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.

 

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

Keep swimming, loves

Cheers!

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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.

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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!

 

I’m not a Hipster.

For a good portion of my adult life I’ve thought I was a hippie/hipster.

hip·pie

[hip-ee] 

noun

a person, especially of the late 1960s, who rejected establishedinstitutions and values and sought spontaneity, direct personalrelations expressing loveand expanded consciousness, often expressed externally in the wearing of casual, folksy clothing and ofbeads, headbands, used garments, etc.

 

 

hip·ster

 [hip-ster] 

noun Slang.

1.

a person who is hip.
2.
a person, especially during the 1950s, characterized by aparticularly strong sense of alienation from most established social activities and relationships.

 

It was about the time when my high school sweetheart and I broke up and I realized I had no idea who Hannah was without him.  I wanted to be different from the Abercrombie-clad girl that I was at that time, so naturally, I decided that I was a hippie.  In reality I was simply a funny poser, since I had no idea what this entailed or what it meant, but in my mind I was a hippie.  I began to smoke a tobacco pipe.  I went 4 solid months without ever wearing shoes. (Um, not even in bars.  I know.)  I wore long skirts and knitted caps in the middle of summer that I called “floppy knittas” and drank only sophisticated drinks like boxed wine.  I got big chunky glasses and began painting (horribly).  I got my nose pierced and wore a giant hoop in it.  I got a tattoo and looked into dreadlocks for my hair…because that’s what hippies do.

Some of you know this is true of me.  Some of you think I’m joking.

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feet. bare. tattoo. anklet. Soooooooo artsy. (Side note: those jeans are from Express…true poser)

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long skirt, floppy knitta.

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The nose ring.  You guys, I KNOW.

Surprisingly, it took a good 4 years or so to realize that I am not, in fact, a hippie/hipster.

Last night I fully accepted this reality.  I went to a bar to listen to a few bands at Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids.  It’s grungy and eclectic and has numerous arcade games.  It is a hipster bar, and if you are not of this mold, you stand out.  I once had my friend meet me there and she showed up in a neon pink t-shirt which only enhanced her bright blonde hair.  I was so embarrassed.  And now, months after the incident and knowing full well the atmosphere of this venue, I decided to wear a black peplum top with skinny jeans and cute sandals and a chunky gold necklace.  It wasn’t neon pink, but I did not fit in at the metal/rock/mosh-pit themed concert.

I did stand out, but that was okay with me.  I sipped my gin and tonic and swayed with the beat (okay totally off beat because I’m that white) and sincerely enjoyed each of the bands.  Side note: Mosh pits are a major white people thing.  We had to have invented it because anyone who can actually dance would have to prefer that over shoving each other around in a manic state.

Anyway.  Everyone was really into the first band, which happened to include one of Ryan’s friends as the drummer.  The lead singer was addressing the audience and thanking them when he announced, “This will be our last song for you tonight.”

I was expecting an uproar of encouragement for them to keep going.  Instead it was dead silent aside from me screaming at the top of my lungs, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

If I didn’t stand out before, I surely stood out then, as every eye turned to stare at the peplum-donning girl with fresh blonde highlights freaking out.  (maybe not every eye, but Ryan says a good 70 people were laughing at me…I wouldn’t know because I was covering my eyes in embarrassment, though I heard the laughs.)

I’m okay with not being part of this crowd.  They’re stylish and sexy and always know the name of bands no one else has heard of.  They can pull off nose rings and tattoos and dread locks.  They’re freaking cool, man.

But I’m okay with just being me.  As I’ve transitioned out of my desire to be part of any particular societal brand, (whether that be hippie, professional, glamorous, etc.) I’ve also taken on a saying that one of my dear friends from Wyoming always said, “If people don’t like what they see, then they can look away.”

It’s true.  We don’t need to dress or act or be a certain way.  If you think I dress like a weirdo, guess what? I completely don’t care!  And if you think I act like a weirdo?  Well, you’d be totally right.  I’m entirely out of my mind.

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I hope you’re okay with not fitting any certain mold, because you’re totally perfect as you.

Here’s to you, but also to me (don’t want to be picking favorites!)

Cheers 🙂

 Dresscapade

This weekend we are celebrating four of my coworkers who are getting married. The theme: ugly dress competition. (Four weddings and a funeral)

Hannah's Thirties

Image Per your (maybe not YOU specifically) request, here are some pictures of the dresscapade I went on.  However, to fully capture its epic-ness, I had to schedule a reshoot this morning after I rolled out of bed.  Thankfully, my sweet sister and my dear nephew had spent the night and were more than obligated, I mean willing, to help.  The above and below dress belonged to Rachel, the picture  includes really rad dance moves and a super old family photo poking through in the background.  Her first comment when I walked out was “Oh my gosh, isn’t mine the prettiest?” and followed by a more nostalgic, “Aww, I want to have my wedding day again.” Image   This is Bekah’s. And no, I couldn’t get it zipped.  She is the size of my left ankle.  I remember before her wedding she would have a cup of chili during the day so she…

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JAMIE

I am currently listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the 9,472nd time this week.  That’s right.  For the past week my sister has been staying with us along with my 5 week old nephew and my 1 1/2 year-old niece who is infatuated with Frozen, just like every other young human in the world.  My eyes pop open in the morning and I’m immediately singing “Do you want to build a snowman?” and twirling around as if I have magical powers to freeze things.  Disney, man, you win.

But this week was more than an unending musical.  This week I finished my first year back to school after a four year hiatus.  I gave myself a pat on the back because I’m proud.  I’m proud that I finally took the initiative to go back despite every apprehension.  Part of me feels really cool and accomplished.  But there are actually tons of people doing things that are so much cooler.  Like the people who are graduating this weekend with their undergrad or masters.  Or, hi, how about Meb Keflezighi who just won the Boston freaking Marathon at the age of 38.

Or my friend Jamie, an insanely gorgeous and adventurous beauty I met when I lived in Jackson, Wyoming.  She’s originally from New York, and her quick wit and raw honesty are evidence of this.  She will call you out if you’re being an idiot and stand behind everything she believes with sincere grit.  Jamie also goes on travel adventures that can make the Homebody of the Year want to get out and see the world.

Like back in 2012 when she decided to spend some time in Thailand.  And then extended her stay and traveled through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  We were all back in Jackson just waiting for her to return and then she would decide to stay longer…and longer….and longer.  She met people along the way with whom she traveled, and went on solo adventures as well.  She’s truly a badass.

 

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Gaaah, I love to hate her (with love).

There’s also the time, in 2011, when she traveled to South America and did things like this:

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Yes, sand boarding down the Huacachina dunes

 

 

 

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biking a dangerous 13,123 feet downhill road (with oncoming traffic) in Peru

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ziplining….with that setting. GAH.

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Hiking Machu Picchu

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Doing this

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I mean, really.  Just stop.

During her South America trip she visited Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Argentina.  Whoa.  During the past couple years she’s gone on some shorter trips to Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala.

Jamie isn’t a born world traveler.  It wasn’t until 2007 at the age of 27 that she went on her first solo trip to Costa Rica, just after spending her first summer out west in Jackson Hole.  It gives me hope that maybe my traveling days haven’t even started.  If I can head anywhere in the direction Jamie has gone, I’ll be a wildly happy girl.  As I was going back and forth with Jamie today on the phone, she also mentioned that after this summer she wants to buy a one way ticket to…somewhere.  She listed off a couple places, but for the sake of keeping you in the dark, not giving away all her secrets, and for the hope that she may get back to sharing her adventures through her own blog, I’m not going to tell you.  (JAMIE’S BLOG HERE)

There are things that change us, and I think travel is one of them.  The kind of travel where you get deep into the culture and be a little vulnerable.  The kind of travel where not everything is planned out.  Where maybe you get lost and come out with a really great story.  You can start it with “Ah, that reminds me of that time I got so lost in the middle of the jungle on Easter Island and the natives spit on me because I have red hair.” …..or something like that.

My grandparents didn’t start traveling until they were in their 60’s, and my grandma was skeptical.  After their first trip overseas, however, she was hooked.  It’s apparently the best drug out there.

I hope with all my heart that I don’t wait until I’m 60.  I hope with all my heart that you don’t either.

Do you have any truly awesome travel tales?  I’d love to hear/read them.

Also, if you are one of my readers outside of the U.S., I want to say THANK YOU for reading.  Let’s get in touch, let’s connect, let’s talk about each other’s cultures and hometowns.  Seriously.  And then maybe we can visit each other.

Lastly, thank you, Jamie, for being as awesome as you are (and for letting me use your photos).  I have a very special place in my heart that is just for you.

To our passports,

Cheers!

 

Why I Need Goals and Goals Need Me.

I won’t bring up taxes if you won’t, deal?

Deal.

Instead let’s talk about goals.  They can be our greatest accomplishments in life and also our truest struggles.  

I’ve told you all about my friend Ryan, who writes a list of goals to accomplish every year.  Kind of like resolutions, but without the “this is what I want to change” and more “this is what I want to do.”  Right now, he’s cruising all over the U.S. in an RV building his business and living day to day, adventure to adventure.  

His goals on that list were more important than any money a 9-5 job could offer.  So he quit his 9-5 job.  He became an entrepreneur (a huge goal of his) and is currently in Utah, hiking in Moab and daring his fear of heights to get the best of him.  

Ryan and I aren’t super close, but his stories inspire me all the time, and I love giving a shout out to those who either directly or indirectly impact me.  So, Ryan, THANK YOU!

When it comes to my own list of goals, I want so badly to be able to do such daring things like Ryan.  But instead, especially lately, I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to do all of the grown-up things 27-year-olds like me “should be doing” like updating my resume and looking for a 9-5 job/career, saving for a house, getting approved for a home loan, fixing and cleaning my car, and totally not doing my taxes because we said we wouldn’t talk about them.

But then I sit down and see my List of Goals that I wrote 4 months ago sitting wrinkled and dusty on my nightstand and wonder how I could let them become so neglected?    

oh sure I’ve crossed a few off my list like going to Costa Rica and zip-lining through the jungle and getting good grades in school…but there are so many more that I’ve set aside and forgotten about, and now I’m craving that warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishing something you’ve wanted for so long.

For instance, a couple from my list:

  • take a road trip
  • save $______
  • become a morning person
  • be a clean person
  • go skydiving
  • visit mountains
  • pay it forward
  • drive a stick shift 
  • travel across the ocean

All quite Earth-shattering, I know.

It’s easy to look around and wish for your life to be like this or that, so it’s no wonder I feel like I should be at a certain point or have more accomplished. 

For instance, I’m currently sitting in a dear friend’s house after spending the weekend here taking care of her dog while she and her husband are away for business/pleasure.  It’s a gorgeous home complete with crazy stuff like furniture and decorations, stuff I haven’t had to think or worry about in what seems like way too long.  And I could very easily get sad/depressed/angry at myself/steal all of their things, but what would be the point?  It won’t change my situation one bit (except for that hat that I’m stealing…it changes up my head wardrobe a little).  

What would change my situation, however, would be to keep getting after my goals.  Without purposefully accomplishing the small, specific goals on my list  ( i.e. save $_______) I will never reach any of the big ones (purchase that home on the street that starts with a T, fly across an ocean, etc.).

I’m happy I updated my resume, and cleaned my car, and signed away all my money to the government on time.  And I would still love to buy a house, but I’m not going to be complacent with that.  I’m not cool with letting my age or society tell me I have to be a certain way at a certain time.  There is no real set of rules for how to live your life other than the rules you set for yourself. 

So here’s to getting back to the List and always striving to be better than the day before, 

Cheers!

P.S. You could cross off another one today for me.  (ahhhh so suspenseful!)

 

Finding Home

 

Yesterday, April 1, marked two years since I’ve moved back to Michigan. It was also my mother’s birthday.

Two years ago I walked into the house I grew up in after driving 26 hours across the country to surprise my mom on her birthday. What a fun birthday surprise, right?

What she didn’t realize was that I also had my car packed full of all my junk to move back into her house (for what would turn into a two year visit).

This video is of that moment, caught in all its awkward splendor by my sister, Rachel (she and my Dad were “in the know”). I remember being terrified, shaking, wondering how she would react. I also remember that I was terrified and shaking for more than just that reason. (um, i’ll work on the video…not tech saavy)

I made the decision to move home pretty quickly, and I had no idea if my soul was ready to be plunked so suddenly back into the town I grew up in.

I made the decision to move out to Wyoming late in November, 2009, after many conversations with one of my best friends in the world, Betsy. She was already living out there, and had grown in so many ways – personally, spiritually, etc. I craved the same experience, and finally, I told her, “I’m coming out there.”

She was the only reason it came to fruition. She found the apartment, put down the deposit. She made every single plan, and in a very short time, because just over a month after I made the decision to pack up and go, I was on the road. January 3, 2010, and told myself I would never live in Michigan again.

I can’t imagine that now. I’m going to be very real with you for a minute: I was a part-time waitress at Applebees. I had saved up just over $500. I had no job waiting for me out there.

I think about it now and wonder, how the heck did I dare to do that?!

There is no way it would happen today. I can’t commit to purchasing a brand new computer, for goodness sake.

But it’s because Michigan no longer felt like home to me. I felt suffocated, branded, and judged by it. I felt like it accused me of not fitting in (and feeling like an outsider in your hometown isn’t fun). I also had this free-spirit-wanna-be-hippie-but-totally-not thing going on inside of me that was the most tumultuous roller coaster, and the only way I can describe it is that I was at a loss for an identity. Which makes perfect sense. Because if you don’t feel at home in yourself, how are you supposed to feel at home in your hometown?

But that brought on another issue: If you have no sense of who you are in one place, you are not guaranteed to find it in another.

I thought Wyoming would solve my problems. Small town, mountains in your backyard, how could that not fill your soul every day with answers to life?

Well, it doesn’t. There were times out west when I felt more detached, more lost, confused, anxious, and angry than I ever felt in Michigan. I know without a doubt that the emptiness I felt was as present as my physical self. If I thought leaving Michigan would only make things better, I quickly found out how wrong I was.

Okay, the point I’m trying to make/the blessing. (I know, I know, thank you God there is a good part, because seriously, super depressing here)

Things slowly began to heal inside of me. I thought I was so tough and so (eek, this is hard to write) right, (No seriously, I thought I was always right) when I actually had NO idea what was going on in my life or where I was going. If anyone asked me what I believed, what I thought was important, or even what my goals in life were, I had no answer. They would receive from me some confused babbling (trying to sound philosophical, probably). And seriously, when you don’t know this about yourself and then you realize it, you suddenly know deep in your core where you are really supposed to be; where “home” is for you then.  It’s whether or not you take the step to get there.

I packed everything, including anxieties and fears, into my little spaceship-looking car and headed back to Michigan. You can see in the video how unsure I am. I mean, come on, I’m looking the mother who loves me beyond my wildest imagination in her eyes saying “I’m home” and then I just stand there. (No wonder she didn’t get it.)

Michigan may not be my home for the rest of my life, and I hope that you can see by now that that isn’t the point. Home is knowing/finding/being comfortable in the search of what you believe in and physically and emotionally stand for every day. It’s the very core of who you are. It’s surrounding yourself, no matter where, with those who bring out the absolute best in you. It’s being caught in the scariest, saddest, most heart-breaking time of your life and having someone to turn to. Those people that will see you for you and, even after you’ve broken their heart time and time again, and love you beyond your shittiness.

Right now, y’all, I’m home.

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Can I give any advice?  Okay, I will

If you’re looking, start by looking at whom you are surrounding yourself with.  It’s everything.

If you think I sound like a crazy person, well, congratulations, because you have probably never had an overdrawn account, broken bone, lost a loved one, or had any other sad moment in your life. Or maybe go take a shot of whiskey and re-read once your emotions are a tad more revved up.

To kicking off your shoes,

Cheers

On Not Being a Machine

Vacations are the most necessary thing.  They are also a rude tease, because they wipe out your to-do list for that period of time.  While this allows a space for needed relaxation, reading, personal reflection, and several rum and cokes, what it does not allow is mental preparation for the evil bombardment of “busy” the moment you step off the plane and back into reality.

Costa Rica was everything I dreamed it would be.  It had the flair and culture of a small local town and it had the little luxuries of condo vacationing – complete with air conditioning and internet connection.

We ate endless seafood, visited local dives, went zip-lining through the jungle while angry monkeys cursed squeakily for us to leave their territory.  We scoured rocky beaches, visited local festivals, drank cuba libres on the street, and I found a passion for cooking that must have been waiting to be unearthed, because it arrived with vehemence.   

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A Restaurant/hotel called Villa Coletas.  It overlooks the jungle…no big deal

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Jaime and Chelsea, two beauties I was lucky to get to know 

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the aforementioned Cuba Libre (note: you do not need more than 1)

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Back at Villa Coletas on our last night for drinks and a sunset

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And we got a freaking sunset.  This is #unfiltered, people.

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….still there!

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And finally, a photo I took on our final morning from the living room of our condo.  

Our flights were cancelled, re-routed, cancelled again, and delayed, but eventually we slid somewhat safely (yes, our plane slid on ice as it landed) in Chicago and made our way over crazy icy highways home.  What an un-warm welcome.

And now it seems like Costa Rica is far in the past, although my skin flaking away my tan is a hint that it wasn’t all that long ago.  Since I’ve been back, Ryan and I have been frantically trying to get back on track and caught up with school – assignments, papers, tests, extra-curricular assignments (such over-achievers, right?) – and the anxiety has been UNREAL.  It has made me wonder on more than one occasion if vacation is even worth it.  

We go to escape our CRAZY BUSY lives for a few short days, only to bask so heavily in our time off that we nearly squeeze the seconds away more quickly, and then we are forcefully returned to our lives of GO, GO, GO. 

There are the people who do it without a hiccup, but I’m not one of them.  And it makes me wonder if we all tend to over-do things in life.  Do we take on too many projects, too many hours of work, too many activities?  We should all be able to make time for ourselves with or without a plane ride.  Don’t get me wrong, I will fly anywhere any day of my life if I can, but I guess this is a quick reminder to you and to me to always find time to turn off your inner To-Do list and do something for you.  Something that will help quiet and calm your busy soul, and remind you that you don’t always have to be doing.  Sometimes when we think we need a vacation maybe that should be our hint that what we really need is to turn down our GO! meter, just a notch.

So relax.  Take a deep breath.  Read, write, paint, garden (inside), cook, listen to music, stretch your muscles, have a cocktail.  (and for the love, don’t let Facebook be part of your “you” time)

To taking my own advice,

Cheers!