Blogtember: Dear Facebook Friends

Friday, September 27: An anonymous letter to your Facebook friends. Be as snarky as you'd like (but don't include people's real names). Dear Facebook Friends,

FB Friends

First, know that if you're in my Facebook community, that means we are actually friends and would say hello to one another in real life. That's pretty much my basic criteria after I realized how many "friends" I had acquired via college days of friending anyone and everyone.

I like Facebook, for the most part. I like sharing photo albums. I like being able to get a condensed update on someone's life once in a while. I like reading about successes and happy days and new beginnings and celebrated milestones (so I guess all the rose-colored items shared via social media that contribute to potential narcissism and FOMO). And I like the convenience of getting in touch and participating in mini group chats and conversations. Facebook easily helps me strengthen ties with new friends and stay relatively connected to loved ones who live far away.

But there are a few core things I don't like, things that make me feel a little icky and annoyed, such as:

changing your profile picture every day -- Who has time for this? That's what I want to know. I equate this action to the 18-year-old mindset of omg, new profile pic!!!! every time you use your camera. Take a breather. Nobody needs a new selfie on the regular.

the elusively negative status update -- Any version of "I guess it just wasn't meant to be" or "What a joke" or "Some people aren't worth it" or "The worst day. . ." Just. Stop. Go find a real, physical journal to write in or a real, physical friend to talk to. What amazes me is that there is ALWAYS a response to these vague updates, like, "Are you ok?!?!" And then the person will respond with, "I will be" or "I hope so" or something equally frustrating. People, not only is Facebook an awkward place to talk about personal stuff, this kind of exchange is not even a conversation.

political rants minus any sort of article link -- You want to share thoughts on something you read? Go for it; I don't mind, even if I don't agree. But the "THANKS OBAMA, THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO SHIT" rhetoric will immediately get you blocked or defriended. Unfortunately, I really do see those sorts of posts from Republican/conservative friends much more than Liberal/democratic friends. If you want to share your educated opinion, proceed by all means, but that requires thoughtfulness and sources.

one million baby/wedding/honeymoon pictures and/or accompanying statuses -- Yes, I see that your baby is cute, and your husband is just the best ever for making you pancakes in bed, and you are finally Mr./Mrs. So-and-So and you went to an island for a week. Awesome! I don't need to read about it every day. Stop telling the Facebook world all those things, and just go enjoy your life . . . like, BE on your honeymoon instead of posting pictures, you know?

With love,

Me

Blogtember

Blogtember: Coffee Dates

Thursday, September 26: Go to a coffee shop. Order a favorite drink. Write about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Or write about anything you'd like! Bonus points for including a photo from the coffee shop.  I actually DID go for coffee this morning with a new work acquaintance and friend, but it seemed odd to take a photo (and non-photogenic, since it was in a to-go cup) so this is recycled from this past Monday morning.

20130926-160605.jpg

My sister travels constantly for work and unfortunately for her/fortunately for me, had a delayed flight Sunday evening. So we had a sleepover, complete with tacos, margaritas and a DIY dessert bar.* And then we headed to my favorite coffee place, Zanzibar's, very early the next morning for one cappuccino and one latte and two egg sandwiches. The place had just opened, so it was warm, dimly lit, empty and quiet, save the sounds of clinking dishes and staff moving around. Though we only had 20 minutes before she had to catch her flight, we delighted over the raspberry jam, sipped our espresso, browsed the newspaper, laughed and enjoyed each other's company. I was so happy to have her there with me, even briefly, and sad to know I wouldn't see her again for a few weeks. Such is the emotional ebb and flow of living far away from loved ones.

Coffee dates are the best. So are sisters.

*What is a DIY dessert bar, you may ask? It's when you go to the grocery store, pick out 3-5 indulgent items, return home, change into pjs, settle into the couch and proceed to tackle all the deliciousness in front of you. Really, more people should do this. We demolished cookies and creme ice cream, chocolate covered raisins and a dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt candy bar. And we weren't a bit sorry about that fact.

Blogtember

Blogtember: A Mistaken Engagement

Wednesday, September 25: Write about a time you screwed up - a mistake you made. (Deep breath. Gettin' serious over here, folks.)

I dated a man for five years who was pretty much everything I thought I wanted on paper. Smart, hilarious, kind, family-oriented, athletic, thoughtful, adventurous, religious, and most of all, completely crazy about me. My friends and family adored him, and so when he proposed on a beach with a gorgeous ring, I said yes.

And then I spent the next two months feeling like I might throw up every moment.

Everybody in the world and in my life (and on Facebook): OMG YOUR RING IS SO PERFECT AREN'T YOU JUST SO EXCITED WHEN'S THE WEDDING YOU ARE SO LUCKY HE IS JUST THE BEST YOU MUST BE SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!! (cue even more exclamation points)

Me: "Yeah, it's beautiful . . .  sure, of course . . . I mean, well, probably not for a long time, I--I mean, we, aren't in a rush. . . I know, he's really great. . . Okay, so what's new with you?"

You see, I wasn't happy at all. I wanted to be happy; I was trying really hard to be happy; I could list out all kinds of reasons for being happy--but I wasn't actually happy. I had always dreamed of getting and being engaged someday, but all I could think was I should have said no. Shit, I should have said no. 

So, obvious question: why did I say yes? I didn't want to hurt his feelings.  I had no idea he was going to propose (in hindsight, I think he made comments here and there, but it literally wasn't on my emotional radar in a serious way), so when it happened, I felt shocked and confused. I quickly turned away from him, eyes filling up with tears, and ran away a few steps; in the moment, everyone thought I was just overwhelmed with joy. My entire family was there and it was the first day of our vacation. Was I really going to say no and ruin it for everybody? And break his heart? Hell no. It didn't occur to me in the moment that saying yes when I meant no would actually hurt him, and me, much more in the long run.

But I had no idea how to backtrack. Friends threw me an engagement shower that I fake-smiled through. I received wedding magazines and planners and bride-to-be tank tops and sweet cards of congratulations. I went wedding dress shopping (which was so awesome and fun, minus the whole getting married part). I listened to suggestions of venues, flowers, colors. My fiancé boasted about our lengthy love, made me wonderful dinners, and asked me a million questions about our happily-ever-after. Everyone else was so damn thrilled; who I was I to ruin it for them?

And maybe it would be fine. Maybe I was just overanalyzing. Maybe these were just pre-pre-pre-wedding jitters, right? I'd probably come around. The wedding was going to be so fun, and he was so great! God, it makes me wince and laugh to remember that despite my gut feeling of no no no, I naively thought everything might work itself out. I could hardly eat or sleep, and it felt like I was holding my breath underwater nonstop, but at least I wouldn't have to break anybody's heart or be the bad guy.

When I finally told him I didn't want to get married, I felt the most immense relief of my life. (And then I felt terrible for feeling so good, finally). He was a fantastic guy, but not the right guy for me, not for a lifetime, though we had a great deal of fun together and I cared for him very much. I had witnessed the immense joy and satisfaction of other engaged friends, and I knew that was the "should" to aim for. I wasn't ready to get married, even though I wanted to be eventually. I moved out of our apartment, and moved on with my life.

It had been a big mistake to say yes. Not only did I hurt someone I cared about, I wasn't honest with myself. I learned a big lesson that year: it's nice to want to make people happy, but pleasing others can come at your own expense. That experience has served as a yardstick in every relationship I've been in since then, and now I notice when I'm lying to myself a little bit or not staying true to my needs.

Saying no, then, also led me down a different path: exploring and learning from other relationships, spending time alone in Chicago, finishing graduate school on my own, living with my grandparents for a little bit, moving to the middle of Iowa, finding a deeper love, tackling another career path, making friends in a new place, and so on. I know what it feels like to make the mistake of should, and while I'm not perfect, I'm better about it. It was a valuable lesson that came at great cost, but one that has shaped me ever since, and led me to where I am and who I am today. I'm grateful for that.

Blogtember

Blogtember: Book Review -- The Cuckoo's Calling

Tuesday, September 24: Review a book, place, or product. How convenient! I just finished The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling.

CuckoosCallingCover

First, I find it so interesting that Rowling pursued a pseudonym in this day and age; I know that occurred much more frequently in the past for female writers, but I can't think of a single other female writer that wouldn't use her now-famous name. Not to mention that the tone of the author was decidedly male even as third person perspective shifted between key characters . I would not have known that Rowling wrote it, and that was probably one of her goals for her readers since her name is so tied to the Harry Potter series and world.

The tale begins with a cliffhanger: Lula "Cuckoo" Landry, a beautiful celebrity and model, has been found crumpled on the ground dead outside of her luxurious apartment balcony. The police, media and everyone else all presume that she committed suicide by jumping; a classic story of youth and wealth and depression and drugs. Yet, her older brother, Bristow, claims it was murder, so he decides to hire Comoran Strike, a war veteran and lapsed private detective, to find Lula's real killer. Strike quickly enlists the help of his temporary secretary, the bright, young Robin, as they work to unravel what truly happened the night of Lula's death--and who in Lula's exclusive social circle or tattered family tree may have wanted her dead.

Unsurprisingly, the plot is great with tons of twists and turns to keep the reader interested. Rowling is also a master of character development, so she easily brings to life each individual in the story. I wouldn't say I loved it, but it certainly kept me entertained as an excellent crime/mystery fictional book.

Blogtember

Blogtember: Life Lately

Monday, September 23: A "life lately" post. What you're up to, how you're feeling, how you're doing on your goals, etc. Bonus points for great photos! Whenever summer shifts into fall, I find myself in "back to school" mode--well, I can't go back to school, but I start itching for projects and changes alongside brisk air and hot coffee. I've also moved cities and started new jobs the past two falls, which adds to the feeling of newness and fresh starts and most of all, major personal and professional effort.

What's nice about this particular autumn is the fact that much of what lies ahead for me these next few months aligns with my personal goals for 27. I start yoga teacher training tomorrow, 11+ hours a week for the next 10 weeks. I have some writing and teaching opportunities on the horizon that could pan into fantastic experience. We've entered the busy season at my day job, full of events and activities and campaigns, all of which I feel much more prepared to tackle now that I have a year under my belt. I've made some incredible friends over the past six months, and some of those are turning into solid friendships marked by long morning runs, dinner parties and happy hours; that along brings me a great deal of joy. My relationship is experiencing a lot of positive growth in a way that feels valuable and solid. I recently visited my parents and sisters and grandparents, so I feel "caught up" there for now, which will hold me over until the holidays. AND I get to visit my very best friend and her husband in Charleston, SC. (and two visits within the span of a month feels priceless).

I set a lot of goals this past June as well as at the time of the New Year, and even though I haven't achieved hardly any of them in full, I've got the sense that I'm doing my best with what's in front of me. While life lately often brings forth stress and anxiety, I'm slowly learning to manage those emotions a bit better. Lately, life feels like a slow creation rather than a monotonous crawl. I know that feeling won't last forever and in two weeks I might look at my schedule and cry. But for now, I'm embracing the unknown of all these endeavors and trusting that I'm making all the best choices possible for myself based on how I feel and the knowledge I have in the present moment.

A close family friend shared the following quote with me in the form of a high school graduation card (the only one I've kept). I have no clue who wrote it, but it's one of my favorites:

Things we just know . . . That the first step toward getting what we want is knowing what we want That only experience can teach us the fine balance of courage and caution, of dreaming big and starting small, of living up to our abilities and leaving behind our mistakes That we can trust our hearts and change our minds And above all, choose our attitudes That we are made of stardust, each one a different light How brightly we shine depends upon the heat of our passions, the energy of our ambitions, the intensity of our love for life That's when we decide that life is good We make it so, for ourselves and others

Blogtember

Blogtember: On Comfort

Friday, September 20: React to this term: comfort. Everyone likes being comfortable. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable; we try to hurry it up just to get back to the comfortable places. Sometimes the ultimate daily paradox, for me, is the fact that I strive for comfort in all areas of life, but I continually become my best self due to the periods of discomfort. Or I think I want to make the comfort-oriented choice, but it actually makes me feel worse in the long run. For example:

It's more comfortable for me to sleep in, but I am more productive if I get in a run before the sun comes up.

It's fun to dilly-dally reading things on the Internet all day, but I'm happier if I spend more time creating and writing.

It's easy to slouch in my desk chair for hours upon hours (whether I'm busy or "busy"), but my body and mind appreciate mini breaks--a short walk, a chat with coworkers, a glass of water--every 30 minutes or so.

It's enjoyable how a post-work drink can take take the edge off a long day, but I hate feeling hungover the next day if that one drink turns into three.

It's painless to skip deep stretches during yoga, but amazing how fast the ouch factor disappears.

It's effortless to avoid an emotional or deep conversation with a loved one, but my sense of connection and the relationship in general suffer without them.

It's delicious to eat a pint of ice cream for dinner, but then I have a stomachache. (Note: really good dessert is worth the trouble.)

And so on. Know what I'm saying?

You can't have comfort without discomfort, nor do you want to, despite what you might think. Chela Davidson, a life coach and writer, says, "The pieces that feel edgy or vomit-inducing are not evidence of your inadequacy. You’re not inadequate. You’re just at an edge. There are always edges." I love that perspective because it reinforces the idea that discomfort is only temporary and it is a major part of a fulfilling life. It doesn't mean you aren't allowed to or shouldn't be comfortable (i.e., you can eat good food and have nice things and go on trips and enjoy healthy relationships, etc.), but you're making a mistake if you avoid the discomfort that comes with those choices (i.e., where does that food come from and at what cost? are you using your good fortune to give back to your community? what places of the world are you seeing, and what are you learning? etc.)

So lately, I've been challenging myself to reframe uncomfortable situations. There are lots of things I find uncomfortable, but I try to embrace them instead of steering clear. It's hard, and sometimes it's not fun, but more often than not, it's rewarding in the long term. I also cut myself some slack, because once in a while people do need to sleep in, skip the workout, eat the chocolate, ignore the phone, watch a mindless television show and go to sleep. (That's called a bad day, and everyone should be really nice to themselves on those days!)

Blogtember

Blogtember: Only Photos

Wednesday, September 18: Only photos I wanted to do a "day in the life" set of photos, but then I remembered quickly that I'm not a photographer nor that kind of blogger. I don't think I could remember to take photos of things all day long! Instead, here are some recent photos from life lately . . .

20130923-081949.jpg Relay marathon in the Quad Cities with my sister and cousin

20130923-082002.jpg The spider I've allowed to continue creating his home over my basil

20130923-082015.jpg Littlest sister's Homecoming--it's so interesting to observe the current dress trends

20130923-082035.jpg A typical rushed lunch of eggs and toast at home, usually with a side of SATC

20130923-082049.jpg An afternoon pause in one of the hospital courtyards at work

20130923-082105.jpg Delicious homemade coffee cake from a coworker (apparently the secret ingredient is sour cream)

20130923-082117.jpg

My usual desk mess of piles, organized by event, department or hospital campus

20130923-082144.jpg A much-needed early morning cappuccino at Zanzibar's

 

20130923-085535.jpg Day 1 of a social media "selfie" campaign for the Des Moines Art Center

 

20130923-085554.jpg Puppy-sat this sweet, sometimes ornery little face the other weekend

20130923-085605.jpg And the best for last, quality time and wedding fun with S, my closest friend for life

Blogtember

Blogtember: The Christmas Tree Outing

Tuesday, September 17: A memory you would love to relive. Christmas Tree Trip

Of the millions of memories I'd like to relive, this one stays near the top of the list for pure comic value alone. Every fall, my family goes to this local orchard to pick juicy apples and round pumpkins to bring home. It smells like hay and apple cider and popcorn, and there are families and kids all around, and it's just got that awesome, down home vibe.

One year, we decided to go back to the orchard and cut down a Christmas tree, even though we've had a fake one for years and years. Mom viewed this outing as great potential for memory-making (no surprise there), but my sisters and I complained the entire way there, because 1) it seemed super ambitious and 2) a lot of work.

So we get there, and all of sudden it becomes the best, most hilarious day ever: Mom trying to snap pictures of us petting the reindeer, Dad breaking a sweat cutting down a tiny tree ("hard work getting that baby down!"), Daria becoming the pouting queen and having a total meltdown because the tree wasn't EXACTLY what she wanted, Olivia and I drinking Starbucks and just laughing, laughing, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

We set out as a family that day to cut down a Christmas tree, so that we could decorate it with lights and baubles and handmade ornaments to celebrate the holiday season. I don't remember putting up the tree, decorating it or taking it down, but I remember this crisp fall day full of laughter, warmth and love. If I could relive it every fall, I would.

Blogtember

Blogtember: Dear Little Sisters

Monday, September 16: Write a public love letter to someone in your life. (It doesn't necessarily need to be romantic.)

sisters

Dear Little Sister,

I used to secretly wish that we were only three years apart instead of four, so that we could have been in high school and college at the same time. We still became great friends--after a few years of driving each other batshit insane over clothes, locked doors, who ate the last italian ice, etc.--as well as sisters, and for that, I am so very thankful. I admire your kind, free spirit, and your ability to embrace everyone's uniqueness. You are effortlessly beautiful both on the inside and outside, and you aren't afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if it's not the popular choice. Hilarious and clever, you always find a way to put a smile on my face and make me laugh, whether we are having a blast going out or just sitting on the couch talking or driving in the car. I appreciate your reliability, your generosity, and your capacity to be unflinchingly honest yet compassionate (that's a hard line to walk, but you do it). I thank God every day that you are my partner-in-crime; we share parents, our little sissy, a sweet tooth, a love for red wine and Blue Moons as well as long walks and kitty cats. I'm so proud of you, all the time, and it's awesome to watch you grow into such a smart, wise, energetic and determined young woman. Thank you for being the "big sister" to me sometimes, and the best little sister I could ever ask for. Also, "just around the riverbend" forever.

&

Dear Littlest Sister,

I've been at your side since you took your first breath. I combed your blonde curls, played Barbies and dolls with you, sang you to sleep. I fed you peas and cottage cheese, made you mini pizzas, watched Disney movies and jumped on the trampoline with you. In so many ways, you were "my" baby, not just my sister, which is why it's weird that you are now 15--because some part of me will always view you as a chubby-cheeked toddler with a loud giggle who loved "Say My Name" on repeat. There's no doubt that being twelve years apart can be hard. Sometimes it feels as though we are living in two totally different worlds, and it can be difficult to connect. I probably seem boring and adult and far away most of the time, and you've reached that point in teenage life where parties and friends and school and activities consume much of your time (which is exactly how it should be!). But I hope you know that I am so proud of who you're becoming. You are opinionated, brave, intelligent and focused. You've got an enviable sense of style, and you're such a beautiful person inside and out. You are witty and playful, as well as hard working and thoughtful, and most importantly, you are caring and compassionate to every one and every thing around you. I hope you'll always follow your heart. I hope you'll take chances. I hope you'll create the life you want, and live it to the fullest. I hope you'll continue to grow with grace, and know that it's okay to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. I hope you'll always reach out to me as your confidante and protector. I'm so excited to see where life takes you, and I'll try to be at your side during as much of it as possible.

sisters 2

Love you both, so very much!

Blogtember

Blogtember: A Self Portrait

Friday, September 13: A self portrait.

1174538_758224006182_1058372057_n

This photo was taken on a beautiful morning at the Des Moines Farmers Market, one of those days where all seems right with the world due to bright blue skies, vibrant fresh flowers, perfect temperature, great company, delicious eats and great coffee. I like to tuck those sorts of moments in the pocket of my heart for later, for the hard or bad times when I need a reminder of the ebbs and flows of life. But this picture serves as a reminder that makes me smile: I was really happy that mundane Saturday morning.

It's funny--when I was younger and saw a picture of myself, I instantly made a mental list of  the things that were "wrong" with me. My smile was too big. My arms were too scrawny. My hair was too curly. And most of all, I hated the mole on my neck. This mole brought me such angst growing up; I would actually cry about it in junior high because I thought it was sooo ugly and nobody else had moles. I think I even asked my mom if I could have surgery to cut it off, which seems really melodramatic now. Throughout high school and college, I succumbed to the typical female self-criticism--I could be a little thinner, I could be a little prettier--and post-college brought about its own struggles with self-esteem due to a series of difficult, failed relationships.

I'm sure many women my age could easily share their own version of the same journey, but what I realize with this self-portrait post is that somewhere along the way, I stopped being so hard on myself. I stopped critiquing every angle of myself in a photo, and I stopped finding something wrong with what I found in the mirror every day. I just stopped, because it felt like a waste of time and it was pretty exhausting. I don't look at that picture and feel inclined to nitpick my appearance (and I sure don't see that damn mole!); instead, I see happiness on my face, and I am happy knowing that my self-vision is a little clearer and kinder.

Blogtember

Blogtember: How Blogging Changed Me

Thursday, September 12: Discuss ways that blogging or social media has changed you. Much like the rest of my demographic, my foray into social media began with Facebook freshman year of college and stayed rather consistent. I liked sharing and seeing photos, leaving and receiving witty messages from friends and family, and basically using it as a tool for connection or distraction depending on the day. I mostly stayed in that realm until post-college life (which is when a lot of social media platforms became much more mainstream, I suppose), and now, I still use Facebook, but I mostly tweet, instagram and pin much more than I use Facebook. I think social media is fantastic and overwhelming, all at the same time; there's a great deal of noise and mess, but all kinds of gems if you look hard enough.

Blogging changed me much more than social media, and it's only been a couple of months. Like I've written before, I was really hesitant to blog. It seemed too public, and as a naturally private person, generally made me feel uncomfortable--except I seriously loved reading other people's blogs, I wanted a space of my own to write, and I admired the potential for support and connection within various blogging communities. But once I finally started, I realized blogging fell into that category of "Things That Seem Scary But Are Actually Awesome." Know what I mean? Writing always feels a bit challenging at first, and it's certainly hard to keep up a routine alongside other life obligations, but the results provide a massive, positive benefit for me on a personal level. It's like working out: I don't want to do it 75% of the time, but I do always want the physical and emotional rewards of having worked out. Blogging is the same way. I'll think, I have nothing to say, and come to this space realizing that I do.

Blogging also, perhaps more importantly, opened me up a bit. Again, I can be rather reserved, and writing often feels so very personal. Blogging forces me to put myself out there a little. Truly, every time I read a blog post where the author shares something real about their life or experience or whatnot, I feel a rush of gratitude. I think, Thank you for sharing, and, Maybe I could dig deeper too.

Blogtember

Blogtember: Favorite Online Shops

Wednesday, September 11: Share links to your favorite online shops, preferably with a few photos of your favorite items in each shop. Well, aside from my usual standbys (aka, I maintain a  continual J Crew, Madewell and Kate Spade obsession), below are some of the brands, shops and items I've been pining after lately.

Emerson Fry

Emerson Fry

Oelwein

Oelwein

Caitlin Wilson

Caitlin Wilson

ASOS

ASOS midi skirt

Sugar Paper

Sugar Paper

Lulu Frost

Lulu Frost

Anna Joyce

Anna Joyce

Loren Hope

Loren Hope

Dorothy Perkins

Dorothy Perkins

Catbird NYC

Catbird NYC

Baldwin

Baldwin

Little Factory

Little FactoryLizzie Fortunato

Lizzie Fortunato

Blogtember

 

Blogtember: Life Taking a Turn

Tuesday, September 10: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn. When I relocated to Des Moines more than a year ago, I really thought it would be no big deal--I mean, I had made my way in Chicago for three and a half years, I was in my mid to late (gulp) twenties, I used to visit Des Moines all the time as a child for the infamous state fair, and my boyfriend was here. No problem, right?

Wrong. So wrong. I completely underestimated the particular difficulties of getting used to a new city, making new friends, starting a new job in a new industry, finding new hobbies, figuring out where everything was, and basically just figuring out the new culture of a place and where I saw myself fitting it. It was hard. So hard, in fact, that I probably cried every day the first six months I lived there. I felt like I sucked at my job. I felt like everyone already had their own friends (or had babies and husbands and consequently no time for friends), and I missed my friends terribly. Seeing family required at least a three hour drive, and my parents and sisters were six hours away, which made visiting difficult. I constantly compared the city to Chicago, and consistently viewed it as falling short (yeah, I was that person). Not to mention dealing with the shift of a long-distance relationship to "oh hey, you're around all the time"; that had its own challenges, and my boyfriend had already lived here a while with a great job, lots of friends and a solid routine. I found myself surprised over and over again how hard it was and how long it seemed to be taking to feel like I belonged. And that made me want to give up and move away as quickly as possible pretty much every day for a long time.

I also kept waiting for a sign, a moment, that would indicate I should stay, that yes, my life could be here and it could also be great. Of course, that's generally not how life works, is it? I kept waiting, and waiting, and complaining, and moping, and then finally . . . I realized I was making myself miserable. So I stopped. Instead of lamenting all the things Des Moines lacked in comparison to Chicago, I celebrated its many unique qualities--the low cost of living, zero traffic, delicious restaurants, multiple neighborhoods with their own personalities, a thriving art culture and young professionals scene. Instead of waiting for all my new friendships to magically appear, I made the first move: I asked cool girls that I hardly knew to happy hour, I went to social events (by myself!), I got involved with a few different nonprofit organizations, I joined a yoga studio and started saying hello in the locker room, I set up a dinner party with all the women in my apartment building. Instead of being intimidated by my job, I tried to reframe it as an opportunity to improve my skills, learn a whole lot, and grow as much as possible. Instead of waiting for a sign that I was in the right place, I embraced the place and did all I could to make my life here feel right.

And it worked. I still wasn't ready to declare that OMG I HEART DSM, but I didn't hate it either. It took many more months, and it's still a slow process, but I realized how far I had come when a girlfriend called to say that she had been offered a position in Des Moines. She wanted to know: Could I tell her about what it's like to live and work there? Absolutely! I replied, making a list of all the wonderful things Des Moines had to offer . . . and quickly realizing the irony. I had been converted. I was an Iowan. And I was kind of happy about it.

Blogtember

Blogtember: What's Your Personality Type?

Monday, September 9: Take this short personality test and respond to your results. I'm an INFJ--11% introvert, 50% intuitive, 75% feeling, and 11% judging. Mostly intuitive and feelings-based? Yeah, that sounds about right. Most of the full INFJ profile applied to my personality, tendencies and behaviors, but here are some specifics that really resonated:

"INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their preference for closure and completion, they are generally 'doers' as well as dreamers."

I'm definitely an idealist, but I also like to get things done. For example, I'm happy to bounce around a million ideas in a meeting, but then I start to feel antsy and anxious and ready to just get the damn project going. Sometimes my dreaming causes procrastination; however, I always end up taking action when needed.

"Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. . . but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths. "Most INFJs are system builders, but their systems are founded on human beings and human values, rather than information and technology.""

Uh, yeah, regarding self-expression; writing is my preferred method by far. In terms of a career path, it's been hard for me to visualize staying in one place doing the same sort of thing, but that sort of mentality is rather freeing. I do have to work very hard to keep up my "hard skills" in terms of technology, because it's not my default interest, but I know both are important.

"INFJs are sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious 'soul mates.' While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent 'givers.'"

This section stands out to me the most as an apt description of my personality. It's very, very true; I know I am an introvert as much as I love working with and being around people. I experience that need to withdraw almost on a daily basis, and have consequently developed certain coping strategies for when I'm feeling a bit depleted but need to stay engaged in a social or work situation.

All in all, my personality profile was correct!

Blogtember

 

Blogtember: Ugh. Spiders.

Friday, September 6: A story about a time you were very afraid. Ugh. This is easy. Please note that I refuse to put photos in this post because SPIDERS ARE THE WORST.

I despise, and am terrified of, spiders. It doesn't matter if they are pencil eraser-sized. It doesn't matter if they are supposedly "harmless." Why do people always use that adjective with daddy long leg spiders, by the way? Ew. I don't worry about whether or not a spider might specifically target me for attack; I stress about the fact that spiders have one million legs and move fast and are creepy as hell.

My junior year of college, I discovered a bump on my forearm one day. It was a little swollen and sore the next day. Two days after that, I couldn't even type at my secretarial job because my arm was black and blue and aching. I went to the doctor and she informed me that it was probably a brown recluse spider bite, so "good thing I came in, because those can destroy limbs." YEAH. SWEET. (Update: my arm is fine.)

It all started when I was about five. My father let me watch Arachnophobia, without my mother's permission. (I literally just Googled the movie to check the spelling of the title, and immediately had to to close the browser because it ALREADY terrifies me, the memory and potential Google images alone.) Apparently I didn't seem too scared while watching the movie, so good ole Dad didn't think much harm had been done and put me to sleep at my usual bedtime.

In the middle of the night, my parents hear me screaming. They rush into my room, and find their sweet daughter jumping up and down on the bed, smacking her body and screaming Get them off me! Get them off me! They quickly woke me up, reassured me that no, spiders were not in fact crawling all over my body, and eventually convinced me to fall back asleep.

So yeah, I'm not exaggerating when I say that spiders terrify me. Even thinking about them makes my skin crawl. I know they are a good insect for the environment and all, but I will continue to live in my little pretend world where spiders stay in hidden dark places far, far away from me.

Blogtember: Useful Advice

Thursday, September 5: Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered. My senior year of college, I really wanted to take this creative nonfiction class with one of my favorite professors, L. I so admired L--she was smart, witty, honest and kind with a big smile continually present on her face, but most of all, she was one of those professors who could tap into the hearts of her students, even the ones taking English classes only as a requirement. I remember stopping by her office to basically pitch the concept of my taking her class independent study, and she responded, "Welcome! When can we start?"

I looked forward to those afternoon meetings every week, where I sat in a hard wooden chair across from her in a tiny office. She gave me all sorts of mini-assignments in addition to the curriculum of the class: go on a walk and write down a description of every person you see, or eavesdrop on a conversation and write down every sad or funny thing you overhear. L favored the power of observation, as any good writer does, and she passed along those tools. Many of our conversations about my essays resulted in her saying, "But what else?"

L continually pushed me to get to the clear truth, no matter how many rewrites it took, and I think that's true in both writing and life.

brian andreas

The tricky part? Everyone's truth is different, which means everyone is responsible for figuring out what it is, and why, and how to live alongside it. It also means that your life on any given day might need some rewriting, because what's true often changes. But I try to utilize that mindset as frequently as possible, because it reminds me that first, I need to continually find and live by what matters most to me, and second, I can start over at any time and try again.

Blogtember

Blogtember: Doing Anything in the World for Three Months

Wednesday, September 4: If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do? Hands down, I would travel. I didn't ever think I would get to travel anywhere, simply due to the cost. College was pricey enough, despite scholarships and the hard work of three side jobs. But miraculously, I was able to study abroad twice: two weeks in Rome, two weeks in Paris, two days in Munich, two days in Vienna, three days in Barcelona and five weeks in London with side trips to Venice and Dublin, and then another week-long trip to the Lake District in England. It changed my whole life.

cinque terre

positano

french riviera

portugal

napa

croatia

So if I had three months to do whatever I wanted, I would travel--to Australia with my best college gals, back to Paris and Rome and Barcelona for another spin, to Croatia with my mother and sisters to explore our heritage, to Denver and Napa Valley and Boston and San Francisco and Cinque Terre and Positano and the French Riviera and Portugal and Tokyo and Cairo. And pretty much anywhere and everywhere I could go, cost excluded.

Blogtember

 

Blogtember Challenge

As much as I love writing prompts, I've been hesitant to participate in writing-based blogging challenges. Then I saw that one of my favorite bloggers, Jenni, was doing a fun (and popular!) Blogtember series this month, and so I decided there was no time like the present. Day 1: Describe where or what you come from. The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are.

I come from a mother who values commitment to relationships, family first, faithful living, fashionable attire, hugging, long kitchen talks, coffee dates and dedication to the good.

I come from a father who prioritizes hard work as a virtue, Sunday morning pancakes, singing every single day and making the world a better place.

I come from a grandfather who likes a clean car (preferably Dodge), Johnny Cash, nicknames and spending at least 3/4 of the day outside.

I come from a grandmother who smells like soap and cigarettes, makes damn good Swedish meatballs, can out-talk anyone and knows the meaning of sacrifice.

I come from an incredibly loving family, one that insists on the value of showing up no matter circumstance or inconvenience.

I come from a mix of small towns, where life-long mates are found in sixth or ninth grade, where traditions are kept and cherished, where there's always a helping hand or a smile around the corner.

Because of all that and much more, I know I am incredibly lucky.

Blogtember