Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Was Quite A Year

In my uncle's bus on our Missouri trip.
Quoting from a personal journal entry on December 31, 2014:


^I have no idea what it will bring.

I could move.
Get a 'real' job.
Get multiple jobs.
Have a boyfriend.
Get a car.
Kiss lots of people.
Make more friends. 
Get in trouble. 

All I do know, is I'm excited. Really excited. I want to be BOLD. 
I want to overcome. 
Overcome obstacles, and negativity, and triumph in a day of contentment. 
But I also want to be overcome by emotion.

I want to be hurt--well, not really. But at least if you're hurt, it's cuz you loved someone enough to open your heart.

I want to laugh with the best people in the world to me.

I want to cry with joy.

I want to care enough about something to be sick-to-my-stomach nervous. 

I want to be in touch. And present. And spontaneous.

I want 2015 to be quite a year.

(end quote)

One of Mom and I's countless car rides to Boston.
All month, I've been saying 2015 was an Unexpected Year. That I never saw it coming and it didn't work out how I planned. And while that is certainly true to an extent, looking back on this entry from exactly a year ago, I think I predicted it pretty well.

I didn't move, but I got really comfortable taking care of myself.

I work full-time between two jobs, and have found a lot of joy from that work.

I roadtripped with family to Missouri to visit more family.

I got dumped by boys that I should've been smart enough to dump.

I bought a car. All by myself

(I think I'll skip commenting about the kissing. Ahem).

I did make more friends, even if it took awhile.

And, okay, I didn't really get in trouble But I got myself in and out of tough situations a lot more gracefully than I ever used to.

Prom with the best.
I tried to be bold. I got pushed completely out of my comfort zone at Theatre on Ice ("Gillian! Have a sexier expression!" wait but howw???). I took chances on people. I used some personal attacks as a chance to speak my mind and speak it loudly (remember those tough situations?).

I tried to be authentic. Last winter, I really lost myself. I felt my true, dorky, obsessive, future-oriented self was too weird. And I tried to change it. I tried to be cooler. And just not care. But I quickly found how horrible that was and, thank the good Lord in Heaven, I came back a lot more me than before.

And I did overcome. Mostly little things, sure, but little things that all seemed to be a pretty big deal at the time: snoozing my alarm, anxiety at work, the bad habit of dropping things every time I saw an ex.

Prom round two.
I got my feelings hurt. A lot. Sometimes justifiably, and sometimes because I was being too sensitive or expecting too much. And for periods of time, I'd feel my heart harden and I get a lot less trusting and I would write things like "BITE YOUR LIP AND BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND" on post-its. But in 2015, I learned that you don't have to harden your heart to protect it. If you are kind, and open, and believe in people, they will sometimes try and bite you. But if you are already stable and at peace with yourself, their bites won't leave a mark.

I laughed with the best people in the world to me. Late nights at the kitchen table swapping work stories with my cousin. In the car, in public bathrooms, hunched over cookie dough with my mom. At skating with silly friends and over skype with my best friend after a serious conversation.

At the drive-in.
At Nationals with my team in June, I had gone down with a friend. My Mom was following the next day. But she hit traffic. She texted me, desperate, saying she didn't know if she was gonna make it. She cried to my Dad back home over the phone because she was so frustrated.

We were competing with our short program that night. It was Alicia Keye's Fallin', and the program was about not love, but obsession with a person you know is wrong for you, but you still care too much about. In my melodramatic way, the program represented my year and I always felt so raw after it.

In the locker room, I didn't have my phone. We were about to go on and as far as I knew my mum wasn't there. My mum, who had driven me to practice every single week, been my closest confidante and cheerleader, and was the reason I was on this team and at this competition.

The music started. The 24 of us, dressed all in black, nailed the program. We were told it gave people chills. You could feel the energy from the crowd and from our tensed bodies growing as the program gained force. And we hit the end.

The rink was so, so loud, we were holding our positions and breathing hard and directly in front of me was my mom, jumping and screaming after she had literally parked the car and ran inside, past the man asking if she even had a ticket, as she heard them announce Ovation of Boston over the intercom. 

And in that moment, I couldn't even talk. I felt like I couldn't stand up. My throat felt like it wanted to laugh but as we got off all I could do was cry. The minute we were in the locker room, I grabbed my phone and called my mom and I just sobbed.

The best photo our family has ever taken.
So yes, Gillian of December 31, 2014: In 2015, you cried with joy. You cared about something enough to be sick-to-your-stomach nervous. You felt the energy of a stadium full of people in a way you hadn't before. 

For every heartbreak in 2015, I was given another reason to hope.

For every snippy comment, a reassuring smile. 

For every relationship that ended, a better one began.

For every doubt, a new glimmer of progress.

I lost myself for a time, and found a better me in the end. I left dreams only to come back and pursue them fiercer. I learned more about myself this year than I ever have before and I am so grateful to have lived every moment.

2015 was quite a year. And I am so, so ready for 2016.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful For in 2015

I'm in the photo. #fail
2015 was the year of the unexpected. It held so much heart ache, and so many achieved goals. I'd say I grew up more this year than I ever have before. I've been doing a lot of thinking to what was going on in my head this time last year, and it seems both just yesterday and a million years ago. For a lot of reasons, I'd say I'm not even the same girl.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2015, I have so many things to be grateful for.

My job, which for the most parts gives me the hours I need.
Opportunities to work as a Learn to Skate coach.
My amazing work friends that make life so much better.

Getting to work regularly with two great skating coaches.
Cheap ice time a half hour from from my house.
A house that isn't too far from major rinks.
My team.

My car.
My houseplants.
Jeans that are perfect in every way.
Sweater weather.

The best library in the world.
Cats that make me laugh.
Sticky notes.

New friends that have accepted me like old friends.
Cousins that are more like siblings/besties.
A wide open future.
My grandparents moving closer home (!!!).
My mom, without whom this year would not have been possible.

My favorite season fast approaching.
Opportunities at my fingertips.
Pep talks.
God and how He shows Himself.

I love Thanksgiving.  Especially now that I'm older. I can be very selfish. I can fall into a 'woe is me' attitude, and I get bitter very fast. But in the huge, grand scheme of things--life is so beautiful. And we have so much to be thankful for.

I am so grateful to be alive.

Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Just Family

Our family Christmas photos used to look like this:

Lily, AJ, me.
That was back when Grandma lived in her old house. And leggings hadn't overtaken the little kid's clothes market. And there were just three of us.

Eventually, we became four.

Lily, Ena, AJ, me.
And then a taller group of four.

AJ, me, Ena, Lily
And an even taller group of four!

AJ, Ena, me, Lily.
But not before we added #5, #6, and #7.

Lily, AJ, me, Ena, James, Abby, Caleb.
Other people talk about how they haven't seen their cousins in ten years. Or how they don't even remember all their names. That seems so alien to me. The seven of us have always been close--and I can't imagine it any other way.

But us four oldest, especially, I can't live without. We're more like siblings than cousins. We've done so much growing up together and know more about each other than probably anyone else in the world.

When we were little we put on skits, then graduated to making movies. Our favorite make-believe game was called Secretary, where we all had stores in a mall and bought stuff from each other (I have no idea why we called it Secretary, actually. It doesn't make sense).

When we were super bored, we did things like make each other guess what food they were eating while blindfolded and play kick the can where the point was to hide as obviously as possible. We've seen 101 Dalmations too many times to count and flipped one too many Monopoly boards.

But even though we've gotten older, and we spend less time together, our connection hasn't faded. At the end of the week, I love it when Lily comes over after we both finish closing at work. With everyone else asleep, we sit in the kitchen until 1 or 2 in the morning, drinking tea and eating cookies and talking and laughing and catching up on everything.

Those early morning moments, just family busy being proud of each other, are so important to me. I don't think I could name another time where I feel so much love towards another person, and so much coming back at me.

Not that it's all roses. Of course it's not all roses. We have tons of fights, backstabs, and not-internet-appropriate dramas, just like every other red-blooded American family. But even with that, I think we realize that that is family. Nothing in common. Not heading in the same direction. But coming from the same roots. Just blood. Just love. Just family.

Getting real excited for a cousin-filled Thanksgiving over here.

Happy Wednesday! xoxo

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

For When You Realize You Grew Up and Became Toad

The Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel are some of the sweetest, most heart warming books you could ever read. They were a huge part of my childhood, and like all great children's books, are even better as you get older.

Toad is my favorite. Toad has bad days. He gets tired, gets frustrated, and has doubts. But sometimes, things go really well. And he's always ready to appreciate those moments.

Frog and Toad is about little things. It's about contentment, joy, hope, friendship, and putting others first. So for all the times when you realize you are Toad.....

For when willpower isn't one of your strengths...

And when diets are for the birds (literally).

For when you procrastinate...

Only to feel overwhelmed and guilty.

For when a little thing....

...turns into a big deal.

And we overreact.

And then realize how ridiculous we were, and feel bad.

And the only way to make it up is just to act from the heart.

For when inspiration runs dry....

...and all you really want to do is sleep.

For when you don't quite know why you're sad...

And all you really want is a friend.

For when you worry you're not wanted...

And then we don't know the right way to help.

And we make the wrong assumptions.

For when making your to-do list is the most productive thing you do all day...

For when we want, with all our heart, just to be good...

And we get impatient while working for what we want...

For when the haters start to get to us...

And we begin to believe that we cannot do it.

"Toad ran back to frog.
"This kite is a joke," he said, "It will never get off the ground.""

But if you keep trying, it will.

You've just got to keep shaking it up to find what works. And when you've made it, you'll be so much higher than all the people that told you you couldn't do it.

For when the world starts to get to you.

And your head hurts. And your muscles are sore. And your heart is sore.

And you feel like you aren't seen, or heard, or wanted.

And the only thing you're sure of, is that true friendship is the most important thing in the world.

Happy Wednesday! xoxo

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mental Noise & Our True Selves

We live in a heads down society. We fail to notice simple things. We jump from one thing to the next and back again, and not because we choose to, but because we've convinced ourselves we should. We look away from things we don't agree with, often without the courage to even think about why we feel that way.

But our failings (not being present, not standing up, not being unique), are not simply problems with society. They're problems with us as individuals. They come from our failure to truly live with ourselves.

Ages ago, I was listening to Glenn Beck's radio show and he said something about how we don't have enough silence in our lives. About how we fill every waking minute with music and podcasts and tv, and can go a whole day without one moment just to be in our own minds. He made the conclusion that, often, we're afraid of what we'll start to hear if we just listen to ourselves.

Since then, I've always been conscious about being quiet. When I'm busy or stressed out, my skull starts to feel like walls. I feel like I can't even see all the way around me. And the mental noise is trapped and blocking all real thought. I've always tried to do things to stop it. I drive without the radio on. I journal before bed. I go for a walk, or sit and quietly drink coffee.

And I used to feel such relief from that. I'd figure out a next step, or decide what I actually thought about a situation. But lately, the silence almost makes it worse.

I'm a chronic over-thinker. It's a 'green' and INFJ thing. I can get so caught up in little details that I completely disable myself from doing anything. I think I've taken the silence-thing too far. Rather than calming the noise, I've turned it into a way to over-analyze.

The original point of craving silence wast to learn to live with myself. Because silly as it sounds, most people do not truly live with themselves. They live with shells and squashed emotions and failure to even understand what they want and believe. And I hope I never resemble that.

To live with ourselves, we have to get beyond the noise of the world. We have to hear our hearts and chase what they beat for. We have to harness our minds to create and innovate. We have to listen to our guts, our intuition, and know what we find right. And good. And just.

To live with ourselves we must be able to see the world as it is, not how it's been presented to us. And we must confidently share what we actually see. We must realize that we are Big, and Capable, but also so, so small. And surrounded by energy and faith and a higher power that we could never start to fathom.

And to live with ourselves, we must beat our own noise. We must locate that chatter of doubt and worry and self-loathing and unjust guilt and squish it and wipe it away. Because while overthinking is a part of me, I've learned that it also inhibits who I really am.

We must get beyond the noise. And connect with every essence of ourselves.

Happy Saturday! xoxo

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Currently October 2015

Currently October from Young Yankee Lady.

WATCHING: The Office. I'm in season 6 right now and I'm committed to get through all 9 seasons before committing to another show. In it's weird, twisted way The Office restores my faith in humanity.

LISTENING TO: podcasts! I love Elise Gets Crafty, and I just started listening to Megasequin, which is turning out to be the hilarious real-life figure skating podcast my heart didn't know it needed.

READING: I've been trying to get back into the habit of reading, even if it's just a few pages a day.I I'm honestly really bad about making time for it though, so my method has been starting five books at a time and taking a year to take through all of them. I just finished Do Hard Things last week and I'm in the middle of Blogger Must Read of the Year, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I'm thinking of changing pace and reading Emma this month.

MAKING: Up skating routines. I'm choreographing my own program for the club Christmas show. It's my first time trying it and I'm really excited! But it's also really hard.

WEARING: My leather jacket. And loving every minute of it.

LEARNING: To not get too caught up in the past or the future, but to make the best of each moment as it comes.

STARTING: To drive to Boston by myself!

GRATEFUL FOR: Haunted walks with friends, coffee, this lovely fall weather.

THINKING: That this year is almost over and I have no idea how that happened and I really want these last two months to count.

QUOTING: Greg McKeown, "The way of the essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better. It means living by design, not by default. It's not I have to, but I choose to. It doesn't react to what's most pressing, but pauses to discern what really matters. It means pushing against social expectations. To do it well takes courage and compassion."

Happy Tuesday! xoxo

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Phrase A Day v. 8 (final!)

Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady
Phrase A Day mini-journal from Young Yankee Lady

Well there we have it: Phrase A Day is complete. I've done one-line journals before, and I was actually surprised that I didn't connect to my lines as much as I have before. Maybe the one-line format just isn't for me right now.

Whether or not I pick this up again, I'm glad I tried it. Often, we can find ourselves in ruts, just grinding through work and what we have to do. Even creative work can get habitual if we stick to what we know rather than taking the time to explore. I've been trying to be more intentional about trying new things, thinking outside the box, and evaluating everything that I do. So I'm glad I tried a new format, if only for the sake of doing something different.

How to make a Phrase A Day mini journal from Young Yankee Lady.

How to make your own Phrase A Day mini-journal.

Happy Thursday! xoxo

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No-Bake Cookies

This is the first year I have ever liked Wednesdays. My entire life, Wednesdays have always been a meh day. The only reason I look forward to them now is that they happen to be a day off from work, and I skate in the afternoon, which means a whole morning off.

Growing up, we always went to Bible Study on Wednesday nights. For the most part, we still do. But it was never church itself that bugged me on Wednesdays (except for the part about having to get up and leave at 6...). Honestly, Wednesdays bugged me because they were boring. I was tired from the week, but with no real hope of the week being over. I usually had in-person classes the next day, which meant homework cramming. Wednesdays were never something to look forward to.

Until, that is, my mum and I fell into the habit of making No-Bake cookies every Wednesday night after church. We'd get home at the 'late' hour of 8:45, break out the saucepan, and start melting the ingredients together as the TV got turned on in the next room. We'd bend over the pan with our spoons, laughing and making stupid jokes while tasting the 'hot chocolate stage'.

Next, we would add the peanut butter and oatmeal. Tempers would momentarily flair as we argued over the correct amount of peanut butter (Mum adds too little, I add too much, apparently). After the No-Bakes were done, we'd spoon the hot chocolate-oatmeal thing into mugs and eat with a spoon. No need to be unoriginal and wait for them to cool.

To most people, food has a lot of meaning. We might love the taste or the texture, but often, our favorite foods also have stories tied to them. Stories of love, connection, and little moments amidst big things.

Making No-Bakes on Wednesdays was something Mum and I always looked forward to. It was our time to catch up. Re-hash whatever happened at church that night. Make plans for the next day. Poke good natured fun at other people and each other. Snorting and making stupid jokes over the hot sauce pan opened so many doors to us being so close now.

I never looked forward to Wednesdays. But somehow, Wednesdays nights always seemed just right.

No-Bake Cookies

1.) In a saucepan, heat one stick of butter, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 3 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa, 1/2 cup of milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Continuously stir until all the butter is melted. This is the hot chocolate stage. ;)

2.) Turn off heat. Spoon in approximately 3/4 cup of creamy peanut butter, and 3 cups of oatmeal. Turn heat back on and stir until combined.

3.) Remove from heat, and serve hot in your favorite mug with a spoon. Extra is spooned onto tin foil to firm up into 'real' cookies.

Happy Tuesday! xoxo