A Million Little Things

I was recently able to spend some time with a friend last Sunday, who I do not get to see as often as I would like. For both of us, life in our mid 30’s has become a whirlwind that we just try to manage the best we can without it pulling us below the surface. After we got some delicious Pho and saw a movie, we ended up talking about this conundrum of friendship that women in our season of life are experiencing in countless communities, but that no one necessarily prepared us for.

Life is a beautiful, chaotic mess and the amount of time we have in each day remains the same. Whether you’re 10 years old, in high school, in your 20’s, or in full-blown adulthood; you still only have 24 hours in each day. Even at work where I see the same people for 8-9 hours a day, I still have work to do and can only take the time to invest in a very limited amount of those relationships. Life is just plain busy. I used to naively think that I wouldn’t ever feel this way, since I do not have a Type-A personality and I refuse to let my kid ever play seven sports at a time. Oh how wrong I was. As nice as it would be to even blame this on graduate school (although it does take up A LOT of my time), the fact remains that even after I am done with grad school, I will still have a lot of things vying to fill my time.

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Once you reach a certain season of life, you have choices to make with how you spend your time. Your choices become your priority and you can’t prioritize everything. If you want to be a good friend to a lot of people, you can’t climb the ladder as quickly or ambitiously at work or spend as much time with your family. If you want to be the top executive at your company or the world’s best parent, time with your friends will inevitably take a hit. The American dream that says you can have it all is misleading. You can have the things you choose to prioritize, but you certainly cannot have it all – at least not with any depth or quality.

I am so thankful to have friends in the same season of life I am in who understand that I may take 5 days to respond to their text message (or not at all, but they know I read it and am thinking about them! I appreciate those who I may only see once every 3 months, even though we do not live that far from each other and the time we spend together is still precious and meaningful. I appreciate it when I am not held to silly, shallow obligations like Facebook birthday timeline shout outs or the pressure to increase the quantity of communications or time spent together in order to prove that I cherish a relationship.

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These things just aren’t always possible. Sometimes I’ll have a really crappy day at work and when I come home all I want to do is sit in front of my TV with a drink and not talk to anyone. Sometimes, I have had to be away doing homework for days on end, so all I want to do is spend the day with Travis and give Chad a break. Sometimes, it’s been weeks since Chad and I have had a conversations that did not revolve around schedules, to-do’s, or logistics and we just need to have fun together. There is always something to clean, some house project left unfinished, some book I have been meaning to pick up and escape into, or some show I have been meaning to catch up on.

I have certainly had to adapt. My personality has always been bent towards being a “best friend” kind of friend verses a “many friends” kind of friend. Do I miss the days when I could see and talk to my friends as much as I wanted with no sacrifices made anywhere else (aka anytime before I was 25)? Of course! Without friendship and deep connection, I am a wreck. Quality time is and always will be incredibly important to me!

We just have to choose those times now. Schedule them. Prioritize. De-clutter. It’s both taxing and freeing, saddening and life-bringing at the same time. That quick message to a friend becomes a source of joy. That lunch we were able to fit in, becomes an anchor. That conversation in a parking lot late on a Sunday night becomes a breath of fresh air. That trip to see a long-distance friend becomes revitalizing.

This is just life and it is normal and it is fine.

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One Hundred

So I don’t typically jump on the bandwagon of internet “hot topics,” but the recent death by suicide of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams and his depression hit a little too close to home for me and made it difficult for me to be okay with the barrage of negative and judgmental commentary on Facebook about the choice he made. Let me be clear, I do think suicide is a choice. However, I understand and sympathize with the heavy feeling of deep darkness and hopelessness that accompanies depression and I could easily see how living with that depth of hopelessness for so long would make suicide seem like a good idea or the only escape, even if it’s not.

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When you’re depressed you don’t think rationally and you don’t think very far ahead. It is quite difficult to see past the hollowness you feel in each empty, unsatisfying moment of your day… of your life. For me, the only way I escaped was with the support of dear friends and the constant gently nudging assurance of my Savior reminding me that He is holding me and that He is enough to satisfy. Robin Williams, for whatever reasons he had, felt he was out of options. He left a monumental amount of pain in the lives of those who loved him by choosing to end his own life, but I know that there is a God who loves and comforts. I pray for people to rise up around his friends and family to comfort them in their grief in this sudden season of loss. I grieve that Robin Williams didn’t seem to know the hope and comfort of God’s embrace. Without that, I would imagine that pulling yourself out of a clinical depression would be an insurmountable task.

A while back I read a book that changed my perspective on how to respond to disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement. The book “One Thousand Gifts” by Anne Voskamp states simply that life is full of countless blessings we often overlook and that it is next to impossible to remain sad or discouraged when you begin to recount to yourself all the blessings in your life. It is even better if you take the time to write them down. Blessings can take many forms. Any single thing from the comforting hug of a close friend to the way the sun seems to warm your skin from the inside out. Nothing is off limits if it’s something that brings you joy.

So I made a list.

I began my list back on 03/10/2013.

So far I have physically written down in my journal 230 things that I have been thankful for. I hope to keep this going for a long time, but my goal is to get to 1,000 things. I wasn’t always consistent and had gaps of times between reflection and journaling. Sometimes I would repeat something I was thankful for that I had written down several months earlier, but I didn’t want to create any inhibiting rules. I simply wrote down the things I was thankful for – the things that brought me great joy and peace on each particular day.

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So in honor of my 100th WordPress blog post (Woohoo!!!), I am going to select and list out for you 100 of those things exactly how I wrote them in my journal and the dates on which I wrote them down. Enjoy. 🙂

3/10/2013:
1. My husband Chad
2. Memories
3. Green Ink Pens
4. Ice Water
5. Straws!
6. Our Temperpedic Bed
7. Candlelight
8. The first signs of Spring

3/16/2013
9. Comfy Leather Chairs
10. Hazelnut Mochas
11. Kimmie
12. Unlimited cell minutes
13. Cardigans
14. Vineyard church
15. Sleeping with the windows open
16. Netflix
17. Pumpkin, our circus kitty
18. Soft fuzzy yarn
19. Sense of smell
20. Stories

3/22/2013
21. Cool rain
22. People I can be myself with
23. Portland, OR
24. Outdoor patios
25. Tall trees
26. Brick courtyards
27. Pita
28. Slip on shoes
29. New friendships
30. Spontaneous compliments

3/24/2013
31. The breathing room of flying first class
32. Vodka cranberries
33. Laughter that replaces breathing
34. An assuring gentle touch
35. The company of like-minded people
36. Recognition for a job well done
37. The feeling of leaving the ground behind
38. Fog lifting off the water
39. Meeting Anne Fadiman

3/29/2013
40. Moments of reflection
41. Paid holidays
42. Pumpkin flavored things
43. Honest thoughts with God
44. Changing seasons
45. Building anticipation
46. Assurance that hard times have an expiration
47. Skin turning pink in the sun
48. Zeph. 3:17
49. The joy of blessing someone unexpectedly
50. Inside jokes
51. Ever-increasing comfort with another person
52. Finishing a great book

3/31/2013
53. Church family
54. Serving in Children’s Ministry

4/15/2013
55. Advancement of medical science
56. Kind nurses
57. Small needles
58. My good sense of direction/navigation

4/20/2013
59. Lazy Saturdays
60. Thick green grass
61. Banana bread with walnuts

4/26/2013
62. Gentle touches
63. Free fertility meds!!
64. Footstools
65. Time off on rainy days
66. Surprise phone calls
67. Plane tickets to loved ones

5/9/2013
68. Sunsets
69. Quiet places to just “be”
70. Just the right song lyrics

7/29/2013
71. Comfy colors like grey, plum, and navy
72. Jacket weather
73. New books to read
74. Warm fires

9/9/2013
75. Warm beds
76. Kitties snuggling at my feet
77. A good cry

10/3/2013
78. Melody Morgan
79. Matt Chandler podcasts
80. Pumpkin Spice Lattes

1/6/2014
81. That I am not homeless

2/3/2014
82. Thankful that my Granny is finally at rest

4/22/2014
83. That Pumpkin knows when I need kitty snuggles
84. That I got a really good hug from Deena today.
85. For friends like Jennifer who text just to check on me and make me feel very loved
86. That Kimmie prays with me on the phone and loves me 12 years later still…
87. For a husband who knows the perfect silly face to make me laugh when I need it the most…

5/2/2014
88. For new beginnings

6/25/2014
89. Feeling known
90. Feeling understood
91. Ocean breezes on Florida beaches
92. Aloe Vera gel/lotion
93. Tiny hands holding mine
94. Judah’s maniacal laughter
95. Late night movies with the Carters
96. Walks with Emily Donnelli
97. Direct flights
98. A really good back scratch
99. Chad missing me

8/2/2014
100. Seeing God stir something beautiful deep in Chad’s heart

 

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If you made it this far and you’re still reading this, congrats! 😉
The funny thing about recognizing and being thankful for all the big and little things in your life that God has blessed you with is that it makes it hard to complain, feel sorry for yourself, and it is even difficult to obsess over the things you don’t have. As many of you know, these past few years have been incredibly hard for me (with the past year and a half being the worst of them). I have had so much pain and so much longing. I have fixated on the beautiful blessings God has given nearly every single person around me and sobbed over the fact that I did not have those same things. So it is amazing to me to look back over my journal and see the progression of where God has brought me and the blessings he gave along the way. On bad days he gave me friends to hug and friends to pray with me on the phone. On good days he gave me sunshine and Pumpkin Spice lattes and great books. Every time in between He has blessed me in one way or another.

So if you ever begin to feel like life is hard, overwhelming, or just plain hopeless and you can’t see a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” in sight…. begin to write things down.
One at a time.
Write down what you’re thankful for, even if it’s hard to think of something.
I promise that on your very worst days you have been blessed with something.

If you have a friend who is struggling with depression or anxiety, please PLEASE do not ask them to “cheer up” and “think of what they could be grateful for.” Instead, buy them a latte, give them a hug, invite them over for a movie…..

BE the blessing from God.
BE the reason they have to smile and the reason they’re thankful.

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Saying Goodbye

Today is my last day of employment at Park University.

It is truly bittersweet. I am sitting alone in my office today feeling very nostalgic and somewhat anxious. Overall I just don’t like change, but sometimes you just have to summon up the courage to embrace change for yourself when you know it is the best move for you.

I’ve been driving to Park University almost every day since we moved to Kansas City. For 3 and 1/2 years, I’ve grappled with the limited parking, the tons of walking required to get from where you parked to the building you’re headed to, and watched the seasons change with the ‘Hogwarts-esque’ towering building of MacKay in the background.

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As a student, I had amazing classes, classmates, and even better professors. I couldn’t have asked for better departmental faculty to guide me as I earned and completed my Bachelor’s degree.

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Shortly before my rapidly approaching graduation, I was sitting in a meeting as the student representative for the Higher Learning Commission Steering Committee and this woman I had been watching in these meetings for the past few months handed out an organizational chart for her department to depict a restructuring they had recently gone through. The handout showed two positions currently open within her department. Up until this point, this woman had shown herself in these meetings to be organized, wonderfully candid, and articulate. I knew that she was someone I could potentially see myself working for and what better place to work than my soon-to-be alma mater?

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After getting the job in student accounts working directly under her, I was literally thrust into the middle of chaos. The department was in the middle of Spring enrollment confirmation, they’d just switched to an entirely new phone system, and I wasn’t the only new hire they were trying to train. It was crazy to say the least. Add to that the fact that I was given the responsibility for processing all third party tuition assistance invoices each term. ME. The English major. Who hates Math. That was super fun to figure out.

Despite the chaos and the stress, I’ve enjoyed my job because I quickly grew to like most of the people I worked with and I loved my boss. She was an amazing trainer, an avid support, one of those true go-getters, and one of the best examples of outstanding leadership I have ever encountered. You just don’t find incredible bosses like that very often and it is even rarer that you eventually become good friends with them. Some things in life are irreplaceable.

I have become friends with so many of my Park coworkers, including the friendships formed back when I was a student and work study….Now (even though leaving Park is absolutely the best move for me) I have to say goodbye to these wonderful people and there’s been a lump in my throat all morning long.

So even though it was my own choice to leave, I will still miss the people I met through Park and will miss seeing their faces everyday. One of the biggest things I have learned in my life is that time moves us all along. I’ve had to make new friends so often in my life it should be considered inhumane (especially for an introvert! haha). From this experience, I’ve also learned that whether life brings you new seasonal friends or new forever friends, you have to take advantage of every moment and cherish each of them for as long as you possibly can…

Refocused

I thought I would miss Facebook and that it would be hard to feel so disconnected. The truth is: It has been great! I haven’t felt disconnected at all! I mean, I might not know something here and there with some of my long distance friends, but I feel more connected to myself, more connected with Chad, and more connected with the people I interact with through other mediums.

I finished one of my books. I’ve had a few long phone conversations to catch up with a few friends. I’ve made a lot of progress with some errands and projects. I even went to a friend’s house Tuesday night and visited IN PERSON with her and another friend.

IN.
PERSON.

It was wonderful.

Some things that have made me really happy lately….

Chad and I finally tackled cleaning/organizing our garage!! I could kick myself for not taking a “before” picture so you could see all the disorganized chaos and trash/empty boxes piled everywhere…. I went into “Monica Gellar” mode and we made our crowded, dirty, spiderweb-filled, chaotic garage into a use-able, organized space! YAY!

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* The garage after I Monica Gellar’d it:

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It’s probably better that you didn’t see a before picture after all…. 🙂

I’ve also enjoyed celebrating recently with my friend Betsy who is about to have her first baby! They don’t know the gender (which is driving some people crazy) but all it really means is she isn’t bombarded with more baby clothes than actual needed items from her registry. Genius!

Plus it is really exciting not knowing! 🙂

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I also was able to make her a kick-ass, gender neutral diaper cake! Their nursery is Grey and Cream/Yellow so I had fun with this one! 🙂

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I re-wrapped the board it is sitting on to match as well. (Monica Gellar!)

This past weekend, we also got to see two of our dearest KC friends, Jason and Melody Morgan, finish a 1/2 marathon!! It was so exciting  and inspiring to see them accomplish something that requires so much dedication! SO proud of them for doing this and I am 90% certain that I will be signing up for a 5k in the Spring!!

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One thing that does suck is that apparently anytime I am taking injectable fertility meds (like I am now) I cannot exercise AT ALL because it exacerbates the potential for OHSS in me. Super frustrating when you’ve just been inspired by your friend finishing a 1/2 marathon, but my doctor literally said “Absolutely no exercise at all. You need to rest!” after he measured yet another abnormally large cyst on my right ovary the other day.  😦

Thankfully I have so many other things to lift my spirits and foster a heart of gratitude inside me. Ever since I disconnected from Facebook, even just the past few days, I truly have been focusing on so much more of what I have in my life right now – rather than bombarding myself with what others have that I wish I had.

Also, cat feet are ridiculously adorable:

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I love that Maizie flips over onto her back when she’s entered a deep sleep. 🙂

Hiatus from Facebook

I am hoping to be blogging more as I am taking a much-needed break from Facebook.

I just feel like what used to be a medium for connecting with long distance friends and networking/getting to know new friends has instead, for me, turned into a medium for drama or sadness.

To be honest, it has been hard for me to scroll through my news feed and see an overwhelming number of pregnancy announcements, sonogram pictures, and baby/kid photos.

Don’t get me wrong.

For some of my closest and dearest friends these are actually the highlight of my news feed! I love seeing photos of my KC friend’s kids and also getting to see them in real life. I love seeing the Bougher kids growing into little young men and baby Shine getting prettier every day. I love seeing pics of my nieces and nephews because every single one of them lives long distance from me. I love see Judah looking more and more like his Daddy and I love seeing Halle’s hair getting longer as she too gets more beautiful every day. I love the pics of my friend Jessica’s 3 kids, Janine’s little Micah, Michele’s two sweet boys, the Broussard family kids, and so many more….

The issue lies not in the pictures or updates themselves, but rather the fact that it now makes up 90% of my Facebook feed and every day I feel like I am “falling behind” in a journey that everyone else is taking. As much as you all include me, I am still left out. As much as I am over the moon with joy for you, I ache because my arms are empty. As much as I relish being a part of the lives of everyone I love that I can’t live near, I can’t tell you how many times I have just started crying from scrolling through my news feed.

Add to that the drama on Facebook and you have a recipe for a MUCH needed hiatus.

It won’t be permanent.
It will last as long as I need it to for my sanity.

I will be spending the time I am not on Facebook anymore catching up on the 10 books I have been wanting to start/finish.
The scrap booking I’ve put off for over a year.
The two blankets I have been working on for over 3 years!
The projects around the house I have neglected.
Intentionally hanging out with friends in real life here in KC without staring at my phone every 10 min. 😉
Heck, even the shows/movies on Netflix I have been wanting to see!

I will be blogging more. Available by email: tashabcardwell@gmail.com and answering text messages. I will probably still check Facebook private messages every now and then, but you’re more likely to reach me by email since it comes straight to my phone.

Catching Up

As of tomorrow, it will have been 2 months since I last wrote. Life has felt like a whirlwind. Although my new job as an Enrollment Counselor is enjoyable in and of itself, the workload has been overwhelming and hard to manage most weeks. When I interviewed for the job I was told there would be “periods of time through the year when overtime was needed” and that those period of time fell during certain times of the year around the beginning of each new term. For me, I have been working overtime since January 1st and it doesn’t seem like there is a light at the end of the tunnel yet. Let’s hope so…

I have also been more intentional with my diet and exercise. I am done with the fads and quick fixes (for now). I have noticed that this medication I am on for my PCOS (Metformin) has helped me SO much with sugar cravings, energy levels, etc. I have lost 6 lbs and it could have been more if I hadn’t gotten so “off” during a recent road trip up to Wisconsin where Culvers and other treats were consumed with reckless abandon. Hoping that sometime this weekend after some snow melts, I can hop back on the Snap Fitness 3-5 times a week wagon. Until then, healthy eating and portion control keeps me in check. 🙂

Speaking of now – wth?!!? We didn’t have hardly any all winter and as soon as Valentines Day passed, we started getting lower temps and then WHAM! 12 inches of snow last Thursday and another 12 inches yesterday! We’re getting another 2 inches today? At least shoveling snow is a great alternative for a work out, my lower back is surprisingly tight and toned feeling! haha
I normally don’t grow bitter with the cold, but with an entire winter’s worth of snow dumped on us in less than a week I am feeling quite ready to see tree blossoms, green grass, tulips, and a thunderstorm or two.

Our trip to Wisconsin was very nice. Lots of time with my family and the wonderful Bougher family. We also had Anne (my brother’s fiance) join us, so that was very nice to spend some lengthy time with her – bonding and getting to know one another better. I am so happy that she is going to be a future sister and I LOVE how much she loves my brother. A lot of people make fun of the behaviors of people in love, but they’re seriously just jealous. If Anne misses Matthew after less than 24 hours of seeing him, who is anyone to say that is silly? I feel the same way with Chad. Heck, Chad and I miss each other just when we have to leave for work each day. Love is worth being all consumed and only becomes a clearer picture of the love relationship between us and our Savior. I think it’s beautiful.

So that is what has been going on. This coming March I am going to Portland, OR – so stay tuned for stories and pics from that. I will upload a slew of pics/videos from our trip to Wisconsin and the massive amounts of snow very soon…. 🙂

What I am NOT thankful for.

So we went camping over a month ago with some of our good friends, but writing a blog about it has been fairly low on my radar between everything else I seem to be juggling these days. At the top of that radar is typically work. At the bottom of my radar is typically sweeping and mopping my floors because that would require picking everything up off the floor that we’ve thrown there during the week and that would require doing laundry since some of the stuff on the floor is dirty clothes and that would require not having as much homework as I do and…. well, you get the point. 🙂

So we went camping.

I gotta say it was a bittersweet experience for me.
I LOVED camping as a kid the few times we actually did.
I love our friends and spending time with them.
I love being outdoors.
I love cooking over a fire.
I love fire in general, especially burning things. (ask Chad. I am a total closet, or not-so-closet pyro/arsonist)

But I hate, hate, hate being cold.
Not THE COLD, but being cold.
I don’t mind THE COLD because with it comes scarves, seasonal coffee beverages, staying inside with a good book in front of a fireplace with actual fire in it (<– Fire! Yay!).

But feeling like my bones are about to snap in half from all the shivering and teeth chattering is not my favorite thing.

Thankfully, we were very active – for the most part – during the day going on walks, playing frisbee, having wood chopping tournaments, building bigger fires (OH YEAH!), etc.
It was the nights that were difficult.
I did not sleep, despite my 25 degree weather approved new sleeping bag, the 3 layers of pants and tops I was wearing, the blanket wrapped around me while I was inside my sleeping bag, the padding and blankets underneath me, the blanket on top of me, the hand warmers stuffed between my 2 layers of hunting socks, and the snow hat on my head. ALL OF THAT DID NOT KEEP ME WARM!

Leave it to Missouri to have an unseasonably cold weekend and the first 2 night FREEZE the very same two nights we chose to go camping. 🙂

Alas, the days were a blast and we have the best friends for camping!
The nights were long and cold and I questioned my sanity, but we made it through and when we got home I enjoyed a hot shower, clean clothes, and a warm Temper-Pedic mattress.
I have so much to be thankful for.
I am not thankful for sleeping in a tent when it’s below freezing outside, but otherwise God has blessed my life and I am thankful. 🙂

PICS!!!

Our awesome tent:

Wood cutting/chopping contest!

Video of competition! 😀

Our friend Patrick:

Our friends Rachel and Andrew:

Chad playing with our friend’s Great Dane: Chief – who is HUGE!

  

Chad survived playing with Chief:

Chief leading Ryan around. 🙂

CHIEF!

In the freezing cold water:

Eskimo Ashley. 🙂

FIRE!!