Creatures of the Night

Sky reflects the ebony
Of the asphalt under foot
Grab one cart and stroll
Through a grocery store
There’s no list
Just listlessness
As I’ve often brought before.

Creatures of the night
Weighing apples
Reading labels
Checking cartons full of eggs
Chucking in a loaf of bread
Hoarding sections to themselves
Walking in the dust
Of where others have tread.

Where were you
When the warm light
Was on your shoulders
Basking in the
Golden glow
Or earning pennies
For your keep
Why walk these vacant aisles
When most others are asleep?

And I wander
Alongside them
Past the yogurts
Past granola
Scanning red tags and
Sales signs
Tallying what’s
In hand

If I gave away my secret
They would scurry
On their way
If I admitted
Too many people
Would be here
In the day

Too many to wonder
Who they are
To see them as
Individuals
When I’m
Dodging my cart out of the way

But at night
We all are people
And as I pass
I wish them well
Though they only do their shopping
And have nothing to tell

Does Anyone Have it All Together?

You’ve heard it before: “They seem to have it all together.”

That person looks like they are the model citizen – someone to aim to be like in most if not all ways. They’re rational, inspirational, well-rounded, innovative, and just seem to have everything going in their favor. From what we can see, through our rose colored glasses, their life is envious. We examine our own lives and beat ourselves over where we think we fall short in terms of personal or societal expectations.

Does anyone have it all together?

The high school sweethearts are finally married and have a love story that would compel Nicholas Sparks to turn it into a novel. They never expected their small combined income would cause them to move thousands of miles away from where they grew up and desperately miss all their family and friends. And still, they are scraping by.

The successful businessman is at every charity, well loved, and the social media pictures of his lavish vacations with his family cause much envy. Little do they know his 80+ hour work weeks leave him worn and give little time to make memories with loved ones. He treats them all to summer vacation splendors to reconnect and thank them for understanding. Sometimes he wishes he could trade the success for time, but knows he is able to provide a future and financial legacy if he just stays the course.

The budding millionaire has three innovative patents that have enabled her to “get rich quick”.  Growing up with little, her head is spinning when thinking about investments and managing her expanding wealth. Friends and relatives she never figured would leech are pressuring her for loans and pricey gifts and dinners. She is making waves and ready to date after spending years developing her products. But now, she isn’t sure if the suitors are wanting to get to know her or more about the patents or figures.

The county’s brightest student is off to an Ivy League – but his ultimate goal is to be a minister. His family and teachers desperately want to see those smarts equal a high profile job. He wants to do what is on his heart and is passionate about his dreams.

The grace and beauty of her small town is as lovely inside as she is outside. She has looks, smarts, and heart, and is complimented all the time on all three. Even though she is praised often, some jealous individuals try to make life difficult for her just because of her beauty. They are downright rude and constantly looking for flaws to make her seem less perfect. For all the good they have to say, they jab her with remarks about nearing the end of fertility, wasting her looks not thinking about making progeny, and scratching their heads about why with all that she has going for her she can’t “get a man.” They don’t understand the personal standards she has committed to and why she is cautious. She can’t tell them about all the times men have tried to pursue her only to be a notch in their belt or for less than savory intentions, about how she has to be extra careful because her beauty sometimes means unwanted predicaments. They would think she was full of herself to say such things.

No one has it all together. For all the steps we take forward, we encounter new obstacles. Our timelines are unique. There isn’t an ideal for everyone. Our milestones are ours to make, and were never meant to be compared. Just because someone’s struggles seem smaller doesn’t mean it doesn’t takes less out of them. When we pretend others have it all together, we only take the joy out of our lives by pining for something we only see through a lens.

I can choose to look around and feel like I’ve fallen short, or I can choose to look at my own path and see how far I’ve come.

My victories are no less victorious. My struggles are no less real. My journey is mine to take. I’m not going to assume that I, or others, will ever have it all together. Life is happy, sad, joyful, messy, hard, rewarding, sweet, and stressful. Life is not multiple choice, it’s essays. I was never meant to try to glance at others #2 graphite lead filled bubbles and try to copy. I was meant to write my heart out and try my personal best. Just like school days, you finish the last sentence and turn it and sigh deeply. It was hard, but you did what you could with what you knew and the resources you were given. And that’s the same for everyone.

“It’s your body.”

I’m a people pleaser by nature and I also like getting feedback from people I trust and that know my fashion sense. The trouble with online shopping is imagining something on myself while looking at a picture of a size 12 modeling the dress – which fits her beautifully at a size 12 but may not work for my size 20 body type. Sure, I know what I look like in a mirror, but I may not notice that well how a fabric settles on me, or you know, deceive myself by unconsciously sucking it in while I try it on.

While I would never dress FOR my boyfriend [an in, exclusively to please him, or have him control what I wear], I do like asking his opinion especially for things I might wear on a date night with him. Other times, I’ll send him super ridiculous pictures of piercings, haircuts, or fashion statements, just in jest.

More often than not, his reply, first and foremost, is “It’s your body” or “That’s your choice.”

I shouldn’t be surprised by it, but I am every time. That’s the right answer, after all, even if it seems like an easy way out. It’s the best thing he could tell me. Sometimes he follows it up with a comment but sometimes he just stops there.

The only thing he really feels strongly about is my long hair. I get in moods where I want to chop it all off and when I mention a style change he says the same things above, then gently adds, “But I truly love your hair long.” or “Please don’t go too short?”

He doesn’t really identify or put labels on himself unless they are ‘Huge Wrestling Fan’ or ‘Los Angeles Kings Hockey Fan’ so I don’t think he makes it a big deal, but I see it.

I see the whisper of feminism there. Without it being formally mentioned. 

I am so appreciative of his support and love and that he wisely reminds me my decisions are mine. I try my best to likewise consider ways to lift him up and not put gender stereotypical pressures of being “manly” on him. He is a man. He is therefore, manly. He is a larger body type too, and I am working on complimenting his confidence with gifts of well-fitting apparel and appreciating his dress. He’s not a big shopper but I hope that the next time he asks for advice I can readily say as he does, “It’s your body”; “That’s your choice.”

New Book!

I know I know… I still owe you guys a review on The Best Yes. But, this is my current read and one that comes at a great time since I’m in the middle of purging and organizing for a move. 11781896_10153298164403855_4457894800438684343_n
 I’m only 30 or so pages in but I’ve already had one good thing come out of it. Yesterday I decided to redeem a peel off at a fast food chain and coupled that with a coffee and sat down to read. A little later a man sat down a few tables away and opened up what looked like a Bible. The pages were tattered and torn. Part of his reading was a section that fell out and he brought it up close to his face to read it and gingerly turn the page.

Just minutes before I thought about the whole spark joy thing and how horrible it was that I had “stocked up” on Bibles like it was a novelty when God’s word is so special and could be shared with others. And here was a man who loved his Bible and possibly needed a new one.

I read some more and finished my coffee and walked over.

“It’s refreshing to see you reading your Bible in public” I said.

“Amen. Are you a follower of Christ?” He asked.

We probably chatted for about 15 minutes. I found out where he fellowshipped and what he considers his ministry and asked him to tell me more about his Bible. I told him many Bibles in that condition are because they are well loved and consequently well used. I told him I felt led to give him a bible and he said he would take it.

Now, this Bible wasn’t the best bible out there. It’s small and travel sized but the full old and new testament in a great easy to understand translation. And while I don’t think his studying Bible will change, it may be a tool for what he likes to do. He likes to talk to people and go door to door and ask people if they need help with anything around the house or need prayer. And a travel size Bible with all its pages in tact would be great for that. 🙂

I’m grateful that God orchestrated that little meeting, and that my little Bible, often neglected and sitting in my trunk, can now “spark joy” in his life.

Why Minimalism is Not my Living Style…

So you guys know from recent posts that I am in the middle of a great purge and downsizing. The main reason is practical – not having more than I have room for. However, the secondary reason, nearly as important as the first, is, “Is this purposeful?”

Here’s why I like stuff:

1. I like stuff because it holds a memory.

The coins from my trip to Southeast Asia. The ticket stubs from some awesome concerts. The doodles from high school before I had any formal art training. The snow globe from Seaworld that encapsulated a picture of my family from 1998.

2. I like stuff because it reminds me I’m taken care of.

Extra boxes and cans in the pantry mean I can have people over for dinner on a whim or survive a bad earthquake. Extra clothes means more options to express my style. Excess in general means I’m blessed with more than enough.

3. I like stuff because I can share it.

One of my love languages is gifting people my time and treasures. Time is fickle because sometimes there’s a lot to share, and sometimes there’s not. But stuff? I tuck away items I get a good deal on or that remind me of someone so that I always have a personalized gift on hand. Something that says I took time and considered their interests.

4. I like stuff because I’m visual.

My mood can change because I walked outside and noticed the clouds were nice and fluffy and the sun highlighted the trees so that they glowed. In the same way, walking into a room with fun art and objects helps me unwind or find bliss. I feel happier with things around me rather than empty walls and few accents. Conversely I know people who find that stuff stressful and overwhelming and need a “clean” or streamlined feel. We’re all different.

5. I like stuff because it fuels creativity and can actually help me be frugal.

Art and craft supplies bought on sale or with a 40% off coupon save a lot of money. And having things around the house help me stay creative which is something I inherently crave both as a person and for my profession. The problem here is not having direction and dipping my fingers into too many pots. Scrapbooking and stamping are just not things I’m really into if I’m honest with myself and they take up a fair amount of space. So it’s better to donate those supplies and keep room for paper crafts, painting, and mixed media projects.

I think it’s important for me to note that I’m visual and not minimalist by nature to understand that is not where my heart is and not my goal at this time. I have a lot of clothes but few fit me well. That doesn’t translate simply into tossing 3/4 of my closet. I need to dig further. Purposefully. The reasons are not just material. I struggle with weight. This means not letting extra clothes be my comfort blanket and not buying things just because they fit me okay. But it also means reminding myself to stay the course for weight loss plans. To feel better and fit better in what I wear. And to not forget confidence.

I have a lot of art supplies not being used. Books that are stacked in a “to-read” pile. Why am I not doing what I love? What is using up my free time? Why am I not doing things that unwind and inspire me?

I have 5 cans of tomato paste. Why? I didn’t shop intentionally, that’s why. I’m not keeping good record of what I have.

When I ask questions like this, I am considering so much more than the object. And that’s what’s important right now. Intention, purpose, and practicality.

Thick. Thin. Fitting in.

I stumbled upon this entry today:

http://www.unlockingthebible.org/thin-western-cult/

I thought it was a pretty good read. It was a good reminder to not let peer pressure or trends decide what is ideal for my body.

Two thoughts though –

1. In earlier times, plumpness was a sign of health or abundance. It was good to see one well fed and healthy. Thin might have been interpreted as underfed, or possibly not well.

2. The passages mentioned in the Bible are from a lover to his love. This is an intimate portrait he paints. In the same way, every man and woman has their own idea of what is lovely in the sense of personal preference.

Some may enjoy shorter, taller, thinner, larger…it’s not a one size fit all guide. And ultimately, other people’s preferences should not sway one’s opinion of self.

“How do you like you?” I want that question to be enough. 

I want to be sensitive to ladies who have the opposite problem I do. I tack weight on easily…some are unable to gain despite a healthful diet. I’m on the other side of the issue, but I get it. And while the world may cast different labels and judgements on us based on our sizes, the root of the above article brings up a good point: how do we let cultural idealism define our personal goals? If we let the ideals in, are they being harmful?

For me personally, these struggles come in the form of gym/health culture and fashion. I want to be physically conditioned for the benefit of strength and toning, not for show. I struggle with the model-type fitness gurus on social media teaching me new workout moves. I know that if I “keep it real” with myself I know I want to look like them but also that my results will probably entail loose skin and stretch marks. I look at fashion magazines and feel like I’ll never find myself at a size small enough to “pull off” a certain look or heck, even fit the sizes they carry. I’ll toss $100 at the health store pretending organic this and nutritional that will magically transform me because it’s “healthy.”  But those aren’t where my focus needs to be. So, my personal resolve was to stop fashion magazine subscriptions and look for more realistic health and fitness gurus on youtube rather than stick to just top names in the fitness world.

When I’m honest with myself and ask, “How do you like you?” What do I see?

I see a 180 pound gal, not the 125-135 I should be according to BMI. I see myself dressing relatively the same because I like comfortable fashion and more modest options. I don’t see prominent abs or a body built for a fashion magazine. I just see a feeling of efficiency and contentment from hard work.

And that’s when I remind myself, “Laura, that’s where you want to be. That’s where you like you.”

Closer

“So are you guys close?”

There have been three questions I’ve heard on repeat since my brother got engaged.

1. “Ohh, will you be a bridesmaid?!” (No.)
2. “So, when is it your turn?” (Oh, bug off… This is not about me.)
3. “So are you guys close?”

Sometimes it’s a “How do you two get along?”

And the answer to the third question is tough. Am I close to my future sister-in-law? I’ve know her for about as long as my brother’s dated her. Six years. We know quite a bit about each other. But, in those six years she’s been off to college, then out of country for her job, and I moved out of my parents. I haven’t seen or spent much time alone with her. Which is not what I expected. I expected my future sis to reflect Nathan’s personality completely: sometimes loud, often funny, very outgoing, and a big conversation starter. Which is she not. She is complimentary to him and unique. Her replies are often diplomatic and carefully spoken before opinionated and sarcastic. I basically put all these expectations on my future sister in law and found out she wasn’t what I planned but is everything I wanted. But you know, I expected us to magically be BFFs since day 1.

She loves my family. She genuinely cares about all of us. Even the family dog.  She loves my brother wholeheartedly. They are totally devoted to each other. I admire how both have grown and planned for their upcoming big day. They’ve endured rough times and know how to resolve quarrels lovingly. Seriously, no one could be more perfect. And she helps challenge areas where he needs change.  She brings new perspective and ideas. She is brilliant and self motivated and I love that. I admire her resourceful nature and gravitate towards her ideas and am inspired. What more could you want in someone marrying your brother?

Wedding planning and all the life events leading up have given us more time together. Through all the planning before the wedding day, I’ve gotten some precious candid moments with her. Times where we joke together, conspire to bake brownies, just talk about our day, and do little things. And in those moments I realize how she’s evolved since day one and how our relationship has grown. How we’re more open with each other about big things but also able to chit chat and be comfortable in each other’s presence. And I realize we are getting there. We are closer. And I have all their married years to  grow even closer. To finally say, “Yes. We’re close.”

Purging Update

This is taking much more effort than I thought. I think I like “stuff” too much.

Clothes given to friends: 5
Clothes in a box to be donated: 37
Bags of trash: 3

I still have a lot to do. I’m finding I’m a hoarder. I find safety in numbers and buy things in BOGO sales and hardly find myself using products until the bottle is empty. Take for example the Victoria Secret sprays I’ve had since college….why are they still around? And when did I truly need to buy 5 all at once? Makeup too…if I’m honest I only rotate through 10 items and have a lot of junk I never use. That’s going to go. Office supplies? Art Supplies? Those items are dangerous. I’ve got a problem with having too much but conversely, buying those items on sale is crucial otherwise they can cost me significantly more.

Goals for this week:

1. Clear the laundry baskets that are perpetually full of folded clothes. I either have space to hang them or they’re not worth keeping.

2. Organize my office and art supplies so they can be kept in one area neatly in sterilite drawers.

3. Weed out accessories. Yeah Claires earrings with animals, I’m talking about you. Yeah green tinted cheap stuff I shouldn’t be wearing around my neck or putting in my ears, I’m talking to you.

4. Work on putting things away immediately.

Taking time today to finish my Lysa TerKeurst book! Review coming soon.