Life Lately: What I’m Thankful For

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Hey, guys. It’s been a while. If you think I didn’t notice, believe me: I did. But sometimes, you can have grand plans for things — like this blog — and life will just get in the way. That’s certainly what happened on my end. I have a plethora of saved blog posts, series I planned to launch, and a schedule I had hoped to keep to.

And then, well, life just got too busy.

But you know what? That’s okay. 

It’s something I’ve had to preach to myself often during this blogging journey. I find myself frustrated that I, quite frankly, haven’t made the time to get this little platform of mine to where I’d love for it to be. But then I remember that the reason I haven’t been as diligent about setting aside time for the blog is because I’ve been so busy doing other things, things that I’ve deemed as a bigger priority. All year, I’ve been trying to focus on balancing what’s work and what’s fun, what’s necessary and what’s a bonus, what’s rewarding and what’s stressful. I never wanted to look at this blog as a job, something I had to do. So, yes, sometimes, that will mean I disappear for a month. It means I’m not quite so good at that blogging planner my best friend bought for me. It means I won’t post as much on Instagram.

That’s perfectly, 100% okay.

So anyways. Long rambling reasoning for my temporary absence aside, here I am.

It’s Sunday morning, and it’s a little chilly outside, at least for Arizona. I haven’t opened the windows yet, at least. The tree outside our apartment is finally shedding some leaves and turning a proper orange; I’m loving it. Currently, I have a pumpkin candle lit and some pumpkin creamer in my coffee. It’s finally feeling like fall.

So, naturally, I decorated for Christmas last night.

Before you all jump on me with “it’s too early!” or “Thanksgiving first!” — I just gave you all examples of how the pumpkins have decidedly not left yet. I just added some Santas and a Christmas tree to the bunch.

Needless to say, the holidays are my favorite time of year. Christmas is my number-one favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second. Partly because I always go home. Partly because there’s stuffing and mashed potatoes. Mostly because it gives me a chance to look back and reflect on what I’m most thankful for this year.

This year, I’m thankful for the little lessons.

I’m thankful for the growing pains. It’s been a year of transition in some ways. The boy is hard at work studying for the CPA exam, and at some times, that’s been a little taxing on both of us. On top of it, there’s definitely been moments when I’ve unfairly taken my own stress out on him, whether that’s with snippy words or general disinterest. But we’ve continued to learn and grow through the more challenging seasons, and in the end, we’re learning to love each other better. I know this is a natural progression of a relationship, and I know that we are stronger for it. For that, I’m ever so thankful.

I’m thankful for distance. I won’t lie — it’s hard to have your best friend live several states away. It’s hard to not be near the majority of your family. There are times I wish I could just show up at my Grammie’s house, or call up the Shining Twin and demand a chips and salsa-fueled Friends marathon. But as I get older, I realize that there’s a level of effort that goes into maintaining relationships over distance. This is something I used to take for granted, especially when it comes to my family. Yes, family will always be there, but you’ve got to work at it like any other relationship. I like to think I’m getting better at managing the distance. Who knows if that’s true? But I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

(And, of course, this isn’t to discount my friends & family that are here. I’m of course so thankful for the immediate family that is nearby; not everyone’s so lucky to have their parents, siblings and brand-new niece less than 30 minutes away.)

I’m thankful for stress. This sounds weird, I know. But I mean it more of this way: I’m thankful to have a job I care so much about to be so stressed about sometimes. Granted, it’s not always stressful. It’s less often stressful than it is not, really. But there are certainly times, as with anything we care about, where pressure mounts — whether that’s to hit a deadline, to prove you can do it, or just to get the job done. However, I do think that a lot of my own pressure is self-inflicted, and I know for a fact that I do it because I want to excel in this position I love so much. Ultimately, that’s a wonderful thing.

Three simple things, and three big lessons I’ve learned this year.

So while I do apologize for not being as consistent with this blog as I might ideally like to be, I don’t apologize for the reason behind it. I don’t apologize for learning to be more present when I need to be, I don’t apologize for spending more time Facetiming than doing Instagram photoshoots, I don’t apologize for setting aside my side hustle for my main one. Life is about prioritizing sometimes, and in different seasons, different things will be important.

This blog is still my outlet, and I hope to have more time to devote to it once life calms down a little. For those who are hanging in there: thank you. I’m endlessly thankful for you, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Travel Diary: Turnaround Trip to San Diego

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I preface this with the disclaimer that it wasn’t technically a turnaround trip. More like in one night and out the other. Still. There’s something off putting about getting off the plane in San Diego to an email reminding you to check in for your flight back to Phoenix.

But I digress.

I hopped on a plane this time around for a work event. My boss makes fun of me lately for always volunteering to travel for clients (or sometimes, for professional development). My response is always to laugh, because I’m perfectly aware that my constant volunteering fits perfectly into my millennial-working-in-PR stereotype.

However, I also know that work travel is exactly that – work travel. You’re there to do what you’re there to do, not to take advantage of the fact that you’re on a “free” trip.

That said, if that trip happens to take me to a place where I know people, then you can bet I’m going to try to squeeze in a little bit of time with them, when I’m off-duty. After all, you don’t work 24 hours a day.

This particular trip happened to fall on a Tuesday, and my friend Alexis happens to live in San Diego. The thing is, we used to do these things we called “Taylor Tuesdays.” Back in college, we worked the same student job, and we worked the same shift my junior year on Tuesday nights. That shift kept us on campus until 10 (or later, when someone came rushing in to return a camera right at the deadline, but that’s not the point). I had to be at my internship at 8 am the next morning, only a few minutes from school, but I was living a solid 45 minutes off campus. It seemed silly to drive all the way back just to sleep, so we started making Tuesdays our regular sleepover nights. Or, “Taylor Tuesday,” if you will. You know how I love the alliteration.

So, as soon as I found out I was heading her way, I called her up and asked if she would be interested in hosting another Taylor Tuesday. It was the perfect solution – I got to spend time with a friend I don’t see nearly enough, thanks to the inevitable way that life goes once you toss your caps in the air, and I saved on a hotel room. Win-win.

The rest of this story is pretty simple. Lex picked me up at the airport and we treated ourselves to dinner at the Bier Garden of Encinitas. We ate the best burgers (hers, normal… mine, salmon) with sides of waffle fries, accompanied by one of the most refreshing Moscow mules I’ve had in a long time, another throwback to our college days.

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The best part of dinner was that we sat outside. Man, I need to move to a place where that’s not off limits during the summer.

After dinner we wandered over to JoJo’s, a local ice cream place that may just take the (ice cream) cake for one of my favorite ice cream joints. Seriously – any place that you can get a malted cookie dough and mint cookies and creme combo is an A+ in my book.

We wrapped up the evening by watching Bachelor in Paradise, which is a testament to how hooked I’ve gotten on this ridiculous reality show.

It was a short visit, for sure, and I barely caught a glimpse of the ocean, but that’s not what I was there for. I was there to work, with a little side of play. And I’m so grateful for that. I’m grateful for friends who will take even the shortest amount of time whenever you can squeeze it in, because let’s be honest — it gets hard to keep in touch when life gets going. I’m grateful for a company that does good work with good clients and good people. So if this quick trip left me with anything, it was gratitude, and we can always use a reminds of the things we have to be grateful for.

Approval vs. Gratitude

Last night during my small group, we looked at John 10. We read about Jesus being the shepherd and the door, and we discussed the fences that we often try to climb to earn that same feeling of completeness that can only be found through Christ, by going through that door. One of our discussion questions was around what we use to try and climb the fence… in other words, what idols, emotional or otherwise, we use to achieve the glory and salvation that is only found through Christ.

And as we sat there discussing it… I realized mine:

Approval.

I have always thrived off impressing people. It’s probably part of being an only child, then becoming the youngest of four. It also probably has to do with how I went through the AP and honors system in high school, was in the honors college during my university years, completed my master’s concurrently with my bachelor’s… typically, being on such a rigorous academic track sways you towards being impressive, and therefore feeling like you constantly need to impress.

But why?

My stepdad and I talked about this over the holidays. I was hoping to have impressed him with how well I navigated the healthcare landscape to secure my own coverage, and, well, he wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped he would be. Instead, he told me that I didn’t need his approval on something like that.

And you know what?

He was right.

I may not have realized it at the time, but I certainly did last night. As we sat there talking, I felt so convicted to express my own fences, and to share what God was pushing me to see instead.

As a small group, we talked about how we are actively pushing ourselves to not climb our fences, but instead go through the door, to be herded by our shepherd.

I realized that perhaps I haven’t been so great at that, but there is a simple way for me to get better:

Practice thankfulness.

Because, really, these things I’ve been doing aren’t impressive at all: they’re blessings. I am blessed to have the support and encouragement from a strong family that pushed me to achieve what I could in school. I am blessed to have a state university system that offered the opportunity for me to not only earn my bachelor’s on a full ride, but my master’s. I am blessed to have been led towards my first full-time job straight out of college. I am blessed to be in a position where I can afford my own healthcare.

These are not things I have done to impress. These are things I have been given to be thankful for.

I don’t need to seek the approval of anyone for these achievements; ultimately, these achievements aren’t even mine. I need to turn it back to God and be thankful for His consistent love, His overwhelming grace, and His ultimate plan for me.

Approval from other humans is simply a fence that I’ve tried to climb to achieve satisfaction.

Gratitude (and dedication) to Our Father is the only door I need to walk through to get there.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me that last night. I needed it, and I am grateful.

Thank You

Can I just be honest and throw something out there?

It’s been a really ridiculous week.

I thought last week was bad – tensions were high, people were upset, things were just generally feeling a little bit off-kilter across the nation. I thought this week was going to be better.

I was wrong.

This week was long. It’s only Thursday, and I can’t wait another twenty-four hours for my weekend to begin (but, of course, I have to). I know part of it is the anticipation of the holiday next week, because, let’s be honest, when you’re anticipating anything, it makes it harder to wait for it.

However, as stressful and busy as this week has been, it has also been pretty eye-opening.

Guys, I don’t say “thank you” enough. Not when it really matters.

Heck, I can’t even keep up with an Insta-challenge for #30DaysofThanksgiving (yes, you caught me – yes, I’ll own up to it).

I’ve had some conversations over the past week that have just really opened my eyes to how incredibly blessed I am. I have a support system securely in place and that’s something I need to be more aware and openly grateful for. I thank God for it every night, but I don’t openly say it enough. So that’s what I’m doing now – I’m saying thank you. To everyone who helps get me through weeks like this one… thank you.

To my morning barista, who knows that I hate the little chunks from the almond milk floating in my iced coffee, thank you for understanding and putting up with my ex-barista pickiness.

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To my boss, who consistently reminds me that she’s looking out for my best interest, whether it’s with a Twix from her kids’ Halloween stash or a calming conversation in the conference room. Thank you for being the #bestboss.

To my dad, who sends me “good morning, have a great day” texts, thank you for those. I definitely don’t say that enough to you, but I appreciate the random tokens of love more and more every second.

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To my neighbor, who brings me tamales and tells me how much he loves to see the cat poking her head out every day, thank you for taking on the neighborhood watch role, and for reminding me that random acts of kindness are definitely still a thing.

To the group of people I spend every Wednesday night with, reflecting on the Word. Thank you for keeping me grounded, and for reminding me that reflection, praise, and worship is not just for Sunday mornings. Thank you for the hour we spend talking about everything else – from pageantry to the newborn babies in the group – and for all the laughter and support I’ve found since joining this RC.

To the entire fam-damily, who I feel like I don’t see nearly enough. Thank you for being my Bravermans, and for always giving me something to look forward to. Thank you for always rallying together, no matter what’s going on. Family over everything… always, every time.

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To my partner-in-crime, who has no problem spending entire nights drinking wine, eating chocolate, and exploring little Scottish towns (or reminiscing about those days). Thank you for being one of the greatest people in my life, and for always reminding me that there’s peanut butter and adventures to look forward to.

To the coordinators of the Redemption Kids ministry, thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend 90 minutes, every other Sunday, with the cutest kids around.

To my mom, thank you for… well, this list could get incredibly long. Thank you for putting aside time in your day to let me call you, crying about #adulting. Thank you for getting on board with watching Gilmore girls. Thank you for your example. Thank you for everything, to infinity and beyond.

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To my office parking lot attendant, who always waves whenever we enter or leave the garage. It’s a little thing, but it’s nice to know you’re paying attention. Thank you.

To my best friends, who get excited about the most random things and who plan semi spontaneous reunions in the middle of the country. Thank you for understanding me at my best and worst, and for being the most solid foundation I’ve ever had.

To the girl I went to high school with, who I got to spend a lovely dinner with, and who always makes it feel like we can pick right back up where we left off. Thank you for showing me what true strength is, and for helping me realize just how blessed I am.

If I tried to thank everyone, this list would be never-ending. And if you skipped to the bottom for the tl;dr condensed version: thank you. Thank you to every single person who, big or small, makes every day a little bit brighter.