of all – the Mr and I found that we enjoyed being with one another. Not just in the big things, but in the everyday little things, too. Here’s to another decade – let’s see what it brings!

  22. #27
    Lynne Moore

    Wow. This is a favorite post. Makes me want to find a decade comparison set (maybe).
    Ageing is such a weird thing for me; I wasn’t afraid of it – and I still get compliments on how well it is happening for me – but I am struggling more and more with it. More than I thought I would.

    I don’t think I was ready for the emotional ups&downs of peri-menopause. It comes along at the most inopportune time… just when I am figuring out who I am at this age – especially with out kids in home. 🙂 Not the ideal time to get all emotional about

    And not ready to see the future in my parents aging… how fast that is coming along these years and how close I feel that it will happen to me.

    1. #27.1
      Cathy Zielske

      The thing that is harder for me is that things don’t work the way they used to in my physical body. I guess that’s why I keep working on my mind and therapy. I can work on that right up until the end. 🙂

  23. #28
    Sheri K

    Thanks for this. Yeah, I’m still “twinkling” my hair–my hairdresser does the weave thing for me so it’s dark and light. This is good stuff, makes me think about my last 10 years.

  24. #30
    Mel H

    Cathy…your blog and your honesty make me feel a little bit less alone in this world. For that, I thank you.

  25. #31
    Lynn M

    What a great post and just in time to ring out the decade. I have those templates and now I know what to do with them. Cathy, thank you for all of your creativity and “push” to get our lives documented.

  26. #32

    Many changes for me in the last 10 years. Lost a few jobs, lost my mom and at the ripe old age of 56 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes! Living on insulin. I’m a boss at it though…what can you do?

  27. #33

    The last decade? Ten years and one month ago, the day before my 46th birthday, I became a widow. Three years ago, the week after my 56th birthday, my son died. Everything else is colored by this. I became an empty nester as my other five children graduated and began their adulthoods. Two of my children moved half a country away, in totally different directions. And, oh yeah, I fell in love again with a man who has not only become a partner in every sense of the word, but a father to my children as well. So I would say this last decade was…memorable. And very, very sad. And very, very joyful. Just like life.

  28. #34
    Marisela Delgado

    Hola, Cathy. It’s Marisela. Remember me? Girl, you crack me up. I just wanted to tell you about this young woman that I met once. She had no need to color her hair, but did all of the time. She decided to try something new with a new color. She is mexicana (Mex-American) like me and went for RED, girl. She said that when we finished and looked in the mirror, she was shocked. She said, “Girl, I looked like Ronald McDonald.” I laughed so hard. I still want to get rid of my gray, though. Just not with red. ha-ha As for my last decade, well, as you know, I lost 6 and a half years to injury (varicose vein/shaving accident) plus some added family crazy in there, but I gained a stronger sense of ME and a stronger faith and walk with the Lord. I feel stronger in myself and in my faith. I feel strong, hopeful, and I KNOW that I am a great person inside and out, regardless of what anyone says. I am happy with me. =) Happy Thanksgiving, Cathy. You rock!

  29. #35
    Deanna Berman

    LOVE your hair…color doesn’t matter….I was blessed with fine and thin hair plus 20+ years ago had radiation which made it even thinner BUT there is still hair on my head so life is good! As to the glasses…I went from cateye, to owl eye, and then every shape in between including the shape you sport…should have stuck with the shape you sport!

  30. #36

    So so good to read your real deal! I’m with you on almost all of them except the stop hair dyeing (soon!), card making and my husband did not run a coffee shop but he is an elementary teacher now. For me the biggest thing I’ve learnt and changed is that there is no absolute in raising kids. I failed miserably though not for lack of trying, but by God’s Grace my kids have become adults and I’m learning how to be their parent everyday. Thanks for your sharing. Off to make my own page.

  31. #37

    Great to see you in such a good and growing place. May life only get better. You give a lot to all of us and deserve to feel fabulous.

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