Friday, May 27, 2016

About Bodies & the Feast

Bathing suit weather is upon us. The weather that makes us pinch our sides, point at our muffin tops, and make us wish tacos weren't so delicious. This late spring-early summer time of year is much dreaded because you didn't start dieting earlier and now you're here looking frumpy in a bathing suit you're pretty sure was mislabeled because when did you go up a size?

I get it. I'm here with you. Except this year it's different. 

Since renewing my anti-scale attitude in March, I've worked really hard not to hang out in front of the mirror and hate my body. For the first four weeks -in fact-, I'd do ten push-ups every time I tried to convince myself I was less than beautiful. While I dropped my chest to the ground and up again, I would run through the list of amazing things my body can do -like run a marathon, mow the lawn, paint globes, write words. I run through it and feel empowered.

I mentioned this habit to my mom over coffee and pastries a few weeks back. She nodded over her steamy latte. I told her I wish women understood how inherently great they've been made. I talked about the freedom I feel in moving away from the measurements, the way moments of goodness over food stack up big and bold, the joy I find in gathering for a feast.

I dare you to spend more time loving yourself. 

Because you deserve the freedom and joy. You deserve to be wildly present at the dinner table where carbs and cheese and vegetables all sit in community. You deserve to eat and drink and be merry without a fierce guilt because you didn't order the salad. Yes friend, you deserve to love the amazing things your body can do.

This is a love that requires brave and hard choices. 

But you can do it because at the end is a feast. And I don't mean the kind of feast that is made up of calories -though those are good. But the kind of feast that is Whoa and Holy and Right. The kind of feast that's warm and fuzzy like your favorite blanket, that's salty and cozy like a bowl of buttered pasta, that's tangy and a little bit drunk like a glass of champagne.

It's the kind of feast that says: I'm proud of me. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Life Isn't Fair || A Marriage Letter



Jason,

Life feels like a series of hard knocks lately. I cried to you about it a week ago. I told you I hated how life happens and it's so unfair and all I want is my Dad back and a house full of babies and is this so much to ask God? I cried and you watched with patient, steady eyes. You rubbed my back and tried to keep Hazel from licking the tears running down my cheeks. I spoke, unsteady, angry words and you listened. I told you how angry I was that life just isn't fair.

No one promised us life would be fair. 

No one promised me a Dad that lived to 102 (Mom, you better make it that long or else). No one promised me a house full of rambunctious blonde children. No one promised me a dog that loved puppy play dates and a job that never caused stress. No one promised me a world full of flowers and all the moments to make memorable. No one promised me anything but breath and learning opportunities.

Life isn't fair. 

I know it's not. I know because no one promised me a deep love for a man I simply and truly adore. No one promised I'd meet you in a sweaty bar during a New Year's party, I'd say yes to marriage in a dimly lit Mexican hotel, I'd marry you on the grass bridge in front of my childhood home. No one promised a breadwinner who works hard, commutes far, and always maintains a strong kindness. No one promised I'd find the man who will patiently ignore my wiggly toes for two hours just to snuggle me. No one promised me you.

And so, life isn't fair. 

With loss comes love. With fear comes bravery. With you comes me. The wins are sweeter with your almond-eyed smile beside me. And the losses bearable with your strong hand on my right knee. The mountains enjoyable with your wild victory dances to celebrate our climb. And the valleys manageable with your bright soul to remind me of the other side.

I'll take the hard knocks because you're my blessing,
amber

- - - - - - - - - - -

This letter is one in a series of letters I write to remember mundane moments of my marriage that would otherwise slip away. I write with a dedication to hold tight to him and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment. The chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds is a much loved and added bonus.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Upsold: A Post on Mistaken Motivation


I got my oil changed in my car last week. My ordinary serviceman was out for the day, so I had to deal with someone else. I had to deal with a younger, more hungry man who wanted to sell me a half dozen things I've never been told I need. I tried to ask educated questions and fight off the sales' techniques, but I couldn't run in his ball park. So, I agreed to the oil change and said I'll worry about the other items on the list later. He wasn't thrilled, but I wanted to take a minute to let the upsell wear off.

I talked to my regular serviceman the following day. He said I did a good job waiting that I still have 10,000 miles before I really need to be concerned about the services. He said he was sorry for his absence and sorry about a coworker who might have made me feel pushed around. I didn't mind because, while I don't like the upsell, I fall for it all the time.

Blogging course? Must have organizational application? Creativity book you need to read?

I've done it. I've heard it. I've bought and believed. I've begged those suggestions to be the answers to my question, only to be frustrated when they don't get the work done.

Friends, we are being upsold. 

We are being told we need this app to change our productivity, that book to encourage our creativity, and this tea to flatten our belly while stimulating our mind. It's tempting like sugar and wine and tacos. None of it is inherently bad or dangerous until we look at the state of our hearts. Because nothing says I need to reevaluate my dreams like consuming every answer and suggestion without any progression.

We're big and bold dreams with couch potato spirits.

We're watching other people achieve and do, feeling jealous, and then buying just a few more productivity promising tricks.We're looking at this hustle and that movement with wildly emotional eyes. Instead of distracting ourselves with a dozen blank journals, we've got to put in the work.

You were born with what you needed to accomplish your dreams. You were made to be colorful, bold and bright. You don't need anything but your heart and determination. So, stop buying all the busy distractions and clear out your mental (and probably physical) space.

You deserve to see the world beyond your spot on the couch. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bad News: Advice & Reflections on Maintaining Perspective



My dad was diagnosed and deemed terminal in the same day. One appointment took us from healthy man to dying dad. After my dad died, I knew my faith couldn’t manage bad news. I feared any shade, any degree of bad would send me careening from the narrow road He’s laid forth. 
This week we got the first bad news since he died. We got the first bad news that dances in the same circle of sadness as disease and death. It was news that wasn’t entirely shocking but still maintained the harsh sting of disappointment. 
I"m not devastated. I'm surprised by my optimism in a weird, proud way. My faith is fine. It’s there, sort of unaffected and wholly devoted to acknowledging His plan. My emotions are surprisingly simple, comfortably swaying in the winds of change. I wondered what was different this time, how one foot in front of the other is easy despite the sudden shift in circumstance. I’ve come up with a single thing: perspective. 
What I lacked in my college years after the dementia diagnosis was perspective. And what’s made a world of difference in the last five days of heading in a new direction is perspective. It’s the compass that makes this all seem tolerable because at the end of the day direction is about relative location, isn’t it? 
So, here are three perspective check ins that you’ll need when bad news decides to cross your life plan:

1. The raw, ragged feelings pass. 
When you’ve received a negative news flash, it’s important to check out, to insulate and hold your space. Then you’re there in your emotional cocoon and sweatpants when you wonder if you’ll ever get on with life. You will. 
Feelings are fleeting as painful as that might be to admit. You’ll get over it, you’ll get on with it, you’ll realize that the essence of life is its lack of perfection. 

2. The end-of-the-world as I know it sensation is transformative. 
The last thing any person wants when life changes unexpectedly is more uncertainty. But, that end-of-the-world feeling is inspirational. It’ll lead you to adventures you’d otherwise skip, to opportunities you’d probably take for granted, to dreams you put off for too many years now. 
The choice is yours: fight or flight? I challenge you to stay, to transform, and to grow alongside the heartbreak. Like a muscle, you'll feel torn apart and sore, but we were made to heal and you'll come back with a strength you could never have expected. 

3. Sometimes it’s a mountain. Sometimes it’s a molehill. But bad news always sucks. 
When we get back news it's easy to compare. Is mine worse or better, more tragic or not, fatal or benign? But comparison is unnecessary because pain is pain and bad news of any proportion sucks. At the risk of being cliché, this too will pass. You will not only survive, but come out on the other side with a more beautiful, kind soul. I know because I did. 

And my number one practical tip when bad news comes crashing down: 

1. Do something, anything to make yourself feel productive. 

I know you'd rather crawl into bed and cry your eyes out than admit the world is still spinning. I know it seems easier, more lovely, to cocoon yourself beneath a cool down comforter and use up a whole box of Kleenex than live. But life. Life goes on and there's something about doing one thing -any one thing- that balances out the soul kind of aching. (I chose to clean and barbecue artichokes for the first time.)
- - - - - - - - -

Today marks five months since the day my dad died. Goodness that seems impossible and yet, I'm thankful that the sun rises and sets on my days and my moods. I'm thankful he's somewhere safe, somewhere beloved, somewhere he so desperately wanted to travel. I'm just now heading back to church, just now learning not to be angry when sadness is overwhelming, just now embracing what it means to carry on a legacy. This isn't always a fun road, but I'm a better person because of him. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bullet Journal Update || Take 3


I am two weeks into using my third bullet journal and, as is tradition, I’ve made some changes between Journal 2 and Journal 3.0. With the close of my last bullet journal, I realized I’ve got a much better hold on how to make these blank pages of opportunity work for my life. The balance is between organization as a motivational tool and organization as a distraction. I'm working hard to be more of the first and less of the second. 

And, in the blogging about creativity , I wanted to share the updates with you. 
Call Notes: I used to write notes from work calls on random envelopes or slips of scrap paper. Then I’d throw them away and be confused about how it disappeared. So, I’ve started writing down notes in my bullet journal. Notes from business calls, meetings, and voicemails all go with a date right into my trusty Moleskine. Then, when I have a question or need to revisit I know RIGHT where they are. (Plus, adding calls that need to be returned under my To Do List ensures I actually return them.)  



Four Day Spreads: I know there are some serious bullet journal gurus who lay out their daily and weekly spreads beautifully. I’ve seen them and admired them, but don’t have the dedication myself. But last month I was sitting at our kitchen table looking over my week (we were moving the office) when I decided to lay out my days on a single two-page spread. The heavens opened and angels sang over my organizational epiphany because GENIUS. The four day spread has helped me prioritize, prepare, and foresee any time crunches or stressful days that lay ahead. 

Editorial Calendar: I know people have had these for years. I know every blogger tells you what a God-send they are. And yet, I’ve never once dedicated myself to one because it felt constricting. In March I was feeling extra-organizational and laid out April’s content. Then in April I skipped doing it for May. What a mistake. I adore knowing what I need and when. Pictures, content, tweets, and batching my work has become hundreds of times easier because my mission and purpose are clear.  

Blog Ideas Layout: Mr. Thomas and Me isn’t the only place I write. I am a regular contributor over at The Rising and adore the chance to put words out alongside some of the internet’s most wonderful people. But, this requires me to have a little foresight on the weeks I need to send over my pieces to be published on The Rising. I write two different types of pieces –faith-based and book-centric- for The Rising and so, I’ve started logging ideas in a new layout that helps my brain when it comes time to write the pieces. 

Mileage Tracking: Every June my cousin hosts an online running challenge. It’s fun, hard, and makes me crazy about mile tracking. I did another one in January and spent the month tracking my distance traveled each day. I love to see the miles I cover in any given month, so I made myself a way to easily glance at how much ground I’ve covered each month. 

ABC of Reading: In an effort to bring more thought and variety to my reading, I started logging my books in a list form in my bullet journal. This doesn’t replace GoodReads or my beloved book journal, but gives me an overview of sorts. But, what’s a list without some organization? Nothing. So, I added alphabetical order to it and SWOON. 


Random Quote Pages: I accidentally did this with my word of the year. I mean to write it on the next blank page in my journal, but skipped a few because they were stuck together. The randomness bugged me, until I decided to write the word a few more times throughout the remainder of the pages. Then, I stumbled upon the words randomly over the course of time. What a lovely surprise I made for myself! So, I’ve enhanced it this time around by picking out some fun and inspirational quotes, writing them throughout the journal, and now, time will have its way with me. 


I've talked about Bullet Journals before. See the start of my bullet journal journey here
And then the second update here

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