2014 & Weird New Things

Happy New Year, everyone!

Last night, everyone kicked 2013 out of the way to welcome 2014. It’s been a long while since I’ve had a good New Year celebration. Actually, I don’t even really remember having a specifically nice New Year’s, like, ever. I remember New Year’s Eves spent sitting on the couch and web-surfing with my parents while the news showed the ball drop in the corner of the living room as casually as if it were just another night on which we were letting Star Trek reruns play in the background. I remember another year, in high school, I was being an angsty teenager for not being driven to celebrate the coming of the new year with my first serious boyfriend. The year I met my fiancee, I was home alone because my folks were at a party with their friends. The next year was spent with some friends, which was fun but also somewhat socially stressful. Last year, I was working all day on New Year’s Eve, and only managed to get out of work by 11:45; the new year came while I was in my car, speeding to a friend’s place, where Luke was celebrating with friends until I could get there.

This year, I was expecting the same situation as last year. I worked all day New Year’s Eve, and was fully prepared to be there for the restaurant-wide champagne toast at midnight. However, we were actually pretty slow (extremely so, compared to last year) because of various reasons, and I was cut by 8:45 (which is early to be cut, even on a normal weekend shift). I was able to get out of work with enough time to stop at home and change into normal clothes before heading to where Luke was celebrating. This year, he was at his grandparents’ house with a lot of family. I didn’t tell him I made it out of work and could be with him at midnight, so it was a surprise when I turned up. When I arrived, I got lots of welcoming hugs before finding Luke playing a game (of course – what else?) called Munchkins with his brothers and cousins. I quietly settled next to his chair and started rubbing his back, and after a minute he turned to see who it was and just about fell out of his chair when he saw it was me (he comically repeated his double take – ridiculous faces and all – to play off just how surprised he had been). Obviously, a giant bear hug followed. Happy.

I got there at around 11, and had time to grab some grub and socialize before we all gathered in the main living room to watch the ball drop and cheers with sparkling juices. At the end of the countdown, we all cheered, sipped our drinks, and the room began churning and stirring from everyone going around hugging absolutely everyone else. I grew up separate from all of my extended family, and it’s just my parents, my sister and I here in Michigan, and most family gatherings included stuffy road trips and a fair share of personality clashes. Luke has at least a hundred members of his family (read: clan) here. They get together all the time. Seeing the entire room of family so relaxed and comfortable and happy was really new. And really great. 

Shortly thereafter, we all migrated to a different room to take a family picture (also not as long, stressful, or exhausting as the ones I grew up with!). However, there was one thought that hit me hard: this is the first year that Grammy never gets to see. The already-heightened emotions in the room definitely gave way to a wave of momentary crying. I told Luke and he just hugged me and soon everyone was back to chilling and playing games. 

2014 is going to be a huge year for me. I’ll be leaving the restaurant I’ve been at longer than any other, I’ll be getting married, moving out of my parents’, finding a new job, and starting a new education program (massage therapy, probably. Maybe grad school. I’m still picking which to start first). And, I get a huge new family (and brothers! which I’ve always wanted). Lots of new, weird things to do and responsibilities to have. 

All weird stuff. Stuff I’m sure I’ll get used to at some point. Hopefully, I can learn to be super organized, responsible, and tragically domestic and actually do those meal planning things and decorate a home and have a cleaning schedule and such. How else will I get along without my mom nagging me to empty the dishwasher? We’ll see what obstacles I can conquer. I’ve seen a lot of statuses about being glad to leave 2013 behind, but I feel like I can’t help but be aware that the things I want to leave behind in 2013 (grief, stress, homework,  etc.) will all carry over and find me in 2014. The only thing I can hope for is to face these things with more flexibility, resilience, and positivity.

And now, I’m going to get all list-makey and organize, clean, sort out schedules, appointments, resolutions, and to-do lists.

Happy New Year!

 

My Engagement Details/FAQ

So, I have my own engagement story now! And, since many people have been asking me for details, I have created an FAQ for the occasion!

MY RING!

My ring!

When did you get engaged?

I got engaged Sunday, December 1st.

How did he propose? 

Well, we went out on a romantic date to a fancy-ish restaurant in downtown Rochester, MI. Every holiday season, they are notorious for having every inch of each and every building and storefront covered in Christmas lights. They’re all different colors – some patterned, some solid – it’s really beautiful. At dinner, we were lucky enough to be sat a table by the window so I could see the town from my table. This particular restaurant has paper as table cloths and crayons at each setting. I always love this and have fun drawing and writing things to him across the table. It’s fun seeing how well I can or cannot write mushy things upside down. Our food was great, and then we head out to walk a block or two along the lit-up town.

A small, bad angle of our restaurant.

A small, bad angle of our restaurant.Our dinnersOur dinnersI just adore that smirk.I just adore that smirk!

Trying to write upside down on the paper table cloths!

Trying to write upside down on the paper table cloths!

Some were more successful than others at writing upside down ;D

Our next stop was this fantastic dessert and coffee shop that has a significantly artsy, cafe ambiance and atmosphere. They’ve got everything – house-roasted coffee, cheesecakes, mousse, etc. We decided on chocolate fondue for two, and settled into a love seat by a coffee table. We talked while our chocolate melted and got warm, and they brought over the dish of our fruit and cookies to dip. Once we had finished, we began discussing logistics and timelines of getting married. Luke then began an adorable little monologue about things he loves about me and how he doesn’t want to ever be with anyone else, and proceeded to get on one knee in front of me (still sitting on the couch). He pulled out the ring box, asked me to marry him, which I answered “yes” and we hugged and it’s pretty typical from there!

Our yummy dessert - chocolate fondue!

Our yummy dessert – chocolate fondue!

Our last picture of being just boyfriend/girlfriend.

Our last picture of being just boyfriend/girlfriend.

His car has bluetooth capability so we ended the nigh by sitting in his warm car, calling our families on speakerphone together to tell them we were engaged.

It was perfect, and even though it was technically a public engagement, because we were sitting and he just shifted his weight to get on one knee on the floor, it really wasn’t obvious at all what he was doing. It still felt very private and intimate. No crowd applauding, no congratulatory comments on our way out. It was perfect.

Did you cry or scream?

Haha, no, I didn’t. =]

Did you know it was coming?

Yes, I did. I had known for a while because we discussed it a lot. Nevertheless I had been feeling held in such suspense! It’s been surreal that it’s actually happened.

Do you have a date planned?

Well, we have a couple in mind. It’s been less than a week, so any planning that I’ve/we’ve done has been really spontaneous and kind of up-in-the-air still. We want to make sure the date we choose works best for the most important people to us before we move forward with plans and announcements. We are looking at May or early June, though. I’ll keep you posted.

Where are you getting married?

I also have no clue about this yet. Like I said, it’s been less than a week. He proposed on Sunday, and it is Friday (technically, it’s the wee hours of Saturday morning).

What’s the best part about being engaged?

The best part has really been the fact that I have been feeling so special to have my sister and two best friends so excited for me and so enthusiastic about everything, and that Luke’s family has done absolutely nothing but welcomed me with open arms and excited smiles. It’s been very sweet.

Also, I like being able to actually discuss/toy with plans and ideas without looking like a lame person for planning her wedding before even being engaged. I’m not gonna lie, that was definitely happening a little bit. Guilty. Sue me.

What is the most difficult part about being engaged?

In the moment, I want to say the most difficult part has been trying to nail down a date. Luke and I are both anxious to just be able to have a date decided and run with it. I feel like everyday I’ve been making calls trying to figure out what day works for our immediate families and best friends. Once we can just get a solid date decided, we’ll feel like we can actually get started on some other solid plans and begin to flesh out the actual wedding.

Another really difficult thing is still dealing with the recent passing of my wonderful grandmother (my mom’s mom), and figuring out how to make room for all the happy and excitement in all the grief and pain and complicated family matters that arise from such events. Luke told me the night he proposed that he was hoping to propose on my birthday (September 16th), but nothing about that really went right (the weather was awful, and our plans involved a lot of outdoors – and also I hurt my ankle very badly), so he held off. The first thing that popped into my head at that time was If he had proposed on my birthday, I could have called Grammy about it. I did tell Luke this. We’ve talked about it and he actually told me it came up in a conversation with her and he got to tell her how he had a ring and was planning to propose ASAP. That makes me really happy, that she knew. Grief comes in waves, and more than once in just this week, I’ve found myself looking at one thing or another that made me think of her, or even just thinking about how excited and adoring she would be over the situation and crying. But it’s okay. Ultimately, right now I’m so very glad to have a reason to bring my family together for something to celebrate, considering a funeral was cause for our last gathering.

Additionally, I’m having a terribly difficult time getting used to calling him my fiancee. So, that’s pretty hard. Words are hard. whomp whomp.

The Anxious Mind

Sometimes it just hits me.

The deadlines, the lab reports, the appointments and social engagements, the performances, rehearsals, concerts and homework, working and the grief and the guilt of not being able to tackle my own personal agenda. I can’t do everything I want to and I can’t avoid getting burnt out. All of the pressure (from school, work, myself) is a lot, especially when I have my own emotional mess to already try to cope with and sort out in addition to everything else. I’m trying to not let myself have to ask for grace or help or anything special. I don’t know if this is because I feel like I shouldn’t or if it’s because I’m scared I’ll just appreciate that too much and take advantage of it and let myself fall behind. There’s the part of my brain that tells me I can do everything just fine, and I don’t know whether or not the part of me saying it’s too much is being lazy. 

When I was really little (like kindergarten and first grade) I developed this habit of lying for attention. I don’t remember if I’ve discussed this before, but I was awful. It started when I told my kindergarten class I was 6 years old like everyone else when I was really 5. Well, when my mom brought the whole class cupcakes to celebrate my 6th birthday, I was outed. Somehow, I didn’t learn my lesson and the whole thing got progressively worse until it all culminated in me telling my first grade teacher about how my baby brother had got a hold of some matches and my family was now dealing with the loss of his life and our apartment.

I don’t have a baby brother and I never did. No fires burnt down our home. To this day I don’t really have any idea why I even said that. My teacher immediately contacted the principal and my parents and I don’t even remember what happened after that except I’m sure my teacher thought I was a delinquent dummy or something.

Recently, I’ve noticed that the embarrassment of knowing I had that habit at some point makes me feel guilty about bringing anything up that might bring me any more attention than usual or be a reason I may get any special treatment. I don’t want to tell my professors about my grandmother’s passing because I’m scared they (and I) will think I’m just milking it to get special treatment and extensions. I don’t know if this is normal but it’s an issue in my head that just makes everything fuzzy and makes me anxious because I don’t feel like I certainly know when I need something and when I’m crossing a line.

I know this isn’t a fun post and it’s weird and personal and (ironically) all about me (when I’m sitting here worried about getting attention). It’s just what I need to say today and blogging is about being vulnerable sometimes, right? It’s hard.

My choir director recently addressed anxiety and depression and he told us to break every little thing on our minds down into the smallest pieces of a task we can make them. One quote that popped in my head was “Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is get up when the alarm goes off. (which I have not been successfully doing much at all lately). But he took it further and put it this way: When our alarm goes off, just tell yourself that you’re just going to put your feet on the floor. You don’t have to commit to getting up and walking to the shower and if you want to lay back down once your feet are on the floor, you totally can. Just put your feet on the floor and make that decision after. And proceeding on: Are you going to decide to lay back down, or are you going to decide to stand up? You can lay back down once you stand up, but just stand. And it goes on.

Another thing I’ve been focusing on anytime my guilt radar goes off or I find one thing or another to feel anxious or nervous or sad about is just to tell myself it’s okay. It’s okay. My family generally eats rather healthily, but when my mom came home with swiss rolls and Lucky Charms, she tried apologizing or saying she shouldn’t have. I laughed and told her it’s totally okay. Heck, all I’ve been eating lately is cereal and canned soup (and my morning coffee). Now isn’t the time in our lives to hold our personal goals of calorie counting or regularly meditating or keeping the house clean or getting 8 solid hours of restful sleep every night or going out with people as much as we used to. It’s not easy, but every time it comes up, I just have to breathe, let it go, and make the next choice.

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety and depression, you can probably definitely relate to one of my all-time favorite blogger’s post, Adventures in Depression. (Don’t worry, there’s pictures! And you may even chuckle.) And the Part Two to that post really helps put things into perspective about when people try to talk to you about how to “fix being depressed.”

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Remember, Remember

As most of the people in my life know, my lovely grandmother, Faye, passed away a couple weeks ago. However, I am indescribably fortunate to have had the chance to go to London with her in 2012. One thing I just really remember well is, while walking down the street from Bayswater tube station to our hotel, I brought up one of my favorite lists of things to remember:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. When it’s over, it’s over

I don’t remember the context of the conversation, and I don’t really remember her reaction to it, no matter how much I wish I could. One reason I like these points so much is because it helps me remember that there are things I just can’t control – especially timing and the way some things turn out. 

These points are particularly poignant for me in the wake of her passing. in times like these, I think we all tend to reflect upon things we feel we could have done differently or done sooner or things we should have said. For me, the most significant thing was getting over a huge obstacle in my relationship with Grammy. For years, I went through this angsty, resentful, and jaded phase with her in the wake of her first husband’s death (more me/my issues than her). Thanks to time and also our trip together, we had lots of opportunities to talk through a lot of this (and more).

“Whenever it starts is the right time.” I have to accept that this healing process for our relationship started when it was the right time for it to start. I know I gained so much life experience and perspective and maturity in the time between Granddaddy’s death in 2004 and our trip in 2012. I have to think that that time and that growing process were things I had to go through in order to get to a level where I could meet her in conversation about it. 

“Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” Obviously, this is a significant concept while dealing with the death of a loved one. What if she hadn’t been where she was or doing what she was doing or dealing with what she was dealing with? Couldn’t we have made it better or hold on to her longer if one thing or another was different? Blah blah blah, and the list goes on as long as we let it. It means we can fret all we want about changing the past, but the important thing is to learn to accept it and reflect on ways you can help yourself heal and continue on. (Not “move on.” I don’t think you ever really move on from a pain or loss of some one dear to you. Continue on. Keep going.) There’s nothing that could have gone any differently, and that’s really okay.

“Whoever comes are the right people.” At the viewings for my grandmother, the lines of the visitors were out the door. Each one had their own story about ways my grandmother had touched their life or helped them in one way or another. Some were even people who had met her when she just started talking to them while waiting in line somewhere. When people come into your life, there’s always something you can get from interacting with them. Sometimes the influence and presence of others is very clear and loud; sometimes their influence is quiet and only comes into your perspective later in life.

Sometimes the people in our lives hurt us. Sometimes we fall into unhealthy patterns with others. As much as it flat-out sucks to be honest about this, there is still always a takeaway. Now, I can tell you “everything happens for a reason” as much as any other person, greeting card, keychain, poster, song, or status in the world tries to, but what I need you to know is that I’m not actually confident that there really is any light, simple, logical reason behind every little thing that happens. Stuff happens that doesn’t make any sense.

The only thing I can say is that there can probably always be something you learn or experience or takeaway from these times. And I need you to know that these revelations come when you don’t know they will. You will overhear one of your classmates talking; your barista will make some small-talk with you; you will read a text message or a Facebook comment; you will listen to a song you’ve heard a thousand times over and you will hear something strange and new; you will re-read a book and have a completely different  experience; some one will simply ask you how you are.  It’ll click. Or, you’ll become aware of something lurking in your head and you will wrestle with it until you can verbalize and define it. You’ll make connections between events, quotes, shared glances, lyrics, and thoughts. Don’t worry about trying to find some elusive meaning or a silver lining in the midst of dark and confusing events. Try, instead, to remember to keep yourself open to and aware of anything you may feel or think or need. Notice everything. Write about it. In a week, six months, three years, a decade, you may make one of these connections; you will gain some understanding and perspective.

It’s more than likely that this conversation I had with my grandmother happened after finding out that her mother figure had passed away back home while we were in London, which makes me all the more curious about her internal reaction to them. I’m sure this list meant even more to her than it did to me at the time.

“When it’s over, it’s over.”

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Queen Victoria and My Grandmother

Write hard and clear about what hurts .

-Earnest Hemingway

My grandmother passed away three days ago. That’s what hurts, Earnest Hemingway. It hurts really badly. So I’m going to write about it because I don’t know how else to understand it. I’m confused, and it doesn’t make any sense.

One of the most important times in my relationship with Grammy was the trip to London she took with me in the spring of 2012. This was my 16th birthday present. Okay, so I was 19, but we were making up for my 16th because I had gone through a hard time with the death of her husband, my Granddaddy,  years ago and also struggled to understand some things she did to cope with it. That’s a completely different conversation, but long story short, we had come to a place where we were closer and more understanding and we had decided to go on the adventure she offered me when I turned 16.

Death was surprisingly a significant presence on the course of this adventure in London. I don’t think I quite recognized this before the reflection that I have been plummeted into due to her own death, but looking back, I recognize a lot of connections, conversations, comments, and experiences relating to death that were a part of that experience.

We’ll start with probably the most significant: Grammy had been taking care of a woman, Ruby, who was really like her mother – she was the nanny for her and her siblings, and she even saved her life once.  Grammy just adored Ruby and would talk about her all the time and you could tell it was just a joy for Grammy to take care of her and see her every day. Ruby hadn’t been doing so well when we took off for London, but she was in the care of her family for the two weeks we would be away. I remember Grammy saying “Don’t let her die while I’m gone, okay?”

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