2019 In Reflection

As usual, Life is passing by at an alarming speed, but I could not miss my annual tradition of sitting down at the keyboard to reflect on this past year… and decade as a whole. Since 2014 I have looked back at each year and shared some of the highlights in my life. So here I am, at it again:

2019 began in a whirlwind. I headed into the new year with two big “milestones” under my belt from 2018: being a newlywed and purchasing our first home. I entered this year without resolutions or goals, but rather the objective to focus my year on a single, all-encompassing word: intention. (Read more about this decision here!) For the most part, I believe I lived according to my plan.

I made it my intention to say “No” to more questions this past year. If I was asked to assist with a project, go out for a social event, or spend my time doing something outside my comfort, I weighed my answer heavily. There were more times than not when I replied, “No.” without apology and without explanation. In the past, my life was ruled by external situations and other people. In 2019, my focus became more internal, with all consideration on myself, my husband, and those most dear to us. By spending the majority of my time focused in this way, I discovered my passion for baking, found time to enjoy evening walks with Copper, and enthusiastically won countless games of Exploding Kittens against G. I may not have been increasing my networks in the community past my professional necessities, but I proudly took on the label “homebody” and transitioned our house into a home.

I also intentionally said goodbye to some relationships in 2019. I became more aware of the two sides friendships should expect. Friendship is not one always giving and one always taking; there should be a balance. I would reach out to those people I valued, but if the interactions were not reciprocated, I allowed the relationships to quiet and/or completely deplete. Not in a malicious way, but in an understanding that Life happens, directions change, and people can move forward wishing another the best while not remaining in their lives. This thinking also allowed me to focus on networks that fit my current situation in life and to enter into new tribes. Those relations who took the initiative to welcome me, I intentionally aimed to strengthen. So in 2019 and the future, my goal is to grow wiser with my relationships by actively pursuing meaningful connections while also understanding not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime.

2019 brought a bout of new challenges to my life as well. We welcomed Copper, an energetic ball of fluff, into our new home in January. The growing pains of raising a puppy have been a great insight for children in the future. Setting the chewed boots, destroyed rugs, and numerous backyard holes aside, there really is no describing the love we have for our little dude. Copper brings so much joy into our home, even on his naughtiest of days. He has become my daily walking companion and evening cuddle-bug.

In February I had a procedure to remove three sections of cancer cells. This was my first stint of any negativity in my health, and the aftermath led to a lot of changes in me physically. I was told getting pregnant would be difficult. I was not able to exercise like I once had enjoyed. I was in pain and felt fatigued daily. All of which ultimately led to gaining weight and putting a strain on my mental and emotion states. It took several tests, but we also discovered one major contributor to my health issues was an intolerance to gluten. As the year moved on, learning what harms my body has been a challenge in itself, but with each new day, I’ve begun to feel more and more like my old self and am no longer in daily pain due to the foods I eat.

As I regained my health, I also was given the clear to do more high-intensity workouts by my physician. So in September I joined a local CrossFit Box and fell in love with not only the exercises, but also my new fitness tribe. Unfortunately, the Box closed on November 30th, so my time with these new friends was short. The experience reminded me that I can put myself outside my comfort zone though, and that I have the drive to work hard for my health. I’m utilizing the lessons learned at CrossFit to move into 2020 with motivation to continue working to better my fitness, strengthen my mind, body and soul, and fit back into the totes of clothes in our basement. (Meh.)

One huge blessing in 2019 was the continued growth in my marriage. As with all married couples, G and I have several differences in our personalities, upbringing, and views on the world. Yet there is not another man I’d rather do Life with, or argue over what Netflix comedy special we’ll rewatch on a Wednesday evening. We were fortunate to explore new places this year: Indianapolis, Storm Lake, Geneva, Belfast. And with each new adventure, we spent quiet moments together, talking about our pasts, present, and futures. It may be cliche to say, but I fall deeper in love with G every single day.

As with any new year, moving out of 2019 has left some unanswered and open questions to what 2020 might bring. First off, the executive director at my agency resigned the week before holiday break. He had held his position for over 20 years, so his departure leaves our agency curious as to what changes may occur. Who will take his seat? Will there be internal changes? How will such changes affect our clients and community? I am one who strives on change, so the prospects of what is to come is exhilarating. Then there is the opportunity for G to complete his schooling by the year’s end. His graduation may mean changes for our little family as well. Finally, questions on my health are still taking place. I have an appointment in January to run a new test to see if children may be an easy possibility for us in the future. I am trying not to worry, but my heart yearns for an answer either way — just so we can decide the best method of becoming parents in the coming years. Thankfully, I have 100% faith in my physician. All in all, I know God will direct us on the best path for His glory in all manners of answering any questions that may arise in 2020 or any future year.

As 2019 and the 2010’s decade comes to a close, I can sit behind this computer screen in contentment. I have plenty of people, places, and things of which to be grateful. I saw a lot of loss in the 2010’s, but I also gained so much — the highs of the past ten years far outweigh the lows. As with any new year, 2020 has the promise to be something special. To change people. To change the world.

For me and my little corner of this grand space, I am looking forward to another year of positive growth, unlimited grace, and deep, deep gratitude.

Happy New Years, my friends,

100,000 Miles Behind Me (And Another Birthday)

As I was returning home from CrossFit on Monday, my odometer rolled into the six digits. My Ford Escape, Capri, which I bought in 2014 new with only 17 miles has taken me on a lot of journeys: Tennessee, Indy, Pictured Rocks, Finger Lakes, Maine. “He” gets me from Point A to Point B daily, and as the numbers flipped to all zeros, I had to smile at all the memories made inside my little ride.

In a similar fashion, my own odometer flipped a number today. I am now 28-years-old, and though most days I feel like I should not be so close to the big 3-0, today I am thankful for the years behind me. It has become a bit of a tradition for me to write birthday posts full of those memories (see 2018, 2016, 2015, and 2014) This year I figured it might be about time to share a few facts about myself to allow my readers to get to know me a bit better. So, here I am…

28 Things You May Not Know About Me:

  1. I am an INFJ personality type (the most rare!) and find the description terrifying accurate.
  2. I am allergic to metals — which I discovered when I got braces as a child.
  3. My favorite scents are rustic: campfire, pine, leather.
  4. My first job was acting as Santa’s elf at our local mall.
  5. I am a die-hard Potterhead. J. K. Rowling was my inspiration to begin writing as a child.
  6. I do not drink soda. I stick strictly to “water drinks”: coffee in the morning, water in the afternoon, and wine at night.
  7. My biggest fears are tornadoes, Furbys, and being forgotten. I think all are self-explanatory.
  8. My hair is naturally blonde.
  9. I could live life never having sweets again, but I’d die without some salty treats.
  10. I did not play with dolls as a little girl, instead I loved my Pound Puppies and Beanies Babies.
  11. My favorite flower is –surprise — peonies.
  12. When I am sad, my favorite movie to watch is The Breakfast Club.
  13. I purge my closet every Spring and Fall. If I haven’t worn an article of clothing in the past 6 months, I put it in a tote. Then I go through the tote and any articles I have forgotten about, I donate. Its a revolving cycle of refinding fun pieces and purging those I no longer need/wear.
  14. Though I hate to admit it, I am a crier. Sad movie? Instant tears. Happy movie? Instant tears. Song about a dog? Instant tears.
  15. If I never visited a city again, I’d be okay. I am a country girl through and through.
  16. I was a fan of the Cubs before the 2016 World Series. (And cried happy tears when the Curse of the Goat finally broke!)
  17. My childhood dream was to be an architect, and I spent countless hours designing houses on The Sims.
  18. My celebrity crush is Hugh Jackman.
  19. I am an only child.
  20. I cannot keep a plant alive indoors to save my life. I’ve murdered about 20 basil plants since moving into our home.
  21. I love staying home. LOVE it. Staying in is my favorite Friday night activity.
  22. I am kind of competitive when it comes to board games. “If you aren’t first, you’re last.”
  23. My top five favorite TV shows are: Desperate Housewives, Smallville, The Office, The Walking Dead, and Great British Bake-Off.
  24. I’m very good at sleeping. Give me ten minutes, and I can be passed out. I’ve slept through turbulence, long car rides, and boring movies.
  25. I live for real crime and fantasy novels.
  26. I did not declare my college major until my last semester. I thought I was going to declare Creative Writing, but decided to take two courses on grant writing in order to earn a bachelors degree in Professional Writing.
  27. Something G thought was completely endearing when we first started dating is that I do not have a favorite color. Instead, I have a favorite color per season. In Spring, I love mint, Summer coral, Fall rose gold, and Winter slate.
  28. I order lattes with oat milk because a barista once told me, “That’s the correct way to drink lattes.” I didn’t need more evidence than that, I guess.

I hope you enjoyed learning 28 facts about me. Please share some fun facts about yourself below! I would love to learn a little bit about yourself, friend.

A big thank you to all my friends and family taking time out of their Sunday to wish me a Happy Birthday. I feel so blessed with the love, encouragement, and support of you all.

With you and for you,

What’s Your “Word” For 2019?

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? I have not been a big fan of resolutions in the past simply because they seem to have a poor stigma surrounding them. Resolutions seem to have become the butt of jokes, a frustration for gym rats, and stress-inducers for those who set them. For awhile I aimed to set goals rather than resolutions. My thought process behind this decision was completely based on definitions. Resolutions are decisions to do or not do things, whereas goals are focused ambitions to achieve a desired result.

Over the last few years, I made goals for myself at the beginning of each year. These goals provided direction, and also allowed me to plan and prepare to take realistic actions for my desired outcomes. Sometimes I realigned my goals throughout the year to better serve my changing lifestyle. Other times I quit on my goals or rolled them over to the next year. There were even a few goals I proudly achieved.

For 2019, I neither set resolutions or goals. Instead, I’ve chosen a single word to bring me guidance throughout the year. It took me some time to narrow down what my one word should be though…

I was talking with a few of my girlfriends this past week on their New Year’s resolutions. Instead of resolving to change or setting goals, each of them had instead chosen a single word to use as guidance for the upcoming year. One had chosen “present” to remind her to be happy with her current place in life and to keep her grounded when thoughts of her past or future may surface. The other chose “content”. She has struggled with finding contentment in her life, either rushing or attempting to persuade circumstances to fit what she feels is best. This ultimately adds more stress to her life, so she has aimed to focus on finding the silver-linings in the here-and-now.

I had heard the idea of One Word before. There’s actually a book called My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen which goes in depth on how to choose your word. (I’ve never read the book, but have known a few people who have.) The authors state that choosing your Word is a year-changing process. This process “provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.”

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also begins her years choosing a single word to bring her guidance. In a LinkedIn post on January 1st, Gates explained that this tradition “encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead.” She focused 2016 around the word “gentle” which helped her fight perfectionism, and 2017’s “spacious” prompted her to make room for the things in life that truly matter. She is doubling on the word “grace” for 2019 as it served her well in 2018.

I love the concept that one Word can set a theme for the year and be a constant reminder to focus on creating positive change in your life.

Looking back, I can roll each year into one word. In 2017 my year was focused on “release.” I released responsibilities, people, and stress from my environment in order to thrive (and in a few circumstances simply survive.) In 2018, “gratitude” was the resounding theme. I was grateful for a new career path and a loving husband and a first home. I was grateful for Life shining bright and for the releases of 2017 to finally make sense.

As I walk into 2019 I have been finding difficulty in narrowing the next twelve months into a single word though. The reason I didn’t make any goals was because I hadn’t considered what they may be — in all honesty, I am very content with my life as it is today and am not sure what more I could aim to achieve.

I considered “contentment” along the lines of my friend. Remaining content can sometimes be a challenge for a long period of time and perhaps that could be more 2019 focus.

I also thought I could narrow my theme to one of the goals I set back on my birthday. However, the whole point of One Word is to encompass a number of aspirations for my future.

I thought some more.

And some more.

I considered “wine”… to which my friends shook their heads and laughed.

So I thought ever harder.

And I realized that as I tried to figure out my intentions for 2019, my Word was right in front of me:

Intention.

Though I am living in a very happy, content bubble at the moment, I acknowledge that much of my life is lived in habit. Each part of my life (whether it be activities, things, people, etc.) has a sort of control over me and I see now I need to take the reigns. Intentionally.

I want to speak intentionally. I want to make intentional decisions. I want to intentionally put my life into action.

Gone are the days where I make significant number of choices simply because. Moving forward, I yearn to live with intention — living with more purpose on purpose. I don’t want to continue getting caught up in the outside noise of Life. You know, the busyness of everyday habits or the control of social media and other’s perceptions. Areas that may quickly spiral out of control if left unhindered and unchecked.

Instead, I want to take every step in my life as a well-thought, well-planned, and well-executed decision. To move my happiness and contentment of Life into the greater plane of joy.

I am aiming towards sustainable joy.

Thus I choose to live with intention.

Have you considered a Word of the Year for yourself? If so, what did you choose for 2019 and why? And if this little blurb made you think about a Word, what are you thinking to focus on in the new year? 

Until next time, friends,

2016 in Reflection

It’s that time of year again. The time of year where Christmas music has officially been blasting in all retail stores for three months, temperatures have dropped below freezing, my warm fuzzy socks hide the fact I’m no longer shaving like its summer (#sorrynotsorry), and the Facebook Years in Review are rearing their superficial, only-choose-pictures-with-the-most-likes heads.

If you look at social media such as Facebook and Twitter, 2016 is being hailed the Worst Year of All Worst Years. There’s a lot of talk that 2017 has to be better because “it definitely can’t go worse!” Well, to show my merriment and own hopes for what the new year will bring, here’s my personal review of what 2016 was to me and what I’m looking forward to in the new year…

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I’ve been saying it for twelve months now, but let me say it again: I have never had a more difficult year than what 2016 brought to me. Not even the most upsetting broken heart could have prepared me for the loss I felt this past April. To this day, I still have nightmares where I wake up and have to comfort myself from the crippling weight it is to have a mentor, friend, and idol ripped from your life. I have not been, and doubt I ever will be, able to make sense of why this woman was taken from the world at such a (seemingly) important point in her life. This world doesn’t make sense sometimes, and 2016 was the year this Life Lesson truly debuted to me.

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Thankfully, though, even with such a tough lesson to work through, 2016 brought far more good to my life than it did evil. In February I was blessed to be able to take a family vacation with my parents to one of my favorite places on this Earth: Disney World. And not only did I enjoy my time with my closest loved ones, but I also completed the largest race I’ve ever attempted, the Glass Slipper Challenge. I ran a 10k race with my dad followed by a half marathon through the streets of Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and surrounding roadways. And, due to being so ill during the months leading up to the races, I really took a lot of pride in becoming a Finisher of both races and being able to wear my medals with a shining smile. It was an amazing opportunity and one I will always treasure! No one is ever too old for the magic of Disney!

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Aside from my family, 2016 was much easier to swallow due in large to the people I met through my church group, House. Never have I ever had a more caring, supportive group of friends. It’s amazing to realize what you were missing when you finally are granted what you needed! These people are such a central part of my life now, I don’t know how I functioned without them. I attend church with them every Sunday, I compete in trivia every Monday, we hold Bible studies on Wednesdays, we play Ultimate Frisbee, attend concerts, go line-dancing, play paintball, host game nights and movie marathons, dig volleyballs, and most Fridays and Saturdays involve one or two outings together. And during any downtime, there is usually banter, chatter, and sometimes even tears. I can go to any of my friends for advice and know that they’re honestly looking out for me with no strings attached. I’ve never had such people in my life before and I am eternally grateful that God dropped me into their little corner of the world.

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I’ve mentioned tears and crying a few times here, but don’t get me wrong! 2016 brought much more laughter and busyness to my life than any other year I can recall. I attended several events throughout the year including four weddings, the Pink Tie Ball, and the Little Black Dress Party. I took on more responsibility in my community involvement by acting as Secretary for Paint Our Towns Pink and becoming a board member of 100 Women Strong. I also picked up a bit of leadership with House by taking on all communications for the group as well as assisting with most event planning. It’s a blessing to be able to use my talents of organization, focus, and high energy to better my community and bring praise to God. I may not be exactly where I want to be long term, but for now I am content.

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As with most years, I had some wonderful new experiences in 2016. As I said, I ran the Princess race through Disney, but I also was able to revisit Florida with Wilbur’s family this past October. It was my first time vacationing with a SO’s family and I was incredibly nervous. The entire trip was fun! I experienced my first hurricane (Matthew) while in Florida, which is not something every Michigander gets to say… Apart from vacationing, 2016 also introduced me to the art of making dumplings, the beginning stages of venturing into homeownership,  revisiting my childhood at the Fantastic Beasts premier, road tripping to a new state (for me) of Minnesota, watching my Cubbies win the World Series, standing up in my best friend’s wedding and acting as mistress of ceremony in my other best friend’s wedding, and a number of other little trinkets to store in my memory.

Overall, 2016 was a pretty great year despite the sadness that still arises when thinking of those I lost. As I’ve come to say, I’ve lost some but gained so much more.

Looking to the future, I continue to try to live each day positively, curiously, and passionately. If I could survive 2016 and still look at Life and think is it beautiful, then 2017 has no fears for me..

To 2016, I’m thankful for what you taught me, but it does not break my heart to tell you good-bye. And to 2017… Bring it, New Year, I’m ready for you!

2015 in Reflection

I wrote a reflection on my year in 2014 (2014 in Reflection) and, looking back, to see when and where I was in my life at each month in the past is a very powerful experience. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things can change and directions in Life can alter. This time last year I was preparing to begin a new career, was steadily becoming more infatuated with a new relationship, and the worst loss I had to cope with was that of a broken heart. 2015 brought about a whole new level of craziness that only reinstates Peonies ‘n Mint’s tagline: I am truly blessed to have loved, lost and gained so much.

While looking back at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, I have to laugh. I made a list of 15 Goals for 2015 and actually succeeded in quite a few of them throughout this year. How I was successful with each strike off the list may not have been completely planned, but it was a success nonetheless! My only “failures” were not running a timed race every month, not going Paleo for an entire month, not learning mixology, and not seeing Miranda in concert. Thankfully, these are options I can make goals for in 2016 if I choose; 2015 was not my only shot!

Overall 2015 was very eventful::

January: I began work at Heartland in a new career path of real estate. This path took me to enrolling in real estate classes and ultimately passing the state examination to receive my real estate agent license by mid-summer.

February: Referring to my goals list in 2015, I chose to continue working and volunteering with Susan G. Komen after leaving Shadowland and no longer being in the event planning business. I was asked to be head decorator at a gala called Pink Tie Ball held on Valentine’s Day where over $18,000 was earned for research and treatment of breast cancer. I also helped decorate for the Little Black Dress event at Shadowland in October 2015 and will be on the event committee for Pink Tie Ball 2016.

May: I lost four friends in 2015, and May marked the passing of the first. My best friend who has been my Harry Potter-premier partner and country concert comrade since kindergarten lost her mother unexpectedly. Jamie, whose home was like a second dwelling for me growing up, went to heaven following complications with a minor surgery. Jamie was a highly intelligent woman and one who gave me a lot of advice during my drama with X. I looked up to her fondly. And though the loss was painful enough, my heart hurt most for Granger, who is my best friend and daughter of Jamie. Every person handles grief differently, but it seemed as if Granger simply did not want to handle the grief at all. My heart still hurts for my friend as she and her family continue to struggle with the loss.

June: The second friend lost was Army. And though I might scoff at calling him a friend today, back in June that is exactly what I considered him. I never thought him and I had a future together; we were far too opposite in personality and beliefs. However, Army was someone I cared for and his family was some of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting. The sudden and unexpected break up left me in tears for a few days, and then mad at anything male for a few months.

In retrospect, it was quite the blessing to lose Army. Not only did I come to the realization that my heart could continue to mend after another heartbreak, but I learned I could love people differently with every relationship I came in contact. I also broke out of a very gloomy and God-forsaken viewpoint after this break, something of which I can never fully thank Army for granting me the opportunity.

July: I ventured on a spontaneous road trip with Teeth in July and it ultimately ended our friendship. Though we are back on speaking terms, Teeth now lives in North Carolina and our conversations are very limited and usually spoken within group texts with the other two girls from the 2014 cruise, Saki and Toto.

August: June and July led me to the most pivotal change in 2015: my participation in House. While being disgusted with men and dealing with the after effects of a broken friendship, my life was a bit gloomy. I was questioning a lot of things and I felt as if the only way for me to break out of the darkness was to force myself into some light. And so one Tuesday evening I chose to branch out and join a Bible study group full of individuals I had never met and at a church I had never attended.

I have not looked back since.

House has become a firm foundation in many aspects of my life. Not only has it reignited my heart to be open to God, but it has provided me with some of the strongest friendships I’ve had to date.

September: Speaking of House, September is the month I attended a bonfire of a fellow “Houser”, roasted stale marshmallows, and met Wilbur. Wilbur has quickly become one of my best friends. My feelings for him grow stronger every single moment I spend with him and, at least right now, this is all I’m going to share about our relationship. I’ll keep you all updated in the future…

October: I moved in with M at the very beginning of October. We painted and pounded and were pleasantly surprised when the vintage apartment went from being “a place” to “our home.” Living on my own is not the same as going away to college and living in a dorm. It’s been an eye-opening experience, but one I am loving every minute! 2016 will be a great summer what with living only a minute from Lake Michigan and the beach, and living right downtown has been perfect with remaining active in the community and keeping up with friends.

November: The last loss of 2015 and one that continues to haunt me in my dreams sometimes: Saki’s cousin and a friend of mine, Brandi, lost her life tragically to Lake Michigan after being washed off a pier. Brandi was a strong supporter of the Right for Life, which her and I worked together with during college. Her loss hit a spot deep inside me; she was only 24 years old at her passing. It’s incredible how much losing someone can hurt, but death of a young friend is even more painful. I’m still working out why God decided to take her when He did, but I believe it was for the best reasons. I am proud to have called Brandi a friend, and I am happy to know I will see her sometime in the future.

December: December has been wonderfully uneventful thus far. There has been quite a bit of holiday joy: work holiday parties, Christmas light viewings with Wilbur, enjoying the Star Wars VII premier, gift shopping with friends, small game nights to enjoy Christmas movies and treats. I hosted a Christmas party for House on the 11th which was a hit. I made all the food myself and coordinated a White Elephant Gift Exchange — all of which I am happy to report was a success. I am enjoying the lead up to Christmas with those closest in my life, and I wouldn’t want things to be any different than they are right now.

As for Firsts in 2015, I had several:

  • First career shift
  • First full year with no school or homework
  • First time dating someone with no religious affiliation
  • First experience with the pain of death in my life
  • First venture away from my home church
  • First time joining a group I had no connection with (House)
  • First consideration of switching my church membership
  • First Ultimate team weekly activity
  • First trivia team weekly activity
  • First spin class
  • First time going to a movie alone
  • First friendship sparked via the blogosphere (Hillary)
  • First spontaneous road trip

Life is good and I am happy.

Next up for the end of 2015: Christmas Day celebrations, New Years Party, MSU taking on Alabama, and receiving a little Christmas bonus from work.

What I’m looking forward to in 2016: family vacation to Disney, new goals and aspirations, three weddings of some very close friends, lazy summer beach days, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and everything else the New Year brings to me life!