Monday, December 30, 2013

Are you scared? Good. That means you're doing something right.

Fear. You know, that feeling of intense anxiety that creeps up your body from the floor when you are faced with something you don't want to do. Something you're scared of. Something that makes you nervous or uncomfortable. Fear can be a relatively challenging emotion to deal with, because it can often be all consuming.

I have focused the last half of 2013 on facing my fears, specifically those on the emotional level. For the first time ever, I find myself expressing sincere emotion to my family, friends, guys I'm interested in, guys I'm not interested in. Gone are the days that I bottle up the way I feel or leave things out of conversation so as not to have to delve too far into my feelings.

This is not to say that I have been, by any means, dishonest or a liar throughout my life. I'm honest. I always tell the truth. But you can tell the truth without expressing your deepest feelings of things that make you uncomfortable. And I am trying my damndest to not do that. To not keep things on a surface level. To be truly sincere in what I do.

The results have been amazing. I have stronger relationships, deeper friendships, and overall I am just more content and happy because I can go to bed at night knowing that I was genuine with the people around me.

When you tell someone the blunt honest truth about something, they really can't argue with you about it. You've been sincere, and there's not really anywhere else to go from there. Example? You can turn down a date in an "I'm busy" type manner, in an attempt to spare someone's feelings, but they will likely then just ask you out again at a time where you are less busy. You are then face to face with the same scenario - the one where you don't want to be mean but you don't want to date this person. Wouldn't it have just been better to say in the first place, hey I have to be totally honest and tell you that I'm not interested in more than a casual friendship? It may feel awkard at first, but it saves everyone time and energy, and in the end is the better thing to do.

Being honest about my feelings has always been a challenge for me; well, maybe not being honest necessarily, but expressing my feelings vocally. I have a hard time saying out loud what my feelings are, especially when it means a serious conversation must take place. What I have learned this year by practicing, by making it a focal point, is that it becomes easier and easier the more you do it. The more time I spend in meaningful conversation, the more time I spend expressing that I do deeply care about someone, the less often that I say those awful little sentences like "I'm fine," the better things are.

In the same regard, how many things have you missed out on because you are scared? Because you're nervous or uncomfortable? I have made an effort to not skip out on things, to not let fear hold me back from branching out, from trying something new, from accepting a date or a challenge or a project at work. What's the worst that can happen? Maybe I fail, maybe I trip, maybe there's nothing there between me and said date. But at least I tried. I stood up and forged ahead with something (or someone) that made me nervous.

Moving into 2014, what could you be doing differently to embrace your life, to follow your heart? What fears could you be facing?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Viva!! Viva las Vegas...and them Viva a bunch of other places!

Didn't I say 2014 was going to be a year of go, go, go for me? I think I did. And if I didn't say it, I at least thought it in my head.

Here we are, 5 days to the end of 2013, and I have already booked my first vacation of 2014! Kattie and her sisters and I are off to Vegas the 3rd week of January for a long weekend. I can't wait! I haven't met her sisters, but they seem like a good group of girls, and obviously I love Kattie, and I clearly love Vegas, so here I go! We fly in at about 10am on Saturday, and home at 8pm on Tuesday...both of my flights are with Kattie, and we're meeting her sisters there. Can't wait!

Jenny and I have also made two big plans: Europe in July 2014 and Brazil in February, 2015. Lots to plan for there! We are leaning towards Paris, London, and Amsterdam in July...July 14th is Bastille Day in France and I would love to be there during that time, so we'll see what happens with that. And then we're shooting for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, which is the 5 days before Fat Tuesday. So fun!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All that Ho Ho Ho and Mistletoe

Sometimes you just need a simple reminder that Christmas is the time of year to be happy. Whether it has been an easy year or a difficult one, there is always someone out there who wants to make you happy, who wants to bring a little joy your way.

I had a hard holiday season this year. I struggled to remember why we were even having Christmas. I was missing my grandparents, missing the Stacey family Thanksgiving, dreading the Whitmore family everything. I was feeling very Grinchy. And then I just decided to do a few little things to remind myself of what really matters. I baked cookies for my dad. I watched Home Alone. I filled a stocking with toys for Juno. I set up a Toys for Tots donation bin at work and collected over 100 toys between myself and several other property teams. I ordered cake pops & Christmas cards for my residents. I shopped with friends. I listened to Christmas music while sitting in holiday rush hour traffic. I had girl's night at my place. I had Blake over for a slumber party. I helped Rachel with Zap the Elf and forced Santa down her son's throat for a month when he started doubting. I sneaked a bag of gifts to my friend's front porch this morning to his son, from Santa.

And it worked. I'm excited. I'm ready to celebrate with my mom & dad and my little brother. I am even almost a little bit not dreading dinner with the Whitmores tomorrow night.

Sometimes you just need to be reminded of what Christmas is all about. If I made you even a little bit happier this week, I have done what I set out to do. If I bought you a gift or made you laugh, if I thought fondly of you or sent you a card. If I texted or called you, or had you over to my house, you have helped make my Christmas better. Merry Christmas to all of you. To my family and friends, and to the people who I am so grateful to for reading my blog every day. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Can I get a ticket on the longest flight you have available?

I need to go on vacation.

Yes, I know I just had a week off work. That's not what I mean. I mean, a real vacation. The kind where you use all your vacation at once, where your employees and your boss couldn't get a hold of you no matter how hard they tried, where you have to get on at least one airplane. The kind where you have to take your passport with you and your cell phone doesn't work. The kind where the time zone changes or you lose a whole day in the sky crossing the date line, where you don't speak the language, where you have to pack every single touristy thing into that one vacation because it cost you so much to fly there, you know you'll never be back.

I need Australia, Part Two.

But not Australia. Somewhere new.

I need Germany. Or France. Or Greece or Italy. Or England or Ireland or the Bahamas. I need an ocean between me and my house. I need a stamp in my passport, a backpack instead of a suitcase, a dingy hostel and a guidebook. Fuck, I NEED another life-changing travel experience.

I need Jenny Collins to be reading this post.

I have not left the country since 2006. Unacceptable! On December 20, 2006 we were in Australia, about halfway through a 4 week trip. We had already snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, went skydiving on a beach, and gotten sun burns to rival all other sun burns. We were having the best time ever. I miss that. I miss the adventure.

The question is, where to go from here?

2014 is shaping up to be one of those years where I do nothing but save money in hoards to spend on vacations. Where I work two jobs and keep tips from the serving one in a jar under my bed, where I count down the days to flights. Australia happened 7 years ago. I was only, what, 23? I was still in college, making minimum wage, working 30 hours a week...and I made it happen. I now earn more than double what I made then, I work full time, and I am much more responsible than I was at 23. There is nothing to stop me.

Goodbye America, I will be...well, somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"I made my family disappear!" - Kevin McCallister

It seems that the majority of my blogging friends and family have posted some pretty Scroogey blogs this week, explaining why they are not looking forward to Christmas this year. For some reason or another, the general consensus this year seems to be, bah humbug.

For the most part, I have not felt that - I went to the tree farm with my family, I bought and wrapped presents, and have been watching my traditional favorite holiday flicks (Home Alone and Home Alone 2). I got out my decorations, decorated a tree in my dining room, and put gifts under it. I hung my stocking, filled Juno's stocking with toys & treats, and am overall enjoying the holiday season.

That said, I am dreading Christmas day. Scratch that, Christmas afternoon. 

My mom's side of the family has begun a tradition of celebrating together on the Sunday before Christmas. Perfect. Love that. It allows us to slow down and spend more time together, as opposed to Christmas morning, when we all have 7 million other places to be. So that's this Sunday. I can't wait. I bought everything I need for deviled eggs, and will make them Saturday while I likely watch Miracle on 34th Street and It's A Wonderful Life. I wrapped my Stacey Family gifts and am looking forward to the time with my family. 

Christmas Eve, I will most likely sleep over at my mom and dad's, as I usually do. We will watch Christmas movies and eat popcorn, and I'll sleep out in the living room by the tree. This is a tradition rarely broken that has taken place since forever. I look forward to it every year, and this year is no different.

Christmas morning, I'll wake up and we'll do Santa presents, just me, Tony, my mom and my dad. Santa already bought me a laptop, so I will unwrap the empty box happily. We will drink mimosas and do a German toast that our dear friends Julie and Toby taught us. We will eat bacon and eggs for breakfast off my mom's fancy Christmas dishes, and we'll spend the morning in our jammies, while my dad may or may not go fishing. 

Christmas afternoon, I have to go to the W's Christmas. In the past 5-ish years, I've looked forward to this party less and less, as my family continues to dwindle. I feel less like this is family and more like it is people I can't stand spending time with. I realize that this is a harsh statement, but it is how I feel nonetheless. And this year, Karen is not coming home from Minnesota. Laura is going to Kansas. Keri won't be back from Colorado. Carolyn is spending it at home. So my support system won't be there. 

I am dreading Christmas with the W family to the degree that I have gone back to counseling. No one should dread a family dinner the way that I am dreading this one. I have an appointment tomorrow with a new therapist, and I made the appointment specifically because I don't want to spend Christmas with my dad's family, with whom I have shared the last 29 Christmas dinners. 

The more I connect with my cousin Spring, the more I talk with Karen and Laura about things in our childhood (and adulthood), the more I feel a disdain for some members of my family, the more I want to distance myself. Are there good people on my dad's side of the family? Yes, of course. But is there a trace of evil? Absolutely. And for the first time in my life, I am in a place emotionally where all of the good is not making up for all of the bad, and I just want to stay in my jammies at my mom's all day. I am longing for one of those years where we opened Santa presents and then played with toys all day, and then anxiously went over to Aunt Barbara's house for more of the same. And this just ain't it anymore. 

I skipped Thanksgiving this year because I was feeling this way. I told my mom I would not skip Christmas, even though I want to. Instead, I will likely drink a lot of vodka on my mom's sofa in the middle of the day to mentally prepare. I'm sure that one of these years, when I no longer have a living grandparent to spend Christmas with, I will look back on this and feel guilty. But the reality is, I feel the way I feel. I feel anger and resentment over many things that have taken place within the walls of this family, and I can only deal with it at my own pace, in my own way, in the office of a licensed therapist who tells me I am not the crazy one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You know...ya fill your cart at Costco, and you don't need to go back tomorrow!

Baggage? I think it is safe to say that we all have baggage.

The amount of baggage we carry with us from one relationship to the next is obviously dependent on the relationship we are leaving behind, but we all have it to some degree. And the baggage we carry with us when we leave a relationship will inevitably play a role in how cautious we are progressing into our next one. If you were burned, cheated on, abused, or otherwise mistreated, you're likely to have more and heavier baggage. You're less likely to dive head first, more likely to test the waters. You're more likely to question, to think twice, and less likely to be vulnerable. The question is, are you letting your baggage ruin something great before it even takes off?

The thing with baggage is, much like a heavy suitcase being toted behind you in the airport, it can really slow you down. It affects the way you think, the way you move forward, the way you stand still, and the way you trust. It is there, heavy and reminding you to take it slow so you don't get hurt, to close yourself off so nobody burns you. It is there to remind you that what you should do, right away, before your heart gets attached, is sabotage yourself.

In a conversation with my dear friends Ashley and Oryan yesterday, about new relationships and moving forward from old ones, Oryan put it in great perspective. He said, "starting a new relationship so soon after one ends is like, a really good day at the're all in, you have a kick-ass heavy leg day, you are sweaty and intense...and then you need the next couple of days off, away from the gym."

He could not have put my thoughts into any better analogy. That's it! When you are carrying around baggage from your past relationships, you may take a couple of leaps forward...but then you slide backwards. Example? You're starting to see someone new, things are moving along, and then they introduce you to their best friends. You freak out, and you don't text or call them for a couple days. And that's fine. You're scared. You're worried. You're being bogged down with all those suitcases full of bull shit.

Baggage happens. Maybe your partner cheated on you, and now you're afraid to be too vulnerable. Maybe your partner hit you, and now you're afraid of being too dependent. Perhaps your parents got an ugly divorce and now you're afraid of commitment. It's possible that you picked up some of your best friend's baggage when they had an ugly break up. However it looks for you, it's certainly there.

We all have baggage. The question is, are you being honest about what you're carrying with you? Are you looking this new person in the face and saying, ya know what, I need to take this slow. I like you, I'm into you, you're amazing...but I gotta slow down. Are you being honest with this new person, or are you playing games? Baggage has a funny way of looking like a game, of sabotaging things for you, even making you look like an ass hole. So think about it for a minute. Who is in charge here, you, or the bags you're carrying?

If you're not the one in charge, maybe it is time to do something differently.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Some people go to college for 8 years...but they're doctors.

Question: How important is education to you?

Vitally important.

The topic of higher education is one that has been on my mind a lot lately. I am frustrated in my career and don't know if I am really doing what I want to do forever. Or until I have enough money to retire, you know, the day before I die. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate what I do. But I don't love it either. And when I am frustrated at work, I inevitably start thinking about school, and why I have not yet pursued my Master's degree.

I graduated from Portland State after summer term in 2007, after my dad had cancer and I almost flunked out of college. Literally. In order to graduate on time, after royally fucking up spring term, I took 30 credits in one summer. It was hard; all I did was work and go to class. I was in class 5 days a week from 8:00-5:00 and spent Saturdays online doing homework or taking an online course. 30 credits is insane. But I did it, and I actually got the best GPA of my academic career that term.

My degree is in Writing. I did not choose that degree based on the enormous job market for talented writers. I chose that degree because I believed I should follow my passion in school, not a job. I still believe I made the right choice, despite slim pickings for careers as: Writer, and despite the look I get from people when I say I have a writing degree. A what? What's that?

In the past year, my desire to go back to school has grown, but I am at a bit of a crossroads as far as what to do about it. My dream career, much to everyone's confusion, is to be an elementary school librarian. It is what I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. And in order to get that job, I have two school path options.

Option 1: Get my teaching license. This would take about 2 years, during which they encourage you not to work full time, and during which you have to do student teaching...and as electives, you take the courses in Library Media so that upon graduation, I would have a teaching license for elementary education with a Library Media specialty.
Option 2: Get a Masters degree in Library Media. This would allow me to work in any library out there - except a public school. So while I would still be eligible to teach library in a grade school, I would limit myself to private schools.

To me, Option 2 seems to be the better choice, as I have literally zero desire to be a classroom teacher. I don't want to take the teaching classes, I want to focus on the library media classes; I don't want what I am passionate about to be my electives...that's like making your passion what you minor in, as opposed to what you major in. But the schools that offer Library Media as a Master's degree option are very limited. Portland State, University of Portland, and Washington State - the closest schools to home - do not offer the program. Option 2 would likely require me to relocate for a year or two, to Eugene or La Grande, or to Seattle.

Now here's the kicker. Graduate school is, obviously, expensive. On my staycation this past week, I spoke with two advisers - one from Portland State, and one from Emporia State (a school in Kansas that offers the Library Media program at PSU as a completely satellite program). The adviser at Portland State told me that the job of my dreams - Librarian - is not a growing career choice and that I will not likely find a position where I am not required to teach in a classroom as well, and suggested that the teaching route was the only way to go. The adviser in Kansas, however, told me that while most Oregon districts require a teaching degree, Washington districts don't and neither do private schools. She said that it is in no way a dying career choice.

What do I want to do? I want to enroll in the Emporia State program, as it is mostly online, with one Friday night and Saturday all-day class per month that takes place on Portland State's campus. But the problem there is, I do not live in Kansas and would therefore be paying out of state tuition for a master's degree...$30,000 roughly for the 2 year program. Are you kidding me, that's nuts!

I am not surrendering yet; I am looking into the other Oregon universities and will likely speak with several more advisers before I decide on anything. But it is out there, the conversations and the thoughts.

I am like, 3 days from a pros & cons list, you all can already see it coming, I'm sure.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Follow your know, to the couch

Question: What does your daily routine look like? Bullet point your day.

Generally, I get up at 6:15AM and am on the go in traffic, in my office, in traffic the other way, and home. 5 days a week. And that is stupid for a blog post, so thankfully I was on vacation this week.

My original vacation plans were to meet up with Jenny in San Francisco, but that didn't end up working out; I still took the week off work though, since I haven't had a vacation recently and was maxed out on PTO accrual. I made the conscious choice to do as little as possible, and I certainly succeeded.

I literally did nothing for 5 days. In my head, I was going to get my hair done, work out, take Juno to the vet for shots, get an oil change, blah blah blah...but in reality, I did not do shit.

Alright, that isn't true. I did things. But I only did fun or relaxing things, and I only left the house if it was not a rush hour time of day, because I was determined not to deal with traffic for 5 days.

Bullet points huh? Easy's what I did for 5 days while not working, and not thinking about work in the slightest:
* Mostly didn't wear pants. At least not around my house.
* Slept in.
* Stayed in bed watching Netflix after waking up, instead of rushing to the shower.
* Stayed up super late. One night til 4:00 in the morning.
* Looked at grad schools (more to come on this topic later) online.
* Had an amazing dinner date with Adelle at our spot...CPK. Dinner included 3 raspberry lemon drops.
* Rented my 1st Redbox movies.
* Became a Redbox addict.
* Took my first shot of fireball. And did not enjoy it.
* Kissed. Cuddled. Slept over. And did not have to wake up in the morning.
* Hung out with Rachel and Kattie. A whole lot.
* Took lunch to Rachel because I needed to laugh.
* Finished my Christmas shopping.
* Got a Christmas "fern."
* Went to the Christmas tree farm with Oskar and Blakey. And their parents.
* Cooked dinner for a friend. And had a heart to heart.
* Baked cookies.
* Watched Charlie Brown.
* Watched Home Alone AND Home Alone Two.
* Spoiled Juno.
* Wrapped Christmas presents.
* Texted a lot.
* Found a new therapist. And made an appointment.
* Hung out with my cousin Spring for the first time in over 10 years.
* Laid on the couch.

I think time off is a vital part of life for me, and I can't succeed without the time to recharge. This was the first time I have taken a vacation where literally no one from work bothered me. Everyone took care of my office and things turned out fine, and even though I was bummed to not get to see Jenny, I now have a flight credit for later this year and I'm confident I'll get to see her sooner than later. And having a staycation is something I have never done before, but was very good for my emotional stability.

Now I am ready to work tomorrow, then it is my weekend. Perfect!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The best relationship in the world, is the one you have with your favorite book

Question: A book you love?

Just one? I have to pick just one?

I am an avid reader and I love books. I love bookstores and libraries, ordering books on Amazon and the anticipation of starting a new one. I love curling up on the couch with a new book, in front of the fireplace, with Juno at my feet.

While doing some little kid Christmas shopping this year, I got to thumb through several of my childhood favorites, and it just makes me feel good. Reading stories with Blake is my favorite way to spend time with him, even though most of the time he just runs around the room talking while I read the book out loud. I buy books for kids because I want them to love reading like I do, to love books as much as they enjoy their toys.

I really don't think I have one single favorite book. In fact I know I don't. What are a few of my most favorite books:

- Madeline. Yes, the children's book about 12 little girls in 2 straight lines...and the smallest one, was Madeline. I love to read this book to my favorite baby girls. I love the rhythm, the story, the sketches, and her little outfit. Love it.
- There's a Monster at the End of This Book. With Grover from Sesame Street begging on every page that the reader just go away and not let the monster out. Blakey and I love reading this book together, and it always just makes me giggle.
- Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I've blogged about Beverly Cleary as my idol before, and about Ramona. Ramona is, I can say with certainty, my favorite character ever written.
- Sarah's Key. I have a strange love of books about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. This one is one of the best ever.
- The Help. A touching novel about what happens when people come together to just kick ass and make a difference.
- Water for Elephants. I've read it 3 times in the past 2 years. Just a great book.
- My Year With Eleanor. I just recently read this one. It is a memoir, written by a journalist who quits her job to spend 365 days living her life to the fullest, doing one thing every single day for an entire year that she is afraid to do. One of my favorite quotes, one of the best books, most inspiring, I have ever read.

I love books. In fact, I just finished another great one, a memoir called Loose Girl (read it) and am starting Orange is the New Black. I love vacations because then all I have to do is read. I once read all 3 Huger Games books in a 3 day weekend from work, and last year I read all 3 Fifty Shades books on just my 2 days off. If I didn't have to work, I'd never do anything but read books.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Oh you want another chance? Sorry, I'm all out of those

Question: What's something you feel strongly about?

I'm a Whitmore, I feel strongly about everything.

I am my dad's daughter. I don't have mild opinions or thoughts, nor are my feelings usually moderate. If I have an opinion on something, it is a strong opinion - that's just how I am genetically put together. I don't tend to have a "meh, whatever" take on things. I believe strongly. I jump into things with both feet, I don't test the waters first. I fall hard, I love hard, and I hurt hard.

To answer the question, one thing I feel strongly about - especially lately - is that sometimes, people do deserve another chance. And I feel equally as strongly that sometimes, they just don't.

Not everyone deserves another chance after they hurt you. There are people in my life who have continued to repeat hurtful behaviors, who have continuously said or done things that have caused me pain or have broken my heart. People don't always deserve forgiveness. That's my strong opinion.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the people who have hurt you, or have hurt your family, or who have simply vanished from your world, who come back in with a genuine effort, or a sincere apology, and these people - in my strong opinion - deserve to be forgiven.

More often than not, I do think that most people deserve another chance after they've hurt you. But not always. Not if they aren't sorry, or if they aren't sincere or genuine. Not if they continue the same hurtful behavior of if they don't learn from their mistake.

People come in and out of your life for a reason. At this point, I've learned to try to embrace that. When someone who has always been a part of your life is suddenly gone, it hurts. But they aren't always worth giving another chance when they show back up. When someone who used to be there and has been gone for years does come back, it can be a blessing. Whatever the case may be, second chances are earned, not guaranteed.

Something I strongly believe in? Making the right decisions based on how you feel. Being honest with your feelings and trusting your heart. Being open, letting people in, even sometimes after they've hurt you. I believe in being vulnerable with my heart, being less cautious and more willing to take risks. In playing with fire. In taking a flying leap. In jumping feet first. And most importantly, in being honest with myself.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

Question: 5 ways to win my heart?

I'm not sure if I have 5 requirements for someone to win my heart...I really just care about being treated well. But I guess, you can probably break that down into some criteria. What does it mean to be treated well?

Being treated well. It seems so simple, but the reality is, there are so many people out there who are incapable of being nice. There are people out there who are just mean. And not just men, but this goes for my family, friends I have (or have had), coworkers, just across the board there are people who don't have good intentions. And finding out who those people are is certainly a challenge. The older I get, and the more mentally healthy I am, the easier it is. But it is never a simple thing, recognizing someone you cared about as not a good person.

In my relationships, both romantic and otherwise, I want to be treated well. What 5 things does this break into?

1. Honesty. I want honesty. It is so hard to find genuine, true, sincere people out there, that when I do find that, I clutch to it. I have worked very hard to find that sincere honest in myself, but it is a quality I hold in high regard now, because I have learned that without it, a relationship of any kind, is bound to fail.
2. Support. I need to feel supported. Encouraged. Valued for my opinions. It seems so simple. But I cannot count the number of people in my life who are not supportive. I am undervalued and under appreciated in my workplace all the time. Half of my family does not support me. I have dated guy after guy who don't offer support or encouragement. And that doesn't work for me. When I have a crazy idea, as I often do, I need to have the support of my friends, family, boyfriend.
3. Compassion. I care about you. Care about me back.
4. Entertainment. Laughing is my favorite. I have never been someone who wants to sit at home night after night. I like to go out and have fun. I like to laugh, and to be social. And on another facet of that, I need the people in my life to be entertaining and fun and to make me laugh. Doesn't seem too difficult, right?
5. Passion. I guess passion really only applies to my romantic relationships, I don't need to make my girlfriends feel all mushy-gushy or try to make out with me, don't worry. But in a romantic relationship, I am very physical. I like to cuddle, I like to kiss, or to make out on the couch. I enjoy holding hands or feeling someone's arm around my waist. And you all know how I feel about the dirty texting at the end of a long day.

What it really comes down to is, I want the people in my life to be good to me. Value and support me. Love me. Be nice to me. Make me laugh, and give me reason to smile. Don't be afraid to kiss me in public or whisk me away for a whole day in bed. I deserve to be treated well; we all do. Whatever being treated well means for you, don't just hope for it...demand it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"He's not my boyfriend, all I can give him is porn or liquor!"

It is no secret that I am a Christmas junkie. I love Christmas - I think it is the only reason I survive the blistering fucking cold every year. I enjoy getting together with my family, the hustle and bustle, the extra plans, late evenings, and the Christmas movies. I love the holiday traditions and being with my family...I would even go so far as to say I enjoy the Whitmore chaos on Christmas, even though I hate it on Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite things about Christmas, is shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on my Christmas list. Year after year, I purchase gifts for my mom, my dad, and my brother. I draw someone's name in the Stacey family to buy for, and I usually buy a gift for a baby or two (there are too many babies now for me to afford to shop for them all). Other than that, I buy for a charity, this year Toys for Tots, and then from there I just pick something up if I find the right thing for a friend or someone else in my family. But I do really pride myself in my ability to buy a great present for someone. I never give gift cards, and I never buy the standard I-didn't-know-what-else-to-get know, pre-made bath baskets or pajamas. If I am buying you a present, you better believe I am going to put some better thought into it than that.

I am also not a last minute shopper, and usually pick up my first presents early in the fall. This is, I'm sure in part due to my obsessive compulsiveness, but does also have to do with my budget, which is not unlimited. Most of the time I need to spread gifts out over a couple of paychecks, so I start early. I shop with a list and with a budget, but I do tend to stray from both if there is just something that someone "has to have" while I am hitting the malls.

Christmas can, of course, make you question some of your relationships...will it be weird if I buy you a gift? What if I buy one and he doesn't, will that be weird? Are you gonna get weird if I don't buy you something? Or what if you're having all your girlfriends over for dinner and some of you are exchanging gifts and some of you aren't, is that ok? I know that these questions cause some people major anxiety during the holidays, and I am very glad that for the most part, it all just rolls off my shoulders. If I start to get stressed out over it, I try to just remind myself that Christmas is not about stress, nor do I need to have an agenda behind my holiday shopping. If I give you a gift, it is because I care about you and because I saw something that reminded me of you and I wanted to give it to you. Don't read into it, don't make it feel like now you owe me a gift too. I don't expect gifts just because I give gifts.

I love Christmas because it gives me the opportunity to show some of the great people in my life just how much happiness they bring to me during the year, and to remind them of how grateful I am for them.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Makes me wanna do a happy dance

Question: What makes you really happy

Small things make me happy. Small things that remind me I am being thought of. Small things that encourage me. Small things that support me or show me I am valued. Small things that are meant to make me laugh, or to smile. Small things, in my experience, end up being the biggest things of all.

Things that make me simply happy:
- Sleeping in
- Staying up late
- Snuggling
- Watching a good movie
- Kissing
- Being held
- Hearing I love you
- Receiving flowers. Especially delivered to work.
- Starting a new book.
- Finishing a good book.
- Juno. Just everything about her.
- Random texts
- Holidays
- Presents
- A good beer
- My friends. Being around them. Laughing with them. Crying with them.
- Live sporting events
- Falling in love
- Learning
- Baby laughs
- Unexpected phone calls
- Date nights
- Traveling
- Writing
- Ice cream
- Staying in jammies all day long
- Weekends
- The beach

There is an abundance of small, seemingly insignificant things in my life that make me happy. I am happiest when I feel valued and important, as well as supported and encouraged. I am happy when I travel, when I see a new place or experience a new activity. I am happy when I am needed, when someone calls me for support or encouragement. I am happy when  I am successful, as well as when I help someone else be successful. I am happy when I walk in the door at Stacey's house and Blake says, Ooooohhhh Auntie!!! as he jumps into my arms and squeezes me tight.

I think the most important lesson I have learned in the past 2 years is, that no matter what I do in my life, as long as I enjoy it and it makes me happy, then it is exactly what I should be doing. I don't need to always have a plan, it is ok to change my mind, to want something new or different, to sometimes just be unsure.

As long as I am happy, nothing else is really all that big of a deal.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When I grow up, I wanna be famous...

Question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have been struggling with this for the last week or so, and I'm not really sure what brought it on or why it is on my mind, but I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

That's not exactly true. I know just what I want to be.

What I don't know is, what do I want to do as a career that will make me happier than the position I am in now, that will allow me to live the lifestyle I want to live, that will pay my bills, and that will not make me feel like I have hit a wall with nowhere to go. My job feels like a job, it does not feel like a career. I don't hate it, but I certainly have no passion for it. I enjoy it sometimes, and other times it makes me want to just call in sick. I don't want to be a Regional Manager, so I am at a point now where I wonder, what am I going to do from here? And at 30, that is a bit frightening, because I feel like I "should" have my shit a bit more together than that at my age. But I don't. And most of the time, I really am okay with my shit being not together. But other times, I get up in my head about the "shoulds" and get frustrated.

When I grow up, I want to be a writer. And I believe that I already am that. I write every day. I write this blog that anyone on the internet is welcome to read. I write in a journal at home, in which I hash out my deepest emotions as I attempt to work through them. And I am, officially, drafting what I hope will turn into a book that people actually pay to have hard copy of. I want to be a better writer. I want to be a writer who gets paid to write. But those goals aside, I am a writer. Now, how do I get people to give me money to write this blog every day? Or how do I convince someone that if only they will pay for my vacations, I will produce amazing travel articles? Even better.

When I grow up, I want to be the best, healthiest, happiest version of myself. I want to fall in love and be able to voice it, not be afraid of it. I want to be a challenge to someone, to be part of a happy picture and a happy life. I am a work in progress. Sometimes I need therapy, sometimes I need my friends, and sometimes I need nothing but a hug from my mommy. But sometimes I am a rock for someone else, and sometimes I push the limits of what I ever thought possible for myself and I find a new success.

I guess it doesn't really matter if I know the right job or the right career, as long as I know how to change what does not work for me or what is not making me happy. As I grow up, I learn more and more how to adapt, how to make changes, and how to embrace things that do make me happy, and those things that don't? I don't need them. And I can change them. I am never stuck, I can do whatever I want and be whoever I want, and when I grow up, I'll just be happy to be me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"You have to be willing to get happy about nothing"

What am I thankful for this year? I think the shorter answer would be, what am I not thankful for...but that would be a very pessimistic piece of writing, so here goes...

I am thankful, just in general, for 2013. This year began on a high, ringing it in with vodka, champagne, and dirty board games with Kitty and Stu and their friends. And a then-boyfriend, but whatever. Not long into the year, a routine trip to the doctor left me having surgery, which clearly was not ideal, but did allow me to take 2 full weeks off of work and to spend some relaxing time at home doing nothing. From there I moved out of my condo in Clackamas and into a one bedroom on site at my new property...oh, 2013 started with a promotion as well! I lived there for a couple months, only to have our property put on the market; I spent most of this time working 70+ hours a week and thanking the universe that I had an amazing staff to keep me company. I moved back in with my parents for a short bit, then my cousin's dad was awesome enough to let me crash in his guest room for a couple months while I waited for job placement and found a new apartment. My company placed me in Aloha, and while I am not happy at the property, I am thankful to have been offered a position. I moved into my apartment just this month. So while 2013 has had several ups and downs, I have had nothing but love and support come my way from my friends and family, so what more could I possibly ask for?

I am thankful, as always, for my mama and my daddy. For their help, their love, their support. I know that every single time my brother or I moves out, they say we can never come back. But every single time my brother or I needs some support, they are there to let us back in. They let me bring my cat to terrorize their dog. They let us bring our boxes, they park outside while we take over their garage. I truly have amazing parents. I am lucky enough to have a mom who I enjoy grocery shopping with or talking to on the phone while I sit in traffic. I have a daddy who will never stop telling me to "drive careful" when I leave, even though my response is always, "nope." I am grateful that my dad will always worry about me, no matter how grown up or independent I become; he will always ask me when I last checked the oil in my car or if I am locking the front door at night. And I am grateful that my mom picks up my lunch tab sometimes when she knows I am on a tight budget but want to go out to a nice meal with her. Not all of my friends have had that love and support from their parents; when we were growing up, my house was the house my friends came to when they were fighting with their parents or when they ran away from home. I appreciated it in high school, but not the way that I appreciate it now. I know I am so lucky to have the mom and dad that I have.

I am thankful, of course and always will be, for another year cancer-free for my daddy. It has been several years now...since what, 2006/2007...and I still can't talk about it without getting a lump in the back of my throat. My mom said the other day that the reason we go through bad shit is so that when bad shit happens to other people, we can support them. And at first I just rolled my eyes. But my dad's older brother has just started chemo for cancer this last week, and after a conversation with his daughter, I think maybe my mom was right. I can't relate to how my uncle feels, nor can I relate to how his son feels, or his mom or his siblings. But I definitely understand exactly how my cousin Keri feels. I know just how hard it is to be the daughter of a daddy battling cancer. And while I wish my dad would have never had to fight the battle he did, I can definitely appreciate being able to have those conversations with Keri that maybe no one else would be able to, because I know how she feels, because I have been in her shoes. So hopefully she feels a little better knowing that her little cousin understands and empathizes with just what is going through her mind.
Christmas 2008
I am thankful for my extended family. This goes without saying; I love being a part of this big, crazy, loud, opinionated family. My cousins are my best friends and I wouldn't have that any other way. I love all of the babies and toddlers, love watching them grow, love playing with them and being around them. I appreciate my relationships with everyone that is still a member of my family, and I appreciate the lessons I have learned from those who are not part of my family anymore. I am grateful for the courage that some of us have shown in order to let go of our tumultuous pasts and for the trust we are rebuilding. I cherish the closeness, the bond, and the love that my family has for each other, and in the past 6 months I have truly been able to let go of so much anger and just appreciate what I do have in the family who is still around, and to just let go of those who have let go of me.

I am thankful for everyone who helped me while I was temporarily homeless. Especially Kitty and Thor's dad, Ole, because he let me live in his house while he was on a work trip for almost 2 months. I am grateful for Rachel, who let me sleep in her son's room and use her shower every day for 3 weeks, and cooked me dinner in exchange for making her a smoothie every morning. I am even more thankful that I now have a beautiful, warm, cozy apartment to call home. I love my apartment. I love that I hired movers and they loaded and unloaded my whole life in like an hour. I love that Rachel spent an entire day/evening helping me unpack while getting drunk on champagne and wine. I am grateful that I finally have a nice, clean space close to my friends, so they can come over for dinner, or for drinks, or for movies. I am so happy to be able to drop in at Rachel's while I am running errands because we live so close and that visiting Kattie is no longer a chore. I finally can afford to turn on the heat, pay for cable, rent a carport parking space, and grocery shop at Trader Joe's & Chuck's Produce instead of Winco. I appreciate those blessings so much, as I know that not everyone has the same luxuries.

I am thankful for the new friendships, relationships, and experiences I have had this year. The girls I have become friends with this year - Kattie, Rachel, Ashley, Bridgett - I feel like I have had forever. When I think about how close I am to them, how well they really do know me, and everything that I have shared with them, I can't believe I have only known each of them for a year. Each of them is so unique and there is something just very genuine about them that is so hard to find in female friends. Kattie has taught me so much about health and nutrition, but also how to maintain clarity and the desire to grow as a person. Kattie is one of those rare gems who is just so mellow, which I don't understand being the high strung maniac that I am. Being her friend slows me down, lets me think and experience life as it is actually unfolding, and I love her for that. And being friends with me likely gives her a brother said the other day that I move faster than anyone he has ever met. So true. Impossibly fast. And then there is Rachel, who lives in her Type A brain much like I do. I am fairly certain that "Call Rachel" is on my daily to-do list and that "Call Veronica" is on hers...but unlike normal people, we would actually write it down. Rachel and I thrive on lists and organization and being crazy, and we play off of each other in a way that somehow allows us both to CTFD (calm the fuck down). Bridgett and I could probably not be any different - except for that we both just like to go to lunch and talk about sex. So there's that. Bridgett and I start a lot of conversations with "well I know you're a lot more spiritual than me, but...." We're different. But the fact that we can have a conversation knowing that we don't believe the same things makes me truly appreciate these conversations, because it shows a level of respect that so many people don't have. I feel like with so many false or one-sided friendships I have experienced with girls, I finally have the sense of real girlfriends. And I appreciate each of them so much.

 I am thankful for the ability to truly let go and move on, to get mentally healthy, and to maintain my sense of independence this year. This one pretty much speaks for itself, but after a long couple of years spent recovering from a horrible relationship, and then failing at the first one out of the gate afterwards because I wasn't ready for it yet, being able to function with men this year is something I am really grateful for. I have learned to be up front, open, and vulnerable with the people I spend my time with. If someone doesn't keep my attention right off the bat, or if I can tell it isn't right, I don't waste time trying to push it. I have learned to go with the flow, to take my time, and to trust my heart. While I am single now, and have been for most of the year, I have finally learned to be happy and self sufficient, and I have confidence that I will be so much better and so much healthier in my next relationship. 

I am thankful, as I will be every year, for the love of Miss Juno. Everyone likes to tease me about Juno and how spoiled of a cat she is, but everyone also knows where she came from and knows that I believe with all of my being that she is what saved me from an abusive boyfriend who was literally isolating me from the world one day at a time. From the day she arrived on my front porch, Juno was all mine and no one else's, despite the 3 other people living under that roof. And after only 27 days, Juno and I moved out, never to second guess the decision. So while I understand that she is just a cat, and while I can laugh at myself for how ridiculous I am about her, I truly am grateful for her. And you can all make fun of me all you want for it, it doesn't bother me at all.

I am thankful for travel and for the trips I have taken - and will take - this year. I got to go to Arizona and Las Vegas this year to celebrate turning 30. While on that trip, I found out that Kitty was having a baby; it was an awesome start to our girls' weekend and I was so excited to hear such great news. I stayed with Jenny in Arizona and spent those few days relaxing, reading, sleeping late, and hanging out at her bar while she was working. I am grateful that Jenny and I have been able to roll back into our friendship after my past relationship tore it apart out of jealousy and, well, it doesn't matter why. What matters is that I abandoned my best friend and am extremely humbled that she was able to forgive me and move on from those issues knowing that what happened in 2010 was out of my control. Jenny has always been my best girlfriend, she has been the one I trusted when I didn't trust anyone else, and she shares my sense of adventure and is seriously the best person ever to travel with.

There are so many reasons for me to be thankful this year, I think I could spend another ten hours on this blog post. I am appreciative of all of the friends and family I have grown closer to this year. To everyone who has supported me and loved me through a hard couple of years and has stuck by my side as things continue to improve in my life. I feel like I am finally surrounded by people who I can trust and rely on, and people who give me the same level of love and support that I give to them. I am truly just so grateful for the life I have and the world I am a part of. Happy, happy Thanksgiving to all of you. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My built-in best friends

Stacey's wedding day, 07/2010. 
Today's Topic: What was the best vacation you have ever had?

I have been lucky enough to have taken several big vacations in my adult life - first to Australia and then to the East Coast with Jenny, both shortly after graduating college. I loved everything about both of those trips (except for the 3rd member of the group on trip #2, but we just won't count that). We had fun, we tried new things - new foods, new drinks, new activities. We pushed our limits, we spent money, we got homesick, and we truly had amazing times.

While we were in Australia, we did things we had never done and will likely never do again. We went skydiving. We went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. We climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We toured the Sydney Opera House and then saw an opera there. We slept in an airport and in a police station, went to several zoos, held koala bears and fed elephants. We ate Vegimite and drank Absinthe. It was truly a life changing adventure.

But when I sit back and list off the trips I have taken throughout my life, even the small local ones, I remember that the best trip I ever took was to Sun River with the Stacey girls when we were in high school. I would never have recognized it at the time as the best trip of my life; it was a long weekend with the 5 of us guzzling Mike's Hard Lemonade. I had a broken leg and couldn't go swimming or ride bikes. I was on crutches. Drunk, on crutches. LaDonna was only 14, how much fun could we have been having??

The most fun, ever. Obviously.

That weekend in Sun River started out with a bang, when we called up our older cousin and asked him to please do us a solid and buy us some Mike's Hard Lemonade. Thinking we were incredibly sneaky, we met him at the school down the road and filled backpacks with bottles of Mike's throwing out the cardboard package evidence. We hit the road and were in Sun River, popping open drinks, the next afternoon. Obviously our parents knew the whole time, mostly because Phill ratted us out to his dad, who of course made fun of us with our moms. But we sure thought we'd gotten away with something.

Kitty in Sun River
We spent the weekend playing games, drinking, and at the pool. Kitty cut LaDonna's hair, 2 of us went streaking on the golf course late at night, I walked around and broke the heel out of my cast, and we met a complete stranger while "shoulder tapping" for more booze. We ate at Shari's with a group of boys we'd never met, went to the mall where the girls pushed me around in a wheelchair, and we practiced road rage with a psychopath on the highway. It was your typical, teenage girl road trip - bitch beers, snacks, gossip, and laughing.
At the pool, all 5 of us
The truth is, though, that from that year on, the 5 of us were really starting to be different. We were all teenagers. 2 of us had already graduated high school and were about to start college. One of us was a freshman. The age and life experience gap in our relationships would soon grow. Eventually, one of us would move to Phoenix, then get married and move to Alabama and now Tennessee. All but one of us would have babies and start families within 5 years. One of us would move in with a boyfriend and eventually would fall on the other 4 of us for support to get through the experience. We would travel to see each other, take other small weekend beach trips, but this one was the best one. Why? Because there was nothing in the way of us simply enjoying each other's company and having a great time for a few days.

I think most everyone knows that Stacey, Kitty, DeLaina and LaDonna have been the 4 most important people in the world to me my entire life. The best thing about my huge family is the built-in best friends - I don't know anyone else who has 5 girls, all the same age, in their family. We have taken multiple trips together, have been in weddings together, have fought, have made up, have cried together. We have loved, valued, encouraged and supported each other. We have grieved the enormously overwhelming loss of both of our grandparents together. We lost our dear Aunt Carmen together. We have welcomed babies into the world and into the family together. And while we are now 5 very distinct, opinionated, very unique personality types, these 4 girls are still my very best friends. We don't always see eye to eye, we sometimes argue and occasionally fight. We see each other less and don't travel together without babies these days. But I cannot imagine my life without the 5 of us being together.

Spaghetti Night at the cottage, 2011
Cannon Beach, January 2012
So despite my innate desire to travel, to get on airplanes and jet set to some amazing destination, to see the world, and to experience life in other countries, and while I have been so lucky to have seen the east coast of Australia from top to bottom, the best trip I ever took was a weekend in Sun River with Stacey, Kitty, DeLaina and LaDonna. Before any of us had bad relationships, got married, had babies, or grew apart. While we were just innocently the very best of friends, playing cards and drinking together.

Swimming at Aunt Kate's cabin
Camping at the cabin
LaDonna's 1st drinking experience..."I just wanna DIE!!"
I am thankful every day for my relationship with each of the Stacey girls, and have grown to appreciate my solo time with each of them just as much as I love the rare moment where we are all 5 in one room together. My relationship with each of them is different now that we are adults, but that's to be expected. Afterall, we are 5 distinct, very different women. I appreciate so much that I can always count on Stacey to give me advice and talk me off the ledge, and that Kitty is the one to join me on some last-minute adventure. I love sitting at the beach house just chatting away with DeLaina, and LaDonna gives me an excuse to buy a plane ticket whenever I need a cheap vacation to scratch that travel itch. 

And it makes perfect sense that we are the friends we are. Afterall, look where we came from...

Thor's wedding day, 2010: Our beautiful moms/aunts
Grandma & Grandpa. The start of it all