I'd long been plotting a little 2016 recap post, because hey... I do it every year! I genuinely love looking back and beholding a smattering of my memories in one neat, sequential nook... no sifting through blurry candids or unedited versions necessary. It's always served as a little self-indulgent reflection and reminder of both the grandiose and mundane moments from the past twelve months, as opposed to being passable as quality post material for the masses, but you know... I guess I make the rules around here. Maybe I'll get around to it, maybe I won't.
I've finally come to the conclusion and relief that while sure, I blog, I don't know that I'll ever fall under the "blogger" category, you feel me? Nothing is carefully curated, nor scheduled consistently. You won't find a watermark on my clumsily snapped iphone photos. No shiny affiliate ads docked on the sidebar. Four-and-a-half months into the year and here I go, post numero uno--and a messy, somewhat disjointed summary of my inner thoughts for 2017 thus far, at that. Killing it over here...
See also: reason 437 why this girl could never rely on blogging to be her bread and butter.
Thinking back to where I was a year ago, I feel peace... something I've yearned for, for as long as I can recall--a wish that varied in appearance from year to year, but something I'm so undeniably certain I have a firm grip now. While there's plenty that's unsettled in my life, and still some concern and anxiety surfacing now and again, in the depth of my core, I am swimming in a sense of contentment that I've never quite encountered. Some of it has been nurtured by age and experience, sure... but the bigger cause is due to being surrounded by some of the most incomprehensibly amazing people God has pieced together--and then somehow, someway, thankfully plopped into my life.
I want to dive into the concept of hindsight, but that treads dangerously near cliché phrasing, and I really try like hell to avoid that. But in the hope that warning you can relieve me of some of the responsibility, I'll go on:
it's absolutely mind-blowing to me how much you can learn about yourself if you just try. Change the scenery. Swallow your pride, listen to what you don't want to hear... be strong enough to listen to what you know is the truth. Dig up enough bravery to look back at yourself so you can measure how far you've come... or how much further you want to be. Then do whatever it takes to get there.
Fear held me back for such an embarrassingly long period--and it was a fear that I was unaware had permeated so many fibers of who I am--a fact that is even more humiliating, being that I've been referred to as "fearless" more than a handful of times in my life. By no means did I emerge from the rut solo or untarnished--I had more than a few people who thankfully and selflessly (and maybe even unknowingly) scooped up responsibility to get me back to being me. People who loved me enough to tell me what I didn't want to hear. People who put their own relationships with me on the line for the sake of somehow, someway breaking into my stubborn head. People who quite honestly yelled at me in an effort to have something sink in. People who dared to lift me up--over and over again--when I refused to hear it.
To all of the people in my tribe (again--overused, ridiculous word that is unfortunately the absolute best for this situation) who quite literally held me up,
who deftly countered my shallow defenses of someone who continually hurt me,
who have wiped the tears from my cheeks,
who have earnestly prayed for my tender heart, and promised there was a better tomorrow for me,
who knew when I needed the next generous pour of bota versus another unrelenting talking-to,
who feverishly attempted to convince me of my worth,
who've been invested and excited when I've encountered something good,
who patiently told me, "I love you, but you're wrong... and I'll still be here when it finally sinks in."
...I cannot thank you enough. It's not the slightest exaggeration that I am grateful daily for the depth of the way you've loved me.
I pour this out for so many reasons... it's been heavy on me, the gravity and peril of allowing fear and pain to pierce your actual identity. Gah, there is so, so much I have to figure out in this lifetime... and so much I'll never know. But maybe there's a truth you're ducking away from. Maybe you're the friend who desperately wants to pull your person out of something. Maybe you've been dancing your own charade as long as I did, and aren't even fully aware of it. There are countless faces to this, but fear is slapped across them all.
So much of this life is just the people at your side. There's a level of unparalleled authenticity that is unveiled when you discover the few souls who willingly go through your hell just to stick by you. The honest fact is that there are very few people you could reliably call on for absolutely anything in the world--and while the past few years have offered me the chance to drink up an immense amount about who I am and what I deserve, the most rewarding takeaway is knowing, unequivocally who is on my team.
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."
(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.
// 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.
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.
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!