image by André Teixeira, Brancoprata via style me pretty
Maybe this is what they call bridal bliss but I’m not so sure about that. I have been engaged to my wonderful man for one month exactly and since he popped the question I feel like my life has turned into wedding, wedding, wedding all the time. Of course the stress is only natural when I want a summer wedding, next year, in New Jersey. Apparently I should have known it would be stressful all along and Nick should have proposed last Fall when all the other brides began booking their big day a year and a half in advance. My only consolation is that I have no desire for an October wedding which is even worse to plan. The past month has made me feel like I’ve popped into a completely different world of price per person, tulle, and table linens.
It has been stressful, particularly finding the perfect venue (and one that was available and not overpriced), but it’s also been wonderful too. I have always loved weddings and now I can finally indulged without feeling awkward about it. When I talked about weddings before being engaged, everyone assumed I wanted to be engaged even though I just loved to see how people style their big day. Now I am able to dig in deep and revel in all the beauty. I can daydream about next summer and how handsome Nick will look and the smiling faces of all my friends and family.
Something that was surprisingly wonderful was meeting with the Deacon at our church. We decided on a religious ceremony mostly because it’s important to me to start our marriage with faith and Nick has always been supportive despite our different religious backgrounds. We have several meetings before the big day but we began talking about our marriage. And even though I know that the end deal is to call Nick my husband, it suddenly became a really big thought. We are entering into something so much more than one day; it’s a lifetime. While it might have been very pretty and unique to have our ceremony at our venue, I feel like there’s so much more to having it at our church. There’s a gravity to it I never expected and it feels like my life as a wife is starting. The commitment is real and wonderful and important. I am having a wedding but I am also gaining a husband and a life partner. How amazing it is to have “wedding brain” and I apologize for any nonsense that might be written here in the next year!
my classroom when I first set it up, chairs on the desks, nothing had been touched
Do you remember nine short months ago when I was unpacking boxes upon boxes? Do you remember when I was worried about a new school, new curriculum, new students? It’s hard to believe it was only nine months ago when I opened the doors to this new adventure of teaching at a new school. It has been hard, it has been challenging, and it has been incredible.
I’ve been pretty silent on my blog this week because school’s been exhausting. It’s not exhausting because we’re busy but because we’re not. This year passed by in a blur and so many seemingly insurmountable tasks were conquered. We laughed and there were a few tears (we are still eight and nine years old after all) but overall it was good. I put my everything into this year so that I could prove to myself that I was the kind of teacher I wanted to be. I wasn’t perfect of course but I did try my best. That’s what I always tell my students to do and I take my own advice seriously. With the final days here, it feels good to be over but I also miss the hum and buzz of a busy classroom. To see everyone engaged in exploring some new concept, buried in a good book, or crafting a story to share; those are the things I will miss from the school year. Everything’s been packed up, desks cleared, colorful paper covered up and it’s a little sad.
Now we’re just waiting: waiting for pool parties, popsicles, and late nights. So while the end of the school year is always bittersweet I think we are all ready for the end. It’s funny to think back from when I was in school and I had the same exact feeling: happy for summer days but sad about leaving school and friends. I’m sure I will be sad to leave summer days behind come September but for now I’m going to bask in the glow of finishing year one of this brand new adventure.
Growing up there were two things that I wanted: my own horse and a sister. I tried to convince my mother that I could ride the horse to school and we would save tons of money on gas. My arguments never worked and no matter how much I wished and hoped for a sister that didn’t work either. My younger brother was born almost an exact month after I turned four years old. I still remember my intense dislike for this interloper and that feeling was only somewhat numbed by many Little Mermaid sticker books.
Fast forward through the years and, though we didn’t always get along, we were friends. Four years apart puts you in an interesting place; never close enough to be in the same school (except elementary) but close enough that we could share many experiences. My parents wanted us to see some of the world so we spent tons of time together on family vacations. We rarely sought out other children when we stayed places and preferred to do things together. I remember long flights to Germany spent playing Uno and eating huge cans of Pringles and leaving crumbs all over the rental cars in England. Even when we were home we’d spend most Saturdays together where I’d practice my field hockey drives and he’d field them in preparation for baseball season. Of course things changed as I entered high school and eventually left for college in Virginia but we still talked and commiserated in the way only brothers and sisters can.
On Saturday the day came for my brother to finally grow up and move to his own place. My parents and I were fortunate enough for him to get a job in New Jersey and he moved home for a year after graduating from college. Over this past year we’ve worked out together and explored parts of Philly together. It felt like those times from growing up when it was just us, two little American kids getting in trouble in the foreign country. But then we loaded up the U-Haul and drove an hour and a half north to his tiny bedroom in a cramped three bedroom apartment. I made his bed and fluffed the pillows. I made sure to advise him on how to organize the closet to make the best use of his space. I lectured him on all the cleaning supplies he was missing and not to forget to put the blinds down when he and his roommates left for work.
As we hugged him outside his new, tiny, and expensive I realized that for as much as we grow up and grow out into our lives as adults, he will always be my little brother. I worry that he’ll be lonely, that he won’t be able to make himself something to eat, that someone will make him feel bad. But for as much as I worry, I’m excited for him, for this new chapter in his life. I feel fortunate that I have such a wonderful brother to grow up with. But I’m still waiting for that horse.
Never one to go into anything halfway I’ve really committed myself to this whole “better life” thing. Open our apartment fridge and you’ll find it jam-packed with veggies, almond milk, chickpeas, and chicken sausage. I sweat it out daily before cooking dinner after being at work all day. I am committed. At least I’ve committed myself to making healthier changes to my body but then there’s working my mind.
I believe a good majority of success is based on your mental state. I do have the desire to workout and eat healthy food (most of the time). But then there’s the part of having a healthier lifestyle that goes with having a positive mental state, wanting to be a better person. That’s the thing I really struggle with. I can motivate myself to look better with diet and exercise but I also want to feel better. What’s the point, really, of having a great body if you feel terrible on the inside?
Along with a push for a healthier body I am making a push for “healthier” thoughts. My mind has been populated with negative thoughts about myself and others. I find myself too stressed out and filled with anxiety over the smallest things. The first thing I decided to do to help myself out was to reflect and search for the source. After reflecting on it, I realize I’m probably still holding on to some of the worry and stress I faced the last few years with an unsteady job market, grad school, and becoming an adult. Finding the source has helped me to realize it’s time to let go and find a happier and healthier state of mind.
I wish I could just make this all happen on my own but success is fueled by resources. After seeing a few reviews on various blogs and posts on Instagram I picked up Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book Miracles Now at Barnes and Noble. Inside Gabby promises to provide 108 “miracles” or tools for changing your everyday life in small, significant ways. The short and simple exercises are meant to target a specific problem you might be facing to make your life happier and healthier. I’m just part of the way into the book and my mind is already shifting. This past weekend I felt myself let go of some negative thoughts and mentally “pull” some light into my life.
I know I’m starting to feel changes in my body and it’s slowly starting to creep even deeper. I truly believe that being the new, different, happier, healthier me is a combination of determination, planning, and positivity. While it’s no scientific research, I can tell you from personal experience that you need your mind and your body together for any great change and success.
Unlike in previous posts about my adventures in being a book clubber, I do not have any witty and semi-awkward stories of getting to know the other ladies in the club. No, it was fairly mild this time with no stories of clean eating jealousy or pregnancy woes. In fact there was an older learning specialist who I’d always seen in the hallways and never knew her name. She told us about working in a psychiatric hospital before she started working in schools so that added a little excitement.
Maybe the mild book club this time had to do with the less-than-exciting book we chose. The selection this go around was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and was my suggestion. I thought it was a pretty safe pick since I’d hear so much buzz about it and heard much praise on blogs. I know I should never trust a blog; just my own intuition from now on. To be quite frank, The Interestings was just not that interesting. I didn’t even finish it in time for the book club meeting. One woman only got through the first chapter before setting it aside. I felt slightly embarrassed that I’d suggested a sub-par book but oh well. Next time I’ll really read up on the book before I foist it onto others and myself.
The Interestings is the story of four friends who meet at an artsy summer camp in the 1970s. The book chronicles how their relationships progress and change through many decades and changes. While the book was a bit too wordy and at times dry and convoluted, it provoked some thoughts about how childhood relationships are affected by the change of growing up.
Right now I feel like I’m at a tricky tipping point. The underpaid, grad school equality of our early twenties is beginning to fade as we settle into our more established and cozier late twenties. It’s never been more evident as last weekend when we all gathered to celebrate my first friend to have a baby. We sat around discussing accomplishments at our jobs, lamenting over the inability to find an apartment or a house with good natural light, and sharing recipe ideas for the work week.
It has also become increasingly evident that there is a shift in our equality. My best friend is a lawyer who is looking into an apartment facing the Manhattan skyline, which is still impressive even if she’s still in New Jersey. Another friend recently lost her job and is living in a cramped upstairs apartment with her husband. Another is celebrating becoming a physical therapist. So much change. So many differences. Yet we’re still here, still best friends after all these years.
What I’ve realized, in real life and from the book, is that change happens. Life will inevitably progress as will your relationships. Some people get richer, some get married, some are still searching for their calling when everyone has settled down. What really matters is how you cherish and nurture those relationships you hold dear. Those people stuck with you for a reason so don’t let that go unacknowledged. Celebrate being “interesting” or “uninteresting”. Celebrate having those amazing friendships.
And now back to your regularly scheduled fumblings in book club land…
Though Monday is usually a place for my Links to Love, I thought I’d write a little something to start my Monday off right…and to get back into blogging after a week long hiatus. I’ve been very casual about blogging so far this month to balance out a crazy life schedule. My students are currently being tortured by standardized tests and I attempted to make preparing for it as fun as possible. That meant two weeks of printing, cutting, laminating, and grading. That meant two weeks of limping along in other parts of my life.
These last few weeks made me envy the ambitious multitask-er. The person who effortlessly tackles a high-profile job and comes home to whip up a Pinterest-worthy cake while planning a weekend dinner party. Or the person who works full-time to come home and run a beautifully curated online shop. It feels like everyone you meet nowadays (especially in this land of bloggers) is the perfect multitask-er.
But that’s not me. I do get these winds of ambitious over achievement, don’t get me wrong. Last week was an example of that as I stayed up past my bedtime creating a “garden store” for my students to shop at so they could practice adding money. I drew tiny clocks on discounted Easter eggs for a time match center. At the end of it all, I was exhausted. I could barely compose a sentence after work let alone a blog post.
How I long to become the “perfect” woman who can tackle it all with ease. Sometimes I wonder if that will come with motherhood or when I turn thirty or at some other mystical moment in my life. Or it may never come. I may stay scattered and unaccomplished in the way most people measure accomplishment.
You know what made me feel really accomplished? Those sunflowers up there. As I tried to do my best to purchase the healthiest, cleanest, greenest foods I saw bunches of sunflowers sitting in buckets. The price said $3.99. I looked at them for a long time, went off in search of more groceries before wheeling back around to them. Should I buy them? Well, if I was going to pretend to be accomplished and polished, I needed some pretty sunflowers to display in my dining room. Now that they’re sitting there in my makeshift pitcher vase, I do feel pretty accomplished. Maybe the moral of the story is to buy something pretty if it makes you feel pretty. Maybe 90% of being the person you want to be is pretending who you want to be. Or maybe I’ll figure out what it means when I actually have time.
There is nothing I love more than taking the time to cook something in my tiny, cozy kitchen. I come from a family where home cooking is a given and I always knew I would grow up to cook. If I close my eyes I can see a typical evening from my childhood: I would dance down the hall to whatever music my mom had on (either Joni Mitchell or Bruce Springsteen or maybe eclectic piano) to see what was causing those good smells. My mom would be standing in front of the stove, taking command of the kitchen in her red apron. About an hour later all four of us were sitting around the table in the dining room talking about our day, ignoring the dog as he begged for scraps. Cooking is so much more for me than just having something to eat.
This year I vowed I would spend more time in the kitchen and try a new recipe every week. I can proudly say that I have tried many new things so far. New ingredients, new techniques, new recipes, I’m working on becoming the kind of cook my mom and grandma can be proud of.
Weirdly enough it makes me sad when someone tells me they don’t like to cook. Then I think that thought is weird; do runners feel bad when I tell them I don’t like running (but do it anyways)? There’s so much pride in cooking something that tastes and looks delicious. I love hearing someone say, “You made this? It’s wonderful!” Cooking is definitely my language of love.
This week I started thinking back about where it all started. I started simply enough: watching my mom and grandma and then picking up a cookbook when I was ready to embark on my own. The cookbook of choice? Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons Cookbook. I started with homemade banana pudding and worked my way around to Texas chili.
One moment that’s most vivid in my mind from the beginning of my “cooking career” was staying up late when I was doing my internship down in Georgia to make my first pudding from scratch. If you don’t know, making pudding from scratch is a long process that requires you to stand and stir until the mixture heats up. I turned country radio on low and stirred and listened to the sounds of a hot, sticky Georgia summer night. I think right there was when I discovered what passion and love mean.
Having a passion, finding love for something, is so important. It is so easy to go through life not really engaged in anything. Getting up in the morning, going to work, doing your job, coming home, sleeping, and starting it all over again. You don’t have to have a passion from childhood. Joining the Tone It Up community has introduced me to so many women who are sharing and living their passion, whether healthy or just lovely. While I am on a journey to be healthier and happier, I am not going to abandon my kitchen. I’m going to use this new journey to become a part of what I already love. There may be less banana puddings in my kitchen but whatever comes out will still be full of love.