Sunday, December 25, 2016

Today, you're 31, and one month (and one day) old. The last thirty-ish days of the year are normally dripping with some reluctant anticipation of Christmas without mom and Mimi, but this year was different. Finally, the decorating and baking and hosting commenced without much of the once-familiar and overwhelming heaviness of being the last lady in line of a generation that has passed on.

The last few birthday celebrations came and went with dinner at one of your favorite Nashville restaurants, and a kick-ass Christmas concert offered by the illustrious and adored Kacey Musgraves. The endless slew of Christmas parties spattered their way throughout the calendar, and in the minimal spare time you etched out, you found a night to host your best girlfriends for a ridiculously fun pie party--complete with vintage vinyl blaring throughout, a bottomless charcuterie board, and cutthroat series of Catch Phrase battles, complete with high-decibel screeching and some spiking in laps of the game piece. You carried on the tradition of Christmas photos with the sweetest, sassiest pup known to man, and earnestly pressed on with the newfound cross-stitching side hustle.

There might have been a wicked stomach flu thrown in there on a Monday, but you countered with some fierce adulting, by finally getting new tires put on your car. Before you knew it, the parties had concluded, and with the unplugging of the tree lights, overflowing Samsonite suitcase, and snappy call to Calvin with Lyft, you were soon on a plane to Texas, pup and presents for family in tow.

All-in-all, the first month of being 31 served as a stream of reminders of how much love and promise you're wrapped up in, dear. Quality time and warm embraces far exceeded time spent shopping and making Christmas playlists, and thus the ever-present to-do list took a major back seat. You're not overly feverish to bid 2016 adieu, but thankfully and thoughtfully walking away with so many lessons learned, and reclaimed grace for the person, friend, daughter, and sister you are.

You're pondering a lot about what 2017 will bring, and it's all teeming with excitement... to quote your adopted, yet fictitious spirit animal, Penny Lane? "It's all happening." 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

(Disclaimer: this was written post-consumption of three glasses of Bota box's redvolution, whilst in the air from BNA to DAL last night...)

Four years ago to the day, I was on a flight home to Nashville after sitting at my mom's bedside for a week and a half, watching her die. She was hardly recognizable anymore, face stony and expressionless, her lower legs amputated two and a half years prior, her sunken body cocooned in a twisted web of wires and tubes. After ten days of slow, but steady deterioration, I finally and reluctantly reasoned that no one knew exactly how much longer she'd struggle to remain on earth, but that those days and hours were dwindling. After resolving that our family planned only for an eventual private service, I made as much peace with my decision to trudge back to the life I'd begun building for myself, even going so far as to forgive myself with the excuse that she'd want me to move on with my life and not dwell. Ironically, she was stubborn even in death, clinging to life for nearly two weeks after entering hospice until eventually passing away early on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Our relationship was at best, complicated--nothing at all like those I witnessed my friends sharing with their moms. For decades, I was so internally angry at the MS that robbed me of having a mom, and masked it with one more straight A report card, one more home run, another feeble accomplishment all in the name of trying to control what I could never control. My futile attempts at making her smile could never heal her tormented, ailing body, but it honestly took more than 20 years (and a pinch of therapy) for me to truly absorb that. 

In her absence, I am heartbroken still. Saddened for her colorful life that was crushed by a disease that was so horrific to watch unfold, I can truly never fathom what it'd be like to attempt fighting everyday firsthand, for over half your lifetime. But mostly, I am broken for the woman I never knew, and the relationship I never had. Missing what never was sometimes hurts most of all.

I often hear stories from her classmates and others who knew her as a kid--they tell me about how much of a spitfire she was: sharp-tongued and always laughing the loudest, adorable and endlessly sassy--akin to a Molly Ringwald in the same small town she and I both grew up in. I caught glimpses of that version of her as I was growing up, but never to the degree of which I hear strangers describe her. And yet, as distant as we always seemed to be, the tiniest shreds of her are undeniably woven within me: I'm an incessant gum popper and the habit unfailingly reminds me of riding in the passenger seat, next to her when she was still driving--the aroma of Extra wintermint wafting throughout the car. When I clear my throat, it sounds so much like her, it truly stops me in my tracks. If the sound wasn't emanating from my own throat, I'd look over my shoulder and expect to see her sitting there.

She's the one to blame for my insatiable taste for Mexican food, shameless love of 80s movies, and habit for turning the music up just a little bit more. Like her, I'm always the one laughing the loudest--a trait I really love. While there was an abundance of disconnect, in her own way, she fostered in me a desire to not settle--to always want more, laugh harder, live fuller, hope for a better day.

I don't have that heinous disease preventing me from living, like she always did. I strive to feel it all, to love so fiercely, to leave absolutely nothing unanswered.

I'll miss her forever, but with each passing year, the familiar ache is tempered ever so slightly, and in its place is growing a warmth and pleasure of knowing with utter certainty that she's so proud of who I've grown up to be, who I keep growing into everyday. 

I love you, Mom. We miss you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

// from one of my lovely birthday dinners, surrounded by my best girlfriends. 
le sel, november 2016.//

A few years ago, I began a tradition of documenting the highlights of what I'd gleaned from this little life of mine. Some of them are lighter and silly, while others are lessons sometimes learned through such struggle that they force themselves into the intricate weave of who I am as a human being.

If you care to go recap 29 and 30, please be my guest--and here goes with 31--a year I can say was unequivocally one of my fullest, most colorful and brimming with self-actualization. Gone is the anxiety about personal timelines and expectations passing me by, and what's nestled in instead is a deep-rooted relief, awareness, and grace for who I am and what I deserve. And an overwhelming appreciation for feeling like me again, for the first time in many, many years.

That said... take it from me:

1. Break up your bananas before you freeze them for smoothies and baking.
2. Trust your gut. If there's one thing you hone in on here, just cling to your intuition. Don't ever allow anyone to cause you to doubt yourself. As a kid, I always envisioned that with adulthood came wisdom and clarity, and so much more black and white--and in actuality, the water just gets murkier, the situations grayer. The key to staying afloat is being firmly grounded in who you are, unapologetic about what you want out of life, and resolute about who you can trust.
3. So many mental blocks can be alleviated by just being outside. Extreme temperatures be damned: step out, walk around, breathe deeply.
4. Working hard is the simplest way to really pave the way to earn respect. And aside from robbing you of sleep, over-preparing will never fail you.
5. (P)leather leggings are the ultimate game-changer.
6. Social media is a glorious beast--connect away with whoever you shall choose, but please... be cautious as to what you put out there.
7. My mimi's granddaughter, through and through: I get the absolute most fulfillment out of hosting people I love. Some of my favorite nights in life have concluded with a slew of sweet, goodbye hugs and a sink full of lipstick-stained champagne glasses. My best therapy comes in the form of sharing overflowing cheese plates with girlfriends, hearing their laughter drown out the sound of my turntable fired up in my tiny living room.
8. When you have a fantastic night, date, or workday--write something down about it. Even just a couple words. Remember what made you feel so wonderful at that exact time. Later, you can snap right back to that moment, and realize everything passes (good and bad), and if you're lucky, you can learn from it. You have to go through some of the rough in order to really have appreciation for the good.
9. Nine years in, and my feisty, little maltese is still my best friend in the whole world.
10. It's good for you to know a few things by heart--specifically your blood type, what exact shade of red lipstick works for you skin, and your car's oil weight (me? O+, clinique's matte crimson, and 5w-30).
11. Be front and center when your friends have babies--don't wait to be asked to come over, just show up with food, and hunker down on the couch next to her, prepared to fold tiny laundry and listen intently to topics you haven't experienced first-hand just yet.
12. Leaving your home spotless before you embark on a vacation is so, so very highly encouraged.
13. Take the time to use email filters.
14. Upon returning from a night out, here are your priorities: make-up wipe, a liter of water, four advil.
15. Take a tiny piece of home and place it where you see it everyday. The power something so seemingly simple has to wash away homesickness will blow you away (mine is a vintage map of Waco, framed in my living room, and the candle scent my Mimi forever had burning in her living room.)
16. So much of life is about meeting people where they are--understanding that what you want out of something (be it a project, a relationship, a learning experience, a vacation, etc) maybe isn't completely aligned with what someone else is seeking is a deeply mature skill to hone... and will go far in tempering emotions too.
17. Stop being intimidated by a budget. It can be a pretty empowering thing to take charge of your money. Also? Always put just a smidge more into your 401k than you initially think you should.
18. Do what you can to ensure your people know you love them. Sometimes that means impromptu babysitting, baking a surprise, calling them out of nowhere... and sometimes that means listening silently, offering "I don't know what to say, but you know that I'm here for you."
19. Stop challenging your gas gauge. "Six miles to empty" is a lie.
20. If you program the radio station's number in your phone, you and your nimble fingers are far more likely to win the concert tickets.
21. Document the exact months of the year you traditionally have X appointments--this makes it painfully easy to schedule your eye exam, teeth cleaning, vet appointment when a new year rolls around.
22. It's okay to not always be able to identify precisely what you need at any moment. You'll get there. At the risk of sounding cliche, and while patience is one of my biggest struggles, I've learned that so much of life is about the "getting there."
23. Someone you encounter today is having a much harder day than you are. Perspective is one of the most rewarding things we can grasp. Just be kind.
24. I've changed my tune about threading--it still hurts like a bitch, but no other method is as precise and lasts quite as long, so... suck it up and just do it. I mean, you know you're onto something when guys are complimenting how great your eyebrows look.  
25. Home is more about who you're with than where you are. And y'all know how much Texas is in my veins. I will forever be a small-town Texas girl, but Nashville has been so, so good to me--and so much of that is because of the incredibly magnificent people who have become my family here. I will forever be grateful for that.
26. I once read Chrissy Teigen reference how, in the midst of her crazy, hectic life, she strives to floss everyday because it gives her some semblance of consistency. I love this... and I love my weekly routine: every Sunday, I try to go to church, do my nails and a face mask, spend time outside, and bake something. I try to send at least one handwritten letter each week too... you'd be amazed about how much being a creature of habit can keep you feeling aligned and fruitful.
27. Sometimes the only way to cope is firing up Spotify and curating a playlist to reflect exactly how you're feeling in that moment. Also? This is a fantastic thing to do for your friends.
28. Stop waiting for someone to reach out to you, but also take inventory on your relationships--while friendships evolve, when they become completely one-sided, it's time to reevaluate. And that's okay.
29. Handle the blade of your Ninja blender ever so gingerly. (I continue to slice my fingertips on a weekly basis, because well, I'm impatient and the clumsiest).
30. Buy the pre-peeled garlic.
31. Stop saying yes to things and people you really don't want to say yes to. This might sound a little brash, but this opens you up to more of what you want to do. Being known as a person of resolve is admirable and earns respect. People appreciate knowing where you stand, and you'll feel more alive by being authentically attached to the choices you've made.

This portion of the year forces so much introspection... I'm fully feeling my newly-turned age, reminiscing about the memories of my mom and Mimi, swimming through the ever-reliable holiday rush. The Avett Brothers said it best: "if I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die." And heading into 2017, I feel so fortunate to be able to write the next page. And the one after that... and to keep learning, and loving on people and growing into who I'm supposed to be.

One little day at a time.


Monday, November 28, 2016

I'm all about a side hustle. I've always been wired that way. In college? I worked retail, in a craft store, was a lifeguard and taught swim lessons, worked for the yearbook and for two local newspapers (albeit not all at once, though there was overlap here and there). I just have entirely too many interests and thoughts going to kick back and trudge through a 9-5 only.

Exhibit A: I've been on the Beautycounter train for almost a year now (more on that later), and more recently, finally kicked off a little Etsy endeavor of my own. I secured the store name TheSewcialite several years ago, as I'd planned to make and sell throw pillows. Upon further investigation, I realized:

1. LOTS of people were selling throw pillows
2. LOTS of people were far more talented than I
3. ...and selling their gems at a far less price than I'd planned to sell mine.

And so my dreams of an Etsy empire were dashed. My little ol' store laid dormant for years, although I played with some creative thoughts here and there. Cue late 2016 and my rush of a "now or never" mentality in damn near all areas of my life, and I finally settle on personalized cross-stitching! The idea was hatched after I customized an engagement gift for a dear friend, and thought, hey... I could do this.

...and so The Sewcialite was born.

Back story: my Mimi taught me to cross-stitch when I was maybe 10 or 11, but until this fall, I hadn't picked up a hoop and aida fabric since junior high. Designing and creating these makes me feel closer to her--especially at a time of year when the magnitude of her loss seems to resonate the most.

And so, I'm making custom cross-stitch pieces for any and every possible celebration--if you dream it, I will stitch. Christmas is right around the corner, and an obvious idea, but these make fantastic bridal and baby shower gifts, birthday surprises, and anything and everything in between. Let me brainstorm with you--I'm offering custom characters on the Etsy shop, but I can create basically whatever you have in mind. Shoot me an email and let's talk.

And if you have an idea in mind already, until midnight, I'm offering a 20% discount for Cyber Monday--just use code BF2017 at checkout. Come check out the goods!

Happy shopping!

Friday, November 25, 2016

It just sounds so much older than "thirty." Officially in your thirties now. I woke up actually feeling older on my birthday (Thanksgiving day) for the first time, maybe ever. It wasn't a feeling of dread or apprehension--if anything, it was a glowing testament to how abundantly full of transition and growth this past year was, which the part of me who is perpetually striving for more, better, greater really loves. 

The last month of my thirties was marked by all of the celebrations: the requisite birthday shindigs, with a side of revving up for the holidays too. And so, so much champagne.

November is traditionally my golden month: autumn is firmly in place, my birthday is at the end of the month, Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday... it's just unquestionably, the best thirty days of the year for me. December is much too bustly and anxiety-ridden, but November? November is all mine.

And for the highlights... I've upped my fundraiser game significantly in 2016--and had a blast at Taste of Nashville with friends I've grown closer to in 2016--and helped with Our Kids Hammer Down race early in the month. The dreaded election came and went, and we all held our collective breath for the duration of a Tuesday night--luckily, I was tipping back the bubbles at a surprise bridal shower I helped throw for one of my best friends that evening, so we had ample distraction from the circus. An obscene number of hours was spent skipping around my kitchen, prepping (that damn green bean casserole) for a handful of different Friendsgivings. I logged the last few outdoor runs of the season (thirty-one years and still not a morning person, so that ain't happening before work)--thankful the temperature and daylight savings time offered to be on my side for a bit longer. My sweet, sweet friends spoiled the hell out of me with--count 'em--four birthday parties. And I rounded it all out with the loveliest Thanksgiving here in Nashville with my sweet friend Morgan, and her adorable family.

All in all? Exactly what I needed. November was the proverbial bow on top of a pretty charming year, highlighted by friends who have thankfully and effortlessly become my family, showering me with their love, depth, laughs, and endless loyalty. "Friends" just seems like too hollow and generic a word for the category of people I've been surrounded by since moving her. Cheesiness, be damned: I am so, so thankful--every single day, I'm thankful.

At 31, I am still hopelessly in love with this town, its quirks, its magnetism--but undoubtedly, the absolute best element of my life are the people who I'm so unimaginably fortunate, love me as hard as they do.

Come at me, 31... I'm so ready for you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

loving ::: my abundantly full, color-coded calendar. the fog draped over the pond outside my balcony on these 40-degree mornings. movie nights. hilarious snaps of my nephew doing baby thangs. finally wearing boots with my skinnies.
listening ::: Anderson East's Delilah.
Lake Street Dive's Side Pony.
Sarah Hyland's cover of the Chainsmokers' "Closer." SWOON.
oh, and Kacey Musgraves's new Christmas album.
reading ::: "Blackout," by Sarah Hepola.
"The Sound of Gravel," by Ruth Wariner."
and this fantastic article by my friend Kimberly.
writing ::: plans for 2017 in my new agenda... a little blogging here and there. and another little project I'm not super ready to delve into yet, but I've been writing a lot and I really, really love how it's making me feel.
craving ::: all of the ridiculously rich holiday food. I made this green bean casserole Monday for a friendsgiving and it was insanely delicious. half+half instead of canned soup is a gamechanger, as are the homemade fried onions. and I really can't wait to bake my chocolate pecan pie.
planning ::: what am I not planning?? a few birthday dinners, a bachelorette party (first trip to Vegas!), going away parties, a pie party in December, my Christmas trip home, and lots of 2017 travel.
wearing ::: my newest go-to jeans. all of the Wildfox sweatshirts... my official wardrobe until March.
smelling ::: a version of my favorite winter candle. my good friend is mixing his own, and it somehow smells even better than Anthro's, and you better believe that I light that sucker, first thing as soon as I walk in the door, every day.
drinking ::: all of the lemon Lacroix (I go through flavor phases). my favorite sauvignon blanc from Trader Joe's. and this custom coffee/hot cocoa situation I dreamed up during a slow afternoon at work a few weeks back.
snacking on ::: cheese plates (always). lots of pepper jam. Trader Joe's gingerbread men = alllll the heart eyes.
bingeing ::: The West Wing, finally. just started Good Girls Revolt and loving it. also gearing up for a refresher of Homeland before it comes back.
working on ::: nailing down the perfect gift for everyone. divying up that Thanksgiving menu.
needing ::: gah, this sounds a little smug, but I can't come up with one thing I need. I am so, so delightfully content right now.
...but while we're on it, I really think my cheese will look fancier on this. and while "need" may not be exactly accurate, I really, really want this punchy coat for Christmas. and I've been obsessed with Hearne Dry Goods lately.
feeling ::: ...like myself for the first time in a really, really long time. And it feels really, really good.
anticipating ::: aforementioned birthday celebrations, surrounded by my dearest friends. the impending holidays and all that comes with them -- baking, decorating, buying surprises for everyone I love... the excitement of a new year!
wishing ::: the sunlight lasted just a wee bit longer here at the end of the day in middle Tennessee. other than that, I'm kinda living the dream, y'all.

What are you up to lately?