Farewell, Hannah’s Twenties

Whoa, I’m thirty.

I’ve been letting it sink in since it happened on Friday, February 17, because before that, I never really thought about or feared turning thirty. Then it happened and, well, I’ve survived so far.

So many people talk about how much better your thirties are than your twenties. Twenties are messy and weird, and when you get to your thirties you start to finally feel settled, maybe, or you finally feel comfortable in your own skin, or you know what it is you believe in and stand for, or you no longer care what other people think. Or maybe all or none of the above, but the more I hear about other’s reflection on their thirties, the more excited I am to be here.

As much as I’m looking forward to this new chapter, I also feel the importance of taking a small moment to look back. Not to see the things I would have changed or done differently (because there are a LOT of those), but to see the growth and lessons.

I entered my 20’s as I left my first long term relationship. I wanted to “discover who I was” so that I could be the best version of myself. What I discovered was that I loved parties and could recover quickly from hangovers. I found that I was self-conscious, self-centered, angry, and had NO idea who Hannah was.

Until I found relationship #2, and I could be a version of Hannah that I could hold to a certain standard that would help make that relationship work, and ground myself in this idea that I was no longer one person because I was with someone.

Can you imagine that that one didn’t work out either? Even with that mindset?

I quit the relationship, quit college and ran off to the mountains to find my happiness in a quiet and tiny town. I was surrounded by beauty – soaring mountains, wild rivers, trails to explore, nature in its serious perfection, and I had some of the best people around me – but running away from things that made you sad does not all of a sudden make you happy, and when I ran, my demons followed me, and for the next two years of my twenties I was in the darkest hole of my life.

The thing with depression is that you don’t always see it when you’re in it. I thought I was happy enough, but looking back I see so much anger. I stayed in bed until I had to get up, and rarely took in the insane blessings being handed to me. I treated others badly, and myself worse.

I finally made the 27 hour drive back to Grand Rapids, and surprised my mom on her birthday by telling her, “Hi, can I move home?”

I was 25 years old. Still fighting depression, anxiety, and the sense of being totally lost. I felt like the Prodigal Son (er, daughter). My parents had no reason to be excited for my return home. I was poor, needy, and nowhere near being the adult you pray your child will some day become. And yet, they welcomed me with open arms and tears of joy. Thank God.

Those years out west did give me a lot to learn from, and when I got home I decided to go all in and love myself. This was a first for me, and it was a long, hilly, bumpy, winding road with terrible signs to direct me.

I would take myself out for coffee dates, all alone with no materials to keep me occupied, other than perhaps a journal. This was foreign territory and I did NOT know the culture. I felt uncomfortable as I sat and sipped, but I did it anyway.

I took myself out for happy hour, for nice dinners, for shopping excursions, for long walks and hikes, and I slowly started learning the things that made me happy. Yes, at 25 I was learning my happy places.

And the darkness slowly started to lift.

When 26 came I was certain no good men were left to date and I would not so quietly complain about my slim-pickings. My vow to love myself was cool and all, but I was more than ready to share that with someone. Five days after I sobbed to my sister about the lack of half decent guys, Ryan showed up to my restaurant. If you don’t know the story, here it is, but after meeting him I know why I never felt truly content and whole in my own skin. I was missing him. I don’t want to give him too much credit, because I totally think that if he and I had not ever met, and if I was still single, I would still be happy. Listen, I always said, after relationship #2 that I didn’t think I would ever get married, or have kids. I had had two great relationships with two great guys, and neither of those worked, so why in the world should I assume that I would actually be able to thrive with someone else?

I think God was waiting for me to love myself before I could ever really thrive in a healthy relationship, and then he threw Ryan into mix just to top it all off.  Like a cherry on top.  Thanks, God!

A couple weeks after meeting Ryan I went to church with him, and for me, this was the first time in years. I felt my resolve to not need faith crack instantly. My very bones knew I needed God and couldn’t deny it. I was shaking and teary minutes into the service.

To this day, Ryan encourages me in my faith, my health, my dreams, and my passions. Even the things I don’t think I’ll be good at, he’s pushed me to believe in myself. I am so thankful God sat him at table 26 in seat 4.

Anyways, Ryan asked me to marry him when I was 27 years old on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan as the sun set. I walked down the aisle to him during a winter evening with lights twinkling and candles glowing when I was 28. We got into our first massive fight that same year and learned that we can heal through communication. I now try to over-communicate everything, to everyone. Like, way TMI. Forcing myself to talk about tough things was light I didn’t know existed.

It was that same year of being 28 that we found out I was pregnant, and then lost that sweet angel 12 weeks in. When we left that appointment our doctor reiterated that we should be careful to let my body heal, and not try to get pregnant again for at least a month.

And before that heartache even had time to subside, we found we were expecting again. It was 3 days before Christmas, just 7 weeks after the miscarriage, and I was 6 weeks along. When the ultrasound confirmed our hopes our doctor said with a smirk, “So I told you to wait a month before trying again and you basically walked out of my office and did the exact opposite.” Woops.

At 29 I met our son, Samuel, and realized God had to have laughed every time I said, “I don’t want kids.” Because, give me all the kids. I now fully understand the fiery love of a parent, the kind that will go to hell and back again for them. It’s on another level.

I’m so thankful for Ryan and my parents and family, and for the people in my life that managed to love me through my twenties. These are and always will be MY people. The people who love you through the messes, mistakes, and lessons. You know, all that life stuff.

So, last Friday I welcomed 30. I welcomed it in this home of a body. This thing I’ve put through the ringer, this person that I now invest in with great intentionality. I have learned through this past decade to always put first my faith, my marriage, my family, my mental and physical health, and because of that I have found happiness deep in my soul.

Who knows if what everyone says is true. Maybe your thirties are what everyone says, maybe not, but I walk into this decade with every sense of optimism.

I say “goodbye” to Hannah’s Twenties with a thankful heart.

To Hannah’s Thirties,

Cheers

 

Advertisements

Drunk Tattoos

I have two tattoos.

One is a celtic knot, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

I had thought about this tattoo for years before getting it.  I did research of the symbol and daydreamed about where I wanted it on my body.  It represented my faith, and I wanted is as a constant reminder.

But seriously, let’s be real.  I was 20 years old and could barely afford rent, but could always afford beer and apparently permanent ink.  I cussed the entire time.

This tattoo was about as deep as my faith was…barely below the flesh.

Still, I’ve always loved and wanted this tattoo and it truly has been a great reminder of what I believe.  I never had a regret.

Then there’s the second one.

I  also had a vision for this one, and daydreamed about it, etc.  I wanted the phrase ad petendam pluviam, a Latin phrase translated, “to ask for rain.”

I read it in a book that I couldn’t finish because the author didn’t use periods and it drove me absolutely nutty.  No periods, just commas. It was like a giant run-on sentence that was totally unnecessary and I never had any idea who was talking, and now there’s a new character and maybe someone’s speaking and there’s a totally new topic, but no one will ever know because there are NEVER ANY PERIODS (OR QUOTATION MARKS)!  My sweet readers, I solemnly swear to ALWAYS use periods (and quotation marks).

But anyway, this phrase stood out to me in this period-less book and became my muse for my next tattoo.

 

This Latin phrase, for me, represented hardships in life that make you stronger.  Just as those who originally said this phrase were asking for rain in order to grow a thriving crop, I felt that we should also ask for these painful times since we would in turn grow in our character, and there was a Flood Watch in my life at that time.  I wanted to feel stronger and bigger than the struggles I was going through, and I felt like this would be a reminder of that.

So one beautiful morning in the mountains, my good friend asked if I wanted to get brunch.  No matter the season, rainy, sunny, or muddy, I freaking LOVE brunch.  You can have all the goodies of breakfast without feeling badly or needing an excuse that it’s well passed breakfast time, because it’s brunch!

Brunch also allows you to sleep in.  And this girl adores sleeping in.  (Ryan said to me yesterday that there are 2 Hannah’s: one before 9:30am and one after…the one before is slightly more difficult.)

We arrived to our favorite spot and indulged, as we usually did, in all our favorites.  Starting with coffee and bottomless mimosas.  (This restaurant no longer offers the bottomless mimosa deal…and I have a feeling we may have been a reason.)

After brunch, our buzzy brains got the brilliant idea to get tattoos since there was a tattoo shop just across the street.  What a perfect time to get my Latin phrase, and I decided I would like it on my wrist.

When we got to the tattoo shop the artist has you fill out and sign a waiver stating that you are not being forced to get this tattoo and that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Away I signed!

When the tattoo artist asked what I would like I paused and thought.

I couldn’t remember how to spell it.

Thoughts went through my mind:

It’s freaking Latin, no one would know if you get it wrong, just go for it!

You just had 84 mimosas.  Don’t get the tattoo right now.

You know how to spell it, remember?  It’s ad petandarmquirwod….was there a number in there somewhere?

Get something else, duh!

I responded, “I would like the word ‘grace’ in cursive right here on my wrist.  It’s the meaning of my name.”

I had never come up with this backup idea before, but the tattoo artist wrote up a nice swirly little ‘grace’ and away he buzzed with his permanent skin engraver.  (Thanks for stepping in here and stopping me, Cole!)

As the mimosas wore off I got more and more aware of what I had done and was furious.

GRACE???

YOU COULDN’T JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU WEREN’T DRINKING???  THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU WANTED YOU FOOLISH MIMOSA CHUGGING, BRUNCH LOVING IDIOT!

What about my reminder to be strong through the struggles in life?  To ask for these times so that you can come out a better person?

How stupid, right?

 

I actually think that God had an angel with me that day, holding the tattoo ink pen.

 

Looking back, I don’t think I would have been as happy with that Latin phrase.  Had I known how long the depression would last and how hard that rain would fall I don’t think I would like a reminder to ask for it.  Why would any of us ASK for hardships?  What I should have asked for was No rain ever, k thanks.

What I needed more was exactly what I got, grace.

I needed forgiveness from a lot of people, and they gave it gracefully.

I needed healing in myself, to show myself epic grace.

I needed to move on from a dark time and I didn’t need to depend on how strong I was, but I needed to depend on the grace of God that is bigger and stronger than we can ever imagine.

That’s my reminder when I look at this drunken tattoo.

That a girl was lost and scared and was brought out – still imperfect, still damp, but WHOLE – through grace.

 

IMG_4149

I hope it never fades, and I’m confident it won’t. (His grace, that is.)

Keep swimming, loves

Cheers!

Bad Dogs and Amazing Grace

Have you ever seen that movie Marley and Me?

It’s about this couple who adopts this yellow lab puppy.  The puppy is so adorable in all its soft, puppy fur and sweet brown eyes…and it grows up being what the author of the original book (based on a true story) called “the world’s worst dog.”

Turns out I can relate.

We took Charlie into our home when Ryan moved in last October.  Before that Charlie lived with Ryan’s parents, who took him in after he had bounced around a couple other homes.  We decided we would give Charlie his forever home, and were excited to give Cooper (our angel dog) a sibling.  What we knew of him was that he was a little dense, but incredibly sweet, and got along with Cooper great.

_DSC0444

What we have learned about Charlie since is that he insists on barking incessantly at squirrels, innocent passersby, our mailman, any delivery person, falling leaves, any sudden movements made by Ryan or myself, and I swear, should I think too loudly, he will resound his booming bark.  We have learned that we need to precariously monitor his water intake or else he will create small lakes on our floors.  He has intense bowel issues and needs to eat very specific (and expensive) dog food.  This will take away a touch of the smell, but the farts remain.  He is never allowed a bone or a treat or anything other than that food.  Try to give him scraps in my line of sight, I dare you.

_DSC0472<—I swear this is his farting face

Charlie is a nightmare on walks.  If he sees another dog he will growl so vehemently that he also begins breathing fire like a murderous dragon as he pulls me like a rag doll across the sidewalk.

He also has terrible allergies and licks his paw through the fur to his skin, causing massive sores.

So last night, Ryan and I thought it would be a brilliant idea if we took the dogs to a beautiful off-leash dog beach on Lake Michigan for a relaxing picnic and family time.

_DSC0561

From car to beach there’s a short hike on which they require dogs to be leashed, and before we even approached the beach we passed four dogs, and Charlie maintained his erratic supremacy for each.

As Cooper ran the beach freely with new sweet doggie friends, Charlie remained on the leash, but not without attempting to remove my shoulder from its socket and causing leash burns all over my hands.

_DSC0529

_DSC0441

The relaxing evening I had planned was replaced with one of anxiety.  I constantly prayed that he would not latch his jaws around another dog’s neck.  I prayed for no blood.  I growled through my own clenched teeth, “I cannot stand him!”

At one point he freaked so intensely that in my retaliation I allowed my emotions to become physical and I smacked him…hard…several times.  “Feel better?” Ryan asked.

_DSC0456

I felt terrible, and guilty, and still so angry.

We went home and went to bed, me wallowing in the sadness of my bad dog ownership.  Until around 3am when I awoke to Charlie peeing in my closet.

The Devil knows how to ruin me.

Ry and I cleaning up a huge puddle of urine at 3am is not a pretty sight.  It was a lot of swearing and partial nudity, followed by apologies and jail time (for Charlie).

Did I mention that Charlie’s original name was, indeed, Marley?  After the “world’s worst dog”?  Fitting.

In all of Charlie’s ridiculousness, in his frustrating antics and infuriating behaviors and habits, I can still say that I love this dog.

I am consistently reminded of God’s grace with our goofy dog, because even when I want to throw in the towel with him, I often think about what would have become of me if God acted in the same way.  What if the One Who Saves would see my behavior time and time again and shake His head and give up on me?  What if He thought I’ll never get through to her, I’m done!  I’m taking her to the pound!

If there was no such thing as grace, I would be totally screwed, because let’s be real, I’ve peed in the good Lord’s closet many times.

_DSC0476

With Charlie, I’m reminded of the importance of forgiveness, not only with him, but with others in life and with myself.  If I’m incapable of moving on past his barking and his farts and his doggie dominance, how will I forgive those who hurt me, dominate me, or use words to bring me down?  How will I be able to see past my own giant flaws and be able to feel the warmth of God’s forgiveness?

I believe we would all be lost without grace…without forgiveness, and I hope Charlie is around for a long time to keep giving me those reminders.

To the cute blonde sunbathing quietly on my back deck, our little Charles Vader,

Cheers.

New York City Adventure

Hi Internet friends!

I’ve missed you.

The end of summer is a crazy time, isn’t it?  It’s been wild for me.  Between having friends visit from out of town, weekend getaways, weddings, and a quick trip to NYC, these past couple weeks have drenched my soul with joy, wrung it out all over my footsteps, and is now hanging to dry, like a new painting – fresh and thought provoking.

I want to share with you today my trip to New York City.  There are endless photos (phone pictures blown up to all their grainy glory) and way too many selfies due to many solo excursions.  I’m afraid I don’t apologize for them.  

I was invited early August by my friends Joash and Michelle to come to NYC for a visit that month.  They had just found an apartment in their dream neighborhood and their leases would be overlapping for about three weeks, allowing friends and family a place to stay should they have an opening to make the trip.   I had just taken a week off for a family vacation in early July, along with most weekends for weddings and cottage getaways, so the notion of taking more time off and spend more money for another trip seemed a little out of the question.  However, when it came down to the wire, I decided I couldn’t pass it up.  

Ryan had close friends visiting from New Jersey the second to last week in August and offered me a one-way trip to the city.  I found a cheap one-way flight back, and before I knew it, I was going.

20140909-140835-50915368.jpg

I arrived late Sunday night after being stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge for over two hours.  Bless Francis and Lisa, because had I decided to make that trip myself, I would have been in trouble.  My accommodations turned out to be a beautiful high-ceiling studio with a cozy little mattress.  All to myself.

20140909-140836-50916666.jpg

The next day I did a lot of solo wandering.  Michelle and Joash both had to work and Francis and Lisa were back to work and school also.  My home away from home was a block away from the Hudson, however, so clearly I started my excursion there.  Selfie to prove it.

20140909-140837-50917151.jpg

I wandered for a few hours, eventually cutting back into the heart of the city.  Michelle sent me a text just before noon asking if I would want to visit her at work and eat at her restaurant.  I was walking as I read and stopped mid-step.  Let me tell you a little about the restaurant Michelle works at.  It’s called Jean-Georges, and has received four stars by the New York Times and three Michelin stars.  It’s fine dining heaven, and sits on the southwest corner of Central Park while also overlooking Columbus Circle.  Did I mention it’s also located in Trump Tower?  So when Michelle asked if I wanted to have lunch there, I figured I would have a liquid lunch.  As long as I could see and feel the ambiance, I was sold.  I began my hundred block, ninety degree sun-blasted walk over and showed up with a “gorgeous glow” (aka dripping with disgusting all over sweat).

20140909-140837-50917513.jpg

Michelle was working on the terrace that day, and seeing this stunning face made every ounce of sweat and every blister worth it.  The cold martini helped also.

20140909-140838-50918593.jpg

My happy heart found tuna tare tare on the menu, and for a price that didn’t terrify me, so I ran with it.  It was decadent.  I was then spoiled with fois gras brulee (not pictured) followed by butterscotch pudding and a perfectly paired port.  I died.

20140909-140837-50917868.jpg

I forget this guy’s name, but if you are anywhere near a food photo of mine, you will be asked to smile.

20140909-140839-50919020.jpg

Angry/confused partial selfie to show the terrace.

20140909-140839-50919642.jpg

20140909-140838-50918814.jpg

And my view from my seat at the bar, clearly aware that I do not belong in such a fancy place, but totally soaking in every second.

20140910-123128-45088018.jpg

After my lunch, Michelle showed me how to take the subway back to her neighborhood.  I walked the streets for a couple more hours before deciding it was happy hour.  I walked into this spot and found myself in a dark, we are talking nearly black, space, with a worn bar with two guests sipping cocktails and flaunting English accents.  I sat down, smitten, and ordered a gin and tonic.  Not four sips later, a voice came over the speaker system.  It sounded like the voice of an old villain, the wicked witch of the west, maybe, only male.  I couldn’t find the source until it popped up again, and a man fully garbed in a red velvet suit and top hat with a stringy black mop of hair stood behind the bar patrons.  My eyes had finally adjusted to the dark, and when I took a moment to look around the bar as the crackly voice spoke I noticed there were full skeletons hanging from the ceiling.  I didn’t stay for a second drink.

20140910-123128-45088607.jpg

Instead, Joash met up with me after getting out of work and we decided to go over to Soho to walk through Little Italy and Chinatown, and find other spots to eat and drink.

20140910-123128-45088302.jpg

20140910-123129-45089867.jpg

20140910-123128-45088989.jpg

20140910-123130-45090295.jpg

20140910-123130-45090670.jpg

At our last spot, a kitchen guy came out and gave me this enormous “sparkler” (which burnt the cuss out of my hand), to which Joash responded to by serenading me with “Happy Birthday.”  We then drank Hennessy for free.  A very Happy Un-Birthday to me.

20140910-123131-45091265.jpg

Oh yeah, then the bartender did this.

20140910-123131-45091938.jpg

The next morning, Michelle and I had plans to venture to Brooklyn, with a quick stop at her favorite coffee shop first called Whynot.  Yes, we drank Morning Wine.

20140910-123132-45092357.jpg

New Yorkers at their finest.

20140910-123132-45092903.jpg

Our brunch choice, Egg. 

20140910-123351-45231645.jpg

20140910-123351-45231835.jpg

Brooklyn Bridge

20140910-123351-45231320.jpg

20140910-123351-45231012.jpg

20140910-123352-45232333.jpg

The subways are smelly, disgusting, hot, and feel like murder.

20140910-123352-45232002.jpg

It was a beautiful day exploring with my friend.

20140910-123352-45232494.jpg

Since Michelle had to work that night, I walked 50+ blocks the the ferry and took it over to Hoboken to meet up with an old friend from college.  I hadn’t seen her in years.

20140910-123352-45232973.jpg

20140910-123352-45232652.jpg

20140910-123353-45233319.jpg

Her babe, Jack, who I got to meet for the first time!

20140910-123353-45233491.jpg

You guys, I ate alligator.  It was so good.

20140910-123536-45336709.jpg

Pier 13 in Hoboken.  Dinner, wine, friends, and good conversation.  

20140910-123536-45336366.jpg

20140910-123537-45337035.jpg

20140910-123537-45337372.jpg

20140910-123538-45338258.jpg

Up and at ’em the next morning for my last day in NYC and spending it mostly with this cute thing.  I walked over late morning to see their new place before heading out.

20140910-123537-45337563.jpg

20140910-123537-45337918.jpg

Cappuccinos and quiet.

20140910-123539-45339178.jpg

Scenes from our walk on the High Line, a railway turned park above the streets.  It’s gorgeous (and hot.  Freaking hot that day.)

20140910-123538-45338636.jpg

20140910-123538-45338999.jpg

20140910-123705-45425111.jpg

20140910-123539-45339932.jpg

Ramen is the cool thing there, guys, so I ate at their favorite Ramen spot.  So good.

20140910-123705-45425446.jpg

20140910-123705-45425791.jpg

20140910-123706-45426134.jpg

Spicy margarita, mojito, and topped off with a free shot of rum accompanied by an orange squeeze and raw sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa.  People ask what I did in NYC and I say I walked, ate, and drank at all the best spots with all the best people.

20140910-123706-45426858.jpg

City selfie as I wandered the Upper East Side.  

20140910-123706-45426672.jpg

And then got two free drinks. 

20140910-123707-45427391.jpg

I subway-ed back after my afternoon solo adventures and over to Michelle and Joash’s for an evening on their patio.  When I walked in, Michelle had music playing, candles lit, steak being cooked, bottles of wine ready to be opened, and this insane spread.  

20140910-123738-45458140.jpg

20140910-123738-45458547.jpg

20140910-123740-45460248.jpg

20140910-123740-45460775.jpg

20140910-123740-45460968.jpg

Every sense was rocked on this trip, but the conversations I had with friends about God and humanity and relationships and the solo time I had to think and soak everything in is what I took home with me.  On the last night, as I sat with Michelle and Joash on the candle lit patio, we decided each of us would say something about God before our meal.  I had felt overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious on this trip, and on the flip side I had felt peace far deeper than I had in a long time.  I felt fulfillment and curiosity and anger and love.  The journey that I am on (and that we are on) is vast with opportunities, but short.  It’s leaking with extravagance, but bound by hours, by priorities, by standards put in place by society.  At that moment when I had to say something about God I felt like He was and would continue to teach me in bizarre ways, through cocktails and kind strangers, through subways and chaotic crowds.  I looked up and closed my eyes and took a deep breath of New York City’s potent air.  “God is Crazy.” (totally with capital “C”)

That was all I could come up with.  But I hope you feel the craziness of God.  In whatever way that is, whether you want it or not, I hope it’s never what you expect.  

I can’t believe I almost didn’t make that trip.  

To Fran and Lisa, to Kelly and Nicole and baby Jack, to Joash and Michelle,

THANK YOU and Cheers!

Why I don’t need Ryan

It’s been three glorious weeks of engagement bliss.  

Despite the extra high levels of anxiety and the epic panic attacks/meltdowns that have settled just beneath the surface of my calm exterior due to my manic obsession with wedding planning, it’s safe to say that I nearly have to whole dang thing planned.  Down to the dress.  I’m serious.  21 days after the initial proposal and I have a dress picked out, ordered, shipped, and now hanging in my closet.  Like a boss.

I have our photographer booked (Rachelle Rae), our DJ picked out, caterer in the works, decorations planned, and honeymoon being dreamed up.  

I am in such pre-marital bliss that I have started singing in the shower.  There is not one lie about that statement.  In the past three weeks I have started singing boisterously in the acoustics of my shower for the first time in 27 years.  I vomit wedding talk over every conversation also.  It’s attractive, and I totally can’t help it.

I’m embarrassingly giddy about being engaged, but I don’t need it.  I am not basing my every happiness on marrying Ryan Innis.  As a matter of fact, I don’t need him at all.

Now before you get all hurt for this sweet and incredible man I am marrying, let me explain.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and, per my new terrible habit, I had found different ways throughout the conversation to steer it back to my upcoming nuptials.  There was wedding bile everywhere.  She was sweet as she allowed me to get it all out before she steered it away and described to me the difficulties she was facing in the dating world.  She was having frustrations and anxieties, and I realized that even though I am in this magical state now, this was not always the case, and it isn’t the case for many of my dear ones now.  

I remembered that just over a year ago I would have boiled my blood over another’s engagement.  Dating was obnoxious and constantly depleted my hopes of ever finding someone I would want to hang out with forever.  

In my early twenties, I found my worth in gaining the attention of others.  I was falsely happy only if I was pleasing everyone else, and never focused on what truly brought me joy.  My happiness was fake, and I had fooled everyone, including myself.  

It wasn’t until I decided to put in all my efforts to find what brought me joy.  I switched the focus to myself for a time, and although I will always believe selflessness is imperative to happiness, the necessity of my selfishness during that time was one that would save me.  

I had no idea what I enjoyed.  What perked up my senses?  What made me feel?  What did I want to surround myself with?  And whom? 

It wasn’t until I intentionally explored these questions that I began to understand myself…as a human, a woman, a sister, a friend.  I could see more clearly the things that were important to me, along with the relationships and activities.  I felt more fulfilled emotionally, physically, spiritually.  I was sincerely finding joy as I put effort into loving myself.

If I had met Ryan after that first encounter with his parents and sister, I don’t think it would have worked.  I didn’t know myself well enough.  I would have tried to find my happiness in myself through him, instead of adding to my happiness by being with him.

I think it was all planned that it would be another year before I met him.  Because now I know I don’t need him for my own happiness.  I know what brings me joy.  But I want him with me every second because he adds to it monumentally.  

I don’t need him to feel confident.  But he builds me up every day because he wants to.

I don’t need his money. But I’ll take it. (okay okay, we’ll share 🙂 ) 

I don’t need his input to know my faith.  But I adore his encouragement.

Ryan doesn’t define who I am, and likewise I don’t define him, but I want to be with him every day because he brings out all the good in me, and now we can find all the things that make us happy together.

So to all those frustrated by the dating world, I encourage you to have faith, and spend your time with a bit of selfishness to focus on your JOY with who you are.  Don’t let anyone else define you.

Cheers!

 

 

Ryan

I’ve been asked several times why I’ve never written about Ryan or how I met him, and since we are creeping up on the big ONE YEAR, I am finally giving in.  Here you go, y’all, here’s how it all began (WARNING: I could get mushy) :

 

July 12, 2012

It was the second Friday of July and I was waiting tables, per usual, at my beloved fine dining restaurant.  I was still new, fresh out of training and slightly intimidated by the chandeliers and fragile glassware, by my intelligent and well-versed co-workers and also by our clientele.

It was on this night when a couple came in with their daughter to celebrate her college graduation.  They were fantastic and fun and we talked as if we had known each other for years.

When the evening was coming to a close, the mother said to the daughter, “Do you know who she’d be perfect for?”

The daughter responded immediately, “Ryan.”

As it turned out, Ryan was the oldest son of their family, and was serving in the Marine Corps and soon to be deployed for the second time.

“He’s going to be on pre-deployment leave, though, so while he’s home I’ll take him in for a drink so he can meet you,”said the daughter.

“I’d love that!” I responded, and then smiled for a picture with the daughter (her name is Kayla) for them to send to Ryan. (How could he not fall for the bow tie?)

 

20140712-161307-58387864.jpg

These wonderful people went on their way, and I didn’t hear from them.  Eventually they were tucked quietly in the back of my memories with all the other cozy, good ones.

Fast forward a year to the day later, July 12, 2013 and we come to meet Hannah again, understandably frustrated by the depressing topic of the male race.  I had had several mediocre to hilariously awful encounters, dates, and set-ups, and I had begun to worry that there were no good eggs left.  They were all single for a reason, and apparently so was I.

I was still serving at the same restaurant on the day my manager handed me a note with a couple names and a phone number.

“Call them to confirm a reservation.  They requested you,” he said.

I didn’t recognize the names at all.

I dialed the number, and the first person I spoke to was male.

“My daughter and wife are actually the ones setting this up, you may want to talk with one of them,” he said.

Before putting his wife on the phone, however, he had given me enough information to piece things together.  They were the family from the previous year, and just as sweet as I remembered.

As I spoke with Mrs. (Innis) on the phone, I learned that this time around they would be out celebrating none other than Ryan, who was home from the Marines for good.

More than anything, I was excited to see that family again, but in the back of my mind, I remembered how they wanted me to meet him.  It was a bad day to pass on a quick tease of the hair and a little extra make-up.  And let’s be real, my bow tie and vest don’t do me any favors.

Picture it in slow motion, people, because it’s seriously like a movie.  I’m chatting with the family when he walks in through the glass doors, tall and tan and manly.  You guys, serious, it all happened in slow motion.  I drooled all over the table.

Five days after our first meeting we had our first date, and have spent few days apart since.

Ryan is good to the core.  When I prayed about finding someone, it’s amazing how I was praying for him.  He is tall and tan and manly, yes, but he is also caring, goofy, and intelligent.  He is crazy about his family, adores his grandparents, and has faith that inspires me.  He makes me feel safe without being dominant, and at the same time he makes me feel strong and confident in myself.

Today is the 12th, and yesterday was the second Friday in July, making it one year since I met him.  Last night we went up north to one of our favorite places, the home that belongs to his late best friend’s mother and stepdad (Aunt Char and Uncle Jim).  They live on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, and as the sun set he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. (Side note: Aunt Char tied the ring around my dog’s neck and he delivered it to Ryan….you guys, I KNOW.  Literally dying)

366 days ago.

Ryan, I never saw you coming.

To Kayla and Mama Innis for the best set up ever, to my dad for giving permission, to Aunt Char and Uncle Jim for their help, but mostly, to my favorite person that I get to live with forever-Ryan, I totally do.

Cheers!

 

 

 

20140712-161338-58418277.jpg

MOMENTS

One of the goals I made for the blog this year was to write a post every week – to keep the creative juices flowing, fingers typing, mind working.  Clearly, this is a difficult one for me.  Recently I’ve felt that I just don’t have enough going on or happening in my life to form a post that’s worthy of reading.  My readers want adventure and pictures and excitement, and my days are surrounded by my nieces and nephews, reading easy books, racing last minute to work, and returning home late at night, exhausted and wide awake.  I come to the morning where I told myself I will absolutely blog today and think nothing has happened worth writing about.  I walk away from my computer.  Maybe next week.

I always want to entertain you, make you laugh, make you think, maybe inspire you,  but then I put pressure on having these momentous occasions to refer to, ones that teach lessons or are cause for laughing so hard you get the hiccups.

But it’s time to admit it – my life right now, is simple.

It’s beautifully and perfectly simple – full of the most monumentally simple things.

I’ve had the travel bug for a bit now, tugging at me to set everything aside and GO. Go somewhere, anywhere.

I want to see all the places I’ve never been.  I want to breathe that air and swim in that culture and explore everything that makes others lives what mine is now.  What do other’s lives look like when it’s “simple”?

I have friends that are spending the summer travelling through Europe.  Others who are planning weeks later this summer for epic road trips and adventures in South America.  I see on Instagram and Facebook pictures of moments that are life-changing, soul-bursting, heart-wrenching.  It makes me want to leave even more.

It also makes me think of all these beautiful, small moments in my life now with less gratitude.  How often do we compare our lives with those we see online?

I don’t want to do that.  I want to see these pictures and find inspiration and encouragement, yes, but not a means to belittle my own life.

So today I’m thinking of the small moments the past few weeks, because they’ve added heaps of joy to my life.

Like last night, when I sat around the table with my parents, three of my sisters, and my boyfriend, with candles lit and wine open and kids’ happy shouts coming from the basement.  Phones were set aside as we sat and talked late into the evening.

Or the other day, when my three-year-old nephew jumped on my lap and asked me to look out the window with him.  He pointed out trees and puddles and flowers and then we laid our heads on the back of the couch looking at each other.  He was looking not into my eyes but all over my face and I asked him, “What are you looking at, D?”  I was certain his stare was aimed at a zit of blemish, an imperfection I should be more aware of.

“Your face,” he responded, “it’s so pretty.”

He popped his head up, ready to jump off the couch before he paused and said, “Or do you like awesome better?” and then leapt away with a squeal before I could answer.

I think of this moment at work the other day, while I set up the restaurant.

My boss and I had gotten into a couple small arguments recently that made me sad and frustrated, and I was declining into a period of desperation to leave.  That day, I was setting up in the dining room whem my boss pulled out a chair and asked, “Hannah, are you okay?  I’ve been noticing lately that maybe you aren’t as happy here as you used to be, and I want to make sure that we do our job to keep you happy.”

I scrambled for words – I could have said a million of them, and responded, “I have my ups and downs, but I’m happy.”

He paused, maybe also searching through millions of his own words before saying, “I think you carry a lot of the spirit in this place, Hannah.  I truly think that.”

It was a compliment my restaurant-weary soul needed, and least expected from him.  My eyes immediately filled with tears (I’m a crier, he knows this and I also know that it makes him intensely uncomfortable).  I said a thank-you and warned him I could cry, to which he responded by nearly jumping out of his seat and moving on.  It was a strangely perfect way for the two of us to make amends.

I think of my sister and her three kids who are staying with us for the summer as they do each year, visiting from Alabama, so there’s always a mob of kids (her and my other sisters’ kids) running around.  It’s a fun, loud, creative, hilarious mob of loving cousins, and I see magic when they’re pretending, when the big kids tend to the little ones, encouraging their imaginations .

So yes, I want adventures and travel stories and big, momentous occasions that drastically shape me, but I never want to overlook the small ones.  These perfectly simple moments of kindness, innocence, beauty.  These moments you can’t catch and post online.  The conversations that aren’t texts, the things you only get to keep in your memory.  I want my eyes to be wide open and away from a screen for each of them.

To all of the little things,

Cheers!

WEDDING SEASON

June is wild.

Wedding season has arrived with every ounce of energy it it can muster, and it has a cuss ton of it.  Last week alone I attended three weddings, beginning on Sunday the 8th at Gun Lake and finishing it off in Chicago on Saturday, with one in between here in Grand Rapids on Friday.

They were all as different and as lovely as the couples.  The wedding on Sunday I spent photographing for a friend from work, which is actually a touch humorous, considering I am in no way a professional photographer.  It was also terrifying.  I crapped my pants shortly after agreeing to do my friend this favor of capturing lifelong memories of the most important day of her life.  Then I wanted to do so again when I woke up the morning of her wedding to see dark clouds and deep puddles everywhere.  Thankfully when I arrived to the lake/wedding site at 10 am that morning the clouds had already dispersed and the day turned out to be absolutely perfect.  Except for when I broke a lens, but thankfully it was not the one Ryan bought me for Christmas nor was it either of the two lenses I had rented for the weekend.  One is forced to find blessings in tragedies as expensive as broken camera lenses.  Dan picked Karly up after they were pronounced husband and wife and he carried her down the aisle.  Pure magic.

_DSC0577_DSC0358-2

_DSC0045-2

_DSC0072-2 _DSC0376-2

Friday’s wedding was for an old friend who has been in my life since elementary school.  There is a group of 20-30 (seriously, I’m not even going to count) who has kept quite close even after our high school days were over.  Many are married to each other – high school sweethearts whose relationships survived the odds, and others who we’ve since added to the group.  They’re my people.  We can move away, make mistakes, be absent from the group activities, forget birthdays, not speak in months, and then when we do all get together, everything is forgotten except that we have been through it all and that is enough to carry our friendships through.  It’s a beautiful crew.

and these are just some of the females…

Both the bride and groom that day had wide smiles they couldn’t quit.  They would try to give their cheeks a break and couldn’t.  It was happiness in its brightest, best fashion.  The reception was in an old brick building with antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the tables covered with white linens and decorated with bouquets of baby’s breath and white hydrangeas.  Romantic, man.  It was freaking romantic.

and seriously…photo booths? Awesome.

 

The morning after I rode with my parents and two of my sisters down to the Chicago suburbs for my cousin’s wedding.  She and I are the same age, but dramatically different.  She’s petite, sweet, teaches elementary, and has a heart of solid gold, whereas I’m brash, loud and unorganized.  And definitely not petite.  Despite our differences, she is my blood to the very heart of the meaning.  She is part of me and I of her.  She inspires me, and her now husband, Dave, clenched his jaw as she walked down the aisle to hold back his tears and then threw his fist in the air after their “I do’s.”

Hannah and her sisters (that should totally be a movie, right? 😉 )

 

We stopped in Saugatuck on our way home to soak in the smell of the lake and to eat pizza and ice cream in a waffle cone, and from there I sped north to Ryan’s family cottage where we took a late evening pontoon ride around the lake with a glass of wine.

And now it’s Monday.  My schedule is nearly packed with work every night, and part of me wants to quit my job just so I can keep going with this season…but I’m also exhausted.  Happily exhausted.  My body needs a break from mounds of endless food and bottomless glasses of wine.  However, finding that balance of crazy fun and endless work is not my strength, and there’s this idea brewing, wondering, imagining if it didn’t have to be a balance and could, instead, be all wrapped up into crazy fun.  Wouldn’t that be what we all hope for?

June is wild.  In the best way.

To Dan and Karly, Amber and Jon, and Christine and Dave,

Cheers!

Rachelle Rae was the photographer for Amber and Jon’s wedding, and clearly, she is awesome.  Visit her page here

Being Kind is SO Overrated

I’m serious.

We’ve given it up.  We used to effort ourselves to “kill people with kindness,” and now we’ve reverted to killing people with bitterness, snarkiness, anger, and behind-closed-doors-cursing.  We’re a bunch of smart-asses, waiting for the opportunity to roll our eyes and make the other person feel the angry shadow we cast as we loom above them, glowering in our headiness.

We can feel this like a thickness in the air, weighing everyone down, our shoulders drooping forward and our eyes downcast.

I see this often.  I see it in the way we handle conflict, in our demeanor towards co-workers, strangers on the street, on our oh-so-beloved social medias where we turn into sharks, safe behind our plastic keyboards.

I’ve been a victim, but I’ve also been the antagonist, though it breaks my heart to admit.  I’ve responded to harmless questions with sharp words, sarcastic and dry – sandpaper to a baby’s soft skin.

What happened to our effort for kindness?

Putting ourselves above others seems to come naturally.  Quickly defensive and slow to take blame, we are becoming a society where we are never wrong and the other person is always the idiot.  Throw them under that roaring, angry, hateful bus.

It’s slowly, but visibly, wearing us down.

It has to change.  If we ever want to see better, to do better, to be better, we have to change.  Change our mindset, our vocabulary, tone of voice.  Change our pedestal…lower it a few levels.  There isn’t one of us who has it all together, with all the answers and the perfect plan.  You will make mistakes today, and so will others.  So what if we decided to take a deep breath and be kind?

I’ve worked in the service industry for nearly ten years and I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to scream at a guest an unpleasant reminder that although I am waiting on them, I am still, in fact, a human.  Their rudeness is a baseball to the head, shouldn’t I return the favor?  But I smile (no, it may not be a genuine smile) and continue on.  I want to keep my job.  I want to be professional.  I want to KILL THAT PERSON with kindness.  More often than not, they notice how big of a jerk they’re being, and take it down a notch (though, not always).

What if we took the extra effort in our every day lives?  A deep breath and clenched smile and a genuine effort to not become a jerk could go a long way.  There’s one world and we all have to live in it, we may as well try.

I like you all, in my most sincerest way of liking,

Cheers!

Hi, you shouldn’t be a Professor

It’s been nearly a month since I finished my first full year back at school, and I’m still irked to the core about one of my professors.  Part of me wants to forget about him and move on, and the other wants to write incessant letters and e-mails to the Dean of Students until he is released from his duties as Professor.

This class was an intro class for document design and was based heavily (and I mean every single thing we did) on Adobe InDesign.  If you don’t know anything or much about this program, it would likely be similar to sitting in a space ship and trying to figure out how to fly it.  Or reading Harry Potter in Italian.  It’s complicated and complex for beginners.  I would say it’s about twice as complicated and complex for Writing Majors who have NO interest or minute understanding of computers or technology.  Ahem, 98% of my class.

There were a few Advertising and PR kids who were already well versed with this program, and they quickly adopted the status of teachers pet.  Then there were the rest of us who simply tried to keep our grades above failing.

His version of “teaching” us this program was to give us YouTube videos to watch.  I basically stared cross-eyed at the screen for each of those videos and when the time came to apply it to our projects, they didn’t match up.

Ah, the projects.  Yes, three projects, all jam packed into the last few weeks of the semester, and these were the only grades that mattered.  So if you had no idea what you’re doing with the first project, or if he didn’t think your design was good enough – TOO BAD.  His feedback was anything but helpful and when one student asked for further advice he would say things like, “Maybe you should review the assignment sheet.” She e-mailed our class in desperation for advice, clearly, she had read the assignment sheets over and over. Don’t even bother asking questions in class, because that response will be defensive and mocking, making you feel like an idiot for even asking.

I’m livid because I see what I pay him per class, and any lack of success should reflect poorly on him as well.  I passed the class, but I feel like I could have learned far more had he known how to teach the subject matter.  The problem is that it’s not his first job.  Teaching college students is extra cash for him, and it’s clear we are not his priority.  I know my other classmates were frustrated as well (or those of us who had no prior training with InDesign).  We all felt loss and timid to ask questions.

I don’t like seeing our careless professors get away with it.  College is insanely expensive, but how are we supposed to reach graduation if we don’t have professors who want to see us succeed?   That’s fine for them to expect a lot from us, that I understand, but if they can’t back it up with being able to explain and teach without simply sending us to YouTube, I’m over you, and I’ll take that couple grand back also.

Any of you college kids feel my pain?

Angry about this, but secretly super happy with life,

Cheers!