Making the move! :)

Hi friends! I did something super exciting and kind of weirdly grown-up and progressive... TOOK A SHOWER!

Ok, I didn't go that far. :) I just got my very own website!

So from now on, until I can figure out how to get a redirect on this badboy, I will be posting on my brand spankin' new website:

(Insert glitter graphic here!)

------------->      http://www.mandyatory.com       <-------------------------

Come on over, bookmark it, make things happen! I'm pretty stoked!

Disheartened, but NOT Discouraged.

Must like Pac-man, I've hit some walls in the past week or two. And much like Pac-man as well, I've wanted to eat everything I come across. Now, I don't want this blog to become all about food and losing weight -- that's not what I'm about. I want this blog to be a place to document my journey, and to be open and honest with the people who read it and care to follow it. So I promise that I will sprinkle in lots of things for all of us, so nobody gets bored. :) 

Disheartened versus discouraged. The age old debate, amiright?

Yes, I know -- those two words mean essentially the same thing. But not really, when you break it down... To me, disheartened means that I'm disappointed, bummed, a little like "wa waaaa waaaaaaa" trumpet sound effect in my ear. Discouraged means that I'm thinking about quitting. And let me say this -- I was surprised on the scale last week when I weighed in, and I was highly disheartened. But did I think of quitting? Well, not completely -- I did try to tell myself that I shouldn't stay at my meeting. I was a little like a kindergartener who doesn't get her way in a game, she thinks of flipping the board and huffing off with a foot stomp. But I sat myself down in a chair, sent a few disheartened text messages to David and my mom, and then paid attention to the meeting. Did I feel a little deflated? Yes. (Wow, Mandy -- you're really on a "D" word kick today. If you love that letter so much, why don't you just marry someone whose name starts with it???? Oh, yeah....) But I knew that if I let myself get discouraged, and think about throwing in the towel, that I would be kicking myself completely. I've made a deal to myself (and to those of you who read this) that I won't quit. In the immortal words of Her Highness Miley Cyrus, "we can't stop, we won't stop." 

I have goals that are much bigger than myself. And I have to keep reminding myself this on a daily basis. Every decision that I make, good or bad, is affecting the life that I am choosing to live. And if I want to obtain these goals, I have to keep my eyes on them and charge ahead. And that is what I plan on doing, and ALSO must keep reminding myself of. :) I'm making healthy changes in my life. And if I step on the scale and it doesn't give me what I want, I can still feel good knowing that I am choosing to love and respect my body. Even if someone did, TOTALLY hypothetically, get a happy meal the other day because she was craving terrible fast food, she was respecting her body enough to keep track of what she was eating, and make the decision of that meal to satisfy her cravings instead of what she normally would have eaten. Like I said, completely hypothetical, of course. And also, have you seen how tiny the happy meal fries are?? In the long run, I'm sure it was better for this fictitious person, but dang, McDonald's. Way to hold out on a girl random example person. :P 

When I first started back with WW, I sat down and ran through a typical day for me food wise, and took stock of what I would have normally eaten and calculated out the points, compared to my current allowance on WW. And I was blown away. I was eating SO unhealthily. So bad. I shudder to think about it, because even though I still eat things that aren't great for me, I'm at least aware of it, and am minimizing it greatly. Being aware of what we are doing to our bodies is very powerful, and I'm slowly starting to notice things about my body that I didn't before. I'm hearing signals that it's putting out. I'm totally picking up what it's laying down, if you know what I'm saying. (That sounded WAY dirtier than it should have) The other day I had the strangest thing happen to me - it probably had never happened in all of my 32 years. I was super, super grumpy (no, don't kid yourself -- this part wasn't the new thing), and when I got home, all I wanted to do was lay down and watch TV, and wallow in my grumpiness. But instead, I decided to go for a bike ride. It popped into my brain and sounded perfect! :) So I hitched up the old bike and headed out... Now, downside to this super motivational story is the fact that my tire was dead and I rode like .08 miles down the road before I had to head back. But still - I was proud of myself for feeling that way, and for actually acting on it and not squashing it. That was a big thing for me. I'm sorry about the disappointing ending to the story... I obviously need to work on beefing up my motivational speeches before I take this tour on the road. 

So as weight-in approaches tonight, I'm trying to clear my mind and go in openly. Whatever happens, happens. I can't undo it now, so there is no point in getting myself in a tizzy about it. I will just step on, read the numbers, and keep on keepin' on. Because even Pacman had a job to do, right? 

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The Mantra

A few weeks ago, I read a blog, as I am known to do... This blog was awesome, and can be read here if you are interested. It's a blog written by a mom, about how her daughter bore the brunt of her negative attitude and feelings. It's not completely related to my journey that I am on, but I found myself with a big takeaway from it... Three simple words, that I have now adopted as my mantra:

ImageIt's a simple mantra. One that doesn't have to be unpacked and over-analyzed. Only. Love. Today. 

But love who, you may ask?

Everyone. Your friends, your family, your coworkers, other drivers, people at the grocery store, people you talk to on the phone... 

And a very special person that is often-times overlooked, especially if you are a grown adult living your life as most of us are -- busy. 

That special person is YOU. We bend over backwards to love others (well, most of us do!)... But sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, step back, and show ourselves that we care. As I gain steam and keep rolling along into this mission to better myself that I have made, I'm realizing that it really is true what they say (whoever "they" are) -- it's really hard to fully love someone unless you really love yourself. 

Like the case of the mom in the blog I borrowed my mantra from, my negativity always had the potential to seep into other parts of my life, and onto other people in my life. I found myself feeling badly about myself, and wanting to come home after a day at work and just sleep the evening away. This gave up my time to spend with friends, or with David, and then everyone got shorted (because who wouldn't want to spend time with ME???). I found myself always saying no to activities that David wanted to do, like bike riding and going for walks, because I hated the way that my body felt while doing it. And I found that it was so much easier and made me so much happier to give in to the stuff that I wanted to throw into my body. 

It's only been a few weeks, Mandy -- get off your high horse, you are probably saying (hey, we're all thinking it... even me...). But I'm not at all meaning to sound like that. I haven't gone vegan and totally organic and taken up hot yoga and balanced my chakras... I'm not anywhere close. But I am starting to notice the effects of eating healthier, being proud of what I put into my body, and feeling like I'm in control. And we all know that I love to be in control. I'm trying to be more mindful of my body, and I'm starting to notice the tiny effects that my attitude can bring. 

This last week was my first week doing Weight Watchers again, and I'm insanely happy. Not only did the scale report that I lost 4.4 pounds, but my confidence has really boosted. I have set small goals for myself, and have learned to be kinder and more loving to myself if I slip up, because it happens. It's only been a WEEK, geesh... :P But like I said above, I am feeling confident, and am finding pride in making healthier decisions for myself. I have cooked meals almost the entire week, and found new recipes that I really love and am going to keep repeating. This is new for me, people. I am NOT the cook in our house. But I feel like I am starting to take charge of that, and it's actually really fun! I know -- what have you done with Mandy? Trust me, I'm as floored as you may be. The second you hear me say that about doing laundry or dishes, though, please seriously call the government, because I HAVE been body snatched. 

4.4 pounds lost, a 4 1/2 mile bike ride last week, and just a more positive outlook that I've had for the last week and a half or so -- these things have all contributed and made my mantra of "only love today" so much easier. I keep it as my phone background so I see it constantly - only love today. Only love today. And the other fun part is that you can emphasize each word, and it gives it a different meaning. I'm a nerd like that.

ONLY love today -- Cut the rest of the crap. That's it. Limit yourself to focus on the love.

Only LOVE today -- Remember, not "like", or "tolerate", or "avoid and it seems like I'm loving.". LOVE. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Only love TODAY -- We both know that the mantra won't change. It will be the same tomorrow as well. But if you are struggling, just take it one day at a time and focus on loving yourself and others. Because the secret is, it will come again tomorrow. And you can bite off just as much as you can chew today! 

So join me in embracing this mantra. I'd like to hear how it works for you if you choose to adopt it for a bit and see what changes it has made. :) 

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. I would get lonely without you, and sometimes I will need someone else to drive. But I promise you there will be snacks, and the kind of music that you say to yourself "ok, I have to admit it... I DO love this song."

Only love today, friends. <3

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Kickstarting.

They say there is no better time than the present. Usually, I am the one who thinks "well, but I could take a nap and do it later"... But I've decided that it's too long overdue to start embracing that sentiment. Today starts the first day of a new Mandy. I know I've said this countless times before. And sometimes I am new for awhile before I morph back into the same old, same old. But things have to change. And I have to be the one to change them, and I have to change them for myself most of all.

I have been chubby/fat/overweight/obese/chunky/husky/fluffy (take your pick!) my entire life. Well, I think there were a few years in the beginning where I kept myself on track... But still - for as long as I can remember, that has been an adjective that I could confidently apply to myself. I shopped in women's sizes in late elementary on, was constantly afraid of fitting into things and places, and carried around a layer of physical and emotional padding everywhere I went. I've managed to hold my head up high most of the time, and keep a smile on my face and a laugh in my voice because, for the most part, that was exactly how I felt. I have learned through the years that even though I'm carrying this weight around, and this is who I am on the outside, it's really easy to just shut it out most of the time. I'm surrounded by so many people who are a new layer of padding, who keep me safe, and support me no matter what, and for that I am so grateful. I have never lacked support in my life, no matter what stage I was at, and for that I am the most spoiled person in the world. :) But still, there are lots of times that get me down, and there is no way to not confront the painfully obvious: I am incredibly overweight, and something needs to be done about that. 

But today marks Day 1 of becoming a new me. Today I start Weight Watchers again, a program that I was very successful on before. And today I commit to the fact that I'm going to be a new me. My reality is changing day in and day out, and will continue to improve with the effort and care I put into it. I guess you can say I'm putting on my plus-sized big girl pants, and really buckling down. Something feels different this time around, and I'm choosing to embrace that and harnessing it for good. Because there are so many things that I want in my life right now... I wanted things before, but not badly enough to really stick with it. And the things that I want are so much bigger than they were before. They are things that will impact my life for the rest of the time that I am given here on earth (and stretching that time out is on the list!). And bettering myself physically is going to open up a whole new world for me, and will allow me to accomplish these things, however small or big they are. Things like being able to have children safely, to be able to move and interact with them more freely, to be able to fly comfortably or fit into a theater seat better, to lessen the amount of medication that I take, to being able to buy cheaper clothing because it's sold in regular stores... Some of my reasons are petty (liking myself in a photo), and some are huge (wanting to be a mom sooooo badly but knowing the risks that I bring to the table the way that I am right now). But all of them are mine. They are personal, and real, and valid. And today is the day that I kickstart myself, and start running - with these, and all of my family and friends and supporters, cheering me on. Reminding me not only that I can do it, but that I need to do it, want to do it, and will do it. 

So wish me luck, my friends, and feel free to follow my journey and keep me accountable. Because I know that I'm going to need it every step of the way! 

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It's on our side, we're just in the nick of it, and it's sure flying...

Image I was robbed this weekend, friends. It was quick - literally a thief in the night. When I woke up, it took a bit to realize that it had happened. Was I scared? No. Was I surprised? No. Had I seen it coming? Yes. It happens once a year, but it still throws me off.

I'm obviously talking about time, people. The hour that we "lost" in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I have always loved to watch my phone at 2:00am on that Sunday morning. It's fascinating to see it either switch an hour ahead of what it should be, or just watch that hour erase itself completely. I wasn't able to do that this weekend, because I was just so darn exhausted and had already given up at that point. But it's such a literal way to see time fly -- in one direction or another.

There is so much complaint (from me as well!) when the world takes away our sweet hour. Curses are thrown into the wind about the robbery of time, and we just swear we feel ourselves drag a lot slower. I know that lots of people really are physically affected by the time change, in various ways. But I can't help but think to myself all of the ridiculous things that I have traded for an hour of my time. Seriously. Lots of those things were completely equivalent to the idea of the clocks just being moved forward an hour. I have seriously wasted at least an hour of my time on the following things that fall into the afore-mentioned category:

*Buying toys for my dog

*Posting pictures of my dog online

*Putting things into shopping carts on various websites that I don't actually end up buying

*Talking in a weird voice for no reason

*Watching someone else do something while being completely unhelpful

*Spinning in a chair

*Talking myself out of going to the gym

*Eating candy and playing on my iPad

*Having a ketchup and mustard fight with my brother

*Literally staring at the wall

*Trying on clothes I have no intent to buy

*Doodling

*Waiting for someone

See how productive I am? And how many hours I have spent doing completely nothing at various points in my life? What I'm trying to say is this -- I do worse to myself on a daily basis than the world does to me once a year when it robs me of an hour. So why does this one hour get me grumbling so much? I'm sure it has to do with sleep or something like that -- if you know me, you know that I love my sleep. But in the grand scheme of things, I could gain that hour back easily by trading in any number of the pointless things I waste my time on regularly. And what could I gain? So much can be accomplished in an hour. I could do any of the following:

*Laundry (sorting, folding)

*Making long overdue phone calls to friends

*Addressing and mailing out thank you notes from the wedding

*Going to the gym

*Taking Chloe and Mira for a walk

You get the picture. :) So I guess the moral of my story is this -- use your time wisely. If we use all of our available time to the fullest, or at least fullER, I'm sure we can get a lot accomplished and feel a lot less grumpy about our time being taken away. I know, I know - it's easier when you are wasting your own time rather than someone else taking it in some way. But that's just life, right? It's a necessary evil that we will never get around, so we should just learn how to suck it up and move on. (Note: This isn't me saying that I take my time being wasted worth a grain of salt. Or maybe it is, if by "grain of salt" you mean salt-flat. I'm just saying I would like to someday learn how to maybe become the kind of person that could conceivably begin to be like that.) It's my theory (wait -- isn't the thesis supposed to go at the BEGINNING of the boring essay, Mandy??) that if we used our daily given time a little bit better, that we wouldn't feel so cheated when one baby hour was taken away from us.

So that is my new goal. Use time more wisely. I mean, if you were given an hour, which we are in the fall, what would you do with it? I usually just sleep it away... Maybe we should just look at spring daylight savings time like we are paying nature back for the hour they lent us in the fall! But then paying people for things is a whooooooole other ball of wax that we don't have the time to get into right now. It always come down to quality over quantity, if you ask me. Especially when it comes to time, and things like treats, and hugs, or really good mac and cheese. Ok, maybe I like a high level of both in that last one. :)

Go get your hour back, people! There is so much to do! <3

The View From My Window

This, my friends, is my view for roughly 8 hours a day: Image

I love my view. I see the most random mix of things from it. Good, bad, ugly, scraped, hysterical, chaotic, heartwarming -- you name it, I've seen it from my little perch.

I am so lucky to have landed in such an amazing place. I can completely be myself here -- dorky jokes, little contests, funny jokes... everything that I'm great at, and love doing, I get to do here. And I get to use my knowledge and background of working with kids on a daily basis.. something that I had a hiatus from for awhile. Mind you, this allowed me to hone new skills, and learn new facets of this world. But this is where my heart is.

It's only been a little over a year, but it's been long enough for me to see a plethora of things that have patched my faith in a sometimes discombobulated humanity. I've seen hugs given, countless joyful reunions after a long day at school, handshakes passed, songs sung, jokes made, kids skipping into school just plain excited to be here, birthday cupcakes shared... Obviously there have been scrapes and bruises and tears not so much of joy, but those are minor bumps in the road.

I've witnessed a student unashamedly blowing kisses to his mom, and yelling down the hallway that he loves her. I've seen groups of older girls surround and welcome younger girls who are longing to be a part of the group. I've seen parents arriving to school 20 minutes early simply because they cannot WAIT to see their children.

There are times off and on when I feel the melancholy feeling of the longing to be in a classroom. My teaching career never got off of the ground in the traditional sense, and sometimes that stings. It wasn't my lack of skills or knowledge. It wasn't me as a person. It was the economy, and the lack of jobs. When I applied for my first teaching job, so did 84 other people. It was intense. And then shortly after some time searching, I got some new opportunities that I pursued, and that allowed me to use my degree to an extent and in a different way. And I wouldn't take any of that time back. But when it comes time to do things like organize my house, and go through tubs that I have which are full of teaching things that I acquired, I find myself getting really sad. And when I am asked to sit in a classroom for awhile to help out a teacher (which I love!), I often leave feeling that ache of wishing that I was in there full time. People outside of the school will ask me if I plan on teaching ever. I am never really sure how to answer that question, so I just say "I'm not really sure..." And I truly am not really sure. We will see where life takes us.

But right now, I'm snug behind my desk, behind my window. Where my bucket is filled every day by interactions with these awesome kids. I care so much about each and every one of them, and I try hard to make sure that my interactions reflect that. I like to think that I succeed. I know that I have my grouchy days, and the days where I'm just irrationally annoyed and it's no one else's fault. But more often than not, I like to think of my little spot here as a positive one.

This time of year makes me a bit more reflective, as I know is the case with a lot of you. There's something about this cozy and generally joyful time of year that makes us grateful for our blessings. And one of my biggest blessings is having a job that I love being at every day. I'm not always a big fan of waking up, or the commute, but I love my job itself. And I don't plan on budging for awhile, because I know there are a ton of other things for me to see from my window. There are lots of jokes, tears, shouts, funny stories, and tantrums for me to witness front and center... I could write an entire blog just based on the hilarious things I've heard the kids say, but I won't bore you with that. :) I have heard kids threaten to punch bees in the face, heard countless stories about parents that I'm not sure they realize are being told, and laughed to myself as kids try to grasp and utilize figures of speech and fun little idioms, just to summarize a few.

The moral of my story today is this: Everyone has a window. It's their desk, their delivery van, their counter, their register, their couch... We all have a unique view of this world that we are blessed to be a part of. And while sometimes it may seem like you'd rather have someone else's view, just remember that your view is unique because of the viewer. It is through your eyes that you are seeing all of this. And yes -- sometimes we do need a change of view. And I encourage you to pursue the new view with confidence and excitement. But no matter where your perch is, keep your eyes open and looking forward, because you never know what you will see from where you sit. :)

This was premeditated.

Willful, premeditated, purposed. Three fabulous words, all with one meaning: intentional.

This word has come up a lot lately, and at first I was chalking it up to random happenstance -- but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I'm hearing it so often because it's what I need to work harder to be. Intentional.

The irony is that even typing that word forces me to watch what I'm doing -- to watch my finger placement, to type deliberately, and not just let my brain trick my fingers into writing "international", which they just did so freely. I find it amusing that the word itself causes me to be so.

Being intentional is something that we take for granted. In a world full of flashy electronics, busy schedules, and go-go-go, we so often just find ourselves going with the flow of the current, confident that it will have us pass by the things that we need to see and do. And, because it's a powerful force, it does. We follow the flow, bobbing here and there as required, and then continue to float about on our merry ways.

But soon we find, as I am right now, that we are missing things. We are not giving the care to the people or things in our lives that they rightly deserve, and they are becoming more of a "have to", rather than a "get to". I am so unbelievably guilty of this. I sit in the living room of my house, happy to be spending time with my husband, but realize that isn't really what I'm doing. I'm spending time with my phone, or my iPad, while my husband does the same thing in the same room. That's not spending time with each other -- that's spending each other. Using our time together up on nothing important and nothing that matters. That's not to say that we can't enjoy people's company and not have to say anything -- that is completely legitimate. That is comfort, true comfort, when you are able to do that and not want to fill up the empty spaces with meaningless thoughts and words.

But if I am gifted an evening with my love, it would behoove me to put down the phone, the iPad, the book... and spend some intentional time with him. Start an intentional conversation on the goals that we may have personally and jointly. Focus some time specifically for him, and on interacting with him. Give him a real conversation and a real slice of my time, because he deserves that. Our marriage deserves that.

This idea bleeds into my whole life. I am so blessed to have a job that I adore, and to have coworkers that I adore as well. I get to interact with 200 little people every day - I hear their jokes, give them band aids, and giggle to myself when they say "Ms. Harter - I mean, Mrs. Marcellis!!!!!"... But there are days when I feel like I'm on auto pilot, and my intenationality (is that a word? It is now.) slips out the window, or doesn't even make it into the building with me. It can be hard to be intentional I've noticed in the last few days, and believe me, it's going to be an uphill climb to devote myself more to this. It's the look in a person or child's eyes when they are talking to me, giving them my full attention. It's putting down the pen or stepping away from the computer when someone comes to talk to me, or calls me.

Think about this: If every person that you met treated you like you were the only person in the world, wouldn't you start to feel great about your role on this planet? So why not help make that a feeling that someone in your life experiences.

Being intentional. It's such a simple idea, yet world-changing. And although it's difficult to direct yourself to being more intentional with the people and world around you, it just makes so much sense. Why shouldn't we all be doing it? It's going to take a lot of diligence. We will literally have to be intentional, about being intentional. What a sneaky little word that is.

I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to be intentional with one area in your life this week - to get the ball rolling. Whether that's carving out time for a friend you have been wanting to visit, or making a long phone call, or just being an aware driver who isn't distracted by the radio or other things... Just try it, and let me know how it goes. Because I can tell you this -- I'm going to need all of the help that I can get with this challenge.

Intentional. Need more ways to say it?

Mandylightfully yours. :) 

We have them for a reason.

My friends, I've come a very long way since we last met. My life has changed in ways that I never would have guessed back in June, when I was griping about giving up control. I've learned the hard way that sometimes you have no control and you have to deal with it. It's a hard and fast rule of life, and I've come face to face with it and kept going. So let's move on, shall we? I have acquired much in the last month and a half. A new last name (a GREAT last name!), a wonderful husband (yeah!), lots of Fiestaware (melt.), guilt of not having my thank you notes done yet, etc... But I've also acquired an awareness of my body that I never had before, as well as an appreciation and complete reverence for my internal instincts. That sounds odd - but let me explain before you write me off.

Instincts. We ALL have them. It's what makes us stop short of falling flat on our faces. Or what makes us feel the need to call a friend at just the right moment. Or how to react and assist in a chaotic situation. And I have learned that sometimes our instincts tell us things that seem really huge and scary, and when we voice them, and are told by someone that it isn't what we think it is, we can squelch our instincts.

Let me tell you - I'm not doing that again. This summer I had strange pains in my legs, and my little brain told me "maybe a blood clot???" But when I told a doctor that, he dismissed it, but gave me testing to appease me, which they didn't do very well at all.

Fast forward to three days after my wedding. I was supposed to be reveling in my new marriage and beginning a new chapter of my life. But I couldn't breathe, and I was coughing like an old smoker constantly. Not the sweetest and loveliest way to start off as a Mrs... And then came one of the scariest moments of my entire life, and I am not exaggerating this fact - I passed out. It was so frightening when I came to (totally unharmed, thank God), and realized what was happening. That led to the emergency room, which led to a CT-scan, which lead to the fact that I had a BUNCH of blood clots in my lungs. And I had 10% lung function.

Ummm... WHAT? My response to the diagnoses? I turned to my brand new husband and half-shouted, with an oxygen mask on, "I KNEW IT!". Because I did. My body told me what it was, and the part of rational Mandy wanted to squash irrational Mandy before she got out of control, which is easy for her to do.

My goal of this post is not to have a pity party and tell you guys my whole saga... I am alive, I am doing well, I am happily married, and back to work. :) Things could have been better, and now they are. Ta da!

My point is to say that we were given instincts by whomever you choose to believe made us for a REASON. And I can tell you, without hesitation, that I have a new-found respect for these instincts that we are so awesomely equipped with. I beg of you to trust your instincts. I know that not every situation will be resolved by following them. And I know that not every situation where they kick in will be DEFCON 5. But we owe it to ourselves to feel that it is ok to rely on what we hear in our hearts. So often in this world we squash down what we hear inside of us because the outside is telling us otherwise. We are torn between compassionately caring for ourselves, and not being selfish and focusing on others. Do not get my wrong at ALL -- focusing on, and being there for others is a privilege and honor that we are so lucky to have. But in order to properly do this, we HAVE to focus on ourselves first. If our eyesight is blurry in the first place, there is no way we will be able to take a photo of someone else that is in focus. So please do not squelch your instincts when they kick in. They can save your life, your relationships, your sanity. They can just plain save YOU.

I'm learning how to pace myself. I'm learning how to ask for help. I'm learning to be honest when someone genuinely asking me how I am doing. And I am learning just how amazing this life is -- and how I have somehow managed to land in the center of the most wonderful and kind people that my life is filled with. It makes me so happy to know that now that I am listening to what my own heart is telling me, that I can finally, truly tune into some of their hearts, and be an asset to them.

Remember. We have our instincts for a reason. Don't let them be diminished, or go to waste. They are some of the most awe-inspiring parts of us as a human race. And we each get our own set -- so we don't have to share. :) It's okay to be a little selfish with SOME things...

Until next time, my friends...

...mandylightfully yours...

The Eternal To-Do List

I like to make lists. There - I said it. Are you happy? Maybe some of you are because you realize the joy of taking one of your favorite pens and jotting down things that you need to take care of... then (hopefully) accompanied by the pure bliss of crossing things out, checking them off, erasing them, scribbling them away, etc. Then you get to throw it away and start a fresh new one tomorrow! It's like the gift that keeps on giving - a game that never ends - a party on a notepad!

I give myself a label that I'm not sure many others would ever give me... but because I'm the person who knows me the best, I can openly say that I am a control freak. I'm not your typical control freak type - I don't critique people's outfits, or get mad when things get put out of place, or alphabetize people's placements at dinner parties. I just have an incredibly difficult time with the unknown, and with giving up control. (Read: control freak.) 

I have battled off and on the last few years with depression and anxiety. And although I am not incredibly high on the spectrum, I still struggle. I'm sure that this was a problem that was going on much longer than when I realized it, but it took physical symptoms for me to wake up and be aware of what my body was trying to tell me - to just let go a little bit. I had just taken my youth group on a huge mission trip to San Francisco, and when I came home to my toxic roommate situation, I just could not handle it. I was convinced that I was having a heart attack - that my heart was doing something terrible to me. After 2 ER trips and much reassurance, it was determined that I was having anxiety attacks. I started medication and counseling, and eventually started to notice the signs of my anxiety levels rising, and was able to deal with them. I was surrounded by wonderful friends and a great family who helped me out as much as they could, and I'm forever grateful for their guidance and support. 

But there is still part of me that has such a hard time giving up things to others. And the silliest thing is that I'm not giving up something major, or life changing. It is usually really small things, and it would be given up or assisted by people who are my closest friends and family, but I still struggle. And part of the reason is the vision that I've built up in my head of the task at hand... I know how I want it to be and go, but what if it's a little different? Well, then I am convinced that it won't be as good as I've dreamed it to be. I know - stupid, right?

These blogs always taken an erratic turn I feel... Writing is so cathartic for me -- I can just blah it all out and hope for the best. :)

Planning a wedding when you have a hard time giving tasks to others or getting help from others is probably just about the stupidest thing ever. I have NO doubts about the abilities of people in my life, nor do I question their motivations for offering their help. So why can I not just say "yes! that sounds awesome! I would love your help - let's do it ______.?" Again - it's that dumb control freak in me, and the fear that the vision that I have will pop. So, so silly. Even typing it makes me realize how dumb it is. 

I have come to realize that one thing that is impervious to my control issues is being in love. No one wants to be in love with someone who wants to micromanage their every move. I know that I certainly would not want that for myself - so how could I expect anyone else? People don't generally think it's "cute" when you are running their schedule, and are poo-pooing activities because you don't know how they will go. Falling in love is one of the most amazing things that I have ever done. But also (for me at least), erratic and at times a little scary. You are literally exposing every inch of your heart and self to another person -- and you HAVE to do this in order to make it work. But what if you expose it all and then they shy away in horror, or they decide it's not worth it? These are the fears that would keep me awake before I found David. The idea of putting myself out on the line like that and having no control over the outcome TERRIFIED me. And for good reason - it's a monumental thing! But I found that the more we progressed in our relationship, the more I was able to start loosening my grip on my reigns, and then eventually cautiously started to hand them to David. I had to let him drive sometimes... and I had to trust that he wasn't going to steer me into an embankment or off a cliff. But I found that the more I sat back and let him drive, the more comfortable I became. And I knew that he would not hurt me... And I wasn't in charge, and that was okay. It nice sometimes to give up the control so your mind and soul can take a little breather, you know? A little TLC, if you will. 

My fear of giving things up can only take me so far. I realize my limitations, and realize what I hold onto - and I have to just let them go. I can't think about it, or make a list of pros and cons - if I don't just go cold turkey, leaps will never get made, lines will never get crossed, and world peace will not be accomplished (that's obviously the next thing on my to do list.) So I vow, from this point forward, to give up the reigns more often. I pledge to let people help, and be aware that even if it's not like the picture in my head, it was made/created/done/dreamed up/accomplished/assisted with nothing but love and care by the people who I hold the most dear. And that, my friends, is worth a little bit of anxiety, don't you think?

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My Best Girls. <3

I have something to admit, everyone. And it may surprise you a little bit if you know me... 

Sometimes I can be shy. 

Now I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking "ummm, uh-uh. Not the Mandy that we know. She can get up on stage, pretend to be naked, speak in front of large groups, lead a camp... Not that chick." 

But yes. It's true. We all have both sides in us, and I feel like the older I get, the more my introverted self comes out a little bit. 

Those of you who had the pleasure of knowing chubby little Mandy know that this was pretty much never the case. I was loud, acted loudly, talked loudly, bossed people around loudly, played loudly - you name it, I did it - loudly. My entire childhood was pretty much spent having talent shows and putting on plays on the front lawn. My neighbors heard me learn various musical instruments. Maybe my parents forced me out of the house because of the racket - or maybe I just felt that the wide open lawn was a much more suitable stage for talent such as mine. But no matter what - I was bold and brassy. A tiny little Ethel Merman, if you will. 

But as I have aged, and as I've come into my own and chubby little Mandy has shrunk to pocket-size, I find that my shy side comes out. When I am with my very best friends, I am totally myself - loud, brash, goofy, borderline ridiculous. (We bring that out in each other!) I treasure those times that I can let loose and it all comes pouring out. 

I used to be the type of person, all growing up, and in college, that had a big group of great friends. I had a family of friends that I was surrounded by - never wanted for company, never worried about being alone. I loved it that way. I was cozy, and happy, and content! But as I've grown, I've honed myself down to a special, small, tight-knit group of people in my life that are my go-to's for everything. :) They will always be around - I'm not giving them up! And unless you are those people, I have a hard time letting chubby Mandy's freak flag fly sometimes and find myself observing more. I used to come into a party or group not knowing anyone and then end up with several new friends. Now I am content to come in and be a part of the group for what it is - and leave knowing that they were great people, but I have the best already! 

This blog is going different places than when I started it, but that's kind of where my head is. And I'm a fairly random person, so it seems pretty fitting, doesn't it? :P 

I am realizing this introverted side of me with planning the wedding (4 months from today!!). I am finding that when people who aren't my tight cluster ask me questions, or ask to see my ring, or ask about my feelings or planning, I get really tongue-tied and flustered. It's not that I don't want to talk about any of it - I just get so weirded out about the attention. Who knew something like "how is wedding planning going?" would get me so tripped up, and leave the person asking it looking at me like they just asked me to explain my feelings on universal health care! 

Put me in a room with my best friends, and I can talk about it until they all want to puke from hearing it (which I'm sure they are close to! :P)... Sit me at my desk and have random people ask me about it and I get all weird. Hmm...

Like I said, this is going weird places. But I return to my previous thoughts regarding my tight-knit group of friends.. After 31 years, I feel like my group of best friends has been honed into an amazing team. When it came time to decide who I wanted standing up next to me on my wedding day (did I mention it's 4 months from today? Eek!), it was an easy choice. I feel like everyone needs a friend like one of the ones that I hold dear (but you can't have mine!)... I'm sure you have some of these types of friends as well, but just in case, I want to give some credit where credit is definitely due. I love all of these amazing women for different reasons, and that's why having them by my side on September 28 is going to make the day more amazing than they realize!

1.) Jewel (Maid of Honor) - Jewel is the friend that you've had the longest. The one that you have the stupidest but funniest inside jokes with. The one whose family you know really well, and whose family knows you really well. The one who has secrets about you that other people don't and who (probably) wouldn't use them against you in a court of law. Or on Facebook. This is the friend who will let you just talk and talk and talk and just listen and listen and listen. The one who appreciates your love of Cheezits, cheesy Mexican food, and the Babysitter's Club. The friend who has been there through various trips, conferences, school festivals, classes together, etc. She will help you organize your life when it seems like total chaos (literally and figuratively!) She has seen you at your best and worst. This one isn't going anywhere!

2.) Kristin (Matron of Honor) - This is the friend who can get you to be the goofiest you have ever been! The friend who shows you the good when you're feeling down. This is the friend that will always get a coffee with you when you go places, will have you try things on that you never thought would look good on you (and they always do!), and the one that will encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone. This friend is the type that hasn't been your friend the longest, but will make you feel like you grew up next door to her and ran through the sprinkler together. This is also the friend that will help you expand your limits - whether that is new food, new music, new ways of looking at things, whatever. This friend shines with her passions and inspires you to be as passionate as she is about anything! This one is definitely sticking around. :)

3.) Stacy (Bridesmaid) - This is the surprise bestie. The one that was right under your nose the whole time (like say, maybe, your cousin???) and then you forged an amazing friendship! The one who will give you great advice, even if you feel like a whining brat sometimes... The one who will put things into perspective, who will have patience with you, and who will always offer a good glass of wine. This is the one that will dissect family dynamics with you until the wee hours of the night, and make yearly dates to wrap presents together. This one isn't ever getting out of this friendship -- especially because we are related! (Note - your friend like this may not be related to you. That is totally okay. :P)

4.) Stephanie (Bridesmaid) - This is the long distance friend. But also the one who when you see each other, or talk to each other, it's like you are right down the road from each other. :) This is the one who will understand your weird idiosyncrasies, and also the one who will look back with you on your past together and collectively say "what the heck were we thinking???". This is the one who will be wise beyond her years, and will always have a great idea for saving time. This is the one who you tease about their funny little quirks but who isn't afraid to tease you back about yours. She's a permanent fixture in your life whether she likes it or not! :)

5.) Jennifer (Bridesmaid) - This is your friend who you used to work with, but who has morphed into something so much more. This the friend that will consistently keep it real, and encourage and remind you to do the same. The one who will tease you about things that only she can tease you about, the one that will take you under her wing, the one that will build you up when you are feeling down. This is the friend who will entertain you with stories of her life, and help you see just how interesting and amusing your life can be, even when it feels so mundane. This friend may or may not travel across the country to get away from you - but you will hook line and sinker her back in, no matter how hard she tries. :)

I so wish that all of you had women like this in your life that you called best friends. I so wish that you could feel how I feel, when I picture this day, 4 months in the future, and picture them standing there by my side. The idea of looking at my wedding pictures and seeing them full of these beautiful friends of mine makes my heart melt a little bit. :) If you don't have friends like these, start looking - they are out there, I promise. But again, you can't have mine. Don't even try it. They're spoken for. Back OFF. :P 

And so, chubby little Mandy, singing and putting on plays in the front lawn -- hold out. Friends may come and go in your life right now, and you may have a new "best friend" every 10 seconds, but just you wait. Someday you are going to be luckiest girl in the whole world, and you will get to call Jewel, Kristin, Stacy, Stephanie, and Jennifer your best girls. And you will mean it with every single ounce of your heart and soul. <3

Complete Surrealism.

It has been such a long time since I have posted anything, I realize that. But every time I think I will write a blog, I get swept up in something random and then I forget until the cycle comes around again! So forgive me, dear reader(s???)... :P 

These last few months have been somewhat of a blur. Not in the sense that I look back and am foggy about the events that transpired -- not at all. Just in the sense that I look back at the last few months like I would a painting in a gallery. And as I stare, and it all comes into focus, I realize "whoa. this isn't a painting. it's real!"... :) 

Most of you reading this are well aware of the adventures that I've had lately, but I don't think that most of you realize just how blessed I feel to have had these milestones and events take place. Therefore I use this today as somewhat of a platform (a secret one, like Platform 9 3/4) to explain a little bit more. 

On March 23, something happened to me that, to be honest, I was afraid would never happen. My whole life I have been the chubby, loud girl. I was the one that boys didn't like, but the one that boys were friends with. I hid myself behind my humor because that was a surefire winner. If I was funny, they wouldn't see how chubby I was, or how giant my glasses were. This was not a Hollywood movie, where my glasses would fall off and suddenly the boys would realize my amazing beauty and fall over themselves. On the scale of "The Goonies" to "She's All That", my life seemed to fall somewhere along the lines of "Heavyweights" ("Mother Earth, Father Sky, and dear old Uncle Tony!"). My growing up was a long string of unrequited love, muddled by the ability that I had to become good friends with the boys that I liked. Which made things even more frustrating. 

But then, in April of 2011, I met a boy named David. :) And I knew as soon as we closed a coffee shop down on our first date that something was different here. He was sweet, and funny. And he told me, and will still tell me, that he kicks himself for not walking me to my car that first date. 

Fast forward almost two years, and he's dragging me out for the day. I'm grumpy, I don't want to play, and I'm just a complete joy to be around (sarcasm on that last one.) After almost two years of talking about it, and hoping for it, I am caught completely off guard when he gets down on one knee and asks me to marry him. When I think about that day, I still see it as watching a movie of someone else's life. But then I look down and see this ring on my finger, or see the wedding binder that Erin made for me, and I realize "this truly is real life." 

I'm marrying someone. And not just any someone -- someone who makes me shed all of my insecurities. Someone who I drop all of my walls for. Someone who can make me laugh at the silliest things, who meows back to me when I meow to him, who tolerates my made up words, who builds a garden at our home together, who takes care of Chloe like she is his own... The list goes on and on. The surrealism of this part of my life is still so thick. Sometimes I feel like I will wake up and it will all be a dream... But then I wake up, and see David beside me (usually hogging the entire bed, with Chloe assisting), and realize just how insanely lucky I am. I am so, so blessed. And so, so happy. Chubby Tweetybird wearing shirt Mandy does a little dance inside every time I see him. :) 

The next painting that I come to in the gallery of my life is called "España." :) When I was in high school, and began getting further into the Spanish language, I realized just how amazing Spain sounded. I wanted to go there, to live there, to be a part of that culture. Their schedule sounded ideal, their food sounded great, and the history sounded so rich. So I dreamt  and dreamt, and dreamt about one day going there. Everyone close to me knew that the one place on the tip top of my list to go to was Spain. And then, a few years ago, I made a plan. I formed a team, and we began dreaming and scheming. And then, just this past month or so, we did it -- we went to Spain. :) I spent 2 weeks in the country of my dreams. And guess what? It was all that I expected it to be and more! It's hard for me to talk about a little, which I know sounds really silly. But it was just so amazing. And it's still so surreal to me. I want to be back there so badly! I had dreams while I was there that I was missing stuff, and that I wasn't getting presents for everyone -- here I am, in Spain, having stress dreams ABOUT Spain. Weird, huh? :) But it was just such a big event for me, that I don't think my heart even fully understood until after I got back! I cried when we touched down in Madrid, and as we flew away, my heart felt so sad, but so ready to be home! And now, I'm ready to go back. :) 

It's a strange thing when your dreams come true. It's hard to comprehend, and then now you have to form new dreams to reach for. That's the stage I will be in, after the wedding, that is. For now I'm still trying to get used to calling David my fiance, and saying "for my wedding", or looking at pictures of ME in Spain. :) 

The moral of my story is this: I am happy. And I'm still a little bit shocked that it all is happening/happened to me. So pardon me while I live in a fog for awhile. Because if this was the reality of your life (see below), I think you'd live in a fog also. <3

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And so I say to you, past Mandy Denise: Hold out. Because your dreams are coming true. And you are going to be so happy when they do that some days you feel as if you may burst at the seams, and confetti will spill out. This may be a good way to feel a little more confident and a little less upset about your chubbiness - you can say "hey, people, it's just confetti that will explode out when my dreams come true! Watch out, world!"

Yeah. That's not weird at all, is it? Maybe keep that one to yourself. 

-Mandylightfully Yours

I get so emotional, baby...

As a female, I tend to be emotional. Shocker, isn't it? I've always been a sensitive person. I read into things, take things WAY too personally, and over-analyze. It's just in my nature (and by nature I mean my DNA, and just the ingredients of me.) and try as I might to put the kibosh on it, it doesn't work. Although I have to say, there are pros and cons to this "talent" of mine. I choose to call it a talent, because it's not a downfall, it's not a pitfall, it's not something to be ashamed of. It's exactly who I am, and exactly who I was meant to be. And so therefore, in light of a day where my emotions are out on my sleeve's sleeve, I present to you the following:

The Pros and Cons of Blatant Emotionalitynessism (if you say it's not a word, you'll make me cry.)

- by Mandy Denise Harter

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1.) PRO - You know what's up.

I have been told by people before that I'm an easy read. I actually really appreciate that. People don't look at me and think "hmm, is she happy right now?" "Is she grumpy?" I can be fairly good at concealing my emotions when they are negative and it's not appropriate. I am a pro at knowing when the time and place is. But more often than not, you will be able to get it to some extent. And I like that. People tell me that they can hear the smile in my voice over the phone, too, and I dig that. Like I said, I'm good at masking when I need to. My old coworkers used to laugh really hard because I would grumbling to myself about a client or about my computer, and then would answer the phone in the most chipper voice ever! Uhthankyou.

2.)  CON - You know what's up

Yes, right off the bat I've thrown a trick pro AND con in there. Sometimes I just don't want people to know if I'm upset or angry. Sometimes I just want to fly under the radar. And even though I can mask, I sometimes let the emotions get the best of me and show when I don't want them to. That usually leads to teary conversations, or bubbling over chatting with excitement. But there are times when a person is annoying me, and I've tried so hard to hold it in but am unable to, and I snap or grump, and then later regret it. I'd so much rather be always seen as level-headed and kind, than to be the grumpy, snappy one. Fortunately, it doesn't happen too much though. 

3.) PROFreedom.

It's so amazingly freeing to just go with your emotions sometimes. It's helped me in my whole life. It's helped me in my friendships, improv, work, etc. It's freeing to be unashamed when I laugh so hard that I snort. It's a beautiful thing to not be scared to admit that I had a nice, long, shower cry. The freedom of being totally unabashed at embracing my emotions is one of the best freedoms that I think we have as humans. And I must admit, it's so much easier sometimes to be a woman and it be more acceptable. If I were a man, and I had to squash those down because of gender stereotypes, I don't think I'd make it. Although if we're entertaining stereotypes, I could spend my time fixing cars and building things with my bare hands - I wouldn't need emotional outlets, right? 

4.) CON - Snowball effect. 

It's like they say - it only takes a spark to start a fire. For me, it's a word, a song, a dorky joke, the sweet way that David kisses my forehead when he tucks me into bed. That can set me off for a good while sometimes. And the hard thing is that I don't always know what it will be. Which I guess is totally normal, but it's still a tiny bit frustrating. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed by an emotion -- and then that adds to the effect. Pretty soon I've built them all up like a little lego house. And we all know how hard it can be to undo legos if you don't want to stomp all over them. It's not a bad thing to go big or go home with your emotions. But sometimes I would just like a way to stop myself when I feel it getting to be out of control. 

5.) PRO - Nailed it. 

With an onslaught of emotionalitynessism, comes an onslaught of ways to describe it. I never want for ways to tell you how I'm feeling. Sure, I can give you the standard "fine, ok, well".... but should you truly want an honest description of my feelings, just ask. I don't have to ruminate before I can come up with "slightly annoyed, a bit dejected, and ready for a glass of wine." In fact, the more time you give me, the more creatively I'd be able to describe my feelings. Some people choose not to express their emotions as blatantly, and therefore have a harder time articulating themselves. Not I, said the fly. (in this instance, I am the fly.) I will explain it to you in enough detail (if you so choose), that you won't be unsure at all - and will more than likely stop asking me at all. It's just so healthy and brings so much ease to be able to answer "what's bothering you?" or "how are you really feeling?" or "is something going on?" in a way that isn't superficial. In a way that I sometimes wish that other people would share with me. Enough of this "ok, fine, good" bullhonky. We're all friends here. Let's be honest. 

6.) CONControl.

This encompasses a lot. a) I hate being out of control, and sometimes (like stated above), the emotions control me. Again, I know a lot of this is universal, but this is all as it applies to me. And I don't like not being the one at the wheel, so I struggle for control in the middle of a meltdown or a jubilating frenzy. 

I also say control because I have been told sometimes that my emotions are the barometer of situations. Meaning that if I'm grumpy, other people get grumpy... luckily it can go the other way, but I try to be aware of this. I don't want to be in control of anyone else's emotions, but sometimes apparently it happens unbeknownst to me. And that's a bummer. See? I say it's a bummer, and you feel bummed out now, don't you? Sigh. I'll never win. :P

So now you know what it's like to be me. Which is great, because then I can take a day off once in awhile and have a few people to call in as stunt doubles. :) All kidding aside - I love having deep emotions and being able to express them. All pros and cons considered, I think I will stick with them for awhile. At least until I have kids, maybe... then I'm sure it's going to get a lot crazier... I don't know if the world is ready for that. 

I've seen fire, and I've seen rain...

Within the last week or so, our house has decided to start being a total brat. We have lived there for almost a year now, and have had no problems. We honestly have dream landlords, who check in a lot to make sure that things are going well. And things were -- until a week or so ago. Okay, I'm being dramatic. Things are still going well. Just a little... discombobulated. And if there is one thing I have a REALLY hard time handling, it's being discombobulated. 

Short story? Here goes: (super deep breath) I ask David to hook up the VCR. He goes downstairs to do it. Comes back, says he has to change his socks because there is water all over our 4th bedroom that we use as storage. Lo and behold, he is correct. Lots of water soaking the carpet and it's still coming in. Boxes of things are filled with water, one of which includes my first ever real camera, my baby Canon Rebel 2000 that saw me through so many fun times. That went into a pot of dry rice quickly. Landlord and maintenance guy come the next day to look at it, put up heaters, take away carpet. Maintenance guy finds black mold. Treats black mold. We sit carpetless now, with the contents of my 4th bedroom in my basement, waiting to find out if we are getting the old carpet, new carpet, or now maybe tile. I'd prefer a trampoline floor, personally, but that probably isn't a choice. Okay - maybe not a short story. But what can you do? 

Okay, so again - not a catastrophe. But it just threw me for a loop. And for those of you who know me, I'm somewhat of a control freak. Even if I'm silently being a control freak. I don't like being thrown off my game. 

And that's also what happens when you're in the middle of making a super yummy dinner, listening to a great podcast, feeling energetic and good, and then the stove makes a loud popping sound and shoots a blue flame out of the back. Yep. THAT happened. Have I mentioned that fire is one of my worst fears? Luckily nothing like that happened, and David came home right after to diagnose the problem.... which turned out to be a few days waiting period because a part had melted in the stove. We are so, so, SO lucky it didn't turn into a fire. Because it so very easily could have. But still, threw me off my game. 

Sometimes I feel as if life is a shopping cart. I navigate around, put things into it, take things out, pay for things, make arduous decisions about the contents. And sometimes you get the squeaky one that you have to tip on its side as you drive. And sometimes you get the one with the wobbly wheel, or the off balance one. And you have a few options. Either you switch it out and get a new one, or you just make do with what you've got. And I'm typically a person that tries to switch out carts as fast as I can. But I'm learning that sometimes you just have to put some more pressure on the handle, or tilt the cart a tiny bit in order to make things sail smoothly. And this house stuff has taught me that. 

If I can say that those minor things are the biggest annoyances and frustrations in my life right now, I am doing pretty great. :) My blessings significantly outweigh what I oftentimes determine (unjustly) to be disasters. If there was a queen of making mountains out of molehills, I have to say I would probably be in line for the throne. But at least I realize it, right? That's something?

And now, for something completely different. :) Have a great day! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D36JUfE1oYk (You will NOT regret watching this, I swear it to you.)

Truth be told, I'm eating a Kit-Kat.

Nothing special about that title except for the fact that it's the god-honest truth. And I couldn't come up with anything better, really. That's where I'm at right now. I'm incredibly tired, but I cannot complain at all -- I am not tired because I'm dealing with a sickness, or because I have insomnia, or because I am working two jobs to support my family. I am tired because I have been enjoying my life. :) Yes, you heard me right. I've been filling it with lots of love, and happiness, and adventures, and yummy food. I made it a silent (not so silent anymore, blabbermouthfingers) New Year's awareness, of sorts, to be a little bit more exciting. I was feeling myself settling into the same routines, doing the same things, being a super homebody, and frankly - being a little boring. Don't get me wrong, I love my home, and being there, and relaxing - but I found myself saying no to fun things in favor of doing, well, things that were not as much fun. So I am trying hard to say yes to experiences, and carve out time for adventure (even if it's a small adventure!) 

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to jump into a huge one of these experiences. And like I said to a kid at school a few weeks ago, sometimes the things that I'm both nervous AND excited for at the same time are the things that I end up having the best time doing. Kristin asked me I would want to go to a spa with her and Constance -- one they had been to before, one that they really liked, and one that scared the crap out of me -- they refer to it as the "Naked Lady Spa". And that's what it is. No swimsuits, no jewelry, nothing to protect you from the eyes and elements of the room. I was nervous, scared, intrigued, and excited. They spoke volumes about their experience there, and about how freeing and wonderful it is. And you know what? They were right! I was nervous all day, but then just decided to not let myself be nervous. I embraced the atmosphere, and literally jumped in with both feet (ok, I didn't jump. I gingerly stepped into the pools.)... It was such a relaxing time. And after awhile, I felt myself just not even thinking about it (which Kristin had told me would happen!). It was an amazing evening, and I'm so happy that I got to share it with two wonderful girls, who made me feel so wonderful!

The next day, David and I ventured to Canada for the weekend. And we had a blast! We did lots of things - went to the aquarium, saw sea otters, did a lot of walking, saw a movie, ate a yummy pizza in our hotel room, braved sashimi --- it was jam packed! I had such a great time, and felt so happy to be on that adventure with my adorable boy-toy, who ALSO makes me feel so wonderful. :)

The last few evenings have been filled with dinner with my besties in Seattle, just chatting about everything that we could, drinking yummy drinks and sharing tasty fries, car dancing to Justin TImberlake (it was INTENSE), trivia with my mom, winning a prize on the radio for the first time in my life, and just enjoying my job.

On the flipside of all of this sunshine came a rain cloud, though. A wonderful man in the life of my best friend was lost this last week, one who I have known for a long time as well. He was an institution in Poulsbo, and in her family, and he will be greatly, greatly missed. He leaves behind an amazing family, however -- one that is stronger than most I have ever come across. I've known that since the day I become an adopted part of it! For my dear bestie Jewel, and her family, my heart is saddened. But it is also encouraged by the knowledge that your strong family is getting even stronger! The Stroud/Evenson clan is a force to be reckoned with. And knowing your grandpa for all of these years, I can see where you all get it!

And so, with the awareness that our lives are simply on loan, and we need to soak up our time we have, I embraced this past week fully. And I vow to do that for more weeks this year. In fact, I'm aiming for about 52 of them. 

Sometimes it's a bit of a blur...

I have a confession to make... Sometimes I get myself worked up. Big shocker here if you know me, I'm sure. But sometimes I just get so wound up about something that I cannot just let go like a normal person. I know that lots of people struggle with this, but sometimes it just gets in the way of my life and it's so frustrating. Some of you know that I have struggled with anxiety and depression the last few years. I have taken medication, I've done counseling, and it hasn't been incredibly bad in the grand scheme of things. I have learned a lot about myself through this process. But still, little and strange things get me worked up.

This weekend was a classic example. I had planned a small get together with some friends at my house to celebrate my birthday. Other than my family and my best friends, I hadn't really had anyone over to my house. And I have found that as the years go by, my hosting anxiety gets worse and worse! I don't know how much to buy, I don't know what people will want to drink, what if this happens? What if I run out of this? It's ridiculous the scenarios I come up with. And numerous people will tell me not to panic - that it's my friends, that they love me, and they will love whatever we have and do.

But still, I found myself getting more and more panicked and nervous about it. David was amazing and did so much to make sure the party went well, and I found myself snapping at him about completely dumb things in the hours leading up to the party. I worked myself into a sweat about the smallest things. And then when my friends started to arrive, I was so happy to see them! But still I found myself asking every few seconds if everyone was okay, or if they needed anything. I wasn't sure about when to put things out for our next course, and hemmed and hawed so much about that. I felt like I looked like a trainwreck. I sure felt like one.

Lily (who is almost 3) commandeered my phone at some point and took some pictures, which I feel like totally captured what I felt like for most of the evening. See below for the first half of the party through Lily's eyes, and subsequently, Mandy's brain:

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About an hour or so before everyone left, I felt my worries slip away. I was surrounded by amazing friends, people I care about so deeply, and who I cherish with all of my heart. They were all in my living room, eating ice cream happily, and laughing hysterically at the game we were playing. And I just soaked it all up and felt great.

After everyone left, and things were cleaned up, and I stopped and slowed down, my emotions hit me like an anvil in an old-timey cartoon. Out of nowhere, I got so teary-eyed and sad. And as David was reassuring me about the party and about how loved I am, I tried to explain that I realized all of that. But I was just so anxious and weird that I didn't really start to settle until right before people left. I just didn't feel fully present for most of the time.

And this is my take-away from that whole experience. I want to be present for all of the moments in my life. I want to be here, fully and whole-heartedly.  And that means making some changes in my life physically and emotionally. I think I am on the right track, and it feels good to know that the path ahead may not be easy, but it will be so, so worth it. I'm in a great place now, but with a little elbow grease and perseverance, I can be in a magnificent place. Even with all of those crazy emotions that I pack around with me. :) (I've always been a bit of an over-packer.)

My, my, my... Look how much we've grown!

It happened. I passed 30 with flying colors, so they promoted me to being 31! How exciting! They figured that since I rented a great house, got a new job, starting commuting like a champ, and kept my boyfriend, I'd get to make the leap to the big 3-1. And this is going to sound really, really strange -- but in the last few days, I feel way more grown up.

30 was fun. In the immortal words of Jennifer Garner, I felt "30, flirty, and thriving." I got to tell people that I was 30, make a few semi-grown up decisions, watch my hair turn a little greyer, and all in all just feel like a more worthwhile human being. But for some reason, in the last week or so, my new age has felt like a gift. I am sitting up a little straighter, eating soup for dinner sometimes, and finding myself a little wittier and fresher than I was a week ago. I know, I'm crazy, right? Wrong. I was told by SO many people before I turned 30 that their 30's were their favorite. They loved everything about them - the freedom, the life changes, the responsibility. And even though I'm already one whole year in, I am just now starting to feel it. 

I joke a lot. We know that about me. But last night, as I was driving back to my house from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, with my passenger (my new orthopedic/memory foam/heavenly pillow), I thought to myself "I'm totally transitioning."

Transitioning, changing, metamorphasizing, molting -- whatever word you want to use for it -- it's happening to me. I am feeling like a new version of myself every day lately. And it feels so refreshing. I really have felt different the last few days. Maybe it was because this birthday was different... there was less fanfare (which I actually loved!), there were more sweet wishes from kids that could totally have parents my age, and there was a lot more introspection on what this coming year and even decade may bring for me. But don't worry, there was still ice cream cake, and my brother discussing inappropriate topics at a public food establishment. I said I was changing, not that I was a different person entirely. 

I am content. I have an amazing family, spectacular friends (WAY cooler than your friends. unless you ARE my friends, then that doesn't make sense.), and a sweet and loving boyfriend who treats me so wonderfully. I love coming home every day, and I love going to work every day. This is such a rare feeling for me... I just feel like at this very moment in time, at a little over exactly 31 years of life -- I am right where I need to be. 

And so, as I grow, so will this blog. I have done other blogs before, that are super deep and philosophical.  I have done blogs that are meant purely to make people (and myself, let's be honest), laugh. But this one will be different. You'll still get a little of column A and a little of column B, but it will be a good healthy mix (which reminds me, I really need to start taking vitamins). This one is ME. Growing, changing, creating, deepening, laughing, adventuring... 

Let the journey begin! (I'm bringing my memory foam pillow with me, of course.)

<3

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