Words that Sting and Mall Therapy

There are few things that can sting my heart so badly but attack my mental capacity or pressure me about wedding plans and unfortunately you have me in a bad spot.

My practice of marking things to spam has helped me greatly but admittedly, I am still shaking off these words.

You see, my parents had a family friend stay with them and in the course of us interacting while they were here, she spoke few things to me and the few that she did were obsessed with me being married.

I was there the night she and her son arrived. She found a moment and called me to sit down at the table and asked me, “So do you have any good news?”

I may not always pick up on social cues but I definitely knew where this question was directed. However, not wanting to cause a scene and having something exciting to share, I proceeded. “Yes actually! I got a raise and title promotion at work! I’m now the media director at my company.”

Her response? A scoff and half-hearted muttered “Oh.” And that was the end of that. No more questions, no more conversation.

The next evening I was hanging out with them again and my brother, his wife, and baby were also there. We were sitting on the floor watching Kai crawl [a new and still cutely awkward crawl!] around.  She asks me, “When is the big day?” Half shocked, half speechless, I asked her what big day. She told me, “Oh you know.” I told her flat out I didn’t. That’s when instead of dropping it, she decided to respond with. “Look at your brother. He’s already married and has a baby.”

Ouch. Instead of taking my chance to stop the convo, you end it with comparing my achievements (or lack thereof in her book) to my brother’s.

It hurts because everywhere I turn people are ASKING me that question. And while I know many of them are just genuinely curious, it’s really hard on my emotions. And when I keep it short they always ask me if my boyfriend has sat down with me and discussed it and how far we’ve worked on getting to that point. That part is complicated. Would I like to be married soonish? Uh…why do you think it hurts so much? But is that even practical right now? Not even. And even though I have no hard or jealous feelings towards my brother and his little family, the fact that he has one has made it OPEN SEASON for people who know my family. It’s like Nate is A, therefore I am B.

All that to say, still sore and wounded, I turned to my favorite pastime for therapy – shopping. I went straight to the mall after work, partly to make a return, and mostly to get lost in the noise.

The Laura of two years ago would have scavenged the racks looking for every deal in existence. The Laura of two years ago would have tried on anything relatively in her size and bought half of it. But I’m not her, and that surprised me in a very nice way. I had a mental list of shops I wanted to go to and once I got to the mall I didn’t feel the need to go into most of them. I mostly browsed and breathed in the bustle and the diverse languages and sounds and smells [because PTL I can smell right now!]. I got the most satisfaction going into Sephora and sniffing all the perfumes I hadn’t been able to before. I bought one shirt, one necklace, and ate a comforting bowl of poke salad and my heart was content in that.

To-do Lists and Chicken Soup

Lists help me stay sane. I haven’t always been this way – in fact, I remember my friend Amber tell me she liked to write down lists that sticking in my head in college. It’s therapeutic to me now it’s the little bit of hand writing I get in this digital world and I’m able to transfer any anxiety of any task to the paper once it’s on there. It helps me be more thorough and make the most of my time.

One of the beautiful things I am seeing is that menial tasks are showing up less as I minimize more. Things that required daily attention only need weekly attention now, in some cases. This is a result of less stuff to clean/put away and working on methods to get things done more efficiently but also choosing not to create new projects I cannot devote time to (the last one being the hardest for this scatterbrained multitasker.)

I would love to get to a point of optimizing my life where I could be a good and hospitable person and not worry about my room and surroundings being a train wreck. I recognize this is both a physical stuff thing and an attitude change. I want to be able to embrace rather than fight the hotel my home can be sometimes and focus on the people not the stuff around that makes it uncomfortable to have them there. As much as I kick and scream at the relatives and friends and just how much traffic we get at the house, there is a sweetness to knowing our home is well loved and people feel at home here.

One of the sweetest examples of hospitality I’ve seen lately is through a lady in our non profit planning group. She primarily helps with silent auction items. Since we live pretty close to each other and she isn’t always able to make the Saturday morning meetings, I’ve been offering to pick up/drop off items and take them to the meet. We live about 20-25 minutes away from the meeting spot, and she has school aged kids in sports and other activities on the weekend. I let her know it would never be a problem for me to drop by because it’s a lot easier for me to hop in my car than wrangle some kids with different schedules and homework and she laughed. 😉 We don’t speak much outside of drop off/pick up. I text her that I’m there and she always comes out and spends a few minutes talking to me. Not about the event, but actually about my day and whatnot. And she always asks me if I’ve had dinner yet and lets me know she made plenty. And if I say no (I always say no) she always asks me if I’m sure.

She hardly knows me, only needs to know my name and number, and yet she goes out of her way to make sure I’m not hungry, because there’s chicken soup inside her home. Her home, where her kids and life is. Where she got a 5 minute warning that I was on my way and probably didn’t spend that 5 minutes scrambling to clear the place just in case I said yes. What a heart check for me.

People over things. Never the other way around.

A Late Bloomer, A Once Dormant Seed

Do I know myself? 

The obvious answer is, “Who could know you better?”

As easy and sufficient as a yes could be, the truthful answer is, “I’m still getting there.”

I am a late bloomer in the sense that I have only spent a handful of years searching, discovering and asserting things that makes me essentially Laura.

As a person pleaser, it has taken me YEARS to be open, honest, and consider MY feelings being of equal importance. The idea of taking and giving is hard for me. I have a hard time opening up but I want to speak up when needed and know it’s okay. I have the right to voice my opinions. I have the right to communicate my feelings even if they won’t be well received. It always shocks me when I do speak up how much I audibly needed to hear it.

As a goody two shoe growing up in a highly conservative and religious environment, I held back so much of myself trying to fit a mold. I love Jesus. I also love secular music, fantasy and supernatural movies, all types of art, and don’t always see things as black and white. And others don’t fit the mold so well either, but I didn’t honestly know that because we, myself included, were so bent on seeming perfect. I hid all the parts of me I thought were weird or that others wouldn’t like. The truth is despite scoffing at legalism, it was a cloud that hung low and was always on my mind. Shaking off that fog has been GREAT for my faith. I want to be real with people.

I’ve only diversified, traveled, and encouraged my own thinking since about 23. My bubble growing up was pretty tiny. I’m naturally introverted and have always been a family girl and homebody. I grew up with both parents working and they never made it a big deal to set up play dates or whatnot. My brother actively sought out friends and hangouts, but I was quiet and internalized my loneliness. How could they know I wanted more if I never said anything? I kind of settled. I was group bullied by girls in my 4th grade class and physically abused by a guy in public school that threatened to kill me if I ratted him out and in hindsight, should have had some counseling. I was removed from public school and homeschooled, which was a great opportunity, but I also carried a bitterness and apathy from those experiences. People betrayed, people hurt me, people weren’t worth investing it. So I shut almost everyone out. It took some unwavering friends and leaning on my faith to get me out of that pit. I had to figure out that others were also hurting and that I couldn’t show Jesus’ love with that attitude. I had to invest in people even if it was hard.

As a teen and young adult, I never really said yes to socializing events/self-building opportunities. I also wasted too much time using what opportunities I had going to malls with people instead of really talking deeply with them and rooting our relationships. It wasn’t until the latter half of my college career that I was in an area that wasn’t predominantly white. I enriched myself in different cultures by getting to know students of other nationalities and through college classes. I realized there was so much more. As my friends moved away, I slowly started taking solo flights and losing the anxiety of being alone in a new space. At 25, I moved out and liberated myself with the idea of being self-sufficient. I finally found a new home church around 26 and a church body that was what I needed. At the end of 27, I realized stuff and clutter was dragging me down and now I am more mindful of who I am and what I need physically and mentally.

– I’ve grown to love myself and take me as I am. With mindfulness and the body positivity movement and embracing feminism, I am more aware and accepting of myself. Yes, I am fat – I’m not longer scared of that word or what it means. It doesn’t hold power over everything else I am, and I have a lot more than pounds to offer. I’ve realized that even though I don’t feel able, I have so much potential and it is worth it to try and take risks.

There are some people in their late teens/early twenties that I look at and think, “Wow, I wish I was that self-aware at their age.” But I know I’m not the only late bloomer. There are many of us, and rather than looking at years wasted or not given their full potential, we should celebrate that our petals have opened, and we have so much more to see and to be.

Yes, I was dormant: I was a seed waiting for the right conditions to sprout. And I have sprouted. And I am growing.

8 Months

My non-profit planning meeting just finished, and I had just grabbed a simple bite to eat, and hit the road to my brother’s place.  Almost every weekend there’s been a call asking if I can help with the baby while they gain some sanity. Not because my sweet nephew is an inconvenience, but because my brother’s concussion is still alive and well 8 months after the accident.

My SIL just got Kai fed and napping and placed him in my arms. My brother just got up to get some small tasks done — and boom: one of the most painful migraines he’s experienced in months hits. I sat on their couch rocking the baby ever so slightly to keep him soundly asleep as his father wept at the kitchen table not even 20 feet away.

If you saw my brother, you would usually hear cheer in his voice and the soundness of his intelligence as he engaged in a deep conversation with you despite having a constant headache. You would assume he was fine. Sometimes I even forget for a split second. And then, moments like this occur when you really see the monster rear its ugliness.

My brother called out for my SIL to make some quick food so he could eat and take his medication. His words were trembling and she quickly put something together and stroked his back and spoke gently with assuring words to him. His weeping was only stifled enough to swallow the meager meal in front of him so he could safely take the prescriptions lined in front of him. R counted out the dosage of multiple things and made sure in the fog of emotions and pain N could follow and confirm.

It was like watching the most heart-wrenching play unfold before me and I tried to stay quiet and bat the tears away from my eyes. This has been N and R’s reality for 8 months. This has been little Kai’s reality for 7 months – his entire life so far. It’s been mommy running around trying to clean the house, trying to make enough money to pay the medical bills, trying to do her best choosing to exclusively nurse while taking daddy to multiple appointments each week. It’s daddy trying to keep him entertained while bracing through a war of emotion and constant pain. It’s mommy holding back a break down because her home is a mess and she hasn’t had a moment to compose alone in close to a year.  It’s daddy feeling powerless and trying to fight feelings of depression and inadequacy as a husband and father and fighter.

To be honest, most weekends I feel like I’ve cut myself short because of the 12+ hours I am there when they call. But how could I say no? How could I not do what I can to give them the smallest flicker of stability when this is their reality? This is more important. So I rock the baby ever gently and put off the piles of laundry and whatnot that await me at home for a weekday.

So 29 Happened. Still Quarter-lifing?

Guys. I’m 29 now. My last little slice of 20’s.

I’m not sure how much longer I can claim quarter-lifing. If this is a quarter I’ll be making newspapers for being the eldest woman in my county or something. Hah! But I’m not also into my thirds, God willing! I’d like to live past 60 if that’s in His plan. So I’m kind of floating. I’m still dealing with a lot of quarter-lifer issues, so I think the blog name still is very fitting.

My birthday was a mixture of doing taxes, dog sitting, just chilling with my boyfriend, and then a delicious teppanyaki dinner (my first teppan ever).

Being a glass half full person and someone who likes new starts, I’m sure I’ll embrace 30 next year like a boss. I’ll be pumped to enter a new decade of life and ready to take it on. This year being the tail-end of a decade though? That was kind of hard on me. Am I wrapping up my twenties right? Am I where I need to be? Did I do enough? Those kinds of thoughts went through my mind.

To be honest, as a teen, I thought I’d get a good job straight out of college, be married by 27/28 and ideally have my first kid by 30. I’d be so well into my career I could freelance and do the whole STAHM/lady boss mom thing. But the reality is I’m not married yet and that doesn’t bother me. I’m more hard pressed about my job. I have a great job with solid benefits. It’s not in any way ideal, but it’s close to home and pays the bills with a little extra. It’s not anything to brag about or that would make me notable in the design world though. I also live in an area that is high cost so things like buying a house seem like a world away. And I guess part of my humble pie is realizing the greatness I wanted as a teen is going to take more effort than I’ve put in and longer than I desire. And so does the rest of plan A.

In 2015 I promised a whole bunch of stuff and it didn’t all work out, and in 2016 my birthday was spent at the hospital as my uncle was dying, so I’m keeping 29 year old plans simple.

1. Open that darn IRA/IRA-ROTH already!
2. Continue to learn about adulting in the realm of finances and “future” smarts
3. Get myself on a better habit/schedule of life tasks. And that includes self care
4. Work on keeping up to date with design skills
5. Spend more quality time studying my faith and acknowledging God’s work in my life
6. Be braver in making local friends.

The Silence is Dumbing

There are days where I clock in and clock out and in those 8 hours have never spoken a word.

There are days where the only dialogue I get outside of my house is the total charged for my groceries.

There are days I spill my guts through texts and emails because that’s the only outlet I have.

I feel like my conversational skills have atrophied and when I open my mouth, I am clueless on how to share what I’m thinking or don’t even know what to say. As my mouth moves, my brain cringes at the vomit I half-heartedly conjured.

I feel like sometimes I disregard my feelings because it’s too hard to accurately portray them. Or I don’t sufficiently give my cause. And I hate that, because those are the only swords I have that convey mental capacity and tenacity.

I feel like my vocabulary and thoughts only work on paper or typed out from a keyboard.

One of the compliments I have often genuinely received from others is that I’m a good listener. I wish I could equally project myself and cultivate my speaking ability to match my propensity to listen.

I do enjoy listening. But I also want to be heard.

Regret on Repeat

This year so far has gone very well for mental health and well being. I feel balanced, positive, and have been good as far as being present and taking things one day at a time. Last Friday, however, I felt like I blew it.

Work has been a bit awkward lately as we tackle extra projects and everyone is waist-deep in their work. This meant less communication and a monthly meeting being delayed for nearly two months. In that period of time, I did my best to seek out and persistently take on what I could but communication was more minimal that usual. I kept telling myself this next meeting I’d finally get everything straight.

The meeting came around, my portion was rushed in about 10 minutes, and the flurry of other information caught me off guard. Anxiety crept up and I realized but couldn’t control the onslaught of nervous and not-nearly-effective questions I contributed and I felt compulsive and incompetent for the group discussion. It was just not a good meeting. In the end the moderator asked if next group some of us felt comfortable leaving figures in a small sector’s hands and I hastily volunteered to sit that meeting out. I felt like I made such a mess.

That night my head spun and the feelings of regret and replays of the meeting flooded my head. It took a lot of effort to finally fall asleep. You win some, you lose some. I’m glad the next day was filled with fun at a theme park with cousins so I could destress.

What I couldn’t take into consideration  was that at that meeting, it was pointed out that the ads I designed were top scoring for the publication. And yes, that is a team effort to put together, but also equally my merit and design work as the graphic designer. I might have felt like a failure and even seemed awkward to my peers, but the proof is in the pudding that I am able to contribute to the company and our efforts.

This evening, now that my mind is clear, I think I’ll pour myself a big cup of coffee and untangle the emotions and try to come to terms with both the positives and negatives. The positives to encourage me, the negatives to mental prepare for how I can perform better next meeting.

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I stood at church this Sunday and watched the light on the first advent candle [hope] flicker. Considering that I had no clue what an advent wreath was 5 years ago, I am quite thankful my church has one! The first week of advent, with three remaining. And here I am still detoxing from Thanksgiving gorging and family feels. As I see each candle lit consecutively it reminds me to reflect and shows me how short Christmas season really is.

I feel like holiday seasons pass by so much quicker as an adult. Does anyone else feel the same? And with Christmas being a time we give gifts, it can easily become more consumer focused than Christ focused.

I’m working on getting decorations up this week because they help remind me that there is more to this season, even if it’s just awe as I watch the Christmas lights sparkle and ponder Jesus taking human form (fully man, fully God) as I gaze at the nativity set.

I’m also working on an advent calendar for my nephews. I thought about my small but important part in their lives right now and how this Christmas I could make a spiritual impact rather than just giving a toy. I’ve decided to hand make an advent calendar for them with verses each day about the Christmas story with room for reflection and their parents to make it more of a devotion if they wish. I’ll also include some fun, of course. I have candies, stickers, and dollar bills to stuff in there as little gifts as they open one each day. I feel like this is the perfect year to give it now that the eldest is a great reader and the littlest is able to sit still and engage in the activity.

I need to clarify that I am doing this with their parents’ permission. I feel it very important, especially regarding spiritual things, that I get permission and that I do not overstep the parent’s spiritual instruction in their children’s lives as they are the main source and have a big responsibility before God to keep. But in this way, I can do my part this season to share Christ with them in a very special way.

Do you or your family have special traditions that help you remember the reason for the season?

Pragmatic Presents and a Kubo Review

Have I mentioned that my boyfriend is awesome? I managed to miss Kubo and the Two Strings in theaters and was super bummed, so when I saw it playing at our discount theater, I jumped on it. I asked him to get tickets and be there before me since he had the day off from working the weekend and I’d join him at the showing ASAP after work. I got there with a couple minutes to spare and was greeted by his smiling face with tickets in hand AND two of my choices of movie candy to pick from. I probably didn’t need a bag of sour patch watermelon, but it made my day in thoughtfulness. I’ll segway into thoughtfulness in gifting now and end with the Kubo Review (scroll down if gift giving thoughts sound booooring)…

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there is the topic of holiday shopping. Minimizing this year has left me with a more sensible eye and part of that is wanting to give (and receive) pragmatic presents. It matters more than ever that my gift is both thoughtful and useful. I used to search out the most unique gift I could find for people because I felt that it showed the most effort. However, many of these unique gifts, while meaningful, didn’t really have a purpose outside of looking pretty or being different from the rest. I’m consciously removing things like stuffed animals, nerdy notions that are too novel to use, nic nacs, dime-a-dozen beauty/fragrance/accessories, seasonal decor, and clothing that hasn’t been requested. While those items may fit a particular person and situation, they will no longer be items I purchase as general gifts.

The hardest part for me to mentally tackle was the fact that for some people, a thoughtful gift IS a gift card or cash because that’s what they really want or need. I personally used to think if I didn’t give them an item I wasn’t showing an effort or that I truly cared. I finally understand now that I’m wasting my time and effort to get something they may or may not use verses letting them pick out something perfect. I can easily express that effort in a handwritten letter/card that goes with the gift or by including a little something I personally know they enjoy with it. This is something that requires discretion, of course, but many times, people who want gift cards are vocal about it or extra particular about what they want.

Here is my holiday gift thought process:
1) Is it something they will like?
2) Is it something they will use?
3) How often will it be used? How practical is it?
4) Will it bring them joy?

If I were to let others know what/what not to get me, it would be please no clothes, scarves, ponchos, socks, lotions, nail polish, and body sprays, and yes please to books, art supplies, experiences, and music. The older I get the more I like gifts that require the gifter to do something with me. I like “take you to lunch/movie/beach” gifts because their true gift is their company and quality time spent together. I also like when the gift is sharing something they really love with me. That might be getting me a CD from their favorite artist so I can experience them too (even if I don’t end up liking them as much or just think it’s “ok”) or perhaps making me a meal that involves a family recipe passed down from generations.  I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m straining their wallet and at the same time I do feel like they are priceless gifts.

Now for Kubo and the Two Strings. This movie blew away my expectations. For one, the stop motion quality and imaginative design was breathtaking. It also doesn’t fit the emotional but safe trope of children’s animated films. Loss, identity, forgiveness, compassion and gratitude are very difficult themes to tackle and it gives the film a sense of maturity As a lover of fairy tales, I appreciate when tragedy isn’t sugarcoated but is overcome. The idea of bad things happening but looking for good and continuing to do what’s right is not only important in storytelling but in life. I also loved the sense of community felt at the end.

I wasn’t sure how to feel initially. There’s this little boy and his mom dies and his aunt and grandfather want to pluck out his eyes. Yeah – that premise is super creepy and doesn’t sound like something parents would want to take their kids to. But it all makes sense in time. There are some scary elements and the loss of a parent, so it’s not something I’d recommend for children under 10. But for the kids old enough, it is a journey for the eyes and the heart.

Test Results are In!

All the results are back.

I do not have a blood clot. 
I do not have liver and kidney issues. 
My ticker is doing just fine. 

This has been a very expensive process, but so worth the peace of mind! I was really stretched in my faith, and I needed that. Learning to lean on God and trust His will is hard. I don’t even want to dare say that I wholly leaned and trusted the whole time. But I got so much closer. I’m humbled, and mindful of how hard it was; on how much I have yet to grow in the area of trust.

I think the height of my surrender was last week, trying to get a last minute appointment to figure out the test results, and crying in the car and giving it all up to him. At that moment, I knew I could handle whatever was happening, big or small. I actually found it easier to trust God with my health, and harder to find that big faith in paying for all the extra expenses of the medical fees coupled with an upcoming car fix. I’m ashamed to admit that, but want to be real. Did God handle it all and help me figure out how to handle it all? Of course.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we remember to give thanks and find gratitude and I know this small trial is actually something I’m thankful for. I’m glad that I was able to go through this to grow my faith in the Lord. Is the issue gone? No. But I don’t have to worry about a horrible underlying cause.

I hope despite some of the excessive worry and financial freaking out, I was able to bring God glory in this. I am so grateful that no matter how the results could have come back, my God is there for me.