ordinary / extraordinary

I.

It is the morning of my high school graduation. I have just woken up and am still lying in bed in my pajamas. I slept in late, and my dog Gar is snoozing at the foot of my bed. My yellow graduation gown hangs on the back of my door, waiting and ready. My brother is at school—the last day of school before summer—but I don’t have to be on campus until the afternoon ceremony. My mom and dad both come into my room and sit on my bed with me. Mom has made breakfast, and soon I will go downstairs and eat scrambled eggs and toast. But, for now—for a few more minutes, at least—I stay in bed. I talk with Mom about last-minute plans for my graduation party this evening. I talk with Dad about the speech I’m giving at the graduation ceremony. The doorbell rings and Gar leaps off my bed, barking. Mom runs downstairs to see who it is, then calls up that I’ve received congratulations flowers from my aunt and uncle. In my stomach I feel a buzzing energy, an excited anticipation, for the day ahead. A day that feels like so much more than just a single day. It holds the weight of all the years leading up to this point, and also the promise of all the years to come. I am on the cusp of adulthood; in a few short months, I will unpack my suitcase into a Los Angeles dorm room and begin a new chapter of my life.

But, for now, I am a girl in her pajamas, in her childhood bedroom, chatting with her parents. It is an extraordinary day, but at the same time, I hold the comforting normalcy of it close to my heart. Somehow, this quiet ordinary time before the excitement of the day unfolds feels like the most special gift of all.

II.

It is four years later: the morning of my college graduation. I wake up in a crowded apartment after hardly sleeping the night before. I was too filled with emotion to sleep. I can’t believe this day is actually here. How did college pass by so quickly?

When I emerge from my bedroom, my roommates are already busy in the kitchen, making coffee and pouring cereal for breakfast. I share this two-bedroom apartment with three of my best friends, and all of us have graduation guests staying here, so our apartment is at max capacity, with people crashing on the couch and sprawled out in sleeping bags on the floor. It feels like a big sleepover, or like the morning after one of our parties—except that everyone is wide-eyed and chipper.

My roommates and I run in and out of each other’s bedrooms and bathrooms, slipping into our graduation dresses, asking for second and third and fourth opinions on shoes and makeup. Time is slipping away—soon, we will need to head out the door and walk the five blocks to campus for the ceremony. But not before we take one final roommate photo. We clump together in the kitchen, before we put our black graduation gowns on over our dresses, and one of our boyfriends snaps the photo. I feel like I am a balloon, floating up above the scene—like this day is too big for me to hold. It feels as if all the adventures and mistakes and laughter and victories and drama and love of the past four years is condensed into this moment, the four of us crowded into our cramped kitchen with our arms slung around each other and our cheeks round with smiles, posing like we’ve posed for countless other photos together.

Soon, we will break apart and scramble to collect our purses and pull our graduation gowns over our dresses. We will help each other zip up our gowns and pin our caps to our hair and then we will walk, arms linked, through a swamped campus to hear Governor Schwarzenegger give our commencement address, and then we will head to our separate satellite ceremonies and celebrate with our own families and loved ones. But, for now, I bask in this ordinary moment, in our ordinary messy apartment—what I think of as the last ordinary moment of our college years together. Here, now, we are not yet college graduates. We are simply four roommates dressed up in pretty dresses who love each other very much.

III.

It is the morning of my bachelorette party, three days before my wedding. In many ways, these morning hours are the final slice of calm before the manic energy of the weekend washes over us. Today, Friday, Allyn and I are heading off to our separate bachelor/bachelorette parties. Tomorrow is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. And Sunday is the wedding. Everything seems so real all of a sudden, so close. I feel like I am getting onto a roller coaster—all I will be able to do the next three days is hang on and enjoy the ride.

One of my best friends, Erica, takes an early morning flight to SFO for my bachelorette party. She catches the train to my city and I pick her up at the station. The parking lot is filled with commuters, heading into a routine day of work. I feel similar to how I used to feel as a child, when my parents would surprise my brother and me with a trip to Disneyland on an otherwise normal school day. I remember looking out the car window in wonder as we drove the three hours to Anaheim, amazed that the people in the cars around us were oblivious to the magic that was unfolding in my day.

Erica emerges from the station carrying a duffel bag, and I leap out of the car and wave to her. We hug hello maybe a little longer and tighter than normal. All of a sudden, I’m a volcano of words, telling her all about the frantic craziness of the past couple weeks and warning her how much of a disaster my apartment is. In my fantasies about this weekend, I was so incredibly calm and on top of wedding-related things that my apartment was perfectly clean and straightened up. Erica hasn’t seen my apartment yet, and I wanted her to see it at its best. But that was pure fantasy, unrealistic—and unnecessary. Erica has been my friend since seventh grade, and she doesn’t need my fantasy self. My real self is enough for her.

me and erica at her place

So, even though this is not how I imagined it, this feels like the right way for things to unfold: the two of us walking into my messy apartment, stepping over the wedding gifts and favors and decorations that have taken over every spare inch of floor space. I’ve baked muffins for the bachelorette party and they are cooling on the counter, still too hot to pack up into tupperware, and the bags of flour and sugar are out, and the batter-smeared bowl is unwashed in the sink.

Yesterday Erica injured her achilles tendon at the gym, and I move some papers off the couch so she can lay down, putting her foot up and nursing her sore achilles with a bag of iced peas. She exclaims encouragement and we laugh about old memories as I scurry around the apartment, gathering up various bags and items I’ll need over the next few days. Tonight we’re all staying at Dana’s for the bachelorette party, and tomorrow night I’m staying with my parents and brother in their hotel room. I’m not planning to come back to the apartment before the wedding.

Soon, it will be time to leave so we’re not late for the bachelorette festivities. Soon, Erica will climb off the couch and return the bag of peas to the freezer. Soon, I will pack the muffins into tupperware and she will help me carry my bags and veil and wedding dress down to my car.

But, for now, I savor this private little bubble of time with one of my best friends — one of the people who knows me best in the world — who makes me feel calm and centered simply with her presence. For a moment, I feel transported back to our seventh-grade selves. We are still those girls who sat in the grass on the quad eating our brown-bag lunches. We are still those girls, passing notes in class with stick-figure drawings of our dreams. We are still those girls, laughing about our misadventures, and cheering each other on as new adventures approach on the horizon.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and “free-write” without editing or censoring yourself. Here are some questions you can use as guidance:

  • Write about an ordinary moment from your life that has stuck in your memory.
  • Out of your everyday life, what moments do you treasure the most?
  • Where do you find your “calm in the storm”?

7 things I would tell my wedding-planning self

It’s been a little more than six months since our wedding, and feel like I am finally coming up for air on the other side. Maybe it’s that I’m finally finished ordering prints for our wedding album. Or maybe it’s that I just needed a bit of time to process everything before I could reflect on it all. We got married in September, and after returning from our honeymoon I promptly started a new teaching job AND my editing work for college app season cranked up three notches. Then it was the busy pace of the holidays: our first holiday season as a married couple, balancing two families. The past couple months I’ve been focusing on my word for the year — FOUNDATION — establishing routines and care practices that I hope will nourish me throughout 2017 and beyond.

And now, as I sit here with my steaming mug of tea and a refreshed mind, I feel called to revisit my wedding-planning journey and reflect.

I know this might sound like a cliche, but our wedding truly was the best day of my life. I’m so grateful for all the time and effort we put into planning our special day. During the process, reading blogs and articles with advice was enormously helpful. I hope my thoughts might be helpful to others! So, without further ado…

Here are 7 things I would tell my past self, in the midst of wedding-planning craziness:

1. Savor the anticipation and the beautiful messiness.

In the last few weeks before our wedding, life was a whirlwind of tasks, questions, and to-do lists. I would wake up in the middle of the night to scribble notes to myself that were only sometimes legible in the morning: song for recessional? cupcake labels? check with minister about kiss timing. My brain was flooded with details and planning and more details. I felt constantly abuzz with nervous energy, my stomach a flurry of butterflies.

At the same time, I had never felt more ready for anything in my life.

I could not wait to marry my sweetheart and officially join our lives together. Yet, I would remind myself to savor this precious anticipatory time, too. I would stand in the middle of our one-bedroom apartment, crammed with wedding gifts and decorations and half-completed craft projects, and smile a pure, giddy, little-kid smile. There is joy to be found here, now, in this glorious mess and in this perfectly imperfect moment. There is something delicate and beautiful in the final days before you hold hands and leap together into the unknown.

2. Stay true to your vision and your vibe as a couple.

Allyn and I are a pretty relaxed couple. We wanted our wedding to feel down-to-earth, homey, and full of love. At the same time, we also wanted to have a “big wedding” with all of our friends and family enjoying a sit-down meal and dancing together. Within the first few weeks of getting engaged and talking about ideas, we had a solid vision for what we wanted. And, looking back at the end, the wedding we actually experienced was very true to that vision!

However, the thing about planning a wedding is that everyone wants to hear what your plans are… and everyone has their own opinions on those plans. Throughout the process, different people {who all loved us and meant well} offered their own ideas, advice and concerns about our plans. Perhaps the best example was our decision not to hire a DJ and instead play dance music from a playlist we created ourselves. Not only were we aiming to save money by not hiring a DJ, we also liked the idea of being able to control the songs that were played during the reception. Some people — people who love us and wanted our wedding to be great — were skeptical of this idea. I can’t even tell you how many times my grandma said that no one would be dancing and that we needed a DJ to “keep the party going.”

Allyn and I listened to these concerns, but we ultimately stayed true to our desires for our wedding. And it all turned out perfectly! I loved every single song that played; I loved the memories that sprung up with various songs; I loved that we had someone who knew us {our friend Justin} as our MC instead of a random DJ who said the same cheesy lines at every wedding. Moreover, guests were raving about the dance playlist. The dance floor was hoppin’ the entire night, right up until we had to leave. I’m so glad we stayed true to our vision and our vibe as a couple, in this aspect and all aspects of our wedding.

3. Be creative.

We wanted our wedding to reflect our personalities and our story as a couple. Allyn and I didn’t have a huge wedding budget, so I took it as a fun challenge to make as many of our decorations as possible. Often, I repurposed items, like making a garland out of wedding and bridal shower cards we had received, and hand-drying rose petals from a bouquet I’d received. We tried to keep things simple and streamlined whenever possible: for example, we planted mini succulents in 4oz mason jars that tripled as place cards for our guests, extra greenery for the tables, and wedding favors. {Six months later, the succulents are thriving — we still receive photos from friends and family of their now-huge succulents!} We also scored some great like-new items on Craigslist for our cocktail hour decorations, gift table and centerpieces. Instead of having table numbers, we named each table a place that we had traveled to together, and decorated the tables with framed photos of us at that place.

I really loved the idea of having a “photo booth area” with props that guests could use to take photos, but renting a professional photo booth was out of our price range. So we thought outside the box and created our own diy photo booth. We rented a pipe-and-drape to create a background, gathered together fun props, and made a sign with instructions for guests. It was such a fun part of the reception, and I’m so glad that we didn’t give up on the idea when professional photo booths were prohibitively expensive for us.

During and after our wedding, so many people commented that our wedding just felt like “Allyn and Dallas.” That, to me, was the best compliment!

4. Don’t get trapped in the prison of perfection.

In these days of Pinterest and Instagram and a million wedding websites, inspiration and advice abound. Which, on the one hand, is a gift. Want to diy your own centerpieces? Google it and you’ll be golden! But, on the other hand, this avalanche of information can totally distract you from what really matters. It is so easy to get caught up in the gorgeous photos and glamorous decor shots. It is so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of wanting every.single.tiny.aspect of your wedding to be “perfect.” It is so easy to fixate on the details of the day that, in the grand scheme, aren’t really that important.

What is important is that you are pledging to travel through life, in the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, with another person. That promise is where the beauty and the magic of the day resides. All the other stuff is just icing on the cake.

5. Ask for help.

I love being the helper. I love feeling strong and independent, capable of doing things on my own. Sometimes I can be a bit of a control queen. Typically, I would much rather just do something myself than ask someone else to do it for me. I never want to be a bother or put someone else out.

Maybe you’re like me. If so, this piece of advice is really important for you to hear. Repeat after me: ASK. FOR. HELP.

Others want to help you. Sometimes they just don’t know what you need or how to begin. It is up to YOU to reach out and tell them how they can help you.

A funny thing happened in the week leading up to my wedding. As the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side of the family, this was the first wedding we had celebrated in a long time, and it became a family reunion of sorts. I was thrilled that many of my second cousins and relatives traveled out to California to attend. But this also meant that, in some ways, the event seemed bigger than me and Allyn — it sort of took on a life of its own. Relatives were flying in from all over the place and staying with family in the area. Everyone’s plates were full.

My mom came up a few days early to help me with last-minute things while Allyn was at work. Since Allyn and I live in a small apartment, she was staying with my aunt about 45 minutes away. The first day she arrived, I drove out there to pick her up and bring her back to my apartment, and then at the end of the day I drove her back there and had dinner with everyone before driving home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded, and it was nice to have some quiet car time with my mom — but, you guys, I was STRESSED. I felt like time was spiraling away from me and I still had a ton of stuff I needed to do. And a 45-minute drive each way adds up when you’re doing it four times a day!

I remember crumpling at the kitchen table when I arrived back home to our wedding-overloaded apartment, crying to Allyn about how I felt so exhausted and I had to get up early in the morning to pick up my mom the next morning, and I still had so much to do to get ready for our wedding. “Why don’t you call your mom and see if she can borrow a car?” he asked. “Or if someone could drop her off? That would save you a lot of driving time.”

His words made a ton of sense — but at first, I hesitated. I didn’t want to seem like a demanding “Bridezilla.” It felt hard to ask for help, to admit that I was stressed out and overwhelmed. I didn’t want to cause a hassle for anyone. But, eventually I wiped my tears and called my mom, and admitted to her how I was feeling. She was completely understanding and apologized for not realizing how much driving it was for me. It wasn’t that she, or any of my other relatives, had intended to put any extra burden on my shoulders in the days leading up to my wedding, when I was already firing on all cylinders. It was simply that they hadn’t thought about it. Once I asked for help, they were easily able to make arrangements. My grandpap, who was already driving in the direction of my apartment the next morning to pick up my cousin from the airport, simply dropped my mom off on the way. Which allowed me to sleep in a little bit, face the day more calmly, and saved me an hour and a half of driving through morning traffic.

Don’t expect people to read your mind or magically know what you need. Tell them. Ask them. I promise, you will all be happier!

6. Soak in that walk down the aisle.

My entire life, whenever I thought about getting married, I would think about walking down the aisle to my future husband, and my heart would swell with emotion. In the months leading up to our wedding, that might have been the moment I thought about most. I would get goosebumps imagining walking towards Allyn, stepping with a brimming heart into our future together.

Walking down the aisle, my arm slipped through my dad’s arm, is a memory I will cherish forever. But not just for the reason I was expecting.

Before the moment came, I hadn’t fully put things together in my mind. I hadn’t realized that yes, I would be walking towards Allyn. But before I reached him at the end of that aisle, I would be walking past all of my friends and family members who had played such important roles in my life up to this point — who had, in essence, made me the person I am today.

Walking slowly down that aisle with my dad was a surreal experience. I felt as if I were seeing a montage of my life. There was my best friend from kindergarten, smiling at me, standing beside my close friend from college and my dear friend who I met studying abroad in England. There was my mom’s best friend, who I think of as an honorary aunt, crying next to Allyn’s aunt and uncle who flew down from Washington to attend. There were my friends from church; my grandparents; my aunts and uncles and cousins; Allyn’s relatives and friends from grad school. Everyone in our lives, smooshed together in one room, cheering us on and giving blessings to our union. I teared up as I walked down the aisle, and I tear up now thinking about it.

And then, at the end of the aisle: the person I love more than anything, standing there, beaming.

Can you imagine anything better?

7. Remember the purpose behind it all.

All of the decisions and options that come with wedding-planning can feel a tad bit very overwhelming. Before getting engaged myself, I had no idea how much goes into planning a wedding! {Side note: I am definitely going to appreciate weddings and big parties much more now, noticing ALL the details and remembering that someone out there had to plan for every little thing at the event.}

Throughout the process, I would sometimes be overwhelmed with tears of stress and a spinning-with-details mind. The one thing guaranteed to calm me down would be reminding myself the whole point of planning a wedding: getting to marry an amazing man who loves me and who I love with all my heart! With that thought, my tears of stress would transform to tears of gratitude. And, looking back now, I can tell you that those are the moments I treasure the most from our special day: when Allyn and I said our vows, slipped rings onto each other’s fingers, and promised to be partners in this journey, now and forever.

Now, I’d love to hear from you! What would you tell your wedding-planning self?

abundance + gratitude

Hello, my long-lost friends! It has officially been one month and one day since I married the love of my life. I can’t believe how time has flown! I am working on a humongous recap wedding post chock-full of photos for y’all. Here is a sneak-peek photo. 🙂

dal-and-al-just-married

In the meantime I wanted to pop in and talk about something that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately: the concept of abundance.

If you had talked to six-months-ago me or one-year-ago me about money, “abundance” would not have been a word on the tip of my tongue. I used to worry about money. Since childhood, I have always been a “saver” more than a “spender” — but I have also followed my passion to a nontraditional career with financial ebbs and flows. When we got engaged and began planning our wedding, everything seemed more expensive than I had anticipated and I remember thinking, “How are we going to afford this??” When we talked about the future, about having children and maybe buying a house one day, inwardly I started doing tabulations and felt myself panic a little. Not to mention the unplanned emergencies, the curveballs that life throws at everyone sooner or later.

When you’re in a mindset like this, it can seem like the only solution is to clench your fists and dig in. To count your nickels and dimes, scowl at every donation request you receive, and feel even the most necessary of expenses gnawing away at you. To worry yourself into a consciousness of scarcity. 

My parents generously offered to shoulder the financial burden of our wedding, and my gratitude was immense and boundless. But instead of seeing this as the pure blessing it was, I felt guilty with every plan we made — because even the simple wedding we wanted came with many expenses, many moving parts and things to consider. Even though my parents had told us, plainly and clearly, how thrilled they were to be able to help us in this way, I for some reason felt like I was letting them down by using the gift they had given us.

Everything changed when I remembered a story my father told me and my brother when we were kids. It is a story about two brothers who were also great friends. One brother’s passion in life led him to a career with a lot of money. The other brother’s passion led him to an equally worthy career, but one that was not compensated as highly. Both brothers eventually got married and had children of their own. The first brother lived in a beautiful, large home. The second brother had dreams of buying a home for his family, too. Eventually, he worked up his courage and asked his brother for a loan.

“No,” the first brother said. “I won’t loan you the money.”

The second brother felt surprised and hurt—but only for a moment. Because then his brother said, “I won’t loan you the money, but I would be overjoyed to give you the money.”

The second brother gratefully accepted the first brother’s generous gift, and both brothers felt richer in spirit because of it.

I think my father shared this story because he wanted to teach us that money gives us the most joy not when it is hoarded or spent thoughtlessly, but rather when we intentionally use our money as a means of helping those we care about. When I thought about the gift my parents were giving me and Allyn in this new light, everything shifted. And this shift carried over into not just the wedding, but into other parts of my life, too. I began to see the resources in my life not as limited, but instead as abundant. And I began to use gratitude every day to cultivate these feelings of abundance even more.

Thinking back on my life so far, one of my most treasured experiences was when my brother accepted a small financial gift from me to help him with his business school expenses. It was just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of his degree, but it gave me such joy to feel like I was investing in him and his future. As author Gretchen Rubin writes in her “Secrets of Adulthood,” sometimes we can be generous by taking. Accepting that money was a gift that my brother gave to me.

me and greg graduation

Furthermore, “money” doesn’t have to literally mean money. It can be any type of resource — time, energy, relationships, activities. Sometimes we feel the urge to hoard these resources all to ourselves, to focus on all that we do not have and to worry that we will never have enough. But when we shift our perspective to thinking about how we can share what we have with others, it is amazing how what once felt like “not enough” can suddenly feel like an abundance of riches.

So I’ve got a question for you today, dear readers. Where do you notice and appreciate abundance in your own life — right here, right now? Small details matter just as much as the big things. Write down your list. Read it to yourself a few times today, breathing in deeply with a smile on your face.

It’s amazing how rich this can make you feel.

fall colors cleveland

 

Here are some things on my “abundance list” as I sit here at my desk on this sunshiney Wednesday afternoon:

:: abundant in love {never more true than on our wedding day… I am still basking in all the love we felt in that room!}

:: abundant in friendship

:: abundant in community

:: abundant in ideas {driving around in silence has really boosted my creative thinking… it is crazy how many more ideas I get now that I intentionally cleared away a bit of noise}

:: abundant in nourishing food {including these amazing pumpkin gingerbread muffins that I cannot get enough of… I’ve eaten three of these babies in the past five hours and I feel great about it because not only are they autumn in delicious muffin form, they are also ridiculously healthy}

:: abundant in inspiration {there are so many good people in this world, working to do so many good things!}

:: abundant in time*

 

* Okay, I’m still working on this one… maybe this one should more accurately read “MORE abundant in time than I used to feel”… while I still have a million projects I want to tackle and books I want to write and things I want to do in this one wild and precious life I have been blessed with, lately I’ve been feeling less crazy-frantic-rushed than I was feeling, say, a month ago. {This might be because I am no longer planning a wedding!} But I think it is also because I have really been thinking about how I want to structure my days and what it is truly important for me to make time for… and what it might be best to gently let go of. The important things include working on my novel for an hour every morning first thing; doing yoga for even just fifteen minutes every day; and breathing quietly/meditating for five minutes every day. Purposefully setting aside time to do these things makes me feel like more minutes have magically sprouted into my life as the day progresses.

Questions of the day:

  • Where do you feel abundant in your life?
  • What do you feel most grateful for in this season of your life?
  • Where in your life would you like to cultivate more abundance?

news! + year of virtues, month two

Hi friends! Wow, 2016 has been off to quite a whirlwind start in my neck of the woods.

In January, I…

… moved to a new apartment with my sweetie that, looking back at January’s focus from Ben Franklin’s List of Virtues, is pretty much successfully put into order. {We put together our bookshelf this past Sunday and our new couch was delivered yesterday!} It is looking much more homey and moved-in around here. I hope to share photos with you soon giving a tour of our new place, but in the meantime here are a couple snapshots of our kitchen!

new kitchen

new kitchen 2

Author Gretchen Rubin {who hosts my favorite podcast, Happier, with her sister Elizabeth Craft} says that “outer order contributes to inner calm.” After spending January focused on getting my surroundings into order, I have to say that I do feel much calmer in all aspects of my life. I have noticed that I am better about being on time to various appointments. I have no trouble getting up early and, most often, my dominant feeling upon waking up is excitement to jump into my day. I no longer waste time looking for things. I no longer feel “scattered” because my things are scattered all around. There is a distinct pleasure, I have learned, in putting an object back in its place. Marie Kondo writes about this feeling beautifully in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. As human beings we cannot control everything — we like to think we are in control, but life likes to remind us that indeed we are not — but we can at least control our surroundings. Perhaps that is why outer order contributes to inner calm: it helps us feel in control of at least some things. I know that when I begin the day with a clean kitchen and a clutter-free living room, I feel much more equipped to tackle my writing projects.

Also in January, I…

… cut 8+ inches off my hair. And I absolutely love my new hairstyle. I feel so much lighter and freer!

My dad wrote a column weaving together my haircut with some other beautiful stories. You can read it here. {Warning: have tissues handy!}

Hair after

The biggest & best thing that happened in January?

… my sweetheart popped the question, and I said YES! Easiest question I’ve ever been asked. I am so thrilled to spend my life with this amazing man who makes me laugh, makes me think, and makes me feel so loved every day.

Al and I engaged

I’ll share our full proposal story with you guys later this week! 🙂

In February {what remains of February… how is it already the 10th??} I am going to focus on Franklin’s virtue of MODERATION. In the early stages of planning a wedding, this seems like an especially appropriate virtue to keep in mind. We want our wedding to be special and fun, but we also want to keep things in perspective: it is one day out of our lives. As a wedding blog I read put it: think of your wedding reception as a six-hour-long party. My sweetie and I have decided that we don’t want to break the bank for a party that will be over in the blink of an eye. Instead, we want to focus on what a wedding truly means: committing to spending your life joined with another person. That is where the real joy and excitement lies!

And, yes, planning a great big party to celebrate is fun… in moderation!

Questions for the morning:

  • What in your life do you wish to “get in order”?
  • Do you agree that “outer order contributes to inner calm”?
  • Any tips for planning a wedding? I’d love to hear them!!

a year of living simply: week 12

Hi there, everyone! I’m back from a family reunion trip to Pittsburgh to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary! It was wonderful to spend time with my family, especially some relatives I had not seen for years and years.

3 generations

the ladies

me and grandpap

My Grandpap’s sister Muriel came — I had never met her before! She is a hoot.

mom and muriel

One day we went into Pittsburgh and had a delightful time exploring the city. We lucked out with a gorgeous sunny day!

pittsburgh

with my girls

on the incline

I’ve spent the past couple days unpacking/shopping/laundry-ing, and getting back into my normal routine. I’m finally feeling like I’m back on the right timezone! Onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge was to say no to something. As I mentioned, I’ve adopted this bad habit of “hedging” instead of declining outright when asked to do something I have no time or interest in. Instead, I tend to say, “Maybe” and then end up worrying about it, or sometimes just doing it because I can’t bring myself to “let down” the other person. It’s ridiculous.

This past week, I practiced flexing my “no” muscle! I’ll be honest: it was difficult. I felt a pang of worry every time I stopped myself from hedging and said, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to do that — I’ve just got too much on my plate right now.” Even if I wasn’t saying the words out loud but typing them in an email response, I still felt my nerves clench! But, guess what? I don’t think anyone I said, “No” to hates my guts now. I think everyone understood. In fact, I think people appreciate an honest, up-front response — it is actually much kinder to say, “No” outright than to hedge and hedge and finally flake out on someone. In turn, I don’t feel resentful of “having to do” tasks I have no interest in, and I don’t feel like I’m running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off trying to please everyone and get everything done. Now I have more energy and time for the projects and people who really matter to me.

This week’s challenge is to set aside a small block of time every day to do something you absolutely LOVE. So often, we fill our lives with so much busy-busy-busy-ness that we don’t have any time left to do those things that bring us pure pleasure. I’m not talking about being productive or getting things done; I mean those “frivolous” activities that are simply FUN. Remember back when we were kids, and “fun” wasn’t a luxury — it was a priority? When we actively made time to play? Why do we have to lose that when we become adults?

This week, spend some time thinking about activities that make you feel good — maybe it’s reading books by a certain author or in a certain genre; perhaps it is knitting or scrapbooking; or maybe simply sitting outside under you favorite tree, doing nothing but enjoying the breeze and birdsong. Make time every single day to savor what you love. Put FUN on your to-do list!

Questions for the morning:

  • What did you say, “No” to this week?
  • What is something you absolutely LOVE to do?

pumpkin carving & other weekend highlights

Hello and happy Monday, everyone! My day started off in a very special way… I stopped by Target to pick up the Deluxe version of my girl’s new CD!!

t swift 1989 cd

I have been a fan of T.Swift since her country music “Tim McGraw” days. She was one of the {many} things Holly and I bonded over in college 🙂 Longtime blog readers might remember when we went to her concert in Nashville last year as the final stop on her RED tour! It was a blast.

red tour bus

I listened to the first six songs driving home from Target, and now I’m taking a little break before listening to the rest… I’m trying to savor it. Nothing like listening to new music from one of your favorite artists for the first time!

Look what else I found at Target: my favorite English muffins! These babies are seasonal, so I need to enjoy them while I can!

pumpkin spice english muffins

Pumpkin in the autumn is a total weakness of mine. I may have also been swayed to purchase some Tazo pumpkin chai tea and a box of pumpkin spice oatmeal. Is anyone else pumpkin-obsessed like I am?

Speaking of pumpkins… yesterday I went to Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch in San Francisco with Allyn and our friends Justin and Fawn. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and everyone in the city seemed in a great mood after the Giants’ win on Saturday night! {And they won again last night, too! Only one game away from clinching the World Series title!} We had a fun time wandering around the pumpkin patch, inspecting pumpkins and admiring the adorable, creative costumes worn by numerous little kids running around with their parents. We saw lots of Ninja Turtles, Elsas {from Frozen}, and Power Rangers — which made me happy, as I was a huuuuuge Power Rangers fan back in the day! Yellow Ranger all the way.

I did not take pictures of any of the little kids, as I did not want to be a creepazoid, but here are some photos I snapped of the patch!

pumpkin patch

20141026_115829

IMG_20141026_121946

After the patch, we stopped by a picnic that one of Justin’s former coworkers was hosting in Alamo Park, right across from the famous Painted Ladies — the houses featured in the opening credits of Full House. I completely forgot to take pictures because I was too busy enjoying the conversation and noshing on a chocolate pastry that Allyn & I got at a farmer’s market on the way there.

But I did take lots of pictures of our pumpkin-carving once we made it back to Justin’s apartment! We did it old-school with knives and our imaginations. In the previous few years I’ve carved with a template, so this was a new adventure! Instead of a traditional Jack-o-Lantern or Halloween design, I decided to carve a cheerful sunflower. {I’m sure you are not surprised!}

sunflower pumpkin

Allyn made a googly-eyed face with a snazzy, slightly off-kilter mustache! Haha, the off-center mustache was driving Justin crazy, but I think it adds to the pumpkin’s charm!

allyn pumpkin

We had a LOT of pumpkin guts when we were done!

pumpkin guts

It was Fawn’s first time ever carving a pumpkin, and she did an amazing job! Her design was so intricate — all those little teeth! — but she carved it flawlessly. No toothpicks were needed in the creation of this Jack-O-Lantern!

Fawn's pumpkin

And here are Allyn & my pumpkins, all lit up:

lit up pumpkins

It was such a fun day!

The rest of the evening was spent doing work {schoolwork for Allyn, getting-caught-up-on-emails-etc for me} and chatting with Allyn’s roommates while making veggie & black bean tacos for dinner. All in all, a truly wonderful weekend!

Before I head out, I want to wish a heartfelt congratulations to our family friends Peter & Brooke, who got married yesterday! The wedding was down in L.A. and since I had to work on Saturday, I was unable to attend, but the rest of my family went and had an amazing time. I love this picture of them from the reception. So much love and joy for you both, Brooke & Peter!

peter and brooke wedding

Questions of the evening:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend?
  • Did you carve pumpkins this year?
  • Who are your favorite music artists?

wedding weekend recap

Happy Tuesday, friends! It is glorious, warm, sunny weather here in the Bay and I am soaking it up! I love reading outside in the sunshine under the trees. Currently I’m in the middle of the epic historical drama Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. What books are you reading and loving right now?

As promised, here are some pictures from my whirlwind weekend at home for my cousin Julie’s wedding!

On Saturday morning, Allyn and I met up with Erica and her boyfriend Kyle for brunch, where we feasted on amazing food {my raspberry + white chocolate pancakes were to die for} and enjoyed over two hours of laugh-filled conversation. It always fills my heart to see this girl!

me and Erica cafe nouveau

Then on Saturday afternoon we headed to the Mandalay Beach Resort for Julie and Chris’s wedding ceremony on the beach! It was a beautiful day, and thankfully the wind died down during the ceremony… the atmosphere was peaceful and calm. Julie looked absolutely breathtaking as she walked down the aisle, and my eyes filled with tears when I saw the way Chris looked at her. It was a lovely ceremony!

julie and chris

As soon as the ceremony ended, the wind kicked up, as you can see below! I love this family photo though because we are all laughing.

fam photo on beach

I made sure to hold my dress down in all the pictures, feeling a bit like Marilyn Monroe!

me and allyn wedding beach

After the ceremony, there was an outdoor cocktail hour and I took the opportunity to snap some photos in between noshing on bacon-wrapped scallops, ahi tuna wontons, cheese and crackers, and sipping on a Shirley Temple! {It’s been years since I’ve had a Shirley Temple, and it was calling to me!}

I love this photo of my parents:

my parents at reception

This is classic my dad — putting bunny ears on Gramps! Haha.

bunny ears on gramps

So happy to get to spend time with my handsome brother:

me and Greg wedding reception

When cocktail hour wound down, we all headed into the hotel ballroom for the reception. The food was delicious: Mom, Allyn and I opted for the filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus, and Dad and Greg had salmon with a blackberry glaze and wild rice and green beans. YUM! After heartfelt toasts to the bride and groom, we had a blast dancing the night away. My family is so much fun on the dance floor, making up goofy moves. My mom especially is a dancing fool at weddings … it’s a side of her I don’t otherwise see except at wedding receptions, and I absolutely love it! She is the cutest.

Before the night was over, we made sure to snap some more pictures. I love this one of me and Gramps:

me and Gramps wedding reception

And this one with my sweetheart, who was so wonderful meeting my big crazy family:

me and al wedding reception

Woodburn family photo, take 2:

wedding reception family pic

And of course the night wouldn’t be complete without a silly photo bomb from Pops! Haha, I love this one:

dad photobomb

The weekend went by much too quickly, but it was jam-packed with fun! What a blessing to have so many of the people I love together in the same place.

Congrats Julie + Chris! We love you and are so happy and excited for your new life together as husband and wife! ❤

Questions of the day:

  • What was the last wedding you went to?
  • What is your favorite thing about going to a wedding?

happy mother’s day!!! + goals for the week of 5/11

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! I feel so lucky that I get to spend part of today at home with my amazing mama. She is one of the sweetest, most kindhearted people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and getting to grow up {and, let’s be honest, I’m still learning and growing!} with her as my mom and role model feels like winning the lottery. I love you, Mom!

me and mom balloon festival

I hope that you are getting to do something extra-special to celebrate the mothers in your life today! We are making brunch for my mom: nothing fancy, just toast, bacon, fruit salad, and her favorite scrambled eggs with veggies + potatoes. {But if you’re looking for fancy, scroll down to the end of this post for some drool-worthy brunch recipes!} Here is a post I wrote a couple years ago about trying to do little things to celebrate Mother’s Day every day.

It has truly been a fantastic weekend at home with my family and friends, celebrating my cousin Julie’s wedding! Recap post coming soon, stay tuned. 🙂

In the meantime… it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
– write eight pages
– send out three query letters/submissions
– finish midterm evals of students
– finish reading The Kitchen God’s Wife
– go to one yoga class
– have an amazing time celebrating Julie + Chris’s wedding!

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write ten pages
– send out three query letters/submissions
– finish midterm evals of students
– read up to page 400 in Wolf Hall
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with two friends

And here are some fantastic brunch recipes:
cornmeal waffles with blackberry compote via Two Peas & Their Pod
raspberry almond scones via Two Peas & Their Pod
blueberry multigrain french toast bake via The Pajama Chef
healthy vegan banana bread via the real-life rd
sweet potato muffins via Peanut Butter Fingers
snickerdoodle bread via Chew Out Loud
my own french toast bake based on The Pioneer Woman’s recipe {I need to make this again sometime! it was ridiculously good!}

french toast

Questions of the day:

  • How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

fabulous friday #21

Hi, friends! Happy TGIF! Hope you’re up to something fun this weekend!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Being home with this cutie. Mr. Mur-dog, how I missed you!

murray

2. And, of course, I’m loving being home with the rest of my family! My parents and brother are three of my very favorite people in the universe, and anytime we all get to be together feels like SUCH a gift. I am treasuring every moment!

mom and dad

me and gb

3. Allyn is in town visiting too! He’s coming as my date to my cousin Julie’s wedding tomorrow. I’m excited to show him around my hometown, and we’re meeting up with Erica and her bf Kyle for brunch tomorrow. Can’t wait!

with allyn at reading

Dal and Erica

4. Going out to eat at my favorite Ventura restaurants. Nom nom!

sushi

straw side mouth

5. Julie’s wedding! Her bachelorette party last night was a blast and I felt honored to be included. I love my cousins dearly; we grew up together and went all through school together, and they are practically like sisters to me. Now that we are grown and scattered across the country, it’s a rare treat for us all to be together. Julie had a wonderful, relaxing bachelorette slumber party hosted by her sister Amanda — lots of talking, laughing, and catching up over CPK pizza and homemade cupcakes! Julie is a beautiful person inside and out and I know she is going to be an absolutely stunning bride tomorrow.

On the dance floor at Amanda's wedding this past summer...

On the dance floor at Amanda’s wedding this past summer…

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for this weekend?
  • What was the last wedding you attended?

what I wore to amanda’s rehearsal dinner

Happy Friday, everyone! I have a short post for you today, one that I meant to share a long time ago but it somehow got lost in the shuffle. As we’re nearing the end of summer wedding season, I thought it might still be applicable!

As you might remember, my dear cousin Amanda got married back in June. I was unsure what to wear to the rehearsal dinner, and ended up going with a classic long dress, a simple sweater, and flats. I got this dress on sale at Macy’s — now is the perfect time to score great sales on end-of-season summer dresses! Dresses like this can easily be adapted to autumn or winter weddings if you just add some tights and a heavier sweater/coat!

rehearsal dress

 

me and gb rehearsal dinner

 

Have you been to any weddings this summer? What did you wear to the rehearsal dinner?