Living In Fearless Gratitude

Someone I once knew used the phrase “fearless gratitude” as her mantra. She was a vibrant girl whom I treasured and I honestly can say she did live fearlessly grateful. She loved life and she was thankful for her place in life. And I held this girl to such prestige for those very reasons.

I knew this girl during some of my more gloomy days when I struggled to be both fearless and grateful. I marveled at her perseverance towards positivity even when times were tough. I watched from a distance and wanted to be more like her. I grew closer to her, hoping some of her resolve would rub off on me. She was a role model to me as I sat in my shade, and I yearned to live with fearless gratitude one day as well.

Over the years, I catch myself thinking back on how I idolized this girl. When a difficult situation arises and I find myself drawing back into the shadows I think of her. I think of her continuous smile, constant air of happiness, and ease of brushing things off her shoulders. And so I choose to say, “No. Not today. Today I’m going to live in fearless gratitude.” And I do — I change my thoughts and find strength in the silver linings of situations.

Yet sometimes I need more assistance than just my own convictions. And today was one of those days.

About a month ago I received a phone call from my physician in regards to my annual physical. She opted to call me personally rather than let me read her findings online because she has experience with my anxiety issues. Bless her heart. She began the conversation calmly, saying, “I want you to stay calm and take a seat.” I was already seated, but my heart started to race.

She continued to tell me that my Pap test had found abnormal cells.

Precancerous.

I had never received failed test results before, whether health-wise, professionally, or even in school. I didn’t know how to react.

I’m sure she told me more, but my mind was jumping a thousand steps ahead already. I was 10 tabs into Web MD when she asked me if I was okay.

Okay? That word crept at the edges of my thoughts: precancerous.

“I will be,” I answered. “What’s my next plan of action? What do I need to do?”

My physician said she had already placed a referral into our local gynecological health system to quicken the process of treatment. She wanted me to have the cells removed as soon as possible. I tried to take this as a compliment, but all the while I was questioning why she felt that urgency.

From one call to the next, I jumped on the line to schedule the next appointment. Speaking with the gynecological office, the receptionist recommended I have a second opinion done prior to scheduling the removal procedure. I agreed but also moved to schedule the colposcopy as well since there seemed to be a waiting list already. Better safe than sorry.

After being given the same results at my second appointment, I moved through the next two weeks with “FEBRUARY 14” triple-circled on my calendar. I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day, but this year’s reason far-outreached my usual disdainful criticism of the Hallmark holiday.

I spent the days leading up to the next appointment building my strength. I spoke with friends who had gone through something similar. I Googled every term I could remember being said concerning the issue. And I attempted to remain strong inwardly and outwardly.

Overall, I felt ready for my Valentine’s Day date.

The morning of my appointment, a slew of text messages provided strength and comfort to me as I mentally prepared for the unknown. I had learned over the past few weeks that the procedure was relatively common. Perhaps not for women as young as myself, but a number of ladies I had spoken to had received similar results throughout their years of the Pap test. I also had heard what to expect in terms of the procedure and after effects. By the time 10:30am rolled around, I swallowed 8 aspirin and was ready to get ‘er done.

Fortunately the procedure passed uneventfully. There was some discomfort, but overall I was in and out quickly. The doctor walked me through the process as she went along so I knew when to expect pain and when to breathe. I even made a joke here and there, in between my nervous finger-wringing and toe-tapping.

Once released, I found another slew of messages awaiting me. “How’d it go?” “Are you okay?” “I love you.”

Similar to when I received that first phone call from my physician, my heart began to beat faster. But for a whole different reason.

I am so grateful to the beautiful people who not only reached out to me today, but who have provided assurance, encouragement, and love over the past few weeks. Though I realize that my procedure was not as serious as it could have been, receiving news containing the phrase, “precancerous” is horrifying.

I am grateful to my husband for his persistence in being by my side throughout the past month. I am grateful to my parents for their care and support. I am grateful to the girls who prayed relentlessly for positive results and quick healing. I am grateful to the ladies who took time out of their day to bring dinner and laughs to the house. I am grateful for all the thoughts, words, and hugs. (And coffee — I am very grateful for the coffee, Toto.)

And I am grateful for that girl from years ago who taught me how to live in fearless gratitude. Without continuously saying that phrase in my mind, I would not be as readily able to see the positives in my life when the negatives rear their ugly heads. Strength comes in as many facets as blessings, one just has to be willing to shine a light of the darkness. 

I am also blessed to have tribes who pick me up when I am down and carry me to a brighter light when I find myself blinded. With my tribes, I was able to walk into the procedure today with my head held high, fearless.

Today, I lived in fearless gratitude to those God has placed in my life. And I could not be more humbled or honored to be surrounded by these courageous and loving people.

I am one blessed girl.

So from the bottom of my heart — thank you, my loves. 

 

Shout Out To The Pink Tie Ball 2019 Committee

February 2, 2019 will be the fifth year of joining forces with some of the most amazing women in Southwest Michigan to coordinate and manage one of the area’s elegant galas: Pink Tie Ball. These women have become such dear friends to me and one of my center Tribes. Our friendships flourished following one of our darkest days: the unexpected passing of our beloved leader and mentor. Since that time we continue to rely on one another’s strength to gain support for cancer research and care in our community. They are ladies I know I can turn to for advice, hugs, and lots of laughter.

With our event happening in a month’s time, I wanted to give a little shout out to these beautiful women. We have been working diligently to make Pink Tie Ball 2019 the best yet, and I am in awe of every single member of this committee. They deserve so much praise for all their hard work. And 2019’s event is sure to be just as amazing as they are because they’ve put so much of themselves into planning it…

The Pink Tie Ball began in 2015 and has transitioned throughout the past years. Members have come and gone, venues have changed, and beneficiaries have shifted. However, one key factor remains the same: the spirit of the Committee. The Committee continues to be a group of remarkable women focused on supporting the fighters, celebrating the survivors, and honoring the taken of all cancer variants within the Southwest Michigan community. These women came together not only for a worthy cause, but also to continue the legacy of the person who brought them all together: Denise Bohn.

Denise Bohn was the Development Director for Susan G. Komen Southwest Michigan. Beginning in 2015, Denise led the original Pink Tie Ball Committee through two years of growth which blossomed into an amazing event focused on raising breast health awareness and to provide education, screening, and diagnostics in our community. In 2017, the Committee chose to continue the event and dedicated their talents to keeping the Ball local and continuing Denise’s mission. We miss Denise terribly, but the opportunity to honor her with this gala urges us forward to keep fighting for all those effected by cancer in Southwest Michigan.

With the advice and encouragement of Susan G. Komen Michigan, the Pink Tie Ball Committee decided to become its own entity in 2018. Though our mission remains the same, our support and outreach has expanded past raising awareness of breast cancer to raising awareness and support for all forms of this cruel disease. Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide, and our community is no exception. For Pink Tie Ball 2019, it is our hope to support two amazing organizations, Susan G. Komen Michigan and Pennies From Heaven5, where funds raised will remain local.

It is the Pink Tie Ball Committee’s promise that 100% of funds raised at the 2019 Pink Tie Ball will go towards efforts to raise awareness of cancer and support cancer patients within Southwest Michigan. For Pink Tie Ball 2019, we are expanding our beneficiaries and plan to remain transparent with our friends and sponsors.

We have been working diligently with Susan G Komen of Michigan to ensure our PTB funds stay local in Southwest Michigan. In 2019, $5000 worth of funds raised will go towards creating 25 treatment bags including (but not limited to) the following: a jersey sweatshirt, a handmade blanket, a pillow, a stainless steel water bottle, a journal, adult coloring books, socks, a cookbook from an oncology dietitian, gas cards and a post-surgical fitted garment to wear home from the hospital after breast surgery. This treatment bag comes alongside screenings, diagnostics and education through Komen’s wide array of resources. Funds will also be used towards providing mammogram services for 25 patients located in Southwest Michigan.

$1000 of funds will be utilized for Pink Tie Ball event costs and expenses, as well as placed in preparation for 2020 Pink Tie Ball.

All remaining funds raised will be granted to our new partner, Pennies From Heaven5. Pennies From Heaven5 is a local non profit organization that offers financial assistance to young adults ages 21 to 30 for their living expenses and to provide comfort during their battles with cancer. Representatives from Pennies From Heaven5 have been working diligently with the Pink Tie Ball Committee to ensure this year’s event is the best Ball to date.

As with previous years, Pink Tie Ball will be an elegant evening full of food and drink, dancing, live entertainment, a silent auction and door prizes. Pat Moody will be Emcee for the night’s program, Jon Krugh of Center Line Music will have the dance floor poppin’, and Ben Pancoast will be returning with his always-popular Photo Booth. New to 2019, the evening entertainment will be a fashion show supporting those going through cancer treatments as well as celebrating those strong survivors among us. Studio I Boutique is the presenting sponsor for this “stylin’ against cancer” runway spectacular in this year’s program.

I am blessed to be a member of this 2019 Committee and have loved working beside so many others throughout the past five years. The Pink Tie Ball continues to grow in support and funds raised each year, and I am excited to see what we raise at this year’s gala. To my fellow Committee members, you are SO appreciated by so many and you are all such inspiration to me. Thank you for being my Tribe members, friends, and role models.

Much love,

Friendsgiving 2018 Menu

Thanksgiving is a traditional meal — gotta have that green bean casserole, amirite?! But Friendsgiving has become a fun new tradition G and I began last year. This year had to be a much more intimate affair due to all those home improvements and limited amount of time to plan, but it was still a great time. We used the time for enjoying more delicious food and even better community.

Talking about food, I wanted to provide some praise for our menu this year in the form of a post. I could go into detail about how to plan your own Friendsgiving or games/activities to play at your own dinner, but I think those topics are too difficult to cover. I mean, you know what works best with your friends’ group and can Pinterest tons of ideas. Instead, I’m going to focus on the dinner table.

Below is what we had on our Friendsgiving table along with recipes to try on your own. It was more than enough food for a small group of only six diners, but that meant leftovers. I’ll never complain about not having to grocery shop following a holiday!

Drinks

  • Cranberry Apple Moscow Mule Punch from Whitney Bond
  • Red Wine Hot Chocolate from Delish (we used Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine)
  • Holiday Sherbet Moscato Punch — this was a homemade recipe mixing grape juice and/or Hawaiian punch with lime sherbet and sparkling moscato

Appetizers

Dinner

  • Pumpkin Dinner Rolls from Tastes of Lizzy T
  • Spinach Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette similar to Vegan Daydream
  • Sweet Potato Casserole similar to Crunchy Creamy Sweet
  • Green Beans made with brown sugar and bacon — simply saute frozen or fresh green beans with olive oil, brown sugar, and bacon bits… YUM!
  • Simple Turkey (made in an oven bag) with instructions from Clever House Wife — this was my first-ever turkey so I threw a mix of my own spices inside and on top of the turkey including sage, black pepper, lemon, mustard, and garlic powder.

Dessert

  • Brownie Batter Dip similar to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe with pretzels, vanilla wafers, and marshmallows

We proceeded to play a little Battle of the Sexes and Cards Against Humanity before staying up until 2:00AM with some lively discussions. I’m loving this annual tradition and am excited to see how it will evolve over the next few years.

What sort of dishes do you include in your annual Friendsgiving? I would love to have some new recipes for future years! Please drop a suggestion in the comment section below.

See you all in December, 

Defining My Tribe

A local winery owner I know launched a women’s group back in February called Women Among Women. I’ve attended a few of the monthly meet-ups and have loved participating every single time. The group is more than simply networking, and focuses on topics decided upon by the attendees. Sometimes there may be a guest speaker, but more often the attendees have an open discussion on the specific topic of the evening. Topics have included goal setting, switching careers, and getting over life’s missteps gracefully. The women who attend are students, entrepreneurs, managers, mothers, spouses, volunteers, and so much more. It is a warm and inviting environment where each woman can connect with one another, share their personal experiences, and learn.

I met an awesome hustler a few months ago through this group. This woman began a podcast last year which has become a weekly delight for me to listen to on Wednesdays while I go about my work. The podcast, Hustlin’ In Heels, gets “real about struggles and celebrations of being a modern-day badass babe.” Basically, it’s a podcast Uncorking Peonies can get behind (and I definitely encourage anyone reading to give it a listen!)

Last week’s installment was all about building your tribe. The co-hosts talked about how they define a tribe, who they invite into their tribe, and what being in a tribe means. Their discussion got me thinking about how my tribe is continuously growing and evolving, and how I got to be in the various tribes I now find myself. Thus, I figured I’d focus my “annual Thanksgiving post” on my blessing of friendship and tribe.

To me, tribe is a universal word that is always attempting to be defined on a personal level. In the most basic sense, a tribe is built on similar social and economic ties and within a common culture. Yet a tribe can be so much more. It can be an intimately exclusive group simply built around care and love. Your tribe members have earned your trust, they hold you accountable in your endeavors, and they struggle through Life by your side. I love my husband and I love my parents, but they are not who I consider my tribe — they are family, which is a whole other elevated element of my Life. Instead, my tribe are those girls who are my ride-and-dies.

As a child, I can imagine I tied my identity to my family, similar to any other kid. I am an only child with a small extended family, but most of my memories as a youngster are centered around family holidays, vacations, or outings with my parents. It was not until my preteen years when I began to shift away from my familial tribe and looked to be invited into a friend tribe.

Unfortunately, I am an innate worrier. This means I suffered through my adolescent and teenage years — some of the most difficult years as a girl — in a constant state of worry. Did I fumble my way through that conversation? Am I cool enough to be her friend? That girl is hotter/smarter/cooler than me, so why would she want to hang out with me? I was in my head all the time and had very low self-esteem. With fear of what others thought and loathing of myself, I stepped into several friendships where I struggled to find my groove. There were multiple times I tried to force a relationship to no avail. Be it that personalities collided, trust was lacking, or my own inhibitions got in the way, by the time I reached my senior year in college, I lacked a core tribe.

Typical to human behavior, I played the victim card when friendships failed. “She hurt my feelings. She did me wrong. I was always the only one invested.” were my usual phrases when brushing off the pain of another failed relationship. When I realized I lacked a tribe, though, I began to reassess the past. Yes, those friend-fails may have been due to misunderstandings and crushed feelings, but I was not free from blame. I have difficulty trusting others due to my lack of self-esteem. I’m forever considering alternative motives and asking questions on someone’s intents. My personality is to give my all to a goal (in this reference, a functional friendship,) and sometimes I forget a friend’s personality might not match mine. Or worse, I forget a friend’s life does not center solely on our friendship.

In short, my past friendship fails have been 50/50 when it comes to who is to blame. And due to my own failings and lack of relationships, I found myself alone upon graduating. Right before graduation I had ended my romantic relationship which was truly my one and only core friendship at the time. So I found myself heartbroken, scared of an unknown career path, floundering in student debt, and alone. I lacked that intimate female camaraderie which I had struggled to find for years.

The day came though where I had to place my fears and self-esteem behind me, and throw myself in the hands of the only girls I found near me: my roommates. These two girls had only been my roommates for three months, and we had met on Facebook. I worked an hour away each weekend, studied a lot, and spent most of my free time with my ex, so minutes with these girls were few and far between. Our friendship was very elementary at the time.

Yet when my earth shook, they were there. They listened while my heart broke, held me while I sobbed, and took me for so many cups of FroYo I couldn’t even keep count. And through all the vulnerable moments, I began to heal. Their love made me feel safe and they helped me navigate the following months with grace and dignity. They were my first Tribe, and the perfect founding block on how I learned how to grow my future tribes.

Over the past several years, building my Tribe has become a wonderful hobby. Similar to what Angie says on Hustlin’ in Heels, I find more joy with the people I surround myself with because I trust them. That means going outside my comfort zone to meet new women, listening to their stories, and moving through life with them. Tribe is more than simple friendship; it is the group you do Life with and who does Life with you. Life is amazing and rewarding, but it comes with challenges. I’m not afraid anymore to admit I need help sometimes. As I meet new women and form relationships with them, I place my trust in them — something which I once shuddered at the thought.

The Tribes I have built are my support system. Some may be personal friendships and others professional, but I know they all have my back. I have come to realize that having a tribe is not only something I wanted for so many years, but Tribe is something I needed.

In the all-knowing words of Beyonce Knowles, “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you.” There is just something special about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent and raw with a fellow female. Women understand women — we’re all from Venus after all.

Over the past few years, I have worked to cultivate connections with like-minded individuals in various parts of my life. These women help turn my visions into reality and help me achieve ideas too big for me to accomplish on my own. This might be by urging me to have fun and go out, listening and providing advice during a difficult time, or telling me what I don’t want to hear when I’m being stubborn. To me, Tribe consists of those women who will not only listen to me, but will constantly push me to be better.

As I move through my life I know I am no longer alone when it comes to friendship. I have women behind me to uplift me, support me, encourage me, and check in with me periodically. And the reason they do this is not out of obligation or familial ties. No, these women do so because they choose to love me and have my best interests at heart. Their love and care is unconditional, which ultimately makes them family — my Tribes are my sisters. They are with me during my successes, but they also forgive all my failures. They tell me I’m a rock star, even when I’m not. My Tribes allow me to be human — wins, fails, and all the accompanying tears.

Your tribe can’t be there just to pat you on the back when you’re already feeling great. Your tribe has to be able to provide you with that extra energy needed when times are rough. They have to provide tough love sometimes, or a hand off the ground. My Tribes have helped me personally, professionally, and in so many other ways. They are my best friends, my closest confidants, and my hope is to give the love, compassion, and care back to them, as well as spread it to others.

Every woman needs a tribe.

Shout out to mine.

Reblog: To The Best Friend Who Cut Me Out Like I Never Existed

I have gotten into the habit of reading some awesome blogs over the past few weeks. As someone who is trying to grow her blog into something more, learning what sparks interest for both readers and myself seems the best route. During my wind-down time each night, I scroll through WordPress, PuckerMob, and other mass-writing arenas to find new and exciting pieces that catch my eye.

Unfortunately, all credit for this little thinker goes to my mama. (Shout out!) She sent me a link to this article written by Gabby Elizabeth on PuckerMob knowing the topic is near and dear to my heart, especially as I busily plan my wedding. The author is writing a letter to that old best friend who simply disappeared from her life. Actually, she is writing an open letter to any best friend who has left someone’s life. We’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled with feelings of betrayal and guilt and confusion and anger and sorrow after someone we cared for has left us, sometimes with no explanation.

Any relationship is work. And the loss of a friendship will bring about differing views on both sides. As some of the commentary on this article reference, some phrases in Gabby’s open letter make her into a victim. Yes, sometimes that victim-mentality is a result of the end of a friendship. Both sides will have opinions on the “break up.” There’s always two sides to every story. Yet I think there is a lot to say that Gabby is beginning to be at peace with this new lack of a friendship. We each go through grief differently, and if she needs to go through denial before coming to contentment, then all the more power to her. I’ve been there; I’ve done that.

For me, I’m thankful for this open letter and found it calming. Perhaps you also need to know there are a lot of others out there who have triumphed through this same scenario. Here you go, friends — read this and find some solace. Personally, I want to thank Gabby for putting many of our thoughts into words.

To The Best Friend Who Cut Me Out Like I Never Existed

Growing apart from anyone is hard, but growing apart from a best friend is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I am able to forgive you. I have new best friends who have showed me some of the most incredible friendships I could have imagined. But I still think about the past, it’s not easy to move forward from.

There’s a lot of things that I can do when I think about our time as best friends. I can question if our falling out was my fault. I can blame myself for it. I can be nostalgic and miss you dearly. I can even get angry that you seemed to want to lose our friendship.

But here’s what I can’t do.

I can’t devalue all of our memories, they were wonderful. I can’t take away from the friendship we had, or act as if it never happened. It’s not possible. You were a huge part of my life and you helped shape me into the person I am today.

I’m not mad at you anymore. I don’t have bad things to say. It’s beneath both of us to hold on to any bad blood. But I still can’t help but wonder what happened. What was it that made you let go of the person you called your best friend? Did it hurt you to throw me away? Did you miss me?

It seems like a lost cause to have any hope of getting your side of the story, and I can accept that. But when I look back at my life, just know that you are still the reason for some of my favorite memories. I can still smile at the things we did, and the way we were. I hope the same goes for you.

I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but I hope that you will because I need you to hear this:

Thank you for being there for me when nobody else was.

Thank you for helping me break out of my shell.

Know that I still treasure some of your advice, it’s always in the back of my head.

And that I still talk about some of our memories. They’re too incredible to not share.

I look at old pictures a lot. More than I should, probably.

Our friendship meant the world to me….

And your betrayal was the hardest thing I have ever went through.

I never will understand your reasoning for letting go…

But I don’t think you’re a bad person…

And I want you to be happy.

I miss you, though.

Written by Gabby Elizabeth for PuckerMob on Friday, May 11, 2018. Find the original post here.