Doctor Visits (Wooo) + Choosing Inspiration

Getting into a “working” mindset was harder today.

I had a doctor’s appointment at a new office, and based on the reviews online, I was nervous. I was nervous he wouldn’t be a “real” doctor, and that I’d be wasting my time visiting this unfamiliar man in a small medical building on a street I pass almost every day. 

Thankfully, I was wrong. (At least for now.) He was kind, and patiently listened to the “hodgepodge” of reasons I was in. Rather than just an exchange of medical information, he asked genuine questions in an attempt to know me (and Mack, who I mentioned) better. 

The office still might not exude SUPER PROFESSIONAL AND WORLD-RENOWNED HEALTH CARE, but, I’m learning to let go of that.

At 24, I mostly need basic care anyway, and in my book, kindness goes a long way towards future trust. (Real talk, though—finding reputable people in any medical field when you have an HMO plan is one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in the last year. My resources basically include my online insurance portal, but 50 pages of names is overwhelming and impersonal. A Google search helps, maybe giving you an image or a few reviews, but that can also be what turns you away. Any recommendations I’ve tried getting from friends result in dead-ends because of PPO plans. IT IS EXHAUSTING. I’m playing major catch-up right now, too, which is why I had two appointments in two days, but again…I’m trying to chill. My doctor said today, “I can tell you are a worrying type…you need to stop doing that, it isn’t good for you.” HE’S RIGHT.)

Anyway. After another couple hours in health-land, I stuck to my plan from earlier in the week, which was to FINALLY change my name with the bank. Once I got home, I had lunch, and had to seriously consider, and re-consider, whether I would stay home and work, or get back out and go to a coffee shop; there is a smaller shop we love in Pasadena that is perfect for a mid-day visit, and now that I have a laptop without the need to be plugged in 24/7 (THANK YOU ITZHAKIAN’S), it’s a great option for a quick environment change. 

I couldn’t have coffee this morning after my fillings yesterday, so I was craving it and feeling minor effects from not having it. I could just make coffee here, though, and write on the couch before getting started on dinner later. I don’t need to go out…what if it’s crowded and I don’t get a spot? Ugh THE EFFORT. 

Thankfully, I quickly realized the ridiculousness of those thoughts since it was only ELEVEN-FORTY-FIVE IN THE MORNING and reminded myself that I could enjoy the space, both literally and figuratively, for a good three hours and still have plenty of time to prepare dinner in the slow, rhythmic way I prefer.

So out the door I went, and PRAISE THE LORD I did.

The shop was almost empty when I walked in, but within 10 minutes a rush came and the seats quickly filled with others looking to read, write, and gather. I ordered an Ethiopian pour-over (my favorite, and a luxury every time) and once I cupped the clear, glass mug in my hands, staring directly at the black liquid soon to inspire and invigorate, I had my moment. 

It’s the moment that gets me just about every morning right before the first sip of coffee, and then right after. It’s a tangible moment, where the warmth from the mug permeating my hands meets the warmth of the coffee sliding down my throat, which of course collides with the blast of flavor throwing a party on my tongue. 

I don’t have to work very hard to pause here, and take note. This experience is a small one but holds so much within it, and today, I might have missed it had I chosen to stay home. Yesterday, not so much. But today, when the desire to flip on Netflix was stronger than the desire to open a word document, choosing to leave was a discipline.

Since beginning to write, I’ve finished my coffee and enjoyed being a participant in the life around me. A smiley baby boy cooed in my direction as his dad ordered at the counter, and I got to ask how old he was, and his name, and have a brief exchange that brought another moment of joy. I can still hear his babbles as I finish typing this, and with one last glance, I see him playing with his bottle, encompassed in a world where right now, his needs are being cared for, and that’s all he needs to know. Also, every person who has walked by smiles as they pass the stroller, which is another simple, happy thing to witness. 

Day 3’s story is a bit fuller now, and a bit more colorful. I’ll remember this when it’s hard to leave home, and I’ll remember that living feels more like living  when our moments don’t look exactly the same, day-in and day-out.

Dentist Trips + Time Logs

“You are like vampire,” my hygienist said. “You ready for Halloveen!"

That was at the dentist this morning. Apparently when you don’t go for 16 months (I know, I know) your gums bleed more than usual and then you get called a vampire.

YIKES.

I had a few fillings done, which hasn’t happened since I was kid, so I spent a good 2 hours holding my own suction straw, wearing safety glasses, and trying to understand instructions amidst the sounds of drilling, scraping, and washing. 

It actually wasn’t bad, though. Everyone was incredibly kind and communicative, which is helpful as a first-time patient. The hygienist was soft-spoken but also had some serious personality. I mentioned how I could tell I would be sore for a day or two, but she reminded me that she "knows how to use her instruments," and that her patients don’t experience pain afterwards. She also made sure to apply Vaseline around my mouth with a Q-Tip, because as she said, “When patient’s mouth is dry, I cannot stand it. I feel like my mouth is dry, too.” Every time she cleaned for awhile without stopping, she remarked how much liquid was pooling, and how I should use the suction more (MORE!) because otherwise it’s hard to work. I appreciated getting a little control, but it was also difficult to access the real estate with two other hands and tools occupying the same space. I did, however, like her a lot, and she was extremely thorough. Even when she thought she finished, she took one more look and worked a few minutes longer, wanting to “get every last bit.” (Again, YIKES on my part). 

In other news, our thank-you cards from the wedding are DONE. Written, stamped, addressed, glued, and ready to throw in the mail. They were written in two chunks, so if some of you get cards saying, “Hope your summer is off to a great start!” just pretend I actually wrote, “Hope you had an awesome summer!” because unfortunately a couple months went by between stack 1 and stack 2. 

Since I posted yesterday, I shared on Facebook that I discovered a lady named Laura Vandekamp, who has this crazy (not actually) belief that we as people DO HAVE ENOUGH TIME. She wrote a book called 168 Hours, where she details what time meant to her after intentionally keeping a time-log for an ENTIRE YEAR. Every half-hour of every day, she kept kept track of what she did, and after 12 months, categorized and averaged her results. Inspirational to say the least.

I of course had to try it, so I’m keeping a log for at least the week. Our brains are the weirdest and the coolest; the smallest of a shift mentally can have such a large impact. I’ve had the best two days "at home," working on stuff, taking breaks, and feeling MOTIVATED. Awareness and accountability (even from a silly Excel document) go a long way, who knew? If anyone else is interested in keeping a log, let me know! I would love to participate in it alongside you. 

I’ve written a ton this last year, which has been a victory worth celebrating, but the next challenge is hitting the “publish” button more frequently, because I need that practice, and I’m ready for it. It also turns out that actual interaction is about a million times better than zero interaction. So those of you who offered input yesterday, thank you (again). :) 

Writing As Work (It's Hard)

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, watching it come alive as the morning hours slip by, and wishing words weren’t so difficult right now.

 I want to write. This desire isn’t unusual, but knowing what to write is often what stops me.

This is the second, official week that I am no longer identified as, primarily, a nanny. I’ll still see the girls every week, but only once a week, and the transition is fresh. 

A year ago, I guessed I might be here. It’s only natural, as Ayden and Avery start preschool, that I also begin moving towards whatever comes next. Nannying was never a five-year plan, and next month I start my fourth year with this family. So, it’s time, and I know that.

Time, however, is what’s weird. I have a lot of it now, which is paralyzing. I’ve idealized this season, thinking about all the projects I could complete, all the writing I could get done, all the time I’d have to spend pursuing the things that will hopefully bring me closer to “my career."

It’s not so rosy, though. I’ve been wondering what my career will be since 5th grade. But three and a half years out of college haven’t brought me much closer.

One victory is this: I am finally (like, in real life finally, not just online) claiming the title of “writer." When strangers ask the inevitable what do you do? I am no longer saying “nanny” without a mention of my love for words. 

Since a few months ago, I’ve been proclaiming that I WRITE! and honestly, the response has been so positive, so encouraging, and so curious. People want to know what kind of writing, and I somewhat successfully define creative non-fiction. I throw out examples that are usually followed with quizzical looks, but I elaborate as best I can, and each time I do, I gain more confidence. I am genuinely proud to share this; I am genuinely proud to be a writer. 

The hard part, of course, is making it my work. Making it resemble, in some small way, my job. IT IS SO HARD, YOU GUYS. Working from home, where there are cozy beds to fall into and tv’s to turn on and endless ways to putter, is no joke. It is a serious discipline. 

I know there aren't a shortage of companies, websites, and people in general who need writers. But I am a faceless name in the sea of inquisitive e-mails, wondering if spots are available for contributors. I’ve gotten one gig over the last few months, which really is so exciting, but homegirl can only accept so many unpaid opportunities, right?

I get hard on myself at these times. Shouldn’t I accept any position? Shouldn’t I willingly and gladly take any chance to be published? Should I be pursuing a part-time job in addition to writing? Why don’t I just keep nannying, if that’s the case?

Do what makes the most sense for you, I hear. But I don’t know what makes the most sense for me. I guess that’s what I’m figuring out, but the voice of should runs rampant regardless.  

I do what I can, which is writing even when I don’t know what to say, and even if no one will see. I write because it’s the one thing I can actively choose, day-in and day-out, that will create lasting good for my day. Jobs, freelance, and collaborations will continue existing, but getting them isn’t a magic formula. The work is a slow-burn, of which I have to push through and pursue at every step.

If any of the self-identifying creatives out there have practical ways they stay motivated, find work, and gain inspiration, I’m all ears. There is nothing more exciting to me than learning how others find their rhythm, and as I search for my own, I would love to hear yours. 

 

As We Mourn

I admit that I have fallen, like so many others, into silence’s trap.

As the clock ticked closer to 6:30pm yesterday, I found myself resigning to staying home, confirming what I had known all along: I wouldn’t actually show up.

There was a community prayer vigil at City Hall last night, to condemn not only the violence and hatred spewing themselves across our country, but to also offer a response—to come together in a tangible way and say no, this is not right, and we grieve; we pause. we pray.

And I didn’t go. I was nervous. I thought I’d be alone with Mack out of town, even though I knew our church community would be represented. I was afraid of violence revealing itself at yes, even a prayer gathering. I was anxious that the emotions it would ignite in me would make it impossible to go back to an empty apartment.

This is the thing, too; this fear and paralyzing grief have prevented me from showing up, from responding in a way that would offer the hope I so desperately desire. I am not proud of this. I am not proud of this at all.

As social media has been exploding, I’ve been consuming (obsessively, unhelpfully) the stories, reactions, and responses of those in and outside my networks. I want to say that most of the time, I encounter sensitivity and a willingness to mourn alongside those who mourn. Instead, though, I’m blasted by debates between strangers, comments of profound distrusts, and moments of outright carelessness.

It is debilitating, and tightens the rope around my ankle, which has me swinging upside down and side to side, wondering if I will ever be free; wondering if silence has once again got me, and got me good.

I become so unsure of how to respond, how to stomach yet another story that reveals the worst parts of this life. Each time violence like this happens, I absorb its weight so fully. I’m a sponge that has gone from sitting on the counter, unused and shrunk, dried out and porous, into a heavy, sopping mess of reawakened senses. And although I would love for that reawakening to remind me the job is not done. there is still work to do. keep scrubbing. it reminds me instead of how tired I am, how expected this has become, how incapable I feel of knowing not just how to respond, but how to respond well.

But it’s at the point, I know, where remaining silent is part of the problem. Continuing on without pause, without lament, and without engagement, is an inappropriate response. If I am digesting as much information as I have been, and only holding that grief to myself, not participating in the redemptive acts that I am called to, I am responding inappropriately. I am allowing the paralysis to continue by refusing to join those who are actively running towards hope, reconciliation, and peace. I am choosing to remain barricaded in my apartment, believing the lie that staying inside is safer than walking out.

In our church service yesterday morning, our pastor made space to lament the loss of lives this week. She said each person by name, declaring their humanity and denouncing their violent deaths, as the church corporately pleaded come lord jesus, come. Her message was poignant, empathetic, and specific. She reminded us that as the people of God, we are about peace, we are about healing, and we are about coming alongside the hurting. This is who we are. The recognition she ushered into our building for that hour and a half felt so graciously and tangibly like the kingdom of God breaking into the now, reminding us of our identities and our hope, our responsibilities to be present. And then she invited us to join the city for prayer that night, and I felt so stirred as I envisioned it, so aware this was the participation I was craving. But again—I didn’t go. As the posts filled my Facebook feed, I saw my community and congregation embodying the courage and love I couldn’t muster. I felt sad by this, knowing I had missed it, knowing I had, once again, stayed a silent observer.

More and more, Jesus is working with me through my fears. I know this is true and I know it’s a process, and that patience brings me to tears. It is time to show up. It is time to listen. It is time to embrace our communities and hear their stories. It is time to stand with the powerless and prejudiced. It is time to love with ferocity and fearlessness. Hate cannot win. 

the getty museum

“Delegate!” they said, “You need to delegate if you want to stay afloat."

I had tried, I really had. Delegating was easier said than done. Who was going to pick the first dance song besides us? Who was going to choose the tabletop decor, or the guestbook, or the menu? Every decision felt so personal, and when I delegated, I felt like things didn’t get accomplished as quickly as I could have done them myself.

“There’s no time,” I’d reply. “It just needs to get done, and I’d rather do it so I can cross it off the list."

The problem is that the lists never end. Even the day-of, the lists are still there. And while I don’t regret the intent we put into each and every decision of our wedding day, I do wish that time hadn’t felt so scarce, and so pre-meditated, and so out of our control.

Two weeks before the wedding, Mack came home after a long day of work, tired and defeated from trying to keep up with everything. The night before, we had spent hours sitting on the couch, doing nothing but talking and drinking tea…something that felt foreign, something that felt like we were cheating because there was still so much left to do.

As I sat next to him, relaxation flirted with our existence and eventually wooed us entirely. We were tired. We hadn’t hung out in months. To simply be, together, without any agenda, was like a favorite dish we had forgotten the taste of.

And in that moment, it was everything. It was everything we needed and everything we missed.

But the next day, when exhausted Mackenzie sank into the same couch, it was like a grieving process had begun. We hadn’t realized how much time had escaped until we experienced it afresh, and that was heartbreaking.

As I asked him how he was doing, the voice he replied in was sad, but also full of love: “I just miss you so much. And I didn’t even know how much until last night. I miss you, I love you. I’m ready to be married, I’m ready for wedding planning to be over."

It was incredibly difficult. Wedding planning…it just isn’t fun. You get through it, and the day turns out better than you had even dreamed possible, but the process is tedious, and demanding, and real life doesn’t slow down amidst it all.

Having time in our grasp again, as much as any human has it “in their grasp,” has been so restorative. Falling asleep, making meals, brushing teeth, and just LIVING under the same roof has recycled SO MUCH TIME back to us, and I am endlessly grateful for that every single day.

One of our groomsmen got married in May (Ryan & Natalie!), and earlier this month they moved into an apartment about one mile from us. It’s been great having more friends around, and especially newlywed friends. They, the Schreiners, and Mack and I went to the Getty to celebrate Natalie’s birthday, and having the time to spend an entire Saturday with people you love, picnicing and taking pictures and strolling through beautiful gardens was wonderful.

Having the time to invite each of them over for dessert, or for dinner….having the time to do the same at their homes, having the time to lazily drink coffee and read books, or stroll Anthropologie, it’s what I wish I had been more intentional about during wedding planning.

I know it was a crazy season, and I have grace for that, but man. Taking the time to make space, to rest…is even more important when you feel like it’s the last thing you’re capable of. It’s necessary. It’s non-negotiable. It’s essential.

***To a few of my friends who are in the midst of planning weddings, take the time. Take the time when you know you don’t have it. You will get it back tenfold in the health of your relationships and the health of your mind. (Especially to those with short engagements and difficulties delegating, like myself). ;)