No Longer A Slave

It’s been over a year since my last blog.. It’s crazy to think that I’ve gone that long because so much has happened, and while I certainly have had plenty to talk about, I just haven’t found the time, nor found the right words.

I sat down to write several times. I actually have several drafts started and half written, yet they were never okay enough to post. It’s actually fitting, as I sit and think about it, that I would have failed to write in that time. No, it’s not a failure on me as a person, I know this, but it well reflects where I feel my life has been in the past 12-13 months. So much chaos, that I simply must put pen to paper, but once given the opportunity, one of two things happen – one) the overwhelming tiredness sweeps in and overcomes all motivation or two) I simply cannot put anything into something that I think anyone would ever want to read – it’s boring, or not articulated correctly, so on and so forth.

But recently, I’ve felt some of the chaos clear. And today, I decided, at 11:13, no less, with my wake up time of 5:45 so close around the corner, that it was time to lay out all this craziness that is the life of Alexandra Canada.

I’ll break it down into things I’ve learned about life and about myself.

So 13 things I learned in the last 13 months.

1. I learned that summer is blissful, and I want to always chase that.

In previous blogs I have talked about my two seasons that make my heart soar: Christmas and Summer. Christmas is for reflection and nostalgia. Summer is for new things and adventure. I still believe these things hold true! Last summer, although separated from my husband due to his hard work at the Academy for 5 months, I managed to road trip to Georgia, spontaneously drive through the night to be in NYC for 24 hours, spent 4 days with my brother and his family while participating in the best ever  choir concert, had the most glorious night out with my family (minus the kids) for my parents anniversary, threw a super incredible Birthday Block Party for my beloved Coffee Shop, took a business trip with my coworkers up to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and soaked up the Great Smoky Mountains with Andrew’s family.

All in all, I learned that as long as I live I want to live up the blissfulness of summer. I know that it won’t always be full of travel or sight seeing, or jumping around in a pool. I know it won’t always have parties and vacations, but I think it should always carry adventure. I want this to be something I try to push each year and pass the desire for to my children.IMG_7840.JPG

2. I learned that I am way more emotional and cry way more than I ever used to be.

With my brother being a part of a separation of church and state lawsuit against his original musical that his students worked incredibly hard for, it was such an emotional time when his students and their parents tirelessly worked to make the show go on anyway. When my brother was given recognition (which he of course would rather have not had) my heart could have exploded with the pride I felt in that moment. And tears I could have once stopped, could not be.

When my husband received his Firefighter badge after 5 months of torturous, tearful, exhausting, and utterly painful training, I couldn’t believe how much my heart hurt I was so proud. I couldn’t believe that my husband was a Firefighter and he had worked so long and hard for this moment. Again, so many tears.

These are only two examples, but movies make me cry now – they never used to. It’s not a hormonal thing, it’s just that now everything seems to have a direct line to all the feels in my body. I don’t bawl like a baby always, but tears well up in my eyes almost daily over some sort of touching thing I’m experiencing or witnessing. I can make myself tear up almost instantly thinking about a tragic or touching incident. Blessing or a curse? We’ll see.

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3. I learned that I wasn’t sure I would ever want children, and that thought broke my heart.

This realization came around Thanksgiving as Andrew and I were driving and it hit me like a brick. “I’m not sure I ever want kids.” This was the first time I had ever said these words out loud and meant them. We had talked before about being the cool Aunt and Uncle that travelled the world and had lots of money and spent it on our nieces and nephews. But that wasn’t ever supposed to be something that I actually wanted. But here I was thinking – I couldn’t actually handle being a mom. I don’t want to be woken up every morning unless I have to. I don’t want to make 3 meals every day. I don’t want to be thrown up on. I don’t want to not have time to myself until my kids go to college. Andrew, who has been my rock through what seems like so much in 2 years said, “Then we don’t have to! We’ll figure it out as we go.” Knowing full well he would be ready to have a kid any day, that was such a kind thing for him to selflessly say. More on him, later.

4. I learned that I couldn’t actually work 60+ hour work weeks back to back for a couple of months and still enjoy my life.

Around Christmas I was working incredible amount of hours. Not by force, but because I thought I had to in order to complete all my tasks. I had also scheduled all these Christmas events in order to “enjoy the holiday” in our shop, but then I scheduled myself to work during them (most of them were in the evening)  because I wanted to facilitate them. Then, however, I realized I was missing out on all the fun Christmas stuff that I could be doing in my personal life. All of these realizations, coupled with a time card that, once added up reached more hours than I thought possible for my body to endure led to a bawling 24 year old on a bed as her husband tried to figure out why, during her favorite time of the year she was upset. I remember going through so many emotions that were followed up with an intense anger because I was feeling anything but positive feelings around my favorite holiday. But then, after chatting with my boss, who has proved through and through to be wise and understanding, explained that, no, I actually could stop working after 40 hours. I actually didn’t have to do everything myself, but I could delegate to other people, and I could actually finish a week with a project not 100% completed from time to time. How relieving that was. 6 months later from that conversation I’m still learning how to do that, but the lack of the burden from him is much more freeing.

5. I learned that my family, no matter how different lives we lead, is the most incredible.

My family hasn’t necessarily had a traditional Christmas celebration in a few years due to random schedules, so I have stopped expecting much – it will be fun, it will be light, whoever is there, is there, and it will always be different.  But how great it was to find out that on Christmas day all of us were going to be spending the night under the same roof! We played kick ball, ate a feast of Kings, and had such a great time living life for a few short moments. We ended it with a well put together Christmas celebration at our church with our extended family. My heart was incredibly full after this weekend as I was reminded of the many blessings of my life, not the least of which is my family.IMG_1574.JPG

6. I learned that there is so much to see on this planet that I can’t even imagine.

I had never once wanted to go to China, I’ll be honest. When I found out my cousin was getting married there, I thought, maybe I could go, but then thought, no it was too expensive, I don’t really think it’s a place I want to be. However, I was given the opportunity to go as a gift from my generous and loving dad who thought I should be there. And so in January we set off, and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I got to be with a side of the family with whom I’m extremely close, and learn that China is such a great country! I developed a love for it, and was deeply inspired by the different parts of the world I had never known. It made me want to start a bucket list of countries and places to travel. So much to witness that our Creator has put on this Earth!

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7. I learned that depression, no matter how severe or not, coupled with lost expectations can ruin even the greatest days.

I can’t even begin to imagine how some people deal with this disease, and I would never pretend to be amongst those who suffer from it the most. I don’t know if it was partly me becoming slightly stagnant in my faith, the knowledge that depression runs in my family, any effects of any medication I might be on, or a combination of everything, but I started learning a taste of what it’s like to deal with this crazy psychological/emotional/mental disorder that hurts so many on this Earth. It seems as though it’s something you can be talked out of, but there’s no way you ever can. My poor husband had to deal with so many tears, so many mood swings, and so many dark moments of my soul, it seemed like. I am indebted to him for constant patience. There would be days where I would have expectations, and when they didn’t happen, there was so much of a deep sadness I would have a hard time controlling my attitude. I knew better than to rely on expectations – I had learned early on in life to not hold onto them too hard when it comes to, well, pretty much anything.

Yet even on days like my 25th birthday, I felt more alone than surrounded by love, even though people were filling my day with well wishes and support. And yet, a great thing about good days turned bad, is you always get another chance the following morning, or perhaps the following year. There’s so much that I’m sure I still don’t know about this kind of stuff, but I do know that God can defeat anything. Will power might not be effective, but the power of my Jesus always is. And to this day I am clinging to that.

8. I learned that I can’t achieve anything if I don’t actually try to achieve it.

Thus the last 10 years of my life when it comes to many bad habits.

I believe a lot of the above emotions stemmed from this feeling of failure. I had been trying to get in shape for about 10 years now. Yep, 15 years old I hated my body. Now 25 years old, still hate my body and have all the way in between.  I had been wanting to learn this or that for several months or years, yet still wouldn’t. I had been wanting to read this book, or complete that goal, or work on this skill, but was too lazy to actually make it happen. I had been wanting to work on different aspects of being a wife and keeping a home, yet 2.5 years later, I was the worst wife I knew (at least from my perspective). I had been trying to get into a daily quiet time with God since I was a camper at Flipside Camp (also around 10 years ago) yet I still struggled with these waves of good Bible time and then none at all. And I was hit with the realization, of what did I expect? It doesn’t just happen.

I remember getting this vision of me floating in a brook. The water was moving all around me and running towards a beautiful bridge that was just up around the bend. The bridge was beautiful and life was all around it. I couldn’t see what was beyond the bridge but it looked bright and even better than where I was. As I sat in the brook I wondered why I wasn’t moving with all of the water running. Why was it not carrying me? I felt around me and realized it wasn’t that deep at all. In fact I wasn’t floating at all. I was laying the shallow rocks as the water raced by. I wasn’t moving anywhere. because I was literally not doing anything to move. It wasn’t going to be as easy as the the water being deep enough for me to just float toward the bridge, which I figured out represented my closest moments in life with God. And beyond those closest moments in life were blessings beyond what I could imagine. But I couldn’t see what they were from where I was just sitting. I had to actually use my hands to push and pull myself forward. I had to move rocks around and maybe even stand up and walk through. Only then would I be able to get back to the bridge and walk underneath it to the other side.

Even as I write this down I get chills again realizing how vividly God can speak to us! This was just a picture in my mind, and the Holy Spirit filled in all the rest.

9. I learned that death hurts, but God is still King.

On March 19, 2016, my friend Katie, whom I had worked with for a little less than a year and then had remained friends with after she left the coffee shop, tragically fell in a hiking accident just outside of Lexington. When I opened the text from my co-worker I started to half read it, thinking it was a just a “let’s send her flowers, she fell and is in the hospital.” But as I re-read it and realized what he had said “Katie went for a hike at Raven Run this morning and had a fall. It was fatal.” I sat up and read it through again. I called my friend quickly, still in shock. He said he wasn’t sure if he believed it because he hadn’t heard it directly from the source, and that gave me hope. I slowly walked out into the living room, unsure of what to think – I definitely wasn’t processing it correctly. Andrew walked out, starting to tell me something else, and I stopped him and said “Hey…Jeff just texted and said that Katie died in a hiking accident at Raven Run.” Andrew stopped and his eyes grew wide. He has an app on his phone for the entire Fire Department telling them where the various trucks and engines are at any given moment. He said “That was her?! There have been a ton trucks out there all afternoon!” And then it hit me. He was confirming it to me.

The next few hours were spent calling the rest of our staff and trying figure out how to tell them and then attempting to process the pain of it all. UK Basketball lost in the March Madness tournament that night, but none of us really cared. I was so thankful for Andrew being here in these moments while I began what would be a long grieving process.

Yet, almost instantly, I began to see my Jesus working. He hadn’t made it happen so he could work, he worked in spite of it happening – something I think a lot of Christians or skeptics don’t get. It’s not that God “let” something bad happen so he could work. He’s working in spite of something bad happening. That’s a whole other topic to dive into some day. But I was so wowed by the power I could see moving through the situation.

There is so much more that went on in my heart and throughout the next few weeks that I would love to share face to face. I’m so grateful for people like my cousin Maddie, my friend Ellen, and my sister in law, Ember, for the words they spoke to me in those weeks that brought great peace. I won’t go into it here, for the sake of space and trying to articulate it, but please ask me sometime in person, as it’s just really incredibly cool to see God moving through such a rough situation.

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10. I learned that my work family means more to me than I ever imagined

My Coffee Fam had gotten close over time but sometime around the fall of 2015 and early 2016, while we had great moments and fun times together, there was a tension steadily building. I can feel tension a million miles away and it kills me to know that even two people aren’t getting along. When everything with Katie happened, we all realized what actually mattered. These little things we were getting frustrated with didn’t hold a candle to the fact that we were a family, and we cared for each other more than we wanted to admit. We aren’t perfect, and we still fight, there will still be more arguments to happen, but one of the coolest things that came out of Katie’s death was our crew dropping everything we were doing to sit at the same table, swapping stories, holding hands, hugging each other for long periods of time, crying with each other, and telling each other we loved each other, because you really can’t say it enough.

On Mother’s Day this year, I was surprised with flowers that said “Happy Mother’s Day From Your Coffee Family” simply because I was the “Shop Mom.” These people are my crew. I love them all, ya really just can’t understand how much.

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11. I learned that my husband is the greatest gift God has given me.

You’ve probably found a pattern with a lot of the lessons learned above. But my husband has been there for me through thick and thin. And I haven’t always been the best counterpart for him. I haven’t always been the most loving or selfless wife. I haven’t always thought of him before myself or had the best attitude with him. And no, he hasn’t with me either, but he has been such a force in my life. He’s been a part of it for 5 and a half years now, and married to me for 2 and a half of those. That man is my very best friend and I’ll love him till the day I die.

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12. I learned that I really really do want to be a mom.

And yes, about 7 months past that original thought that hit me, I’ve decided that I do, in fact, want to have kids of my own. I don’t know when yet – I know I’m not ready. But I can’t wait (can actually wait, but for effect..you say can’t wait) for them to be a part of this life of mine.

13. I learned (re-learned, I think) that God has to be the very forefront of my vision and I must run towards the prize.

This of course is the most important lesson, and I feel like I learn a page, then turn back two, then learn another page from this particular book. But what’s cool about God is he’s always there when you turn that page back or forward. He’s ready with his arms stretched wide. People ask how you know God is real. I could give you a million reasons, but the biggest is He is so evident in my life. He always has been – I can point him out all through the years. And he has never failed me! I’ve failed him so many times, but he has never failed and he won’t start now! And, much like that vision of the brook, I can’t just sit idly by. He has to be the very essence of every moment. My first thought when I awake, and my last thought when I go to sleep (of course this is symbolic – I may spend time in prayer and then think about cheeseburgers before actually falling asleep, let’s be real, but in general…). He is truly everything. And I don’t always get that, and I’m sure there will be plenty more times where I have to remind myself to re-focus. But that’s the beauty of it, we can always do that, and every time we can get further and further towards that bridge.

I’ve also recently signed up for a 5K. It’s been a New Year’s Resolution for several years and this year is the year. I started this program called Couch to 5K where it slowly helps you go from walking to running. With an eye on the prize, I’m finally working out pretty regularly. I’m sure this will go in phases too, but it’s incredible how actually succeeding in something makes you want to be better at everything. You love the feeling of succeeding and you want to chase that.

So, my dear friends and family. I sit here, with it being about an hour later (and my wake up time has, oddly, not shifted back an hour. That’s rather rude, don’t you think?) but feeling fuller than I have in a while, having really processed so much of what this past year has brought. I’m sure much of it has come as a surprise to some of you, and not as much to others. I appreciate the opportunity to be open and honest, but also to be able to process. As I’ve written I’ve had a smile on my face during parts, and cried through a lot of others. I am loved by so many, I know. But what’s cool is that, as much as I am an emotional rhinoceros (charging into everything and probably breaking it), I am so thankful for a heart that feels so deeply on both ends of the spectrum. I’m thankful for a mind that can process. And I’m thankful for a God that loves me beyond my comprehension, and hasn’t given up on my soul that can sometimes be oh so pathetic.

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears were drowned in perfect love. You rescued me so I could stand and sing, “I am a Child of God.”  No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music

 

Big Lights Will Inspire You | Adventures in NYC

SEIZE THE DAY. 

This is a phrase I’ve been trying to say to myself recently. As I’ve mentioned in the previous post, I sometimes tend to want to be lazy, or I say no to so many things because I am so tired and just want to rest but it sometimes I just have to seize the opportunity. It’s all a balance. A balance between taking care of yourself, sleeping enough, not going crazy… and then there’s just times where you just have to throw all logic away and go with the opportunities that you’ll remember forever.

And thus, the last week of my life happened. 

For a quick back story, about a month ago my friend, Josephine, whom I had met in London during the 2012 Olympics, had purchased a steal of a ticket to America for a month. She was going to start in LA, head to SanFran and end in NYC. I had thought “SURELY I could get to the New York from here.” Turns out it’s about 11 hours from Lexington, Amtrak is cheap but is 19 hours, and flights were about $300. I didn’t exactly have the money lying around. I tried looking into several ways to get flyer miles and cheaper flights and everything fell through. I hated that I was going to miss this once in a blue moon opportunity.

Enter Nick Hunter and Jonny Haberstroh – two of the greatest guys on this planet.

Jonny is from the great country of Germany and lived with my relatives, The Hunters, a couple of summers ago. He was instantly a part of our family and an honorary cousin. Last week he ended up surprising my aunt and uncle by coming home for about 10 days. My cousin Nick had just moved home from California where he had lived for 2 years. Wanting to see Jonny and Nick after 2 years of an ocean and majority of a country between us, I made plans to meet them half way for dinner at a place called Dry Ridge, KY – it’s a huge huge huge city with one or two stop lights. 🙂 The evening was crazy fun – delicious Skyline, much to JonJon’s chagrin and my eternal happiness, and, as most hang outs do when you’re in a town of less than 2,000 people, we found ourselves in Walmart in search of sparklers to light. It so happened during this WalMart experience that I filled them in on my disappointment in not being able to go to NYC to see Josy.

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Jonny mentioned that he would LOVE to go to NYC. I joked that we could road trip up. Our eyes got wide as we all sat and thought for a second if this could actually be a possibility. Brother (Nick’s other name to a lot of people who know him) said he had to work but if he could get off, then he was up for it.

The rest of the night was so fun, filled with outrunning Dry Ridge police (just kidding… I’m a little dramatic and chicken when it comes to even slightly breaking the law – like lighting sparklers behind random buildings…) and catching up with these crazies. The next day, Brother texted me saying he got off work for Monday and Tuesday. Because Jonny had to go back to Germany on Wednesday and I had plans until about 9:30pm on Sunday, we would have to leave late Sunday night and return by Tuesday night.

AND NOW. you are caught up to speed. 

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Prepare yourself, I make this face a lot.

Brother and Jonny borrowed my Uncle Jim’s wonderful car for the trip since both of ours were maybe not the greatest for a 24hr round trip road extravaganza. (Thanks Uncle Jim. We’re seriously in your debt). They picked me up around 10:15pm on Sunday, May 31. We brought a ton of blankets and pillows so we could turn the back seat into a bed. Our plan was to have 3 shifts – a driver (who would determine how long the shift lasted based on level of sleepiness), a navigator/keep-the-driver-awake-buddy, and someone sleeping in order to drive next. This system worked out pretty well. Of course none of us slept a ton but we were able to get a few Zzz’s in here and there and the rest of the time we got to catch up with whoever our buddy was upfront.

Around 5am, JonJon was driving and I was keeping him awake. We were so busy chatting that we didn’t realize the clouds were changing. Pretty soon, we were met with a beautiful sight – daylight. I never really thought about this but in Lexington, we are just about 2 hours or less from the border of Central Standard Time, so it’s fully light (these days in late May, early June) around 7 – 7:15am. Since we were sIMG_7725omewhere in West Virginia/Maryland, we were so much further so we got the sun sooner (funny how science works, eh?). So it was fully light by about 5:15. It was crazy.  I bet people living out here find it easier to get up early! 🙂

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Of course we were tired after our trip, but I can’t tell you how much fun it was. We ate the worst of food, spent way too much money on tollroads, but somehow, around 11:30am, we caught sight of the prize: New York CityIMG_7740 (such a beautiful disease). Unfortunately, just as we had feared based on the weather, it was raining like crazy and we really didn’t get a good glimpse till we arrived in the city. But still, 12ish hours later, we were happy with absolutely anything. We had arrived at the Big Apple! No going back now! 🙂

We were staying with Jonny’s aunt and uncle who lived literally right next to the Hudson River in Manhattan. It was a beautiful location and a really great apartment. We got settled then headed to meet Josy who was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Funny thing is it’s a lot easier to say “Let’s just take the subway” than to actually figure out exactly how to take the subway. I don’t mean to be a “name dropper” (or place dropper?)IMG_7742but LONDON’S public transit system is EASY as pie. It’s incredibly clear, direct, fun, and took me maybe 3 days to figure out completely. Granted, we didn’t have 3 days to figure out the subway and I think we got a good handle on it by the end, but it was rather frustrating how backwards and confusing it was. I’ve heard there are worse subway systems in the U.S., so I suppose I can’t complain. Good news is we figured it out and about 1.5 hours and 2 different native New Yorker conversations  later, we made it to Josy.

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An old Egyptian temple in the Met

The Met was absolutely stunning! There’s so much to see I don’t even know how you could go every day for a month and see it all.

Josy, the scholar that I’ve known since day 1 in London, had just taken a tour and so she proceeded to tell us everything she’d just learned about Impressionist paintings. She’s hilarious with how much information she absorbs on a daily basis. She’s the student every teacher wants where she hears it once and can spit it back out. It was great having her tell us about some of the priceless art hanging on the walls. We headed to an Egyptian temple exhibit in really awesome room surrounded by a pool of water. Pretty cool to see stuff that was flown in from Egypt and is thousands and thousands of years old.

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We ended the tour with a very small and expensive hot dog at the hot dog stand right outside. You know, when in Rome… er.. New York, I suppose.  Even with the rain there was such a hustle and bustle around the Met. We hung out around the front steps for a while, just taking it all in. Still couldn’t believe we had driven through the night and were currently in NEW YORK CITY! Best part was I wasn’t having to think at all about work back in Kentucky or really anything else. It was such a  “live in the present” moment. Really cool to get in the habit of living that way when you’re experiencing cool things.

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We then headed to Central Park – do you all know that this place is HUGE? I knew it was a pretty big park but I had no idea just how big. There are tons of little ponds, fountains, fixtures, buildings, paths, bridges, etc in this place. It’s really such an oasis surrounded by skyscrapers. The juxtaposition is incredible and peaceful. If I were to ever live in a city that large, I would need to come to this place on the weekly for sure.

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The rest of the day was full of soaking up as much as we could in such a short time. We ate a delicious dinner in Little Italy. Not sure if you know this but when you order a medium pizza in New York City, it’s going to look like this: Double the size of a normal medium pizza. The waitress decided she didn’t need to clear that little mistake up for us as Jonny, Nick, and I proceeded to order two of these medium pizzas. Cause you know, we were pretty hungry, surely 2 normal mediums would be perfect. Nope. HALF of a medium would have been perfect. But, you know. That’s how it goes. New York has $16 more of our dollars towards perfecting their subway system.

We then headed to take the (free – thank God) ferry to Staten Island. It is a really cool mini cruise liner, pretty much, that has a beautiful view of the city, and even with the rain and shortened buildings due to the thickness of the clouds and fog, it surely did not disappoint. IMG_7775

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After the ferry (and playing Sinatra’s New York, New York on our phones as we pulled into the dock..) we headed to none other than Time Square. I know this place is so touristy and I’m sure if I lived in NYC I wouldnIMG_7808‘t want to go there very often, but my goodness is it all things glorious. It’s the most iconic street of New York and it’s as bright as if it was daylight. Every advertisement just tries to outdo the one next to it and so there are so many lights and moving signs it’s overwhelming but awesome at the same time. We stood in the middle of it, taking a million pictures and just spinning in circles staring at the sky scrapers above us.

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We got some delicious New York Cheese cake at last minute (Josy ran in as they were closing, pleaded with them saying her friends had just driven 11 hours for cheesecake…) and ate it on the second floor of a McDonalds (yes, I said second floor of a McDonalds). At this point the lack of sleep AND constant stimulation of the day started catching up to us. If you’ve seen the first Avengers movie, I felt very similar to one of the scenes during the credits where they’re eating Shawarma. It’s ridiculous we weren’t in worse shape, tho. We had taken New York by storm with about 2 hours of sleep a piece and no real breaks to speak of outside of the subway rides. After we left, with cheesecake in our bellies, we started the over 1 hr commute home (due to the fact that it was about 1:45am and there weren’t many trains running). There were more than 5 or 6 times where I caught my head falling forward almost asleep. I would look over at Jonny and Nick to see the same struggle happening. Oh to be in bed. And oh, please Lord, do not let us fall asleep and miss our stop. We didn’t thankfully, and a little after 3am, we crawled into, what felt like the most comfortable beds in the world due to us not having slept in real beds since Saturday night.

We overslept the next morning, worrying Josy who we were supposed to meet at 9:30 for breakfast (it was about 10 when we awoke). But we managed to still get sIMG_7809ome delicious pancakes and much needed coffee before heading home.

It was so great to see this beautiful girl after almost 3 years. I don’t know when our paths will cross again but it was worth every mile travelled to see her.

After saying our goodbyes, The Californian, the German, and the Kentuckian headed back, this time with a plan to avoid tolls (almost made. I think in total we paid about $50 in tolls and bridge/tunnel fees.)IMG_7844

The boys passed out pretty soon into the trip which was fine. It was nice to sit in silence for a little bit. I couldn’t have been more grateful for the trip we were just experiencing together.

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We made sure to stop by Taco Bell on the way home (the one place Jonny needed to get to before leaving America). We made it back to Lexington a little after midnight, and the boys to Cincinnati a little after 1:30am.

I am so thankful to Jesus for great friends (cousins – real and adopted), a flexible job where I could be gone on a Monday and Tuesday, no children yet that allows me to do random things like this, a supportive husband who is slaving away at the Fire Academy but was very happy to let me have a couple days of adventure, and the coolest places on Earth that I hope to see more and more of as the years go by.

I am an adventurer at heart. And I will remember this trip forever.

Let the Ruins Come to Life

 

“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it.” – Acts 15:16.

The song, Glorious Ruins, by Hillsong,  has been a song close to my heart for about a year now. I’ve mentioned it in the past and I’ll probably mention it again. But the song is an incredible reminder to me of the power Jesus has over our lives when we don’t have even the slightest hope.

Life has been good, great – if you will. There hasn’t been a ton that has gone wrong, yet I have found myself from time to time in a hopeless state – what am I doing? What is my purpose? Why am I the way that I am? Why don’t I have my life together in this perfect little form?

And today as I sat thinking about all these things I turned on this song. It nearly always brings me to tears because the words have such power over my soul. When Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble,” he did mean all the things that bring us down – physical pain, death, job issues, relationship struggles, etc. But trouble also signifies emotional instability and internal fear, feeling of failure, insecurity, etc. I feel as though, for myself, when life is hard, my emotional state is actually decently stable because I’m having to solely rely on Jesus. When life is going well, I’ve noticed that my emotions run dry as I feel as though I shouldn’t feel sad about anything because I’ve been given an abundance of blessings. And so, I almost feel as though I avoid God because this is my issue – this isn’t something that’s happening to me but rather something that I’m dealing with, with no reason as to why it ever even came up. I can’t put what I’m feeling into words, so how could I even pray about it?

This is the time where I have to step back and realize that I’m the most vulnerable to lies at this point. When I’m going through a physical/tangible struggle, yes you are susceptible to lies, but you also usually have such a support system behind you that is speaking truth against those lies. When something attacks you from the inside you feel, in a sense, dumb that you are pointlessly feeling low or insecure. And so the lies come forward, trying to tear at your innermost walls.

But then remember the rest of that verse in John. “In this world you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART, I have overcome the world.” When he says Take Heart he has overcome, he means he’s overcome it all. He, out of everyone knows the point of feeling low and not having a support system to speak of. image1 (4)

And so today, as I was trying to process all of this, I turned Glorious Ruins on and I sketched for a little bit. God didn’t say it would be easy but he promises us power and protection against everything that might come at us. He promises to turn our ruins into something simply glorious. He doesn’t care if we can’t put our prayers into words. Simply sitting and letting him love you is enough sometimes.

I’ll walk through the fire with my head lifted high and my spirit revived in your story. And I’ll look to the cross as my failure is lost in the light of your glorious grace. Let the ruins come to life, in the beauty of your name, rising up from the ashes – God forever your reign! And my soul will find refuge in the shadow of your wings. I will love you forever and forever I’ll sing.

Life in Color

It’s been forEVER. Enough with the inevitable excuses of I’m so busy, have lots I need to do, yada yada, you’ve heard it all before..

So to recap.

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+Still married. YAY. Success for a year and a half! He’s okay, I suppose 😉 Grateful for his friendship in my life just as much as I appreciate him being my husband.

+For some reason as much as they tell me they hate me and I suck (I’m actually being serious because they do tell me this daily in the most “lovingly” way possible ;)) my boss and manager decided it was a good idea to promote me to Community Relations Coordinator. And. I. Love it. It’s definitely a challenge for me, but It’s so worth it and I’m starting to meet a lot of new people – something that, if you can imagine, I look forward to daily.

+I have shot 3 weddings already this year since January! (Pictured is one of my assistants, Marietta, and I during a wedding in February) I had not had even a spare moment to edit them and since my laptop was the WORSTimage3 ever it made it all the more hard to get them done. BUT, my hard work has paid off and as I sit here, I am writing on my brand spanking new 27 inch iMac. I. am. In. Love. So now I have been copying footage over as often as I can and I will commence with the hours of editing I have ahead of me. I am also working on a website for my videography and will share it with you as soon as I can!

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+Andrew and I still have so much love for this cutie (to the left) and her family. She makes me not want to have children ever..but she makes me want to babysit her all the time. So it’s a happy medium 🙂

+I quit at Anthropologie in February after buying the greatest pair of jeans I have ever worn with my 60% off discount…I got them for $75 so you do the math. I will never spend that much money every again…but I will never own a pair of jeans as awesome as these ever again. Oh the price of BEAUTY! 🙂

So going forward..

I never got to do this over New Years Eve or my birthday as I had wanted. So I wanted to share with you some goals I have for the new year. I am hoping to be able to blog about these so as to offer some accountability to myself but also share what I’m learning in the process. But since I feel like there’s SO much I want to get better at in my life, I thought I would just share and focus on 3 for a few weeks. I can obviously work on the rest but this way I can look at what the priorities are.

So here we go.

Goal #1 // Be in really good shape.  — Yes I realize this is age old. I was going to say “impeccable shape” and then realized that that was not realistic for me. I don’t need to be a crazy inspiration to anyone or be in a photo that’s tagged on pinterest under a board entitled “Fitness.” I just want to 1) not be out of breath running up stairs, 2)Not have to ask a man to lift something for me that should be pretty easy for me to do my self, and 3) Not feel crappy about myself when I look at pictures of myself in the summer time. I just want to be in a good, solid place.

Tangible Goal: Run a 5k without walking. I’m looking in the Lexington and Cincinnati areas for a FUN race. I don’t want to just do a 5k just do to do it, but either to support a good cause or just have really good photos or experiences from it. Let me know if you know of one

Action Step: I download Couch to 5k on my phone. I’m going to try to run 4-5 times a week, and then go to the YMCA 3 times a week. Obviously these can overlap, but one way or the other they have to happen.


Goal #2 // Seek First the Kingdom — This is so hard to put into terms of a goal since we can always be getting better, but it’s still something I want to put here as something I need to be better at. I love Jesus a whole lot. I just need to figure out how to incorporate more of him into my life.

Tangible Goal: Spend 10 – 20 minutes a day reading my Bible. This really is not a lot at all but, but once I can do this EVERY day, I can up it. I also need to be praying specifically for people and things going on whenever I can – in my car, in the shower, etc. Just keeping the lines of communication open.

Action Step: I started a 7 day plan on my YouVersion app. It’s short, but once I finish it, I’ll feel successful and start a new one! I also wrote out people I want to keep in mind while I’m praying and stuck it in my Bible.


Goal #3 // Spending my time not in waste — I’m the BIGGEST time waster and procrastinator ever! I want to be able to know when I have time to just relax and then what I should do to get the most out of that relaxation (for instance, in the bath with a book is probably a better way to relax than sitting on the couch with my phone in hand and television on). I also have things that are put off for hours, days, weeks, sometimes months (those of you who know me are laughing right now because it’s SO TRUE – example – thank you notes!). I want to figure out how to use my time wisely and put things in a standard of priority where I will actually take the time to get them done. If it means I can’t go out with friends or watch a movie with Andrew, it means I can’t! Finally, figuring out time with friends, time by my self, and time with my husband.

Tangible Goal: When I write things down on my list to do, they get done within 3 days – very few exceptions. When I feel stressed, tired, etc, I further my mind with reading instead of polluting it with television.

Action Step: Putting my phone up at a certain time in the evening unless there’s an important conversation or I need it for something. If the television is on, what else can I be doing with my time while it’s on (i.e. cleaning, doing laundry, maybe doing some abs?). Catching myself when I start sitting for too long.

So…I’ll be keeping you posted on how I’m doing with these!

For now…it’s back to editing!

Living the Kentucky Life

Since making Kentucky my home I have come to learn about the many little things that make it perfect. Horse races, rolling hills, Wildcat basketball, the greatest small city to exist – Lexington, what up – Ale8 soda-pop, and of course bourbon.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetSo for my afternoon off from work, which comes pretty rarely, I’m cleaning my house, making some dinner, watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix, and drinking the exceptional drink of Ale8 and bourbon. I hated bourbon the first time I tried it (my WONDERFUL husband – boyfriend at the time – made me take a shot and it set my throat afire), but after bits and sips since then, I’ve come to love it, especially mixed in with something else awesome (i.e. Ale8, ice cream from Sav’s Chill or Crank n Boom, Brewshine from A Cup of Common Wealth). It’s just incredible. So get you some on this fall afternoon in the late remains of October. And if you can’t, just come down to Kentucky. Because it’s awesome, and I love it, and it’s my home.

#CanadacationEh?

I’m almost two weeks late on this post, but over the Labor Day weekend, Andrew’s family took a little vacation (Canadacation) to Gatlinburg in Tennessee. This was an awesome time for us all to have together because we aren’t all in one place very often or for more than a day at a time. I think this will be the first of many trips with the Canada family.

The first morning, Yohan, Ian, Andrew, and myself woke up at 5 in the morning and dragged ourselves up into the Smokey Mountains and succeeded to the point at Chimney Tops where we watched the sun in all its glory rise to start the day. How cool of a God do we have that not only do we have glorious sunrises but also glorious sunrises from glorious views such as from a mountain.

Yohan and I stuck around on the side as to avoid tumbling to our death. Andrew and Ian ventured to the top for an even cooler view of the sun.

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Credit to my husband for this fantastic photo from his phone. 

 

I just love this kind of thing. I will never get tired of it. The world really is beautiful. 

Working at Home: The Need for Motivation

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetFor the last several months I’ve endeavored to push my freelance career a bit further. With two other part time jobs, an apartment to take care of, a husband to tend to, and of course a life I’d like to actually enjoy, it can be extremely difficult to keep myself motivated and disciplined to finish the task at hand. However, unless I want to forego this dream I have of telling stories through the visual and digital aesthetic, I have to figure out how to make it work some how. I know many people who have to work at home as well, whether they are self employed, a part of a large corporation, or freelancing their work out to other businesses.

So I’ve compiled seven things I do to help me stay motivated, complete tasks in timely manners, and ENJOY the work in the process, after all, if you’re in this situation, it’s 9 times out of 10 because you actually like what you’re doing – why else would you put forth the effort?

These are more or less what I do, or am in the process of trying to do. They work for me – they might not work for you, but I encourage you to find the things that do work. Don’t let “Adult Status” and “Work Life” be a bad thing.

One: Dress For It

You dress for any other job according to the standards, so why not now? Of course you are at home so there’s no one to hold you to a dress code. But one thing I’ve noticed for myself is that if I get up, shower, and pick out some kind of outfit I’m going to enjoy being in, then it will add a couple of points to my motivation level. Yes, I’ll be sitting in front a computer for hours, so it’s going to have to be comfortable, but maybe slightly trendy or artsy to help awaken the creativeness in me. Yes, it sounds bizarre, but just trust me on this one – especially if you’re a girl, it’s occasionally helpful, especially when you’re feeling unmotivated. If you don’t care to dress a certain way, definitely give the shower a try – it wakes you up, tells you its time to stop being lazy.

Two: Set Deadlines

I’ve never successfully completed a project in a timely manner if I didn’t have a deadline. I just can’t do it. There are too many other things that have deadlines or time constraints that I have to take care of. Ask me if Andrew and I have finished our thank you notes from our wedding. We’ve been married ten months. And the answer is no, we haven’t. Why? There’s no strict deadline – everyone has their own opinion when they need to go out, but no one is making me do any of it, and maybe some people look down on it, but I’m not going to lose a job over it or lose money over it. But the truth is, it isn’t classy, and it’s not particularly thoughtful, so we should have set a deadline. Hindsight.

Such is with working at home. If you are freelancing, you’re more than likely to have a deadline. If you’re in charge of setting it, look at the amount of time it’s going to take you to complete it,  time you have available, a buffer period of time for things that go wrong,  just because they WILL go wrong, it’s inevitable – then set the date, put it in a contract, set up some consequences if you don’t follow through – don’t let anyone give you any breaks. For your sake it just needs to get done!

If you aren’t being held to a deadline by someone else, find someone. It’s that important. Do you think if you set a goal for yourself you will be motivated to not push the deadline back when you inevitably put things off and don’t meet it? There are no consequences, so why not wait a bit longer? Find someone who will hold you accountable, tell them your deadlines and that they need to be checking up on you if you haven’t contacted them by such and such a time. I have several of these people in my life and it’s very helpful.

So set a deadline – set several. For my editing I set a “First Edit” goal which is when every second of my editing timeline has a clip in it and the audio is where it needs to be. Nothing is color corrected, text isn’t ready, and I may end up deleting half of it and changing it, but every frame is accounted for. Then I set a “Second Edit” goal which is when I’m happy with everything in it, but it still needs additional color correction or effects, text, or audio tweaked. Then I set my “Final Edit” goal which is when I can render it and say “I’m done, I’m not doing anything else.” The final goal is exporting, burning, and sending it in the mail and/or uploading it online or on dropbox.  I don’t necessarily express all of these goals to my accountability person, but I at least tell them the final goal date and maybe the First Edit date. Whatever you want to do as long as it keeps you motivated and moving.

If you don’t struggle with lack of deadlines, well then, I dislike you very much.

Three: Limit the screen time

More than likely if you’re doing freelance, you’re having a considerable amount of screen time in your life. So there’s a lot that you can’t really control. What you CAN control is the amount of screen time you have before, after, and in between when you’re working. I’m awful at this. But when you know you have a huge day of work on the computer ahead of you, don’t watch TV in the morning, don’t look at Facebook for an hour, try to limit the amount of time you’re looking at your phone, etc. Read a book, people. It’s so helpful. If you’re busy like me, you probably have a stack of dishes that need to be either cleaned or put a way. If your house is completely clean, I’m sure there’s something that needs to be reorganized. Or maybe go work out or take a hike. There are a million things that don’t require or use screens at all. There are of course exceptions to this. Sometimes I like to put on a movie while I clean so I don’t get bored – I consider this okay because I’m not sitting down and focusing on the television, it’s more background noise than anything. But don’t wake up to your phone, move to the TV, browse the internet, then work for 8 hours on your computer, come back and repeat. This is such an unhealthy thing for our eyes, our brains, and our lifestyle in general. I’m not a pro at this, but I need to try to be.

Four: Find the right background noise

When I was in college I had a class where I had to write a script. The script was about an emotional struggle a girl was going through – and if I can get to the place where I feel her emotion, I can get into writing that script. So I found this song Lothlorien by Enya. I fell in love with the emotion this song brought to me and I played it on repeat for hours. I’m not even joking – this song played so many times in a row but I didn’t get sick of it at all. I just wrote. I wrote that script, I went back and rewrote it, and I wrote the heart and soul out of that girl. You know what the coolest part of that song is today? Pavlov’s theory. I hear that song, I feel like being productive. Once I realized the effect that song had on my productivity mentality, I started adding to it. I now have a playlist on Spotify that is titled “Quiet Productivity.” It includes other Enya songs, some Lord of the Rings music, and some other stuff. Most of them don’t have words so that I can focus, but they all push me to work harder.

For you, this could look very differently, but Pavlov was onto something – when things happen over and over again, our brains connect them to the things we were doing at the time. It’s really awesome how this works.

Five: Find the right atmosphere

One thing I’ve found that I really need is to be excited about the place I’m getting stuff done in. The lighting needs to be right, I need to have a comfy chair, good temperature, and a cup of tea, coffee, or ice water by myself. On a good day, maybe a bowl of watermelon or fresh blueberries. If the work you’re doing is on a laptop, switch up the location. Take a tour of your city’s local coffee shops. Visit various libraries on college campuses or in communities. Find cafes where you can treat yourself to something while also being productive. I used to love when finals were coming in school because myself and a bunch of friends would go to coffee shops and study or camp out in the library – it’s really a good time especially when you can make your space your home for a few hours. I like to keep things organized, so I CANNOT be productive in a space that is messy. I may not be the cleanest person ever, but if I want to work in my living room, I have to clean it first. So sometimes a coffee shop is a better alternative for me.

Now if you are in my CURRENT situation where you are confined to a desktop or iMac, or maybe needing to be in a certain office space, you can’t necessarily go anywhere you want, or anywhere at all. This is a bummer, but find things to switch it up or just make it comfortable. As I said before, fix your lighting, make yourself some tea with honey, buy some fresh blueberries or make yourself a sweet or savory snack – create your own atmosphere. Stand up at times if you can, work on your abs while your sitting, whatever it is, you can make it happen. Trust me. I once was studying and could only be in a study room located in my dorm because the library was closed and my roommate was asleep. I hauled three blankets, a huge lamp, a water heater, a whole box of tea, my favorite mug, all my study materials, and some munchies into that tiny little room. It was instantly transformed and I was able to successfully study for hours. It was awesome.

Six: Change it up

I get really tired of what I’m doing after a while, even with all the motivation. So, especially when I’m working at a different location, away from my home, I take other stuff that needs to be done with me. If I need to read a book for school, a life group, or whatever, I bring it with me. The other day I took my thank you notes with me and wrote while things were exporting or I needed a break. Need to write some emails or schedule out your week? Pick a good time in the middle of your work day to do that so your mind can get away from what you’ve been doing. If possible, try not to look at a screen, but if you have to, just make it different from what you were doing. This helps reset your brain, and give you a different change of pace – it also helps you get some other things done that you might not have been anticipating. If you are at home, maybe make some lunch or start dinner, clean up a little, or rearrange your closet – whatever it is, take advantage of it – don’t let it take up too much of your time (distraction and procrastination don’t go well together) but with the appropriate amount of time, it’s helpful.

Seven: Take care of yourself

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I will run myself into the ground, eat ice cream for any available meal, and forego sleep when necessary or even not necessary. I also punish myself as opposed to rewarding myself. I challenge you (as I am challenging myself) to NOT do any of this. You are working just as hard as you would be at a normal job. Maybe you aren’t doing physical labor but your brain is working extremely hard, therefore your body is trying to help your brain out and using the nutrients put into it. So take care of your body, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For the physical aspect, make sure you are sleeping – if you stay up late the night before, try to sleep in a couple of extra hours. If you know you have to get up early, go to bed early – you won’t do yourself any good if you are exhausted. Try to get some work out time in as well – your body can’t sit all day and work well. If you hate working out or don’t have time, go for a walk, or maybe just do some up and down the stairs cleaning to get your muscles moving. Try also to eat a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner (not just chocolate cookies and cream ice cream).

For the mental aspect, try to do a crossword puzzle, sudoku, or maybe read the newspaper. Get your brain thinking about something else. You don’t have to stop using it, just turn off the creative part, and turn on the technical part.

For the emotional/psychological aspect, reward yourself. Give yourself ice cream at the end of the day (not for dinner..for dessert). Take a hot steaming bubble bath. Pamper yourself! You’ve been working hard, so reward yourself for the hard work! Now don’t reward yourself if you did nothing – but acknowledge that amount of work that you did and thank your body for helping you get through that. If you enjoy baking, make sure you have an hour at the end of the night to whip up some chocolate chip cookies. Tell yourself you’ll do this after you’ve gotten a certain amount of work done and then indulge to the fullest. It really promotes great emotional (and even mental) health to complete tasks and be rewarded for them.

Don’t make excuses (I REALLY need sleep so I’m going to sleep in till noon), but allow yourself to stretch the boundaries at times (I always get up at 7, so since I’m exhausted I’ll sleep till 9 and then get up and start being productive). It’s OKAY to do that! If you’re afraid you’ll take advantage of it, get your accountability partner back in place!