2019

Twenty Things I Learned in My Twenties

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Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

Today I turn 30. The ‘big birthday.’ When I started this blog I was 23, unmarried, and unanchored. A lot has changed in the last seven years and I’m eager to see what the next decade brings. Thank you, dear readers, for watching me grow up.

Reflection brings its own kind of wisdom and before I dance into the next new decade, I’m sharing my love letter of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the last ten years. Enjoy.

  1. Career may not fulfill your soul.
    I spent my early twenties bouncing from job to job searching for the perfect fit. I had nine jobs in ten years. There will be conflict at work. There will be days that feel tedious and boring. It is important to find people you can learn from and environments to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s ok to make a switch, and ok to fail. At least you tried. There’s more to your worth than what you do from 9-5.
  2. Ask for that raise sooner than later. 
    You’re worth it. Practice negotiating and communicating how your skills bring organizations different value. It takes practice and it pays off. The least they can say is no, not right now.
  3. New paint makes a big difference.
    Make your spaces your own. Your house can be a reflection of you. Paint is affordable and it takes just a few hours to reclaim space for rest and rejuvenation.
  4. Planning a wedding is fun. Planning for marriage is improbable.
    I got engaged at the age of twenty three and walked down the aisle at age twenty five. That was young. We did marriage counseling, had dated for six years, and talked about many things. We weren’t prepared for how unemployment, unexpected death, and financial uncertainty would change and shape our young marriage. You can’t plan for all of the scenarios. You can, however, pick a partner who will fight for you and hold your hand when things fall apart.
  5. Pick up those shoes.
    Really, I leave them all over the house. Weekly shoe round-ups should be a thing. I’m messy. Tough.
  6. People will die.
    Yes, your people. They will die. Before your heart is ready with things left unchecked on bucket lists and words left unsaid. This is the worst truth of the universe. Surviving the death of my dad has rearranged me leaving gaps for compassion, empathy, and tears. Death sucks. Grief sucks. People die. It sucks so frickin’ bad.
  7. Say I love you every chance you get.
    The last time I saw my dad, he left my house without me saying good-bye. I just assumed I’d see him the next day. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ and I regret that. Life is short. Tell people how much you love them every chance you get.
  8. Friendships change.
    As you grow and change, so will your friends. Give others grace, stand up at weddings, cheer when they announce they are going to have a baby. Honor the space of sadness when the people you could always count on don’t respond as much as you’d like. Hold space for new relationships. Be the friend you want to have.
  9. Metabolism slows.
    Damn. Buy bigger-sized pants. Eat a few less french fries. Get back to the gym and love your body.
  10. Stop resisting when they offer to do the dishes.
    For a long time, I’d be mortified when my mother-in-law would do my dishes. It made me feel like a horrible host. She’s not silently commenting on the state of the kitchen. She’s instead using her gifts and sharing her time. People will show you their love in all kinds of ways. Stop resisting and say thank you.
  11. Having a dog is beneficial.
    They’ll pee on the carpet and destroy a few of your favorite things. But the little creature will warm your heart, absorb your tears, and take up space on the bed when you’re cold. Eye contact with an animal will soften your soul.
  12. Get a few stamps in your passport.
    Planning a trip and traveling abroad will give you confidence and joy in unimaginable ways. Gelato in Paris is delicious. Kidney pie in London is not.
  13. Graduate from an amaretto sour.
    Try different alcoholic drinks and explore how your tastes evolve. Know a few classic cocktails to ask for in a bar. When you order a shot of Fireball with your brother’s friends, they will laugh at you. Don’t let shame shape your choices. It’s ok to like what you like.
  14. Softball is not fun.
    I’d just rather not spend my summer evenings on the ball field. Practice saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy so you can say yes to the things that make your heart beat a little faster.
  15. I’m sensitive. So be it.
    My awareness of others suffering is a gift, not a weakness. Refuse to let others squash the sensitivity out of you. Continue to give the homeless woman a granola bar, make donations to charity, and cry at the news.
  16. People want to read these words.
    I must believe this every time I click publish. Your voice matters and you have every right to share your thoughts. Not everyone will resonate and likes and comments don’t qualify my words as worthy. Keep typing. It doesn’t have to make you money … though that would be nice.
  17. Family is complicated.
    It gets tricky when pain trickles through long-standing relationships. Keep trying. Keep praying. God’s grace can fix holes in family tapestries. Where we come from matters. Hold onto the good stuff, let go of the crap.
  18. You can take care of yourself.
    Of course I want others to take care of me. Bring me soup, vacuum the dirty carpet, offer tissues for the mountains of snot grief creates – yes please. More empowering though? Learning how to care for myself. Take space to sit and be sad. Invest in good shoes, honor your body with clothes that fit, and pay for a therapist to help process. Accepting help is self-care. Putting things in place to meet my own needs – even better.
  19. Money is a tool – let it flow.
    While I prefer to sit on my savings account for fear of not enough, I’m learning money is a tool for joy. Using funds responsibly can create positive, life-changing experiences. Travel. Save for the car. Get a haircut. Sponsor a child. Trust you have the capability to make more money and believe God provides.
  20. Hope lives in the relentless search for beauty.
    The gifts God gives are in the small and ordinary. Keep seeking good and you will find beauty. Clean water, fresh flowers, a kiss on the nose. Bubbles in sparkling wine, puppy breath, baby toes. Suffering and beauty co-exist. We won’t live in a world without both.

It Started with Stand-Up

It started with a stand-up comedy routine. This one to be exact.

We’ve been watching it on repeat at our house. Sarah’s routine sparked important conversation for Dylan and me. After watching a few times, I found myself wondering, ‘Yeah! Do I contribute to the problem of men feeling like they’re losing their voice?’ There needs to be space for men to make plans and pay for dinner.

This is a BIG feminist discussion and I don’t have an answer to the mystery of emasculation in our culture. I tend to think it’s not q.u.i.t.e. my problem if men who’ve historically made bad decisions are feeling crushed by powerful women.

Both men and women have different strengths. I believe feminine and masculine traits live in all of us. How these traits are lived out has a lot to do with our culture, and the media, and the muddied messages of chivalry, independence, patriarchy, and equality.

It is my problem, however, when my husband is holding back because I overpower his voice and poo-poo his plans.

So, on Friday night, after starting a text thread asking how he wanted to spend our evening, I had to consider my silencing. He suggested, ‘let’s go out, get a drink, listen to some jazz.’ I stifled the urge to say ‘shoot, I was hoping for Mrs. Maisel and a glass of white wine while wearing pajamas.’

He had made a plan.

I shushed my impulse to lounge and instead I blew dry my hair, put on some red lipstick, and set out for an evening of saxophone and cocktails.

As we walked down the stairs to the basement bar, I whispered to myself, ‘I’m tired of being afraid of living.’ I think we both are. We’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern for a while – waiting on news, waiting on opportunities, living in the just-a-little-longers. Grief tends to rip the plans right out of you.

So for this year, I’m going about living boldly and holding space for the rising tides bringing us back to shore again. I’ve booked a birthday trip to the mountains, am headed to Portland to see an old friend, and am carving out space to fashion a book out of these posts. He’s going to fix up a car, draft some buildings and learn new software. Together we’ll tackle our ugly basement, paint some cabinets, and build a website.

We’re going to get up off the couch and hold hands as we step into jazz clubs, letting brushes on drums and stand-up bass bolster us up.

We’re making plans again. What a beautiful thing.

Coming Back

I’ve been practicing telling my grief story out loud. To people using their ears and their eyes.

It’s easier for me to type my story. I’m more comfortable when you’re just reading what I write.

I’m dreaming of new ways to bring my speaking voice to my experience and sent an email ask to Shelby Forsythia if she would be willing to host me on her podcast Coming Back.  She lost her mom when she was in college, and dove right in to learning more about grief, healing, and the power of owning one’s experience.

Shelby describes herself as an intuitive grief guide and works with people struggling with grief and loss. In her interviews with others, she offers refreshing perspectives on the way our culture handles grief, and focuses on real experiences with real humans as we continue to live with loss.

Her tagline, “because even through grief we are growing” pinched my heart and said, ‘pay attention to this’ – she’s on to something.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation here and am very thankful to be in her group of people growing with grief. We talk about introversion, a little bit of Jesus, and how searching for beautiful things informs my process with loss.

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Shelby is also looking for new folks to interview on her podcast for her FIFTH(!) season.  If you are interested in sharing your experience with grief, send her an email and tell her I sent you.

Happy listening.

January Favorite Things – 2019

 

It’s tradition in my family to watch The Rose Bowl Parade (#1 Favorite Thing) on New Year’s Day. My parents lived in Pasadena when they were first married and so we always had it on in the background when we woke groggily on the first day of the year. Nostalgia mixed with beautiful compilations of floral majesty – this parade is an amazing artistic effort.

The past few years I turned the live stream on with tears on my cheeks and we’d watched without Dad. Starting another year without loved ones is bittersweet. Sometimes, you still feel guilty for living.

Today, I turned on the parade and scooted our little leaf receiver, trying without success to get a clear stream via our janky attempt at living cable-free. I can’t find the ABC live stream and the ESPN account we share with a relative isn’t granting me access.

BUT – great news – the Spanish channel is coming in perfectly. So here I sit, watching the floats and the bands and the flowers and Dad is chuckling along with me because I can’t understand much.

‘Stop taking new starts without me so seriously,’ he whispers. I’m putting my head on his shoulder and trying to figure out the subtitles.

So, adding to the list, here are a few of my favorite things to start the year off right.

2. Electric Fondue Pot


I found an unopened wedding present in the cupboard this weekend and decided to continue another tradition of New Year’s fondue at our house. This little guy is so easy to use and dipping treats in chocolate is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I knew we registered for this for a reason.

3. Photo Books on Shutterfly

I love making albums for the year just finished in January. Take a few minutes, download the photos from your phone, and upload the images to Shutterfly. Don’t be intimidated by creative limitations – if you want, you can use their “Make My Book” feature and they will put all your photos in beautiful designs for you. They’re always having a sale and you get a great keepsake.

4. Pick Your Word

I was introduced to the idea of picking a word for your year ahead in college. My small group leader encouraged us to prayerfully pick a word to focus on in the next twelve months. We know we break resolutions, but having a word to return to, shaping your choices and your hopes is easier to return to as time goes on. This book explains the idea in more detail. My word for this year is REACH.  What’s yours?

5. Pick Your Tunes

Bring in the new year with some new anthems. Dylan was given Miles Davis on vinyl and we’ve been filling our house with jazz. Buy a new album, pick a new song, add some life into your home with music.

Happy New Year!