Wild Flower

The flowers we buy take so much work. They’re cheap. They’re needy. They’re common. Anyone can buy them. Anyone can plant them.

Rinse and repeat.

I much prefer the wildflowers… the ones you find when you don’t expect it. How did they get here ? How do they survive on their own? How long will they last?

Be the wildflower among those store boxed annuals, girls.

 

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A Victor, not a Victim

A little late on the uptake, but here’s the annual thinking-out-loud (or thinking-in-print) that comes at the start of each new year.

Man, I was worried about 2017. 2016 knocked me on my back. It then kicked me a few more times, just to be sure.

I gained 35 pounds…lost all my confidence… and felt directionless.

But something about a new year gives you a little gumption. And this time last year, I decided I was ready to get up and hit back. I wasn’t letting life take me down that fast. “You didn’t come this far to only come this far,” as Eric Thomas says.

Marrying Tom and taking his name felt like a wonderful start. Something about getting a new name helped me believe that I could change, and be better.

About a week after our January wedding, I joined Ladyboss. I started fighting back against all the weight I’d gained and the mean voices in my head.

In February, I went to see my dad for the first time since all the chaos had erupted. I started fighting back against my anger and my guilt.

In April, we took our Kauai honeymoon. I wore a bathing suit in public again. I took my first helicopter ride. I drove an ATV over rough terrain. I started fighting back against my fear.

In May, I accepted the position of a reading teacher. I started fighting back against my resistance to change.

From June through August, I REASONABLY volunteered some of  my time to babysitting and working at the rescue once a week. I said “yes” to these things I could do, and “no” to things I couldn’t do. I started fighting back against my fear of letting other people down.

In August, I signed up for sign language classes at a local school for the deaf. I started fighting back against pushing off my dreams.

In October, I flew to Dallas for the Ladyboss Live convention to meet 500 other Ladybosses. I had panic attacks. I was so nervous. But I fought back against anxiety. (And it was a blast!)

This year has been full of fighting a good, clean fight in which I am becoming the VICTOR instead of the victim. I am proud of myself for the first real time in my life.

Ive stopped saying I CANT do things because I’m too introverted, too tired, too broke. I’ve learned these thoughts are what keep you from truly LIVING your life.

I’ve learned the importance of having a COMPELLING VISION for your life, and using every 24 hours you’ve got to do what you need to do that day to work towards your vision.

So unbelievably thankful for all the people in my life, especially my husband. We’ve had so much fun this year and have taken some big steps together. Here’s to a rewarding 2018, which is possible to achieve no matter what comes our way.

 

Kristen

 

 

 

 

 

Learn to Rest

“If you get tired, learn to rest– not to quit.”

I haven’t written in several months, but the mood is striking me. Whether I’ll have anything remotely interesting to say is a different story.

A few updates– housekeeping, if you will. I switched from kindergarten teacher to K-3 reading teacher, a job which I’m enjoying immensely so far. We also bought our house! It feels oddly reassuring to have your own home. We are loving it.

My mom and Amber are staying with us for a few months. It’s great to have the women in our family getting closer to one another lately after such a hard year. It’s been more difficult than I can put into words watching my loved ones suffering. Minor victories feel like major blessings lately. I’m happy for every one of those small victories.

An update on my dad– my dad has not only exceeded last year’s prognosis, but was also able to move to a much better facility gives him closer proximity to family. He’s liking it a lot better so far. Going to visit soon.

I turned 27 last month. I always get all weird and reflective on birthdays and New Years holidays.

Something I realized is that the older I’m getting, the less I’m caring what other people think. Not in a bad way either– just in the way that I’ve realized they’re going to think what they’re going to think. Many times it will be positive and some times it might be negative. Either way, it doesn’t really affect me as much as it used to.

I spent so long afraid of conflict, and of people not liking me. I guess without noticing it, I’ve started to believe that if someone doesn’t like me, it’s none of my business. All I can do is be the best version of myself I can muster. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands. 95 percent of the time, people probably aren’t really thinking about us at all. So why worry about it, right?

The other thing I’ve been learning is to TAKE BREAKS in life– physically, mentally, and emotionally. Something my friend Ashley said a few weeks ago has really stuck with me: We need to stop killing ourselves giving everything our 110%, when our 90% is really truly awesome AND it’s enough. I’ve tried to stop staying ungodly hours after work, and stop saying yes to things when I need to say no (in all areas of life).

I’m learning that it’s perfectly fine if I need to, as my friend Andrea recently said, set boundaries for myself. She reminded me that if I’m being polite and respectful, it’s okay when I need to remind others of my own limits.

Also– whoa! I’m not ashamed of my anxiety disorder anymore! Not sure when that happened, but for a while now I’ve been an unabashed mouthpiece for anxiety awareness. I’m glad, because other people talking about it is exactly what convinced me to seek help two years ago. Things aren’t perfect. I had a panic attack yesterday when my mom got hurt. But things are MUCH BETTER since I got help. So if you’re reading this and want to chat about it, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Goals I’m working towards as I enter this new year of life (27) and this new year of teaching (year 3):

  1. Always take time for myself when I’m drained BUT be respectful and kind about telling people I need it.
  2. Keep working out and eating well.
  3. Keep being kind to everyone, and especially to the students at my school. Even when I’m stressed or am in dire need of caffeine.

Isn’t it funny how I have a hard time talking and being serious in real life, but I can bare my rawest thoughts here? Haha. Oh well. Just going to roll with it. Once a writer, always a writer.

Cheers,

Kristen

 

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1 AM Thoughts

We just got back from our honeymoon in Kauai…and it was truly amazing.  Tom and I LOVED this time to get away together and genuinely relax. We did as much as we could during our 7 days– hiked, flew, drove ATV’s, attended a luau, spent multiple afternoons on the beach… it was perfect. ❤

We googled multiple times “how to move to Kauai” last week. We felt so at home there, like our personalities and minimalistic lifestyles fit right in. We had to keep reminding ourselves that if we ACTUALLY lived there, it wouldn’t be the pure paradise we were experiencing. We would have to work and sacrifice. That made it a littttttle bit easier to say goodbye!

The school year is going wonderfully, and we only have a few weeks left. This year has flown by. The second year of teaching was definitely a lot easier than the first year. I look forward to the third year 🙂

I’m definitely still on Kauai time, because I’m wide awake at 1 AM contemplating things that are way too complex to be thinking on when one should be asleep… I thought I might as well just write it out, so I can be done with it for tonight and get some rest.

The day  before we left on our honeymoon, I got a letter from my dad. Twice in the letter, he wrote the phrase “in case I don’t see ya anymore.” Reading those words quite literally brought me to the floor. I called him immediately and scheduled a visit for next Sunday…because this just can’t be the way things go (…end.)

Anticipatory grief is a terrible thing. You wonder if every conversation will be your last, you wonder what you should have done differently, and what you should be doing differently each day… a lot has happened, between my dad and I, over the years. It’s all water under the bridge when it comes to facing the possibility of death.

Our time is not infinite, and talking about that makes us uncomfortable. I keep telling myself, “Just say what you need to say, and do what you need to do.” At the end of the day, the person most affected by my choices is ME. But those same choices affect others in immeasurable ways, and I want to take responsibility for that.

I had this overwhelming moment while we were on a helicopter, flying over Kauai last week… from the ground, there just appeared to be mountains on Kauai. But from the sky, we saw probably 20 waterfalls hidden among them… mountain goats that you’d never know lived there…and even a rainbow.

Seeing all of this from high in the sky, I  just had this moment where I got all choked up and realized that this world will go on without us. We are all so small and our time is relatively short. It gave me a moment of peace, rather than despair.

No pain lasts forever. Millions of people have experienced just about anything you will experience. And life just keeps marching on… it’s an oddly comforting thought, to me.

We’re a part of something much bigger than ourselves. And it is up to us to determine how significant of a mark we will leave.

Well, I’m not sure what the point is, but whatever I’ve written has given me the feeling that I can finally go to sleep. I’ll end on this thought:

 

“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive, and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.” -Yehuda Berg

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2 out of 5 stars, 2016…and hope.

People always make that cliche rollercoaster comparison, but it’s awfully true. 2016 has been the jerkiest, whip-lash inducing ride. I’m totally ready to get off and write an awful review of it. But at the same time, I’d have to give it at least 2 out of 5 stars.

The 2 stars are for this gorgeous little town we live in, for Nugget, for Tom being all around awesome, finding my new job, my amazing kindergarten class, going to Arizona, and starting yoga.

I will say, on a very serious note…things with my dad have worsened.

It’s a sobering, sad situation. Our family has been both supported by some and misunderstood by others. Explaining our decisions is hard. Wedding planning can be hard. The holidays were hard. Checking my email is hard. Listening to voicemails is hard. You never know if you’re getting threatened/berated, or told how much you are loved and missed. It has been torture on all of us. I’m reminded of that quote about it being hard to watch someone drowning in a foot of water, but you can’t get them to stand up. That’s how it feels with my dad.

However…I’m looking to 2017 with a lot of hope– it’s starting with the happiest occasion, Tom and I getting married. I’m hoping my dad will get back on his medications that calmed him. I have hope for a great second half of kindergarten. I have hope that I’ll get out of my physical health funk and return back to feeling good and energized.

I have hope for Tom and I’s partnership, and that we’ll have a beautiful and much-needed honeymoon this spring. I have hope for my family to start rebuilding as something completely new and uncharted. I have hope for my baby sister’s bright future as she graduates high school in May.

I have hope for a lot of different things, and so although January 1 may just be another day, to me it is a fresh start. Most of all, I hope that everyone feels this sense of possibility and can be refreshed by this new start, too.

Happy New Year to all. 🙂

Kristen

2017

Real and Loved

I read something recently from Glennon Doyle Melton that said we can either be shiny and admired, or real and loved. I think most days it’s just easier to gloss over the hard bits, and keep shining. No questions get asked. I keep cracking dumb jokes and being a sassypants, and life goes on.

But there’s something that’s been going on for about two months now that’s pretty “real.”

At the end of April, as I shared in my first blog post, my dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer that has spread throughout many parts of his body. The doctor said he likely had 1 year to live without chemo, and up to 3 years with chemo. He declined the chemo.

Back when we got the diagnosis, I imagined it meant more family outings and long meaningful talks. I imagined at the end, there might be sadness and awful sickness, but that we would be there to take care of him till the end. And at first, we were planning extra trips and getting him awesome gifts and calling more to check in than we used to. He was listening to that song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw and seemed optimistic about trying natural remedies.

Sadly, in August, my dad started acting very different. He was doing and saying a lot of strange things that were not like him. To spare the sad and the not-so-savory details, I’ll just say… a LOT happened in a short period of time. And at a time in life when we all wanted to have a better relationship with him than ever, we found a situation that felt much different.  As sad as it is, we eventually felt that “home” was too unpredictable and unsafe for the time being.

We were concerned that his cancer (already throughout most of his body) may have spread to his brain. Alternatively, we wondered whether some medications related to his cancer were causing strange reactions. However, we were taken off the list of people who can be informed of his medical condition. And so we’ve waited, and wondered, from a safer distance. Sometimes being distanced has been a relief, and some nights have been full of tears and heavy hearts and wanting desperately for answers.

Recently, we found out that indeed the cancer is still there and he is expected to live less than a year. He has lost quite a bit of his personal freedoms at this time, but isn’t wanting help/treatment.

My mom is just about the strongest person I can imagine for following her gut these past couple of months, and doing what she feels is necessary. She has had to hold her head up as her world became tumultuous. I sincerely can not IMAGINE how it must feel to get such a grim diagnosis about the love of your life….to live with that grief over the summer while trying to be positive and inspirational for him…. and then all of this.

Some have judged her, not understanding the finer details of the situation. Out of respect to who my dad was before all of this began (and who we hope he will be again soon), we’ve tried to handle it all privately and spare the worst parts. But all of this isn’t what we want him to be remembered by.

Every day, we’re waiting for a phone call, and hoping for better news on the other end. It’s been teaching me a lot about how life goes on (MERCILESSLY, sometimes). You just absorb every shock, and cry about it sometimes, and get up and feel pretty normal at other times.

I would appreciate any good thoughts/prayers you can send for our family at this time. More so, if you know my mom or other family, it would mean the world if you dropped them an encouraging line. Thanks for reading my rambles.

Much Love,
Kristen

real-and-loved

2 Weddings & A Family

The weekend before last, Tom and I went to Milwaukee for a wedding.The food was delicious, the singing was beautiful…but the thing that struck me the most was the set of around 20 speeches made during the meal afterward. That’s a lot, but it was very touching that this couple was so loved by their friends and family.

Then this past weekend, we went to another wedding in Richmond.There was a live band playing oldies-but-goodies that kept us all dancing into the night, upside down cupcakes, and a beautiful backdrop…but the thing that struck me the most at THAT wedding was the fun and comforting fellowship among the guests.

I started to think about Tom and I’s upcoming wedding…. Neither of us are super excited about planning all the small details. We’re not picky about decorations or the type of flowers we have. The thing we’re looking forward to the most is having all the most important people in our lives together with us sending us off into our marriage. 

As a friend recently said, “Don’t forget, you’re not just planning a wedding– you’re beginning your marriage.”

Anyways…after the two weddings, we visited my friend Grace and her family. I met Grace and her husband Tom during my first year of college down in Georgia. They dated for a couple of years, got married, had two beautiful baby girls and have a baby boy on the way.

At first when Tom and I visited, it was sort of surreal that a couple the same age as us were in such a different part of their journey than we are. Tom and I plan to adopt, and won’t start that process for about two more years if all goes as planned. However, seeing Grace’s family all together filled our hearts with love. It made me look forward to our someday family, to being a mom, and finally raising up a son and daughter with all the love and support I can muster.

I guess I’m just rambling a bit, but the bottom line is– these trips filled me with excitement for what’s ahead. It helped remind me that life is really about the people you spend it with, and how much love you spread. That being said.. 130 days until my marriage begins 🙂

Kristen