Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Just Needed Some Writing Therapy

This is going to be a quick and not very thought-out post. And it will be mostly done in the form of a list, because I function well with lists. And writing helps me sort out my thoughts, so here goes.

I'm trying (somewhat) to create some balance in my life. Based on the fact that I have a tension headache, a knotted neck, canker sores on the inside of my mouth and a spinning mind...let's just say it's a work in progress. In the past week I've learned some things:

1.) A lot of my stress is self-imposed. For example, I'm stressed because I kind of stopped training and have a race in three days. It would be an easy run, except I set a slightly unrealistic goal for myself time-wise, and hate not meeting my goals. Which kind of defeats the purpose of my stress-reducing runs. And I should probably not be stressed about this, really. It's okay if I don't run like an Olympian. I can just aim for 2016 instead of 2012. :)

2.) I really loathe (really) not being in control of my future. I guess, really, none of us are. But the constant changing of my life lately has thrown me for a loop this year. My mentor and dear friend reminded me today that in life, we all have these "destinations" in our heads. Along the way though, there are always detours. You can a.) learn and celebrate and take everything you can from the detours or you can b.) be annoyed and stressed and barely make it through, trying to hit over a few of the cones along the way (I added that in, yup). I would say I'm living "a." right now. Just kidding. Yeah, definitely "b." And definitely trying to destroy those cones and knock over any signs while pressing the pedal to the floor. It's a good thing to remember and a hard thing to live. But it's something I am going to try - try hard to live. "A." that is, not "B."

3.) I still love fashion. Love everything about it. Love meeting over coffee and talking about denim. Love meeting a design friend at Gaia and talking about creating fashion blogs. It makes my heart beat faster. I don't really know how to explain it. But if you would like me to help create an outfit for you, I would love it. Really. In fact, I would give you a hug.

4.) I'd really like to get my hair cut. Pondering a style. I'd like something new and no bangs for a while. Unless I could look just like Rory Gilmore. They (bangs) get in my eyes and bother me. I may love fashion, but I'm no fashion slave. I like how they look though. Maybe I could get a bang wig. I wonder if they exist? If not, I would like to patent them.

5.) I need to take a break right now and relax. So, I'm going to finish writing some stuff for work and then drink some tea. And breathe. And contemplate the new fashion blog launch (coming soon!). And dream. Not about missing the race Saturday, which I've already dreamt twice. I would like to dream about chicken salad with celery and tiny spiral pasta noodles, which I was craving today. Intensely. Would have emptied my life savings for it (not). I would have given someone a dollar for it though.

Sweet dreams.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cheese Curds Squeak When You Put Them in the Microwave

Dear Friends,

My apologies for not entering into the blogosphere for a while. I’m slightly in shock that it’s almost been a month. The minute I stepped off the plane, from CA to MI, life took a speed of its own: non-stop fast-forward. I feel like I’ve been in a dead sprint and now I’m standing on the side of the road, gasping for breath and realizing something’s got to give, lest I pass out from exhaustion. More on this later, but I promise – PROMISE – that I will be more diligent.

Random Fact of the Day: I have added onto my personal Bucket List* and have moved “meeting The Pioneer Woman” to the top. She is brilliant. Additions include:
-Meet Stacy London or Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear.”
-Get my hair cut by Nick Arrojo when I pay off my student loans.
-Visit Peanut Butter & Co. in NYC and eat at their restaurant.
*These are all subject to change.

Another random fact: Beach volleyball is my least favorite sport in the entire world. However, since most summer holidays are spent at some friends’ parent’s house on the lake, I am often stuck playing it. I am not good. As a disclaimer on Memorial Day, I gave a mini-speech and said to my very competitive, college volleyball player extraordinaire friends, “ I’ll play, but you need to know that even though it looks like I’m not trying as a miss the ball or hit it behind me or off to the side or into the water, I AM TRYING MY VERY HARDEST.” Seriously, somehow, the ball just never ends up where I aim it. I would rather be doing a back handspring or sprinting contest. Anyway, miracle of all miracles, I WASN’T HORRIBLE. One of my friends even set the ball to me and I SPIKED IT. I don’t know how the ball ever went over the net, but it was like my reflexes and the wind were in sync that day, and I finished happy, sore and contemplating the 2016 Olympics.

Gratitude of the Day: This weekend, I took a short trip to Sheboygan Falls, WI for a bridal shower for my sis. Food, good food, is something that I think the world is less than appreciative of, disguising itself in thin hamburgers wrapped in foil or a Hot Pocket tossed into the microwave, as you’re running out the door. I’m just as guilty. And actually, I sometimes enjoy that kind of food. I’m currently craving Pizza Hut pizza. However, I’ve been trying to appreciate fresh, homemade food.

So, this weekend, I was grateful for really beautiful, satisfying food: bacon biscuits topped with eggs, asparagus and Swiss, homemade fruit salsa with baked cinnamon & sugar pita chips, chocolate mousse cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, to name a sampling. Then, a stop at Trader Joe’s just about did me in, purchasing dark chocolate pretzels and dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt and turbinado sugar. How I wish there was a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in West MI. But I’ll stop now. This is the GRATITUDE section, not the “Wishes” column.

Thoughts to Ponder: For the past year, as you know, I feel like life’s been a bit of a limbo – never really sure where I’m going to end up job-wise, location-wise and career-wise. In the past month, as life took on a pace that left me wheezing (literally too, thanks to a sudden flare-up of allergies), I’ve felt the slow creeping of panic begin to overtake me. It had lain dormant for a while, and I had found a semi-calm place of contentment. However, as my days sped by, my quiet time came to a halt and my prayer life ceased, moments of frantic panic began to overtake me. That’s when I knew, something had to give. It’s something I’ve struggled with all through college – this need to fill my schedule. And in that, my life becomes a frazzled conglomeration of fast coffee dates and avoided phone calls, where I’m not even present, focusing instead on what’s coming up, what needs to be done.

So, last weekend, I slowly let go of the need to control, to be “status quo,” to have everything figured out and laid out neatly in a row (look at that – a rhyme, even before the rhyming section!). In the past month, several people have asked me what I love, what I dream of, what I wish. And I’ve come up with one thing. That is, to “create beauty.” In college, my mentor had said to me, “You know, Nicole, you were made to create beauty.” But to me, that wasn’t practical or tangible enough and I brushed it to the side and eventually dismissed it.

In the last few weeks though, I’ve realized that’s where my passion lies. That’s why I adore reading fashion magazines and think Sephora is a haven and find a release in writing. That’s why I could look at clothes for hours and find a certain sweetness in color and texture and movement. It’s why I like paint chips and makeovers and a finished room. It’s why I relax when I’m baking and read cookbooks for fun. All of these things lend to the creation of beauty. And I don’t know how this will come to fruition in my life. As a job, as a hobby, as an outlet.

In a partial answer to that, two friends of mine and I are launching a new fashion commentary blog soon, in a celebration of the art of fashion and design. We’re currently wrestling with a name. We have lists of dozens of names, but all the good ones have been taken: Little Black Blog, Trendmill, Tongue in Chic…but when we have a name, the posts will start to fly. It should be pretty entertaining, and they are much more funny than myself, so I think you will enjoy it, even if you aren’t particularly interested in fashion. Stay tuned.

And Now, a Rhyme: This weekend I went to the Land of Cheese/The warm wind blew a gentle breeze/On the way home, I saw 20 deer/Since they’re my favorite animal, it gave me great cheer/This week, I continue training for another race/Working to pick up my current racing pace.

Until next time,

Monday, May 4, 2009

Zombies, Bucket List and Burgers.

Random Fact of the Day: As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to page through the thought-provoking piece of literature known as "Sky Mall" on my way over to CA. I already enlightened you with the "Feet First with Jumpin' Jammerz." Now, I would like to share with you the other obscure item I discovered. Dum-da-da-DUMMMM: The Zombie of Montclaire Moors Sculpture. The copy reads: Not for the faint of heart. This...life-size, gray-toned zombie will claw his way out of your garden plot, office, or family room corner, pleading for assistance with the most life-like eyes you've ever seen. You'll swear you can hear him breathing. Please click on this link and then promise me you will never put him in your family room corner. Actually, please promise me you wouldn't spend $89.95 on him. I will not come over, not even if you have chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream and hazelnut coffee. Maybe if I can bring the leftovers home, I would come though, And if we only sit in the kitchen, far away from the zombie.

Gratitude of the Day: This weekend was really a blessing. My friends and I spent the weekend on the Pacific Coast (Pismo Beach), with two couples from their small group. We stayed in a beach house that's currently on the market for $1.3 million. And just relaxed the whole time. We walked along the beach and saw tide pools (I held a starfish!), ate at some great restaurants (I got chicken and Ben got burgers – still can't shake my seafood aversion), found lots of sand dollars, learned some new games (new favorite is Pinochle) and made up stories/guessed names of people at the restaurants (one of my favorite things to do, in general).

Also, just went to In 'n Out, and the Cheeseburger (animal style), fries and chocolate malt almost changed my life. Still love grilling out on the lake more though. But it was a scrumptious experience.

Thoughts to Ponder: On the way over here, I read "the Sacred echo," by Margaret Feinberg. For me, it was one of those books that touched my soul in places that I've been wrestling with and contemplating. I'm currently re-reading it, since my initial reads are always very fast and skim-like, and I'll probably write more about it later. I currently have a headache (from the pollen, I believe), so the computer screen is making me feel a little loopy). However, it was a raw and honest and beautiful piece of writing, making God seem bigger and more gracious and the world more vibrant then before I opened the book.

Here's one quote I'll leave you from the book:

"Through prayer, God invites us to sing the song of our lives to him – every word and every phrase – and he even enjoys the chorus. Prayer matters. Sometimes that's easy to forget, especially when I don't see any answers, or worse, when I receive an answer I don't really want. Yet the invitation remains: Sing it again...In those mornings, when I pour out my soul to him in prayer, I find the words echoing in my heart and mind, Sing it again, Margaret. Sing it again – because I hear you, and I love you more than you could know...No wonder the phrase, Sing it again, keeps coming alive in m,y heart and mind. The sacred echo is a gentle reminder to pray and keep praying, to listen and keep listening – no matter what the distractions" (51, 55). Highly recommended.

While in Cali, my goals were to 1.) Relax and not think about the things that normally stress me out; 2.) Blog; 3.) Explore who I want to be, as a woman, a daughter of Christ, a sister in Christ, a friend; and 4.) Begin writing a "Bucket List" (things I aspire to do before I "kick the bucket").

I thought I'd share some things from my Bucket List. I'm not writing it to be morbid or cynical or presumptuous. But, there are a lot of experiences I would love to have and thought that rather than label them as "someday," I should articulate them. It's too easy for me to put my life on "hold" and wait for that job or that person or that moment when everything slows down. I want to embrace each day and moment and life fully. Squeeze every last bit out of life and see with sparkling colors and taste the feeling of living life fully-present and 100% alive.

I only have a few things on the list so far, but here they are:

1.) Live with an Amish family for a week. I've always been fascinated by the Amish, and I would really like to experience their life for a short while and learn from them.

2.) Go on a boat in a bioluminescent bay, to see the water glow.

3.) Meet Ree Drummond aka "The Pioneer Women."

4.) Go to Italy and Greece.

5.) Go parasailing. I went once before, but I would like to go again.

And Now, a Poem: Here I sit, on a comfortable couch. It's so soft, I would never say "Ouch." Later, I'm going shopping with Jod. We'll probably come back with a pretty big load. Tomorrow, we're making "You Won't Be Single for Long" pasta. Hopefully, it will make me run fasta'.

Note: I wish I had pics to post for you, but didn't bring the cord for my camera. I hope to start posting pics on this blog soon, now that I figured out the link thing, as you may have noticed. I feel accomplished now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

From Tulip Town to the West Coast

Somehow, I let a whole month passed without a single blog. I have lots of excuses, but let's just get down to business instead, shall we? In the past 24 hours, I've changed time zones, read a book, watched "Bones" and "The Office," met new friends and moved in with old friends. In the next week, I am going to try to blog every other day – no promises though. This weekend, we're heading to the Pacific coast, so my next blog will come on Sunday. Or tomorrow, if you're lucky.

Pondering Today: Yesterday evening, I flew into California for a much-needed vacation. So, here I am, sitting on the back porch of two dear friends from high school/elementary school, Ben and Jodi (in a chair I gave as a wedding gift, ironically), looking out onto the cherry orchard they live on.

It's been a long time since I've had a day to sit and move at my own pace, to eat breakfast sitting at a table, leisurely flipping all my Frosted Mini Wheats frosting side up and not get annoyed that my hair takes a year to dry. Strangely, it's unsettling for me to have so much time with so few commitments (meaning none) and this morning, I had to intentionally deny myself the right to send out emails, texts and Tweets while eating breakfast.

There's so few times I'm actually alone during the day, both physically and electronically, that actually being alone made me feel a little bit panicked and friendless and jumpy. But as the day has worn on and the sun has gently warmed the day; as I've walked along the rows of cherry trees and savored dark chocolate with coffee and milk; as I've actually sat down and prayed and journaled and been in the silence, there's a calm that's begun to settle within me. It's been absent for quite a while, so its arrival was surprising and strange, in a bemusing, exciting sort of way. But, like all things in life – a new friend, a new car, a new pair of running shoes, it's starting to have sort of a comforting, familiar feel. My multi-tasking, mile-a-minute, fast-talking self is slowly finding a rhythm with this calm. And I think I like it.

Random Fact of the Day: While on the plane, I decided to browse through Sky Mall and find the most obscure thing in the magazine. I found two things that made me especially perplexed. I'll let you in on the first item today: Feet First with Jumpin' Jammerz. The description reads: The essential accessory for that ULTIMATE slumber party. Adult footed pajamas are perfect for KIDS of all ages, even YOU! Yes, my friends – for the low price of $59.95, you can get adult footed pajamas. They come in a variety of patterns – skulls, ducks, pink camo. Definitely what I want to spend $60, given the opportunity. Stay tuned for the next item. I have to find the link because it's unbelievable, really.

An Idea: As much as I adore being in CA right now, I do miss the concession food at Tulip Time, in Holland. Tulip Time is one of my favorite times of year. In Holland area schools, we always got half days during the week of TT, because of the parades. I've been craving a corn dog, elephant ear and fries for about a month now, so I'm thinking next Saturday, after the RiverBank 10k, I'll need to indulge. Maybe Thursday night as well. It's only once a year - gotta live it up.

Anyway, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, an idea would be to head to Holland for the fireworks on Friday. And watch the Dutch Dancers - it makes me laugh, because to us Hollanders, it's totally normal to have people walking around in Dutch costumes and stores with signs in the window that say "No wooden shoes, please." Yet to most, it's wierd and out of place and I love it. I'd much rather be wierd than boring. NO - people don't dress like that year round - I've seriously had people ask me that. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I don these three skirts and hat and six pairs of socks and metal kissers and wooden shoes EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. It's especially practical on humid, 85 degree days. At work. In 2009." No...I can't even imagine. If you would like to feel like part of the Dutch culture, you may borrow my costume. It's been in retirement since my high school Dutch Dance days and my lovely portrait in National Geographic, which I believe I blogged about earlier.

Note: I've already decided to post another blog tomorrow because I'm going to skip out on the rhyme and a long post. My eyes are closing as I type (I wrote half of this earlier today) and so I need to stop typing, since I hate having grammatical errors and typos, which come more often when my eyes are tired.

Sweet dreams/good morning,


Monday, March 30, 2009

Cream Cheese Frosting and Solitude.

Random Fact of the Day: Did you know it’s possible to have to go to the bathroom so bad that you feel the need to gag? Did you know the drive from Schuler’s in GR to Holland, after maybe 4 SIGG bottles of water and 2 cups of coffee throughout the day, can seem like a cross-country trip? Did you know talking on the phone, listen to music loudly while gasping out the lyrics and talking to yourself does not take your mind off of it? Did you know getting off the Holland exit when you feel this way (hallelujah), only to get stuck behind a student driver who brakes on EVERY SINGLE CURVE and drives significantly under the speed limit, can seem like those mirages/visions of lush green and gurgling streams some people see in the desert (a farce)?

Did you know some people put themselves through this agony just for the sake of saving time? Did you know some people call home to make sure 1.) No one is in the bathroom closest to the back door, 2.) The garage door is open and 3.) Rehearse “I’m sorry, Officer, but is there any way you could follow me to my house so we could discuss there, after I use the bathroom” in their mind, in case they get pulled over for going over 45 mph in a 30 mph zone?

Yeah, I know. Who, in their right mind, would ever do that?

Thought of the week (very long...beware):
On solitude: I’ve come to find there are moments in life where you will feel incredibly fragile. Oftentimes, for me, it’s the result of going too fast and making too many plans and being so much “in the zone,” that life whips right on by. I like to do life in a big way and see the world in vibrant colors and create and learn as much as possible about life and others and how people tick. I like to do things quickly – I talk fast and write fast and read fast. And, despite my 5’3 frame, I even walk fast. I like games that move quickly and I’d rather walk up an escalator than ride it.

However, I do need to halt and pause and breathe, more often than I let myself. Big groups of people, while at times will energize me, just as often drain me. Maybe it’s that introverted side of me whispering, “Hey, you need to recharge.” I love being around friends and family and laughing and talking on the phone and meeting up for coffee and planning lunch dates and get-togethers. But sometimes, I need to withdraw and just be alone.

As this past weekend approached, I felt more and more “fragile” if you will, as each day passed. After having just thought earlier in the week, rather smugly, “I don’t remember the last time I cried” came three days in a row that I found tears welling up. Not really over anything in particular. And at first, I just attributed it to PMS and lots of big events happening in the past few weeks. But, it was really the distinct need for some release, for big events and small occurrences. For disappointments and frustrations and heartache and joy. For some things that didn’t deserve tears and some things that did. So, I decided to put my phone on “silent” and stay off the computer, even for email (which I check incessantly and rather obsessively) for the weekend. Instead, I focused on re-centering and re-charging and re-connecting with what matters the most. (Side note: Please don't feel sorry for me - that's not the intention of sharing this particular post. I have a distinct apprehension of sharing too much and being like one of those FB status updaters who shares their entire personal life via News Feed.)

So, Friday at 5:15, I silenced my phone and headed home. Stopped at B&N for a book and an over-priced double chocolate cupcake (because somehow, chocolate helps make the world a little more right). Nothing monumental happened this weekend. I didn’t come to some great, robust epiphany about life or love or journey. But I was reminded about the great importance of reckless, sold-out faith. And reminded of the bigger picture than my small life on the west side of MI.

“Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God” by Francis Chan has been on my list of books to read for a while. But part of me didn’t want to read it, because I knew it would be convicting and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to feel unsettled and certainly didn’t want to feel convicted. Which clearly made this weekend the perfect opportunity to dive in. I’m about ¾ of the way through and it’s been a thought-provoking and at times, very convicting read.

Being alone this weekend, resting and reading and baking and thinking has been very good to my soul. Don’t get me wrong –life has been GOOD – very good. And I love where I am right now and am blessed and happy. Life just got to a crux where I needed to sort through thoughts and frustrations and over-occupations that I’ve either been pushing aside to deal with another day or dwelling on altogether too frequently.

Two thoughts in particular I’m pondering from the book:

"People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress…A person who is obsessed (with Jesus) thinks about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them" (excerpted from p. 133 and 142).


"I used to believe in this world there are two kinds of people: natural worriers and naturally joyful people. I couldn’t really help it that I was the worrying kind. I’m a problem solver, so I have to focus on things that need fixing…But then there’s that perplexing command: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil. 4:4).” You’ll notice it doesn’t end with “…unless you’re doing something extremely important.” No, it’s a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v.6)…When I am consumed by my problems – stressed out about my life, my family, my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words, I have the “right” to disobey God because of the magnitude of my problems…To be brutally honest, it doesn’t really matter what place you find yourself in right now. Your part is to bring Him glory. The point of your life is to point to Him" (excerpted from p. 41 and 44).

If you haven’t read this book, I’d encourage it. If you have, I’d love to discuss.

All in all, I feel a little more whole coming into this week. Being in the quiet, wrapped up in a down blanket and only wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt (I know I always talk about sweatpants, but seriously, they are an amazing, brilliant piece of apparel), getting away from the noise and hustle and bustle of life has been a gift. My sister/wombmate and I watched Grease, because I’ve gotten so many appalled reactions that I haven’t seen this classic and I took a nap and went on a great, albeit LONG run.

Side note on my run: Sometimes you just have to laugh. So, I’m approaching mile seven and almost home and really proud of myself and thinking about how I should be an Olympic athlete or something. However, I’m also exhausted and my legs feel like lead as I’m trying to sprint the tail-end. Then, this girl comes bounding down the road, in a really great, professional-looking zip-up and running tights and this perfect, flowing, wavy blond ponytail and she’s SMILING while running and basically is probably a model for Crest because her teeth are so white and straight. She’s full-out grinning, actually.

And there I trot past her, my face is BRIGHT red from the stinging wind and bangs are flopping over the headband I got from a ten-pack at Walmart or something and I am not smiling or wearing a zip-up. I’m wearing an old, long-sleeved cheer t-shirt and cropped pants and the exposed parts of my legs are numb and look frost-bitten. And I announced my experience at the dinner table and my parents said she was probably only running a half mile or something. It did make me feel better, although she is probably a marathon runner. I’ll probably see her in the London 2012 Olympics.

Anyway…it was a full weekend. I’m sorry I always go on tangents. I don’t ever see it coming. It just kind of happens. And you think I’d take advantage of the delete key, but alas, I do not (hence the “Random Fact of the Day” that may be TMI…and this very, very long post.)

Some people have mentioned they’re unable to comment on the blog posts. I’m not sure why, so if anyone has a suggestion on how to fix this, let me know. Otherwise you can just email (nicolemprince@gmail.com), Tweet (nicoleprince) or call with your comments (but I’m not putting down my number, since this is the World Wide Web and all).

Thanks for reading. I have no idea who reads this and sometimes I think it's just my best friend’s mom, a devoted high school friend and maybe a friend or two from work. But that's okay. I have decided to start writing twice a week though, since these posts are a little too long for my liking.

And here’s a shout-out to my dear friend, Julie, who’s like family to me, and who I know reads this: Julie, I wish you the absolute best year yet (21!) and lots of chocolate and reasons to laugh and dance and listen to crazy songs with our names in them (or not…). Happy birthday (a day past, once I actually post this)!

And Now I Leave You With a Rhyme:
I made cupcakes – a favorite treat/The frosting I made, it was so neat/So great, in fact, I almost swooned/So, as a gift, instead of a spoon/I leave you with the recipe/And now, you too, can be filled with glee.

Recipe for the BEST Cream Cheese Frosting I’ve Ever Tasted – Step Aside Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines (courtesy of the Food Network, although I came up with the title):

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 block cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese. Beat in powdered sugar slowly. Add vanilla. Eat with a spoon and swoon. It will raise your day from a 6 to a 10 (on a ten point scale) immediately.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On races and cozy and autumn.

Random fact of the day: I'll let you in on a little-known fact: Summer is not my favorite season. Autumn is the winner. I know it's weird, because everyone loves summer. People in Michigan are usually aghast when they find out I don't have the same love affair with summer as they do.

And I've concluded it's not my season of choice because of three things: 1.) I am abnormally allergic to mosquitoes. I must have extra-sweet blood or something (which rules out any hope that I may be a vampire), because those buzzing insects attack me the minute I step outside. And the bites are usually the size of a donut hole or something (very slight exaggeration). OFF does not really help. Neither does Skin-So-Soft. Neither does running around in circles, flailing my arms, screaming, "Get away from me, you horrid creatures of sin." Believe me, I've tried everything. 2.) I secretly HATE laying out. I can only do it for 8-12 minutes because I get very, very bored. And then I start thinking about skin cancer and wrinkles and the fact I could be eating ice cream right now, instead of laying on a sandy towel, sweating and squinting at the pages of my magazine that are reflecting the sunlight like a mirror and giving me a headache. And it makes me very sad and hot. 3.) Humidity. That's all. Humidity is a fact of summer, and I don't like it.

HOWEVER, before you get all riled up, I do LOVE three things about summer as well, which makes this whole paragraph balanced and therefore, neutral: 1.) I love ice cream on summer nights. It's my favorite food (probably because I worked in the business for 7 years and ate it at least twice a day, every day of the summer. You should visit here: http://captainsundae.com/. You may see my picture. And please don't knock the hat). Nothing quite tops a sundae and a sunset. 2.) Bonfires are one of my favorite social gatherings. They work best in the summer, especially with s'mores and doughboys (if you don't know what these are, you must try them. They are possibly what manna tasted like). I love the smell of burning wood. Odd for a girl who cried every Fourth of July because of a deathly fear of sparklers and fireworks. 3.) Apparel. Who isn't a sucker for a sundress and sandals? Beats a wool skirt and boots and tights any day. Whoever invented tights was clearly not a woman or hated to be comfortable. Oh...and, it's your lucky day. I thought of a fourth reason: 4.) Even though I don't like laying out, I do love being on a jet-ski or in a boat or on a tube. Life feels so much zestier on the lake.

Welcome back, summer, the silver medal winner! How I've missed certain parts of you.

Gratitudes of the day: Just bought more "Dark Chocolate Dreams" peanut butter. No, I didn't just go through one jar in three weeks at my desk, using a fork. Why would you ever think that?/Went to Meijer and saw five people I knew. This usually bothers me and I vent in my head about Holland's smallness. But tonight, it made me happy because they were all people I like a lot and one person I needed to call tonight anyway, so it saved me some time./Grateful I'm in my room with candles burning. My stress level was a little high today for various reasons and being alone, with some candles and silence, dressed in sweatpants, makes me feel a lot more sane.

Thoughts to ponder: This week has been busy, so as usual, my brain has been in a constant state of thinking and analyzing. Here it goes -

On running: Saturday marked an important occasion in my life - I ran my first race and thus, am well on my way to London 2012 (uhhh...the Olympic, obviously). Just kidding. However, I discovered that I love running in races, probably because I haven't been feeding that competitive side of me lately. (Wait, me, competitive? I never knew.) It was interesting how competitive I got in my head during the race. Here's a look into my thought pattern while running (er, sprinting) the 5k:

"WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE PASSING ME??? Whatever, they all ran in college. I'm just a novice. An eight-year-old girl is passing me. Oh no, you are not passing me, sweetheart (run past the elementary school girl). Ha! Down one, 18,000 to go. How is the lady with the electric blue earmuffs going so dang fast? Man, I gotta turn up my iPod. Maybe some Miley will help me out (no knocks on my workout mix, please). Maybe chewing my gum harder will help. I'm glad I'm wearing Sara's marathon jacket. Definitely makes me look like a seasoned pro. I can't wait for some coffee. I wonder what I look like while I'm running?..." All in all, it was a success and I'm looking forward to the next race, relatively speaking.

On joy: As referenced in my last post, the past year has been a time of some major ups and downs, questions and searching. August - January were probably the most frustrating, difficult months I'd encountered in a while, and I certainly let everyone who came into my path know it (thank you to all my friends and family for the extra grace). That being said, over the past year, my prayer has been simply for joy. Because joy is exactly the opposite of what I was feeling. And I didn't feel joyful or pretend to be joyful. And actually, people who were joyful grated on my nerves and I tried to avoid them.

After I finally unclenched the iron grip I had on my future this winter, I felt 700 pounds physically rolling off my shoulder. And true joy ensued. I know it sounds very cookie-cutter and "easy" and what everyone says when they just listen to God's still, small voice. But it was really my experience. An absolutely phenomenal shift.

Before, I was just "getting through" the day. Nothing seemed monumental - just very blah. Kind of like warm, flat Diet Coke on a hot summer's day (now that we all know my thoughts on summer). You drink it because you're thirsty and there's nothing else around, but there's nothing fulfilling about it, and it leaves your teeth a little bit on edge and you kind of want to start using Crest Whitening Strips or brush your teeth for an hour. And now, for the first time in a very long while (maybe ever), I'm taking one day at a time and savoring each one. I feel lighter. I'm laughing a lot more. And, there's a deep peace and quiet joy that's settled in my soul. Everything's not peachy and dreamy and carbonated - that would be a misrepresentation - but everything is loaded with possibility. I feel like I'm resting exactly where I'm supposed to be. And I'm happy - very happy - to be where I am.

On cozy: Random, I know. But, I just read an article in a home decorating magazine a week ago that posed the question, "What does cozy mean to you?" My favorite answer was one about blankets and ice cream and watching American Idol. Because that's most similar to what I would say. But, if I had to answer that question, I would say the following (as my eye is twitching...a sign of stress or a potassium deficiency. Should have bought some bananas at Meijer):

"Cozy means wearing sweatpants and a worn-in zip-up with slipper socks. It's lying on your bed with your eyes closed, listening to the best songs, with the scent of a hazelnut candle wafting through the air and rain drumming against the window. It's your hair in a ponytail and your bangs off your forehead and no make-up and chapstick on hand. It's drifting in and out of sleep with nowhere to go. It's warm donuts and crisp air and down comforters and fireplaces and well-loved movies." Ahhh.

And now, a poem:
The wind is blowing against my window/I'll have to wear some earplugs to bed, I know now/Glad for a very full day and laughs a'plenty/Happy birthday to my bro - today he's twenty!/Tuesday - a day full of mystery and time/Maybe tomorrow will bring another rhyme.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunshine, Downy and Journals.

Random fact of the day: My first memory is when I was under a year old. The only person who believes me is my twin sister - my wombmate. Why does she believe me? Well, not only are we genetically similar...that's HER FIRST MEMORY, TOO. We were eight or nine months old and squished together in a leather chair. She remembers wondering what the black box in front of my mom's face was (a gigantic camera...pre-digital days) and I remember thinking I had no room to move and was getting a teensy bit annoyed by my lack of space. I'm (we) are not kidding. I was practically sitting on top of my tiny sister (who almost half my size at birth) and I have a triple chin because I couldn't really push myself up yet. There's a picture to prove it. I will show it to you, if you ask.

Gratitude of the day: Like most other Michiganders would say today, the SUNSHINE, accompanied by the warm weather. That fresh smell in the air (which Downy has almost nailed down - they're genius) makes me breathe a little deeper and spreads some calm through my bones. I don't know about you, but I'll take this over gray skies, subzero temperatures and brown slush any day. Odd, I know. How I love the sting of the cold and the gagging feeling you get when it's so frigid and windy that you can't breathe. I live for that, really.

Thoughts to ponder: This past weekend, I spent a solid five hours cleaning out my room, which has been in some state of disarray for what seems like the past year. Or since 1997. So, in between sorting through piles of receipts and bobby pins and college papers and birthday cards and Velcro rollers and some old school CDs (a la Britney, Spice Girls and Point of Grace), I came across some journal entries I had to write for an English class in high school.

First of all, I immediately felt sympathetic for the teacher who had to read these entries because one whole entry included just this:

I have been sooo delinquent on writing in my journal! I am really sorry - I am really going to write in it. I decided to use a diff. journal, bc I really didn't like my other one. I have entries in there, so if you do want to see them you may. But I do need to be faithful in writing in this!

Would it have killed me to write out "because" and "different" and expand on just one thought? Anything would have worked: the weather, Godric, current events. Apparently, I wasn't down with that.

Instead, I spent the next ELEVEN pages detailing exactly how I was asked to prom ( I think I documented every single word. Every breath, actually). And the following two pages detailed a spring break trip to Florida. Oh wait. But those two pages only described the flight connection problems we had. Not the actual trip itself.

Really brilliant work. Did I mention this was for an AP English class? It was in fourth grade. Just kidding. I have to be honest: it was my SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL. Now I'm embarrassed. Somehow I still did well in the class. Obviously the journals did not account for a large percentage of the grade.

However, what stuck with me about those journal entries was one section where I went back and forth about my college decision. Throughout it, I wrote about the pressure I felt, as a "people pleaser," to choose accordingly. And I wasn't sure where I was supposed to go, but my heart was torn and my stress level was evident throughout.

Fast-forward a year later. Some friends of mine and I started reading "If You Want to Walk On Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat," by John Ortberg, for a small group. Throughout it, I constantly wrote about all these decision I had to make - changing my major, contemplating taking time off to do YWAM, unsettledness about where to turn and what choices to make.

Over the following year, several of those decisions were made, and I moved forward. Changed my major seven (yes, seven) times. Moved to Guatemala. Changed my major back to nursing when I returned. Apparently changed it again, because I'm not a nurse now (largely due to the fact I thought I might pass out during an ER commercial. Come to think about it, I DID pass out in shadowing a nurse in eighth grade. I should have probably taken that as a warning sign).

Well, last week, I started re-reading the book. And, it struck me that there seems to be a pattern going on here. Because now, six years later, I'm making just as many or even more decisions as before and while they seem insurmountable and intimidating and life-changing at the moment, really, they are just a step along the pathway of life.

This past year, my thoughts have been full of: "I'm a Communication and Spanish major. Oh no. What in the world am I going to do? I know, I'll move to Chicago. I love big cities. AND, I LOVED PHILLY. I'm sure Chicago will be a great fit. Plus, it's more central. Wait, do I move? I DON'T KNOW! No. YES. I NEED TO LEAVE WEST MICHIGAN. NO! YES-I'm signing a lease. HA! Signed it (but felt sick while signing it...almost like I wasn't supposed to sign it...). OH NO, I HAVE AN APARTMENT IN CHICAGO. I'm so glad we're in a recession right now and Michigan has the highest unemployment rate. What do I do about this apartment? AHHHHHHH."

Okay. Sorry if that was stressful. But, that's really what my mind was like for a solid few months. And suddenly (or slowly...depends how you look at it), after some honest counsel from friends and family, some real soul-searching and the painful admission that maybe I wasn't right, I realized, once again, that everything is not in my control. And the moment I acknowledged that, I could breathe again. And my thoughts were not all in caps. Just looking at that paragraph kind of makes me stressed and I'm very glad I am not there anymore.

All that to say, in the past month, I've entered into a spot where it's okay to back away. It's okay to make the wrong decisions, because I've learned from them. And it's okay to not have my whole life together, because honestly, I'm learning a lot more now than when I was trying to make all kinds of decisions and plan out every millisecond of my existence. So, I'm grateful to be where I am. And grateful for the person I was six years ago and the person I'm becoming.

And now...

A rhyme for the day: It's been such a great day today/The birds and people could run and play/I ate a hamburger and it was real tasty/Snow, on your return, let's not be hasty/If I could choose anything to eat/I would choose ice cream, my favorite treat.