Okay. Time for me to own up to the obvious: towards the end of 2018, this blog slipped a bit in terms of its placement on my priority list. For my faithful readers (my mom, my grandparents, my best friends…) I’m sorry for my silence, but you are also among those who know how absolutely nuts the last couple of months of the year got for me. Work was overwhelming — in the good way! — and between that, travel, and spending precious time over the holidays with the most important people, and babies, in my life, it just all went a little wonky. 

So, sorry about that. I fess up. But honestly, I’m not all that sorry because – you know what? – life happens.

(I also do realize that this is very similar to every rambling apology for a hiatus I’ve ever given before. That, I’m not so sorry about either. There are, after all, only so many ways that one can announce “I’ve been busy.”)

That said, I do want to make this blog more of a priority in the coming year. I’m not the resolution type, but I do like to goal set. Tangible goals, that is. Goals that are measured not by their ability to be completed in an arbitrary 365 trip around the sun, but just in general. Goals like “journal regularly,” “be more present,” and “blog more.”

In case you were wondering – yes, those are my 3 goals for 2019.

Now, you might be asking (I am) how the second and third goals work together. How can I be more present if I’m also trying to blog more? The long and short of it is that I want to bring this blog back to what it was intended to be – a place for my own self expression; a place to ramble about things I just might think some other people could care about, things like friendship and love and family. Yes, that means you’ll see less product reviews. Let’s be honest – I don’t spend a lot of money and am subsequently bad at those. No, that doesn’t mean I won’t post recipes or restaurant reviews when I think there’s one in particular of note. And no, it definitely doesn’t mean the travel diaries are going away. I’ve got some good trips coming up this year, one in particular that I am tingling with excitement for, and Lord knows I love those travel diaries, if only for my own self-reflections. And speaking of the Lord (was that a passe way to transition?) you’ll still see me talking to Him, about Him, on here. I can’t promise the regularity with which Testimony Tuesdays once appeared, but I can promise that it’ll happen enough. 

Okay, expectations aside, I’m now here to say what I really initially hopping on to say:

Happy New Year, friends. May the coming 12 months be filled with positivity, grace, love, and accomplishment – especially for those of you who, unlike me, actually are resolution-setters (I admire you).

As for me, I plan to spend the next 12 months working on, as I said, being evermore present, evermore thoughtful, and evermore diligent about documenting all of the good – and some of the bad – that is inevitably to come.

Cheers, 2019.

Turning Pages

Happy 2018! It is weird to think that the holidays are officially over, and that it’s time to turn the page and start anew. Or so it goes.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of New Years. I think it’s a slightly overrated holiday, with slightly exaggerated expectations that tend to lead to slight disappointments, and that’s not how I think you should go into a new year feeling. That’s not to say I don’t have fun on New Years – I’ve certainly had some great ones and I will never say no to an excuse for champagne. Last night, the boy and I got together with friends and drank a lot of prosecco (or, at least, I did), and I got to kiss him at midnight for the second year in a row. I certainly can’t complain about that.

But after the party and that midnight kiss, the next questions tends to roll around: what are your resolutions for this year?

And that’s where I stop celebrating. I don’t really believe in resolutions. I think, if you’re going to start doing something, why wait until the turn of a calendar to do it? I also think that there’s an unnecessary pressure that comes with a New Years resolution, very similar to that of New Years Eve. There’s just a somewhat stressful expectation of the “results” you’ll see come this time next year, and I feel like that pressure is exactly why a lot of resolutions don’t actually get resolved.

So instead, I’m heading into 2018 with a couple of very simple goals for myself: read more and write more. I used to go through a book a week, but as life became more hectic than it was in high school it became a lot easier to just flip on a screen after work and zone out that way. But every time I do get sucked into a good book, I remember exactly what I love about reading in the first place. I love using my imagination to dream up what I think the author is envisioning, and I love the satisfaction of turning the final page (or swiping through the last line on my Kindle).

I’m not setting any sort of goal to read x amount of books a month or anything: I’m just encouraging myself to pick up the book on my coffee table instead of the remote.

I think that will, in turn, help me towards my second goal of writing more. I have noticed that I tend to write more when I read more (funny how that works, right?) and therefore, the two goals go hand-in-hand. Again, I’m not setting out to finish a novel (though that is still on my general list of goals), but I just want to pick up a pen more, or put my fingers to the keyboard. Whether it’s journaling, or prayer, or blogging, or creative, I just want to put words out there, and see what may become of them.

So here’s to 2018, to turning a page — and reading more and writing more pages in the process. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year. I’ll blog again soon, but for now… I’ve got a book to finish.

10 Days In

Here we are, a week-and-some-change in to a New Year, and already I’m slacking on my resolution to #BeABetterBlogger.

However, I’d like to think I have a pretty decent excuse.

I’ve been busy.

The first ten days of 2017 have been more of a whirlwind than I ever – and I repeat, ever – could have imagined. I’d like to pause here and insert a shout out to J & M, who have been incredibly supportive of said whirlwind. I’ve spent the first ten days of 2017 feeling a bit disoriented and a lot of a mess, but I think that the past few days have really solidified that old saying that “every storm runs out of rain.”

Let me offer a little background here.

I kicked off this year in the most wonderful way. I’m not a big New Years person, but this one was a good one. I’ll leave it at that.

However, despite the wonderfulness that was New Years Eve, right before 2016 came to a close, I got hit with some bad news. It’s not my news to share with the blogosphere, but suffice to say that it certainly rocked me a bit, and it sent my first few days of the new year into a tailspin. I found myself reexamining some decisions, questioning priorities, the whole 9 yards. It was as if God had put a big old, flashing sign up that said WAIT, and I had no choice but to obey.

And damn, I’m glad I did.

The results of that news gave me an opportunity to revisit some lingering “what ifs.” As some tough and, frankly, shitty decisions have made their way to me in the past few months, I’ve been stuck with this endlessly nagging feeling of wondering, “What if I chose differently?”

I prayed a lot about it. I prayed for guidance and for trust in that guidance, and I was lifted up by sweet souls who reminded me that God’s plan and our idea of the right plan are not always in line – and that’s the point. And so I kept trusting in His plan, or at least I felt like I did. I thought I was wholeheartedly trusting in the decisions I was led to make, but then this news came and shook me to my core and I very quickly realized – I wasn’t wholeheartedly trusting anything. I was still wondering, and, gracious as He is, God offered me the opportunity to look back at the lingering what if.

And you know what?

He proved Himself to me… yet again. By allowing me to retreat into the alternate reality of a different choice, He showed me that it would have been, flat out, the wrong one. It would have caused me more stress and heartache than I ever could have imagined, even if it might have been wrapped in a pretty little package.

It’s just amazing to me how, even in what seems like the most petty of problems, the most ridiculous of situations, and the least necessary priorities, He shows himself. And when it comes to the bigger things, He shows himself even stronger.

All of this realization came when I finally – finally – got back to church last Sunday.

So, basically, this is my long-winded way of saying that I’ve decided to completely revamp my New Years resolutions. Instead of focusing on a list of goals of things I want to accomplish this year, I’m going to put my entire energy into one thing: trust.

Trust in Him. Trust in myself. Trust in the plan. Trust in guidance.

2017 will be the year I learn to open my heart to trusting in what matters. Because there’s no point in wondering what if.

2016 Best Nine

2016 is coming to a close. No matter which way you look at it, this year was weird. It was certainly a rollercoaster politically, socially, and – for many of us – personally.

This year definitely brought to me its fair share of hardship. I learned a lot of lessons; some were easy, some were more difficult. I didn’t always handle things well, but sometimes, I passed this year’s tests with flying colors. 2016, for me, was the year of adulting, and all the good, bad, amazing, and ugly that comes with it.

Last year was the first time that Instagram’s “Best Nine” came around. You know the ones – collages of everyone’s top 9 most like photos on Insta. I love those things. I think they’re a great way to look back at all the highlights of the year, with a twist. Because, I’ve found, that sometimes, even though there’s the clear highlights to every year, sometimes you find that your friends and family celebrate even the littlest moments – and they show that, by simply hitting “like.”

My 2016 best nine: 

(numbered from top left to bottom right)

1. San Francisco 

Oh, what a trip! I spent 60 hours in the city by the bay visiting my sister and her husband. It was the first time in a long while that I’d gotten the chance to experience San Francisco like  true tourist, something more than just going into the city for a day of shopping or baseball. Of course, we both shopped and watched baseball whilst there, and consumed copious amounts of the best food San Francisco has to offer – from clam chowder to ice cream to my guilty pleasure, Peet’s (sorry, Starbucks.)

2. Graduation 

Of course I can’t look back on my year and not see graduation as one of the brightest highlights. Graduating from ASU with my bachelor’s degree in journalism, master’s degree in mass communication, honors, and a full-time job lined up was one of the biggest accomplishments of my entire life. It was a whirlwind week of friends, family, nostalgia, and randomly running into a large group of high school people on a night out (talk about full circle!) but it was perhaps the best week all year.

3. Best friends

This picture itself is from the weekend of the Rocky Mountain Emmys, but I think it symbolizes much more than just that weekend. This was always going to be a rough year for friendship – any time with transition in it always is. But my two best friends and I were, if anything, strengthened by this year’s changes. I’ll avoid getting too cheesy here (mainly because I can see both of them cringing as they read this – hi guys) but if I’ve got one major takeaway from this year, it’s that change, though difficult, can be the most strengthening ingredient in a friendship, and that true friendship doesn’t care what state you live in.

4. Sunriver

Sunriver, Oregon, has been a family staple since I was two years old. As we’ve grown, it’s been harder to get the whole family together for the entire week, and this year was no exception. And, granted, a lot of my family does live in the same town. But for those of us who don’t – and even those of us who do – that week in Sunriver represents so much more than just time spent together. It’s always a refreshing reminder of the strength of our family. And the Nelsons are a strong bunch. No matter what happens, we always rally, whether it’s to take on the town with micheladas in hand, craft together a few puzzles, or just sit in the living room and eat cheese and crackers, there’s no better support system. That much I know to be true.

5. Baptism 

This year has definitely been a transformative one for my faith. On Easter, I decided to get baptized again. I was baptized as a baby, and I’ll always be incredibly grateful that my parents instilled a foundation of faith for me. But I wanted to make this choice, again, for me and my relationship with the Lord. Since my baptism, I’ve changed churches, gotten more involved in a small group, started teaching Sunday school, and altogether felt my relationship with the Lord continue to grow and strengthen. I’ve become more okay with questioning things – both about my faith and about my life – and I’ve learned to trust, even more, in the power of prayer and, more importantly, the power of patience. My faith has been an integral part of my year, and I think it’s only fitting that the baptism picture was smack dab in the middle of of the collage. I’m so grateful for it.

6. My best friend’s wedding

Yeah, that’s the title of a romantic comedy. But it’s also a thing that happened in October – and it was absolutely fabulous. I was so lucky to be a part of the wedding party, and though the day itself brought some interesting moments (stories to tell the kids!), ultimately it was the perfect weekend to celebrate a love that has proven that high school sweet Clarkes – I mean, hearts – do exist.

7. Thesis defense 

Holy freaking moly, the smile on my face in this picture is such a mixture of relief and pride that I am practically bursting. I know I just said that graduation was my biggest accomplishment of the year, but I think I need to backtrack and give this honking chunk of paper some credit for both transforming me into the biggest ball of stress for a solid year, but also helping me prove to myself that I can do it. Also, a big shout out to the people who helped me get through that day, and who showed up to watch me defend. I felt incredibly supported.

8. Tahoe 

Oh, Tahoe. I have no words, really, except to say that I am unbelievably blessed to consider such a magical place a piece of my home, my being, and my identity. So, once again, thank you, Tahoe, and – I promise – I’ll see you in 2017.

9. Denver 

At the start of the year, I made a bucket list. It was supposed to take the place of my resolutions with a list of goals that I wanted to hit this year. I definitely didn’t hit all of them, but I got around to a few. One of which was helped by the fact that Jen moved to another city. I got to visit Denver twice this year, and explore everything from the mountains to the breweries. I have to say – it’s one heck of a city, and I can’t wait to go back.

So, there it is: my 2016 best nine. Some were expected, others were not – but isn’t that the sign of a year well spent?

Like many others, I’m ready to put 2016 to bed. Its run its course, for better and for worse. But overall, I’m glad to have the memories to look back on, the lessons learned, and the anticipation of another year ahead.

Bring it on, 2017.

And happy new year.