One Last Hoorah

I paused for a moment last week and thought about how blessed I am this year. If everything works out, I will see three of my closest friends that live far away.

I got to see B and her family in Arkansas.
I got to see N and her family before their long distance relocating to Connecticut.
I get to see H and our mutual friend A and have fun with them this fall.

And, hopefully, fingers crossed and heart longing, I will get to see M and his family in Massachusetts next year, and maybe make a pit stop in Connecticut to see N again.

My friend, N, just had her second child this April and I was sad that I probably wouldn’t get to meet the newest member of her family before their move from the pacific northwest to east coast. As a military family, they have been stretched so much with this moving process, and I can only imagine the difficulty of traveling across the country with a car loaded to the max, a mischievous cat, a preschooler, and 3 month old baby. They rented out their home, were ready to hit the road, and then her hubby was extended a week at their current location. Her husband never even got time off to help pack up the house, and they had to live in a hotel another week, cutting into their travel time.

Needless to say, when I found out in their crazy move they managed to plan a few days in California, I was ecstatic. I’m grateful that N and her Mom and siblings so graciously shared their limited time and let me come over and hang out with them all.

I love being honorary auntie to N’s kids and it’s so fun watching them grow. Her daughter is counting and picking up simple addition all on her own, and she is a riot to watch imaginative play as she makes the best sound effects and scenarios for her little figures and dolls. I’ve seen her go from forming basic phrases to chattering away. She’s going to be so smart and make friends easily when she gets to be school aged. The little one is the easiest baby ever, and coos more than any baby I’ve ever met. He is all smiles and so alert. He intently stares at intricate things and I think he might be attracted to art later and have an attention to detail like his Momma.

Our last hoorah included many laughs and hugs. “I’m only a couple hours from Boston and New York!,” she teased, “and we have a lot of shopping and exploring to do when you visit!”

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Moments as Souvenirs

The last few years, as the friends closest to me move states away, I realize that the object of my vacations are moments together rather than sightseeing. Since everyone’s so scattered it has been fun to see their new haunts and homes and see what their state is all about.

This past trip was a long time coming. It’s been three years since I’ve seen this best friend and family (I did see her briefly last year when she flew out alone for her grandfather’s memorial.) I pretty much have best friends and then acquaintances, so I don’t mean to have her sound like she’s the only one that matters, but sometimes in life, you are so close to someone you are practically sisters/family. That’s the case here. She pursued a friendship with me during a dark time in my teens where I lost hope in people. From there, I stuck by her side through some heavy stuff in her life. We’ve seen the worst and best of each other, and because of that, we have a bond that is unbreakable. And as her family grew, I was at each birth and am an honorary auntie to her three precious boys.

Her youngest wasn’t even one when they moved, and I was nervous about how long it would take to warm up to me. We skype and my friend mentions me often, but three years is a long time for young kids. When they picked me up, the younger 2 were there and staring/adoring me. I had to stifle a cheesy grin and pretend I didn’t notice it. They wanted to reacquaint with me and that was taking in every detail of what I looked like. The littlest one was talkative and chattered with me right away. The middle smiled but was soft spoken the first day. The eldest was in bed by the time I got to their place, but the next morning, he hugged me and it was like old times.

God has been working great things in this family and it was so neat to just be a part of their week. All of them are doing so well there, and I can’t even selfishly wish they’d move back. I know they are where they should be and they flourish here. I am so proud of the life my best friend and her husband have made for themselves here.

The sweetest parts of the trip were all of us in the car getting eldest brother to school and praying all together before they got to the school. And all of us gathered, mommy, daddy, the kids, and me – holding hands and praying together at bedtime. And of course, hearing three little voices tell me throughout the day, “I love you, Auntie Laura.”

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Making lego gummies and gummy bears with Auntie Laura.

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At the waterfall fifteen minutes from their home. Yeah, it’s crazy. There’s water everywhere here.

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Pedis with the bestie!

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Frozen custard – A local favorite!

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Another spot not even 15 minutes away with gorgeous waterfalls.

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The rock formations and lushness around it just makes it even more breathtaking.

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So much green! So much water!

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Turtle boy! One of the funniest moments! The youngest is such a goofball! He was playing in his carseat, collapsed in it all buckled in, and started walking around like a turtle.

It was hard to say goodbye the last day. I know I’ll be back, but I also know an annual trip isn’t going to happen, so it’s bittersweet. My best friend and I talk nearly everyday though. We stay close mostly through messaging each other and social media and skyping.

I came back feeling really rested, really loved, and full of love. ❤

 

You are attractive. Incredibly attractive.

Ladies, when’s the last time you thought about how attractive you are? Are you disgusted or accepting of your image of you? Or perhaps you know you are and love it?

I think in a world that wants us to turn heads with body language and sex appeal, or find approval of ourselves through others’ opinions, it’s important to step back and see your attractiveness in your own eyes.

Look at your body, and think of how incredible it is. You can lose or gain weight to better your health. Your body is able to stretch to grow a baby or flex some mighty muscles. Whether you are tall curvy all over, petite and slender, or some other combination, your form is womanly without trying. Your body is powerful and provocative without ever showing any of it off. Your hair, eye, and skin color? All of that is an awesome combination God picked out for you and is part of what makes you unique. There is a specialness in having your grandmother’s eyes and your dad’s nose.

Think of what you’re attracted to when you’re thinking of your boyfriend or potential date material. What is conventional and what isn’t? More than likely, you don’t just like someone for conventional attractiveness. If the idea of tall, dark, and handsome makes you giggle and roll your eyes, then why do you think you need to be some idealized creature? You probably had non-physical traits in there too, didn’t you? Maybe you like someone with a good sense of humor. Maybe you like someone who is confident and fearless. Maybe you like humbleness or sensitivity. Did you throw in common interests? Maybe they need to be fluent in Marvel and DC comics. Perhaps they need to love pizza as dearly as you do. Did they maybe need to share a sense of adventure for the outdoors? Think of how it is not only the physical traits that make you attracted to others. Think of how others likewise see you as a multifaceted person with interests and passions that also connect you with them. Think of how unique you are and how special it is when there is a common bond.

Let’s take a moment to examine how you project yourself. What do you want to say about you, and how do you want that affecting your allurement? Perhaps you are mindful of your vivacity. You’re loud and animated and you love it and they have to love it too. Or perhaps your passion is spiritual and that is a large priority that you project to potential suitors – they know you are firm in what you believe. Perhaps you are nurturing and you show warmth and care and encourage growth in others and you find that someone with that trait works best so you can be more effective as a couple. Do you consciously put anything out there, looking to find someone that appreciates that projection? Are you aware of how you present yourself to the world? Everyone has something great to project, but sometimes we don’t make it mindful or do so boldly.

Lastly, think of what you personally like about yourself. There is always something, and ideally, there should be many things you can think of because you are truly awesome! Accept that others may think these things are pretty cool too, because more than likely, they do!

You are attractive. You are magnetic to the right people. You have control over what you project. You are worthwhile not because others say so, but because you know so. Don’t ever let self-doubt tell you otherwise. You don’t ever need someone’s approval to know so. Know that you are attractive as you are, outside of other people’s opinions.

You are magnificent and beautiful just being who you are, and being true to that attracts just the right people for you.

Unsolicited Comments : Mark It as Spam

We’ve all gotten comments and opinions we never asked for or invited. Things like:

“Oh, you started working again? I guess your husband’s income isn’t cutting it.”

“Your body may not be ideal but at least you’ve got a beautiful face.”

“It must be exhausting having a downs child.”

“You’re so skinny. I wish I could eat anything and not gain weight.”

“I can’t believe you still use the microwave. It causes cancer.”

Think of these messages of ignorance and stupidity as flagged messages in your inbox and send them to the spam folder.

Do we open messages in our spam folder? No, because based on the subject line, we know the content may be harmful or that the message is meaningless to us.

In that same line of thinking, I’ve been relating it to the unsolicited comments I’ve received in real life. It sucks that sometimes these comments are said by people close to us, but the fact is their comment doesn’t do any good. Before letting a hurtful comment fester – giving time to internalize their words, and opening myself up to their message, I simply sort it to spam. The real life version of “unsubscribe” is to respectfully tell them that topic is off limits, what they said was rude, or brush it off by changing the subject.

Don’t open their loaded email. Don’t let their words ruin your day or get you down. Treat spam as spam: delete. Keep your inbox for what makes you feel good and builds you as a person. Don’t let messages that don’t fit that filter ruin the good stuff.

As a rule of thumb, I also sort gossip to junk mail. Bye bye, BS.

 

Dad and Daughter Time

I feel like growing up, my family kind of divided stuff. I went on outings with my mom, and my brother did stuff with my dad. I was homeschooled by him for a majority of my primary education so it’s not like he wasn’t around or we weren’t close. In fact, he was the relaxed parent and so Nate and I loved spending time with Dad (and sometimes conning him into our shenanigans.) But it seems like once college hit I just kind of let our relationship coast. My brother spent a lot of time with Dad and I figured it was just like when were were growing up.

Now that Dad’s been retired for over a decade, his mannerisms are very routine and sometimes scarily robotic. Like, I could guess that this morning he had a cup of cereal mixed with a single serve container of yogurt and drank coffee black with sweetener. And that by now, he’s probably been to the weather channel to see what kind of conditions our loved ones and friends in other states are being subjected to. I can tell you that around 5pm-6pm the TV is vouched for because it’s time for him to watch the local news. I can tell you that after dinner he hunches over the computer with a pair of headphones watching an episode or two of Netflix. And sometimes, that robotic also includes his interaction or lack thereof with family members. He does his own thing almost like no one else is around. It really bothered me when I moved out. I expected my family to pay some dang attention to me when I was over and made the time to be present, but usually my mom was chatting on the phone or busy cooking and my dad would say hi and go back to his regularly scheduled program.  I know he isn’t aware of this, but for years, I just decided it wasn’t worth it to change anything. Until a few years ago when I realized time is precious. And this year, when my uncle who is only months older passed away.

I feel like this is an area I fail a lot. Sometimes I am cruel to my dad. I hate to say that but it’s true. I don’t know if I feel mentally superior or entitled or that he doesn’t understand me…but it’s not good. Just this past week, in a rush to work, I told him it was worthless for him to wake up and make coffee 15 minutes before I run to work because 70% of the time I’m already about to run out of the door and he’s in my way. What the hell. That was not okay. But it came out. And this week after I made that poor comment, he has slept in and there is no coffee made and no one to share breakfast with. He has poor hearing and sometimes replies yes or uh-huh without letting me know he didn’t hear me. Sometimes he doesn’t hear right and that causes issues too. So yeah, I am sometimes short fused and repeat things until I’m yelling.

Despite some short comings this week, I willed to spend more intentional time with him because my mom was out of town. I proposed a dad and daughter date. We went out to dinner on Wednesday and I felt like what I was able to say was just small talk and felt awkward. But I could tell like all loving parents he was so happy to have me instigate a dad and daughter date. I asked him if he wanted to grab dinner and watch something in theaters. I let him pick the restaurant and movie. By the time I opened the door that afternoon he was ready to go and reminded me several times of the time in anticipation to start our night out. Even though we only small talked it was still nice and he enjoyed both the dinner and the movie we went to see.

Yesterday we also had dinner together and watched it while his 6pm news segment was on. Plates in hand in the living room, watching channel 5 news. We didn’t say much but he enjoyed the food and complimented it several times and was smiling.

I think I’ve learned two things this week. Maybe three. First of all, this intentional relationship thing is harder than I thought and I kind of stink at it. But, two, my dad enjoyed it and saw that I was trying. I think I need to accept that I’m a complex thinker and a very different and sensitive personality type and my dad is not. He’s a very simple, enjoy life and the small things kind of guy. He’s practical and on the range of emotional empathy scores very average while I over analyze everything. If I can remember this and not try to expect too many social cues and responses I think it’ll help me. My mom is more like me, more complex, very sensitive to others reactions and emotions, and reacts more to compliments and general comments. I’ve spent a lot of time appreciating that and not enough time appreciating the benefits of my dad’s personality and personhood. It’s that personality that still got excited for a dad and daughter date the day after his daughter complained about his small act of love of getting up earlier than he likes to make coffee for both of us. The personality who said nothing in response though he has the right to as I ran out the door. The one who selflessly tried several times to let me pick the dinner spot and movie because he wanted me to enjoy it. The one who smiled ear to ear as I walked in after work on Wednesday knowing he’d be spending the whole afternoon with me. ❤

“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.”

Communicating Hurt

I recently had a spat with a lifetime friend and we both were very wounded over what would seem petty to the world.

As an introvert and grand internalizer, I had over thought and over burdened myself with something that became a sore spot. Afraid to hurt her, I repressed previous hurts and tried to deter the course of some teasing with half-hearted blocks like “Don’t be mean…” “Oh, bug off.”

Long story short, we hashed through it and were both wrong in different areas. What I needed to learn was to be direct. Instead of fending off my wounded self, I should of told her plainly, “Stop. This bothers me.”

She expected me to see her teasing as lighthearted but the constant mockery took its toll. I had been indirect and let myself blow up after not handling her words well. Since she felt her words were innocent she was also confused and hurt. Truly, it was a simple misunderstanding.

The beauty of direct communication is not having to read between the lines. We’ve agreed upon a few things to help our relationship grow and to get past this little rut.

Me:
– I am more sensitive than she made me out to be
– I do not speak up about things when I need to so I need to work on it
– I need to watch what is done when I reach a point of anger so there is no regret
– I need to be direct and state how I feel before things go sour

Her:
– She needs to understand I’m sensitive to teasing
– She needs to understand we have very different personalities
– She needs to understand more limited forms of communication like written or typed words do not always reflect tone

I’m hoping this event has helped us prune off some dead leaves so we can flourish again. I’m thankful we’ve worked through it.

The Seven Year Sifter: Keeping Friendships Purposeful Past Their “Prime”

Number 7

Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University [Netherlands] conducted a study about friendship and networks and found that in seven year’s time, one is likely to replace HALF of their friends. This obviously means transitioning out of half the friendships you … Continue reading