30 Days of Thanks

30 Days of Thanks | Day 10 | Sister, Sister

I  used to wish I were an only child. I remember the pink pages of my Hello Kitty diary being filled with complaining for my very unfortunate lot in life, to be in constant company of not just one, but TWO of these beings called sisters. These rants came especially on the days when a favorite blouse went missing only to be "accidentally" discovered in my sisters' laundry pile. Or during the times that the lesson of sharing was highly emphasized in any situation involving chocolate or toys or a chance at the Nintendo controller. One wrong, cross-eyed look sometimes set into motion a spiral of fights, slamming of doors, and a vow that you will never get passed my half of the room!!

The pettiness as well as the crazy fun of our childhood together as sisters makes me smile. I don't know exactly when it happened, but in the wildly-woven fabric of our story, of our relationships, as life propelled us into the growing pains of adolescence and adulthood, I am reminded, so strongly, that I wouldn't trade the two gals that God decided a long time ago would be my sisters. Like, I actually love them. #whaaaat??

It's crazy to me to recall when the fights no longer were about toys, but were about missed phone calls. When it became less about sharing clothes and instead about sharing time. When it became about marriage, kids, careers, faith, failures, victories, and facing the unknowns. When it became about being unafraid to say that, this is harder than I can express, you're my sister, and I need you in my corner. 

I'm thankful that my Hello Kitty diary rants and wishes about wanting to be an an only child never came true. I look back and realize that God knew, far more than I ever did, that having siblings would be one of the best gifts I ever received.

30 Days of Thanks | Day 9 | Modern Medicine & Miracles

I'm not a fan of visiting the doctor's office, the sound of the automatic doors that slide open upon entering a hospital, the smell of a hospital, the charts all over the walls that show immense details of your digestive system, your bone structure, and the colored-chart of your epidermal system. It's immensely unnerving to me how one place such as a medical facility could hold such pivotal moments for people.

However, despite my sentiments and qualms about anything doctor/medical/hospital/colored-charts/automatic-sliding-doors-related, I can't deny my gratitude for how modern medicine also plays a significant part of great miracles.

In a series of unexpected events of the past two weeks, some friends of our recently welcomed this little miracle into the world. He was a a tad early, but fought like a champ every step of the way. I think he gets that the fighting spirit from his momma. :)

Looking back, even if the medical world ain't my cup of tea, I sure am thankful that God's hands worked through modern medicine, weird-sounding monitoring machines, and knowledgeable doctors and nurses to make sure that mommy and this little guy could come home.



30 Days of Thanks | Day 8 | Sibling Birthdays

My sister is a big of a nerd when it comes to her birthday. And when I say "nerd" I mean it in the most affectionate/loving/I-have-to-say-it-this-because-I'm-the-big-sister way. Even if it doesn't necessarily involve a huge birthday bash, jars of jelly beans or a rainbow-colored pony with some glitter, the girl will make it known to everybody and their momma that she's so happy because it's her birthday.

The thing is, she's like this with EVERYBODY'S birthday, not just her own. I remember one year, as we were shopping during my own birthday, she decided that it was important to announce to the sales associate at the shoe store that it was my birthday. Half of me was touched, while the other half of me wanted to give her a noogie.

As nerdy as she is, I guess I can appreciate her feelings about birthdays. After all, it's a celebration of life, the anniversary of the day God decided to make you real, to put forth His awesome plans into motion through you.

I love my siblings and for every year that they get to celebrate life, well, now that's something I'm always super thankful for.

Happy Birthday to my nerdy, little sister.

Oh, and this right here? A unique gift for birthdays or any occasion. Re-purposed keys that allow you to inscribe a message to the recipient and then meant to be passed on. Check out the story of the Los Angeles based company, The Giving Keys - they're just as cool as having a rainbow-colored pony on your birthday. Really. 


30 Days of Thanks | Day 7: Power Girl Books

People say to me all the time, "You have no fear." I tell them, "No, that's not true. I'm scared all the time. You have to fear in order to have courage. 
I'm a courageous person because I'm a scared person." 
- Ronda Rousey

I know nothing about the MMA (mixed-martial arts)...except that I would never willingly step into a cage knowing there's a good chance it'll be the last time I see my teeth.

However, when I learned about Ronda Rousey, I was immediately intrigued by her story not only as a judoka, not only as an mixed-martial arts fighter, or even as an Olympian, but as a woman whose story is paving the way for female-empowerment in a new way.

It's a little disheartening to see that young girls look up to other female role models based solely on appearance, the level of family drama broadcasted on social-media or their latest news-headlining vacation, or what they ate for breakfast. Don't get me wrong, I love fashion just like any other gal and yes, sometimes I get sucked into clicking on that latest Yahoo article about the scoop on someone's dating life. However, the women that stand out in my mind with the story worth reading about are those who are build their lives and careers around being advocates for women to have a healthy mind-set of their bodies, women who are fighters for their hopes and dreams, women who are real with all ups and downs, women who know that their work is influencing younger generations of girls for years to come.

I love reading and even more so, reading about the lives of individuals who are helping to shape the world for other women in meaningful ways.

Check out My Fight, Your Fight by Maria Burns-Ortiz and Ronda Rousey - I highly recommend it.


30 Days of Thanks | Day 6: Mistakes

You're never, EVER thankful for mistakes when you're in the midst of making them or even immediately right after it. Like, the day after, the month after, even perhaps the months and years after. Why? It's too painful, as if someone just sprinkled salt onto a freshly opened wound. I just really grossed myself out saying that. Further evidence that I was never meant to work in the medical field.

In thinking of things I'm thankful for, mistakes were obviously ranked waaay low on the totem of pole of subjects to write about, to express gratitude for. Reflecting on a few of them make my skin still crawl a little bit to this day. I was that kid who cringed to get a paper or assignment back in school and find nothing but red marks decorated generously across the incorrect answers or across the words of an essay I thought I poured enough effort into. I remember when I was a kid and made the mistake of thinking it was funny to call somebody "retarded" just because everyone else was doing it and I wanted to fit in. After getting in trouble for this, I learned that the words I casually threw around for fun could have a much harder and hurtful impact on someone else. Or that time I made the mistake of thinking I could wing it for a spelling bee competition, aka was too lazy to study and got my butt kicked after the first round after misspelling the word barracks. Learned the hard way that laziness and arrogant assumptions get you absolutely nowhere.

Growing older, mistakes were found in things beyond what a red marker could tangibly write on, stuff that was a little more serious - certain relationships, perhaps in regretful words that tumbled out,  even in a negative attitude eagerly burst forth that should have been restrained instead, certain choices in what occupied my time, etc. They go on and the list won't stop as I continue to live this life. And I'm learning to be ok with this. Slowly and at snail-paced/molasses speed, but learning.

My point? Mistakes simply suck but I can't deny it's profound effect on how they continue to help shape me as a person. Do I wish for mistakes? Hell no. In fact, in my tiny world, my secret wish is to never make mistakes anymore, to be as near perfect as possible...every day. I wish to take back, re-do many, many parts of my life just like the next person.

As self-absorbed and as gross as that sounds, I think deep down we all wish for perfection to some degree. It's kinda embarrassing and I'm super thankful that I don't have the ability God does to make things perfect. Because in essence, my idea of perfect also means that I wouldn't mature. A mistake-less existence would mean that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to grow.  It means that I wouldn't learn the crazy beauty of what it's like to be forgiven or to forgive, to let go, to have courage to speak up, to have the wisdom to stay silent. Mistakes teach my naturally impatient personality to wait. Mistakes prod at my heart to see bigger than what's immediately in front of me.

Do mistakes still make me cringe, cry, hide, and break down into that ugly hiccup-weeping where I can barely get a word out because of the tears running down my face and the snot plugging my ability to breathe? Yep. But for as long as God can continuously take my repeated mistakes, my cracks, imperfections, and turn them into something awesome and fill them with grace, I'll always end up just fine in the end. This is a truth for me that I fight hard to cling to every day.



30 Days of Thanks | Day 5: Movie Quotes

It's not THAT old.

But seeing as how this movie came out when I was in the 9th grade and I'm now zyxerdaffsd;jfkjsadf years old....it feels a teeny bit dated.

HOWEVER! Thought-provoking, heart-tugging movies never go out of style for me and that's how I feel about watching "Mr. Holland's Opus".

I once heard another photographer talk about how she took the time to be inspired by other forms of art, ones that you would never think had anything to do with her own. She talked about watching ballet, movies, dance performances. In it, there is inspiration that awakens the other senses of a human being, perhaps even driving their creativity even more.

This was such a great reminder because so often, I get very caught up in following rules. And not necessarily in a way that's cute or endearing, but more like annoying and kinda controlling and ugh, you just end up feeling like the biggest loser because the world just caught a peek at something you're embarrassed about. And blech, I hate the feeling and hate admitting it even more. It's especially frustrating when I have these moments and discover  with incredible dismay that it's crept it's sneaky way into my photography. Have to do it this way, have to follow that process, have to structure it like so and so. All in the attempts to be, ironically, free and creative. 

I recently watched Mr. Holland's Opus and a line he said tugged at the controlling parts of my heart...

"Play the sunset..."

And in that tiny line, but profound line, I am reminded to let go. To photograph with a heart and mindset of freedom. To capture what I think is beautiful and creative and free and cool and inspiring and awesome. To allow myself as an artist to feel and create and put my own stamp on it instead of being confined by the unforgiving talons of fear or rules or the lie that this has to fit this box or that in order to be beautiful, worthy to be called art.

To play the sunset.

30 Days of Thanks | Day 4: Handwritten Cards

Handwritten cards. I love them more than the present they are sometimes attached to.

There's something pretty awesome-sauce, high-five-fist-bump-worthy about the thought that someone took the time out of their day to stand in the card-aisle at Target or Paper Source and then took more to dig out a writing utensil from the depths of their purse or desk drawer and think of something to adequately express their hilarious birthday greetings, their anniversary best wishes, their love for you in their life.

Handwritten cards are awesome reminders that I have been undeservingly blessed with friends and family who'll stand in the card aisles just for that extra way to say they care.


30 Days of Thanks | Day 3: Evidence

Her toys are currently scattered all over the floor of our home. And for some reason, it doesn't stir up the OCD in me.

In the office, in our bedroom, in the living room, in the hallway, in the kitchen. A tattered pink rope, a drooled on, half grey from dirt, half green tennis ball, a weird looking squaky toy whale named Wilhelmina. (Get it?!? A whale named Wilhelmina! The w's?? Deep down, I know my husband is in awe at his genius wife.)

The armrest area of one of the couches is worn down, scratched at and probably smells a little weird. This is probably due to the fact that when we first got her,she discovered she possessed the balancing skills of a cat and made perching on top of the couch armrest her a daily habit. Our duvet cover to this day, still maintains an old patch that was sewn on to cover a hole she created in the middle of the night as we peacefully slept. #hercreativeskills #morningsurprise #wecantsew #atleastitwasntpoopsheleft

She's eaten garbage, among other things, will faithfully "help" you clean up any scraps of food that drop in kitchen, and needs the "You are my sunshine..." lullaby before she settles down to sleep at night.

Is this a post from a crazy dog lover about their dog? Yep, you bet it is.

Because when you have a four legged furball that is the first to respond with drooling kisses when you cry, the first to greet you with unabashed joy every time you step through the door even if it was just to throw out the garbage, has the superhero ability to ease up the creases of worry on your forehead with a single nudge of her cold and wet nose....well, you can't help lose your heart to the world of her unconditional love. And I am thankful for the scattered toys, the weathered-down couch and simply the happy evidence around our home of her presence.


30 Days of Thanks | Day 2: Ice Cream Memories

It didn't start off as a great day for me.

I mean, thank God for doctors and all, but as I get older, the more and more I become horribly anxious every year I go in for a routine check up. In all honesty, the thought of any possibility that my healthiness and healthy ways could be interrupted even for just a bit makes me shut down and freeze in absolute terror. All I could think of as I sat in the stark white examination room was why-oh-WHY didn't I call my mom to come with me? Because seriously, there are some days that I just need someone to hold my hand as if I were 5 years old again.

I don't know if it was the feeling of being scared-like-a-kid-again-morning I was having, but coming home after the doctor's visit to snack on a cup of mint chip ice cream made things feel a little better. Ice cream is fantastic on a whole lot of levels, but the memories it brought back were far sweeter than my little words can describe or capture.

Ice cream was serious business in my house growing up. I think the love of it may be some kind of genetic addiction thing that we all never got over. My ol' grandpa loved it long after his false teeth could handle it, my dad often joked that it always life better, and there are something, like, a million summer memories with my sisters that always involved Dad, Baskin Robbins, and the important decision to make between a cup or sugar cone.

I even recall the fact that when Dad couldn't find a spoon to dig into the pint of ice cream in our freezer, well, a fork would do. Try it. You'd be surprised at how well it actually works.

It was kinda nice that in the midst of this adult life, a small cup of mint-chip ice cream can bring an awesome boatload of childhood memories back to life and prod a smile out of an anxious face.


30 Days of Thanks | Day 1: God's grace

A friend of mine recently took on an interesting challenge in honor of her recent birthday. This challenge entails 1 year/365 days of finding something in her day to be happy about. From finding joy in the mundane to the spectacular, she's documenting it all.

Hence this post. A challenge as long as a  year loooong makes me a little nervous, but perhaps that just goes to reveal the level of doubt I am a little embarrassed to admit I carry too much of. Almost as if I can hear an audible whisper that wonders if I'll even find something to be thankful for during the rest of this week. Well, how 'bout 30 days? Game on. 

Day One. I am thankful for God's grace. Seriously. Because whether I feel like being thankful or not, whether I "feel" deserving of it or not, whether my circumstances show happiness, sadness, apathy, joy, struggle, or triumph, heck, whether I believe it or not, it is always God's grace that remains a constant. I know that as a human, I am as fickle as the direction of the wind, yet God's grace is this rock-like anchor that remains present like crazy in my life. 

And I can't live without that crazy, rock-like anchor kinda of grace.