Live with Focus

There are a million things I’d like to accomplish this year. I’d like to get outside more, save all my money, make all my food from scratch, establish a thriving garden, excell at my job, concentrate on making my time at home quality time with my family, write more often, put myself out of my comfort zone, go hiking, get back in shape, travel to new places and so on. But let’s get real. A year may seem like a long time but days and weeks pass by in the blink of an eye. The year that we have a brand new baby is not the year for lofty goals. It is not the year I’ll hike the Applachian Trail or start making my own pasta. It’s a year to soak in this time with baby Haines and survive our lack of sleep.

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But how do I stop making pies?!

 

Regardless I am the time of person who creates goals. I need focus and plans to guide me. This is most likely a fault that speaks to me being a control freak but…one thing at a time. This year we spent New Year’s Eve in the hospital so it was not a time for a resolutions (although how about no more trips to the hospital in 2017?!). My time at home on maternity leave was a foggy blur of sleeplessness and long walks. I’m back at work and back in a routine and starting to find a tiny sense of focus.

I really just want to use my time wisely and purposely. I don’t mean that I won’t watch TV or check my Instagram feed (FYI- taking Facebook off my phone was a great choice) but I don’t want to let myself get lost in it. I’m going to make my lunch for work at night so I can enjoy my baby cuddles in the morning without stressing. I’m going to go out with friends or go off by myself so that I can come back and better appreciate and be more present in my time with my family.

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This guy is pretty hard to resist.

 

To keep my focus I’ve determined 4 activities/goals.

Me: Be Patient

It starts with me. I want to have more patience with myself and others. I don’t need to accomplish everything today. Like many women, I put an unreasonable amount of pressure on myself to excel and worse, be perfect. It’s past time to get rid of that inclination. Time to slow down, communicate more often and more kindly.

Community: Get Involved

Contributing to  my community has always been important to me but often it gets pushed to the back burner. I need to move this up the priority list. It’s a value that I want to impart onto Haines and there’s only one way to do that.

Finance: Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress

It’s well known in my family that I put a large focus on financial security (some might say too much…) and I’ve let it cause my unnecessary stress in the past. While I don’t want to do that I do want to get to the point where we are making more strategic decisions when it comes to our finances and reducing our debt.

Travel:

This isn’t a deep and life-changing goal but getting outside my immediate surroundings has always proved to be key for my sanity. The one thing I’ve wanted to do since returning to North Carolina was visit the mountains in the fall. So far two falls have passed and we haven’t made it. This is the year! Fall leaves, I won’t miss you this time! It’s also a part of my home state that Haines won’t get as much exposure to in our beach town and I want him to see all the beauty of our state.

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Winter in Wilmington, NC

The Best Time of the Year

I love most holidays. In general, I love any day that is out of the ordinary. This means I embrace holidays that seem created by Hallmark (Valentine’s), and fraternities (no offense, St. Patrick’s Day). I equally love my birthday and yours. Any reason for fun food and beverage is worth while to me. If we get the day off the work? Then it’s the absolute best!

Regardless Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Its focus- being thankful- is hard to argue with. It’s safe to say that each of us has something or someone in our lives that we take for granted, even despite our best intentions. Maybe it’s our health, our spouse, our parent, our home, our job, a friend, our hobbies. It doesn’t matter. Being grateful and thankful on every day often escapes us. A reminder really couldn’t hurt. Plus we celebrate the day with the two best things in life: family and food.

Often the people we spend Thanksgiving with aren’t related by blood. Although my family will most likely be annoyed by me saying so….I like Thanksgiving this way. I celebrate with my family every Christmas. Thanksgiving is my opportunity to be thankful and spend quality time with the other family in my life- those I choose to make a part of my life.

After 4 years of Friendsgivings in Texas, I didn’t know what we’d do when we moved back to North Carolina. Would we start going home? But last year we hosted our first Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving potluck (with my mother which was an added bonus!) with many new friends. This year, we’ll do it again.

I’ll have to control myself and my urge to make a thousand different dishes. I’m doing my best to limit it to 2. With only 3 weeks until baby’s arrival, I’m not having to work too hard to convince myself to take it easy. My back and legs do that pretty well.

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I’ll just do this instead.

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Clara’s getting her cuddles in pre-baby arrival.

Tyler and I already got the week of Thanksgiving off to the right start with our annual tradition of watching The Last Waltz. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing then check out:

It Takes a Village

This past week has been pretty busy in a great, whirlwind way. All my projects at work made significant progress which made me feel much better about my job. This is something I imagine we all deal with- the feeling that we are just trudging along and to what end? Hitting a milestone is exactly the encouragement I needed to keep going right now!

At home we have been making crazy, progress on putting in our upstairs bathroom. I’ll share all the details on this later, but the gist is we’re going to be a 2 bathroom household! Tyler has been moving this project along at warp speed and it’s getting pretty exciting.

In addition, I’ve had the chance to see my lovely Wilmington friends so much this week! As a boring pregnant lady it’s pretty rare I venture out on school nights  (without drinking happy hour just isn’t the same, ya know?) but it’s been incredibly lovely this week to make an exception. Earlier this week during a birthday celebration (cocktails and sushi – another fun night to be pregnant) I was completely stunned when one friend blurted, “I can’t wait to meet your baby.” She wasn’t the first person to say this but she was the first person to say and mean, “I can’t wait to know your baby.” She wasn’t referring to wanting to know what baby B will look like or even playing and cooing over baby B. She was entirely referring to the person he or she will become and how they will become a figure in our little group of friends.

I was completely overwhelmed by this. Both overcome by the emotion of her statement we dropped the topic to more birthday dinner appropriate things but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The idea that my child already has true friends waiting on here for him or her to arrive is too wonderful to express. I grew up in a small, quiet family of four that divided and shrunk early on in life. My sister went to college when I went into the third grade and my parents spent most of their time not speaking to one another before they separated when I was twelve. Although we had a few family friends that I would certainly consider part of our family “village” I rarely saw them outside of my mother’s best friend, Ed, who came into our lives in when I was in middle school. Going over to my friends’ houses with larger families and friends always around always left me envious. I would soak up the noise and chaos as much as I did the laughter and excitement. For baby B to experience the love of an extended family would really be a dream come true.

I am also embarrassed to say that I had not yet put a lot of thought into knowing baby B in the way my friend meant. I’ve been entirely preoccupied by the more superficial concerns of being pregnant. What do we need to purchase? Am I eating well enough? Exercising enough? How will we handle maternity leave or daycare? Although I have thought about what this munchkin might be interested in, I hadn’t yet really considered baby B a whole person. There is someone growing right now that I will have a chance to know soon. I can’t even imagine what it will be like to get to know them, little by little, more every day.

Twenty-three weeks, y’all. We’re over halfway and getting bigger every day.

Our Family Stories

When my parents first got married, my half-sister was six. All the time she would ask him for stories about when he was her age. She wanted to know all about him. My dad though, ever practical, had no desire to tell my sister the true stories of his youth. These were tales filled with disobeying parents, sneaking out of the house, freaking out babysitters and just generally getting in trouble.

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Eventually he came up with the tales that developed what I think may be his secret super power- story telling. These are detailed, dramatic stories full of perilous situations and child heroes. My favorite might be the ones where his mother is pregnant with him. She is in the car driving somewhere, lost and my father realizes her confusion. He peeks out of her bellybutton (which is apparently more like a little skylight) and tells her which way to go. She listens and they get where they are supposed to! This story is an adorable and quintessential little bit of Dad- he’s the hero but also, a bit of a know it all.

This Easter we were able to bring these stories into the lives of my nieces. My mother emailed Dad requesting he clarify the details of his Easter story and he did one better- he wrote out the whole thing! For years I have been requesting this and it was an incredible treat to have. It was made better only by my oldest niece reading the story of how “Granddaddy” saved Easter aloud to all of us.

 

I never thought of my dad as a writer until recently. These stories have been with us for so long there were just part of a part of his goofiness we cherished as children. But now that he writes us infamously long emails about his travels, I can see it. Everything he writes is full. It’s sensory, it’s visual, it’s emotional. This is the way he describes a taxi ride but also, how his travels have impacted him. It’s all with the same intensity. I’m especially glad my nieces can experience this, even if their Granddaddy is thousands of miles away.

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Some People You Choose to be Family

One of the hardest parts of moving away from home is the loss of community you feel. Even if you leave home because you’d like space from your family there is a still a feeling of disconnection from the familiar. It’s disorienting. You don’t know what to reach out and hold on to when things feel tough or even who to celebrate with when you want to share a joy.

After I lived in Austin about eight or so months some of my roommates and their friends began going out to dinner every week. Soon every week we were meeting at someone’s house to decide where to eat over a beer on the front porch. Now it’s developed any further. Every Thursday one member of our little tribe cooks a full meal for whoever shows up at their front door. Sometimes it’s ten people or sixteen people or three.

This is now my family dinner. We check in with one another over big comforting meals and cold beers. Here is where everyone feels safe to be themselves and tell the sad and happy stories of their week. Here is the place where you understand what it means to choose your family.

This has become my favorite night of the week so at one “supper club” member’s suggestion I will try my best to start sharing these experiences with you.

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We had a small crowd so we didn’t demolish the lasagnas but they were delicious!

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Star was a nice addition to our family this Thursday!

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Just a few of my favorite ladies!

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These gentlemen know to host a dinner!

Another Year

Sometimes these terrible unexplainable absolute tragedies happen. Things that leave you speechless. Things that make you think, how can one family or one town experience so much suffering? How does so much get piled on one plate?

The only reason, the only rationale I can come up with for these things happening is to make us grateful for the things we do have. We take for granted so much and if the only thing we take from these tragedies is that we start to appreciate the good in our lives, then isn’t that something?

Every year, most of us struggle with our birthdays, even if it’s just a little. We think about where our lives are going, the time we’ve wasted, what we want out of life, and of course, about that big 30/40/50 or whatever we’re approaching. That’s okay. It’s important to reflect. But for me, the most important thing that I do each birthday, is be thankful. I’m thankful first for another birthday and for my health. It’s something I’ve never to deal with. My health is something I always take for granted, but I know that I am lucky to do so. I’m also thankful for my family. I complain about them, like all people do, but the truth is I have no idea what I would do without any one of them.

So it’s another year for me. I’m 27 and a day. And I have a beautiful, kind, generous family. I have a sweet, genuine boyfriend. I have a job that is making me grow as a professional and as a person. I have friends who care about whether or not I have a good birthday. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Best Thursday of the Year

As far as holidays go, I’m pretty easy to please. I love all holidays regardless of what they are or what they stand for. I love occasions, opportunities to sit and chat with family and friends, eat great food, be merry, etc. But there is no holiday like Thanksgiving. Its origins are of course, a little messed up. But its traditions are pretty fun. I love food. I love sitting around the table, laughing and eating, drinking and fussing over the kids. In fact, last year, I enjoyed sitting around the table so much I was eating at the pace of an old woman without teeth. I got left at the table. My whole family moved on, munchkins and mother and all, and I was forced to finish my Thanksgiving dinner alone. Sad, but it’d been like an hour. I can’t blame them.

This year is my second Thanksgiving without my family. The first was in Australia when my Canadian friend and I hosted a Thanksgiving in Perth. This involved first making sangria, commencing drinking around 2, personally reenacting the true story of Thanksgiving, and then sharing a feast with some Australian friends after their work day.  It’s probably my most memorable Thanksgiving yet. On this biggest Thursday of the year, I will also not be able to make it all the way home to the ol’ North State so my roommates and I are having a Thanksgiving Potluck. I’m hoping to start the day with a bike ride, decorating the house and drinking early. This will hopefully not get me in trouble. Nothing like not being able to make it to turkey time. And because we don’t have a TV, no one can watch football after dinner! (This may seem cruel but it’s pretty awesome.)

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I don’t really mind not being home for it. It’s the kind of holiday that you can enjoy anywhere as long as you have good company and good food. It’s a day when we can say thanks for the good things in our life: good company, someone to love, a support system, employment, a home. This year, I’ll be saying thanks for my new home of Austin, TX, the people who have become my good friends here, a steady job, and a beau.