24. Maintain relationships with relatives

Cheers to 30

After six years of blogging toward 30, I’m almost there. Tomorrow, I reach this milestone that I thought was so huge when I was 24.

It has been a decade of figuring out who I really am, what I want to do, and who I want to be. I had to figure out how to adult and take care of myself. And now, how to take care of someone else. It was almost a full decade of figuring out how to really love and know someone else. It was figuring out how to really love and know myself.

And it required a lot of trial and error. A lot of change.

When I look back on the past decade, I’ve lived in 5 cities, and at least twice as many dorm rooms, apartments, and houses. I’ve traveled to four continents, somewhere around 20 countries, and met countless people along the way. I’ve lost friends and made friends. I’ve had not only several jobs, but several career paths – all abandoned for a volunteer ministry in Purpose Coffee and the occasional consulting work, stuck in between feedings, diaper changes, and naps. I’ve struggled. And succeeded. Fell on my knees in desperate prayer, and then again in overwhelming thanksgiving.

From sorority girl, to single in the city, to business woman, to farmwife, to stay at home mom. Just when I hit my grove and think I’ve got it figured out, life seems to change pretty drastically.

Through all of this change, I’ve learned a lot about myself. And maybe a little about life in general. As I look back on my 20s, here are some of my biggest lessons learned:

Everyone struggles. Your 20s are hard. No matter what path life takes you on in your 20s – whether you’re married with 3 kids, divorced, single, working, not working, still in school, living on your own, living with your parents, living with three other people in a single bedroom rental – it’s a tough decade. Even though it looks like your friend or that person on Facebook has it all together – I don’t think any of us really do yet.

I heard a theory once that if we could put everyone’s life on a clothes line – with our struggles and joys honestly spelled out – and you could go pick whichever set of circumstances you wanted – we would all go back and pick our own.

So just because you don’t have it together yet, it’s not worth it to beat yourself up – or to pretend like you actually do have it together. Embrace the mess. Be truthful and vulnerable. Connect with people who are right there in the middle of the mess with you.

You lose friends; you make friends. I’ve hurt people, and people have hurt me.

I’m sorry. That we couldn’t communicate. That we didn’t have compassion for one another. That I held onto anger or resentment. That I wasn’t a bigger person.

I’m sad. That we drifted apart. That our friendship ended. That I don’t even know the person I used to care so much about.

But I’m thankful for the season you were in my life. You impacted me, taught me things, shaped who I am today.

I wish we were in a place to just put it all behind us. But, it’s also okay that we are different people now. And sometimes the damage is irreparable – and that’s life.

I’m thankful to start a new decade with only fond memories and no more hard feelings.

There’s power in asking for what you want. This was one of the most important things I learned. In my early 20s, I spent so much time trying to figure out what other people wanted that I often forgot to think about what I wanted. And even if I did know what I wanted, I wasn’t brave enough to say it.

I finally worked up the courage to say what I wanted at work, in terms of responsibilities, hours, and salary. And I said it. Put it into the world. And they said okay. And it came to be. Hmm, that was easy.

Since then, there has been such empowerment in figuring out what I want, saying it, and making it happen. Whether it is through prayer, sending positivity into the world, or making a concrete plan to make those desires come to fruition – knowing what you want and saying it is half the battle.

I can’t force it. Piggy backing on knowing what I want…. I’ve also learned that I can’t force myself to want something. My head can know something is the best choice, but if my heart doesn’t want it, it’s not happening. (For example – I know that exercising is really important and the best choice for my health now and in the future. But my heart isn’t having it. And I cannot force myself to do it.)

So many of my 30 before 30 goals ended up not being in my heart. And they so didn’t get accomplished. I didn’t even try. And that’s okay – I learned something about myself in the process.

And at the same time that I didn’t accomplish so many things, I accomplished a lot in my 20s. When something is in my heart, I suddenly have all the self-discipline and determination in the world. It will happen.

As I conclude this tumultuous decade, I’m proud of what I have accomplished and of the effort I put into learning, experiencing, working, traveling, loving. I’m at peace with what didn’t come to be. And I’m so thankful for the many blessings I’ve had along the way and the help and support from friends and family.

I’m not particularly excited about being 30 tomorrow, but I’m really happy my 20s are coming to an end. I’ll start 30 tomorrow knowing who I am, confident in my marriage, with amazing friends and family beside me, and so thankful for this little life I lead.

Cheers to 30.

Cheers to 30.

 

Real Life

One of my friends texted me that it has been exactly 3 months since my last blog post… And that was several months ago…

I tend to go through blogging dry spells whenever there are negative things going on in my life. I feel inauthentic when I’m in these dry spells, because I’m only sharing the pretty, sparkly, wonderful parts of my life. Painting this picture that all I do is go on vacation and watch pretty sunsets and bake cookies and drink coffee.

I think so many of us are guilty of this – sharing the best parts. The pictures of kids smiling – not the melt downs. Posts about celebrating success – not the work and stress that went into achieving that milestone. Pictures of perfect relationships – and not the work, fights, tears that went into building that bond. And can we really be blamed? Who wants to the world to know about our dirty laundry?

But that “other” part – the unshared part – that is what’s real, raw, vulnerable, deep. That’s where we make real connection with others. That’s where God moves mountains; saves us, transforms us.

I’ve felt convicted lately to step out into my vulnerability. To own and share all parts of my life – not just the pretty. And hopefully, through that, God can work.

Real Life

Real life is messy. And complicated. And overwhelming. It’s tears, and stress, and not knowing how you’re going to get it done, and spilled coffee, and dog hair. Oh, the dog hair everywhere.

And for me, real life right now is infertility. It’s been several months (about since my last blog post) since we got the confirmation of what we had suspected for years. I wouldn’t say I handled it well. At all. I’ve gone through every negative feeling out there. Twice. And then maybe once more.

By holding onto this, I’ve let it rob me of so much.

For months, it robbed me of any hope and optimism. With each piece of bad news, it is easier and easier to sink into the Mind Spiral of the Worst Case Scenario. WebMD didn’t help with that either, I might add.

It has interfered with my friendships and relationships with family. So many people have reached out and offered support – but I just didn’t (don’t?) know how to accept it. In one moment I am so desperate to talk about things, and in the next I am resentful that someone wants me to talk about it. That’s not fair, to anyone.

I’ve let it rob me of the chance to connect with others who are going through or have gone through the same struggle. Through my experiences so far, I’ve learned that so many women face infertility. It’s not a lonely battle – even though that’s exactly what it feels like when you’re in the middle of it. Why is this such a hush hush topic? Why do we not feely share it? Why do we condemn our sisters to silently struggle after us?

I’m by no means at the end of this journey. I’m still standing right in the middle, with no clear picture of how things will progress. I definitely know I’m still in for a whole lot of “real life” and all of it’s complications and mess.

But, I hope to do a better job of sharing that real life.

I hope to accept support and to connect and to repair relationships.

I hope to have hope.

But one thing is certain – I’m not holding onto this anymore. It is God’s now – and His opportunity to move mountains, to save, and to transform.

Costa Rica

I’ve heard it said that Costa Rica is for lovers. So, where better to go and celebrate our anniversary this year?

And Costa Rica definitely lived up to all of the hype. We started our trip staying at Tabacon resort, near Arenal volcano. This place has to be as close to Heaven on Earth as possible. It was so incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

It was the rainy season while we were there, which for us desert-dwellers was much welcome! How wonderful to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of rain! Luckily the rain cleared during the days, so we hiked through the rain forest, swam around waterfalls, and enjoyed the hot springs.

It was also Russell’s brother and his wife’s anniversary, so we met up with them for zip lining and then a few lazy days at the beach.

It was such a great trip, full of relaxation, adventure, delicious food, and wonderful company – it was so tempting to “accidentally” miss our flight and stay in paradise a little longer!

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Happiness Project :: March 31

Each day for the past month (well, MOST days), I took a photograph of something that makes me happy. Some are big. Some are small details in life. All combine for a life full of things to be happy about.

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31 :: My family’s ranch. I love getting to come home to visit my family – and the added bonus of the beautiful land that they live on. Truly, there is nothing more beautiful than the Texas Hill Country in the Spring.

 

Walt Disney World 2012

For Christmas this past year, the Williams clan decided to take a trip to Disney World, along with a few other families from our town. Being adults without any children of our own, Russell and I were a little nervous about this trip. Leading up to the trip, I had nightmares about hordes of little kids at Disney World at Christmastime going crazy, screaming constantly, and throwing fits.

But, the trip turned out to be a lot of fun. Disney was surprisingly lovely at times, the kids in our group all behaved wonderfully, we had some great meals – and it gave Russell and me the opportunity to act like big kids, riding on roller coasters, seeing fun shows, and, of course, making our way around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

And while I’m certainly not hoping to go back anytime soon, I am glad we went!


Click the image above to see my photobook of the trip.

  

Becker Vineyard, Stonewall TX

I’m typing this while sitting on the couch in my parents’ living room. I’ve been visiting them since Wednesday, making Labor Day into a very long weekend.

It’s so interesting to me to visit the area I grew up in, now as an adult. In someways, it’s just like I remember, and in others the area has changed so much – as have I. It’s weird to both be “at home” and a tourist at the same time.

Embracing this “tourist” mentality, we decided to go on a day trip to some Texas vineyards – something I’ve never done before.  Being one of the hottest and driest summers on record, it was probably not the best time to visit the vineyards. But, the tasting rooms certainly offered refuge from the oppressive 104 degree heat.

My favorite vineyard we visited – at least as far asthe wine went – was Becker Vineyard in Stonewall.

Despite being so dry, the setting was still lovely.

For $10, we were each able to pick six wines to sample. Being there with my parents and Russell, we were able to taste each other’s wines and taste the majority of the wines that they offered.

I’m not the most sophisticated wine drinker. In fact, I’m just starting to get into red wines. (I am, however, an avid consumer of white wine!). This Grenache was a wonderful choice for a red wine newbie.

It’s described as a “medium bodied savory red wine, which is a slightly spicy, earthy wine with dried fruit and espresso.” I loved it so much that I used my last two tickets to get more of it!

I think we’ll go back sometime when it’s a little cooler to enjoy their lovely grounds – and the wine – a bit more.

My Grandma’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Instead of going to day care growing up, I was blessed to stay with my grandparents during the summers and after school. In that time we had together, they taught me so much. My grandfather taught me what true love and compassion looks like. How a man can be so strong and yet so kind. That a real man carries a pocket knife. How to garden and grow beautiful things. My grandmother set the example in our family to be a strong, educated, successful woman. She patiently taught me how to sew. She taught me to cook and instilled a passion for baking.

When I was home over for the holidays last winter, I sat down with my grandma to go through the recipes I remember her making when I was growing up. She kept insisting that I take her oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, which I didn’t remember from my childhood. After the fifth time that she insisted I copy that recipe, I took it.

I decided to make them yesterday and instantly remembered the cookies. I remember her making hundreds of them at a time for a prison ministry program that they were involved with. And I remember being a kid wondering why I couldn’t have any of the cookies she was making.

That’s one of my favorite things about making family recipes – the memories that are associated with the food. Forever, these cookies will be associated with the compassion that my grandparents had for others. And how I can – should – strive to be as loving as they were.

5 sticks of softened butter
3 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
5 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
5 cups oats
2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth.

Sift together dry ingredients. Add to above mixture and mix well. Add oats and raisins.

Roll dough into small balls and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon. Bake until lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Makes about 10 dozen two-inch cookies – great for freezing or sharing!


Raising respectable kids

I recently came across a blog about public sexual harassment and catcalling in DC. Although some of the stories are clearly not sexual harassment, some are quite appalling. And apparently, it’s quite common.

I have quite a few comical (read: awkward) experiences with catcalling/getting hit on while living in DC. It’s hard to pick a favorite experience… it’s probably a tie between two: the time that a man in the elevator who was carrying his lunch back to his desk offered to trade me his fruit cup for a relationship. And the time that a homeless man asked me for money (I gave him everything I had in my wallet – $0.10) and then asked me out on a date, proudly reporting that sometimes he makes good money on the streets.

The blog and my plethora of experiences with bold (read: creepy) men has made me wonder why men think it’s okay to act this way. Didn’t their mamas teach them better?

Russell and I often discuss how to raise a son that isn’t an asshole and a daughter who isn’t a slut in today’s society. In our very unscientific and purely experience-based opinion, we decided that having really involved parents—especially fathers—is the key to raising respectable kids. (Not that that is the only factor.)

It’s really amazing the impact that fathers can have. They serve as role models for their sons, while showing their daughters their individual worth in the world. The least amount of interest in the kids’ lives can make a father great. In some cases, just having a father that sticks around can be enough to label him a good father.

Whereas an above-average mother—one who is involved, loving, there day in and day out, but maybe not perfect—can still be labeled as a horrible mother, blamed for all issues a kid has later in life.

Even I, as I meet unruly people (like the men who think it’s okay to trade a relationship for a fruit cup), immediately blame their mothers.

It’s an interesting double standard.

I guess all I can say is thank God I have a great father, and thank God Russell is committed to being a good father someday.