Monday 5: Sailing & other things I’m excited about this week

IMG_7032.jpg

This weekend was definitely one for the books. My stepdad turned 50 and we had quite the celebration. We decked out the backyard with tent, tables, chairs, heaters and an enormous bonfire. It was a lot of work (my brother did not stop all weekend) but it was a lot of fun. It was good to see family I hadn’t seen in a while (and introduce Nicholas to them) and to meet new people as well.

IMG_6856.jpgIMG_6853.jpgIMG_6847.jpgIMG_6841.jpgIMG_6842.jpgIMG_6814.jpgIMG_6801.jpgIMG_6803.jpg

Most of Saturday was spent getting ready for the party but Sunday Nicholas and I finally got to go sailing! One of the first conversations we ever had was about Nicholas’ love of sailboats so it was exciting to bring that dream to fruition. It was a beautiful day and sailing around the Charleston harbor was so relaxing. We didn’t know any of the people we were sailing with (Nicholas had exchanged a couple of emails with the boat owner) but they were very warm and welcoming. We were only out for a few hours but we really enjoyed it. Later that afternoon we had a Christmas party with the teens from youth group and Pope Francis was in attendance! (Ok not really but yesterday was his birthday).

IMG_7113.jpg

Cannot believe Christmas is a week away, eek! I hope everyone has had a chance to get some shopping done and reflect on all the blessings we have! Other than that, here are some other things I’m excited about this week.

Birchbox

I’m not a makeup person. I always get so overwhelmed anytime I need to buy new mascara or BB cream that I put it off for way too long. When I do finally get around to buying some I’m often disappointed because it isn’t really what I was looking for or doesn’t do everything it says it does. That’s why I was excited when my mom got me a Birchbox subscription for my birthday. This way I get some samples every month so I’m mostly stocked and when I do find something I really like I can buy it knowing that it’s a sound purchase. Plus I get to try things I normally never would like sparkly eyeliner. It’s also so fun to have some mail to look forward to each month! I think this is a great gift idea for any girl (even if it’s just a gift from you to you ;)).

Sailing 

IMG_7035.jpgIMG_7022.jpgIMG_7025.jpgIMG_7013.jpg

I was so excited to finally go sailing and it really was a great experience. I love the clothes associated with sailing (stripes, boat shoes, lots of white and navy) and the boats themselves are so pretty. There is something about being on the water that makes it really difficult to be stressed or anxious. It was liberating and calming to be away from everything for a little bit and just enjoy our beautiful surroundings. It was a little chilly but luckily I was pretty bundled up so it wasn’t a huge problem. There is actually quite a bit to sailing; lots of terms to learn and all that goes into getting the boat to move. I learned a tiny bit yesterday but am excited to keep understanding more. I loved getting some pictures of Charleston from this standpoint, we live in such a photogenic area! I know Nicholas really enjoys sailing so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do this somewhat regularly.

Homemade brunch

IMG_6775.jpgIMG_6789.jpg

Brunch is the ‘thing to do’ these days. We love brunch. Especially in Charleston, we’re so lucky to have so many charming, delicious options! For Nicholas’ birthday we decided to switch it up a little and do brunch at his apartment. It was a great time. He made shrimp and grits that were incredible and we really enjoyed being able to host people instead of meeting someplace else. There’s something about inviting people into a home that is very intimate and welcoming in a way that eating out just isn’t. It’s definitely something that requires more work (and $ on the part of the host), but I think doing it every once in a while is totally worth it. It was especially cool to bring people together like our young adult friends and my family…worlds colliding!

All things Christmas

This week is it! I can’t believe how fast this season has gone by. I feel like there’s still so much to do! I’m excited to go all out with gifts, Christmas music, cookies and especially taking some time to reflect on what is coming. I think now is especially a good opportunity to remember all the blessings we have, to count them one by one. Gratitude is the antidote to hopelessness and dejection. When we realize how much we truly have to be grateful for (ex: family, health, work, friends, a car…) we can have hope for what is to come knowing all that we’ve already received. I hope everyone has a truly merry Christmas!

9 months

IMG_6998.jpg

It feels like yesterday I was writing the post about our 6 month milestone. Time just goes by so darn fast! It really has been #miracholas. No one really tells you how truly messy relationships can be. It makes sense though, when we think about how complex the human person is. We all have hurt and fears and insecurities and difficulties that haunt us and surface when someone gets close. It is the beauty of intimacy, being known and loved deeply…despite our evident imperfection. I can see how the challenge has helped us grow and how good that is. I’m so grateful for all that we’ve gone through – the good and the difficult – and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us!

Have a wonderful last week before Christmas!

xo

Miranda

Advertisements

Monday 5: Vulnerability & other things I’m excited about this week

IMG_6304.jpg

What a fun Fall weekend. It was definitely a chilly one but we got to spend time with friends, celebrate birthdays, check out new stores and have dinner on the water! It was nice too because we got to spend time with different groups of friends that we don’t see as often. I always feel so blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with friends, community is so important!

Nicholas had his first recruitment dinner last night (a dinner for current residents to meet with candidates who are considering joining the program) and for that we went to a spot called Fleet Landing. It is one of the few restaurants in downtown Charleston that is on the water. It’s cool because it is nice abut not too ritzy. The vibe is very nautical and no-frills. The food was very good, I got a shrimp salad and Nicholas got the shrimp and grits, I have to say I think his dish was better- so yummy!

It’s crazy that this is the last week before Thanksgiving! This season is flying by. Here are some things I’m looking forward to this week, I hope you take a minute to make your own list too!

Southern Living Store

We happened to go to the shopping center in Mount Pleasant where Southern Living opened a store. I honestly had no idea Southern Living had stores, much less that there was one in the town I live in! We ventured inside Saturday morning and it was so fun! They really have beautiful things, lots of smaller items like dishtowels and hand creams, water bottles, cookbooks etc. And they have larger items to decorate your home as well. I loved the style (simple and comfy) and we had so much fun reading funny sayings on much of the merchandise like “crazy is the new black” or “I think my guardian angel drinks” or “in queso emergency”. It’s a great place to get fun, cute gifts or to just look around and get some inspiration for your own home!

IMG_0851.jpg

Spiked hot chocolate

We had a friend’s birthday Saturday evening (shout out to Juliana!) and we weren’t sure what to bring, I don’t remember which one of us came up with the idea but we decided to bring spiked hot chocolate! Nicholas found this recipe on Pinterest and it was so good. The only change I made was add the peppermint schnapps. It was really delicious. It is also very rich, so you and your guests probably won’t want more than a cup or two. I think it’s a great option to bring to a party or for having family over the holidays! It’s so yummy and warm and comforting.

Candles

In the vein of hygge, which I talked about last week, I’ve been lighting a lot of candles recently. When it’s cold outside, and especially if it’s cold and gloomy, a candle can make such a difference. It really makes the whole room feel so much more cozy and comfortable. We have so many candles that we rarely use, it’s been nice to finally actually use them. I think I feel like there has to be a special occasion for us to light candles, but that really isn’t true (at least, the candle police hasn’t said anything so far). I think little things like that can lift our mood so much and it’s important to make the most of them! If anyone has any other little things that make them feel better during the day, please share!

This quote:

My brother sent me a bit by a comedian about the ‘gender war.’ It was a really funny segment on how men and women think differently. For example, for women a comment such as ‘it’s cold in here’ is really a request that the temperature be changed, and if it is ignored, the man may find himself being asked questions like “do you even love me?” before too long. One of my favorite lines was this:

“Men and women need each other. Because women bring life into this world, we need them. And women, women can’t reach all the shelves, so they need us too.”

Vulnerability

Nicholas sent this quote yesterday and I think it’s definitely worth sharing:

“There is no intimacy without vulnerability and no vulnerability without surrender.”

In relationships, whether friends, family or our significant others, vulnerability is a requirement of intimacy. Obviously in different relationships there should be different levels of vulnerability. You shouldn’t be as vulnerable with a girlfriend as you are with your spouse, for example. However, regardless of the degree, pretending to have it all together and never admitting any weakness prevents us from achieving a higher level of closeness. Especially in our closest relationships, vulnerability is so essential. We all carry our own wounds, struggles and shortcomings. We all have times of our lives that are especially difficult for some reason or another. To admit that we have been hurt, to admit that we mess up, to admit that we need the other person’s support is not needy, it is human and invites the other person to a deeper understanding of who we are. When we are vulnerable, we express trust and we allow the other person to love us more completely, brokenness and all. When we do the same for the other person, we have the opportunity to practice empathy and compassion and to love the person unconditionally. Learning to be vulnerable is really tough, but it’s good for us to keep in mind that the next time we’re struggling with something, the next time we’re acutely aware of a weakness, we can share it with the person closest to us. In doing so we deepen the intimacy and lighten our load just a little.

Happy Monday!

xo

Miranda

Monday 5: Hygge & other things I’m excited about this week

IMG_5955

Weekends are just the best. Especially ones when you’re not sick and can do things! Friday night I went out with a couple of girlfriends to a spot called Gene’s Haufbrau (oldest bar in Charleston!) and then to a wine and cheese restaurant in West Ashley. We enjoyed some much needed girl time.

Saturday after getting some housework done, Nicholas and I rode bikes to our friend Sara’s house to watch part of the Clemson game. After halftime we left to ride more around Old Village. That night we enjoyed a bonfire on the beach with some friends. Sunday we went to Mass at the cathedral (such a beautiful service!) and then went to a coffee shop called Kudu to get some work done. Sunday evening we helped out with the high school youth group.

It was such a lovely weekend with an extra hour of sleep!! I hope you were able to take advantage and get some rest.

Here is this week’s five, I hope they put some pep into your Monday or at least help you think of your own five!

Gratitude jar

Of course November is a good month to recall all we are grateful for. To make this a little easier, I made a mason jar our ‘gratitude jar’ where we put in post-it notes with what we are grateful for that particular day. At the end of the month we’ll read them out loud to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for!

Hygge

Last week I got to catch up with my friend Bernadette (shout out!) who is living a couple hours away from me with her husband and new baby! One concept she introduced me to is called ‘hygge’, (pronounced huggah) it’s a danish term that means ‘cozy’ or ‘charming’. The idea is to find ways to make your home (or work place) warm and inviting. Whether it’s changing how you arrange your furniture or something as simple as lighting a candle or turning on a lamp, we can make adjustments to bring ‘hygge’ into our everyday lives. I love this concept and am so excited to implement it. I think coziness is such a lovely attribute that brings so much joy and comfort!

Lifestyle changes

For any of you out there who struggle with anxiety, I am right there with you. It really has been tough to battle the distressing thoughts and sometimes overwhelming fears that take over. Nicholas and I have discussed extensively what to do about it and this week we’ve decided to work on making some lifestyle improvements that are supposed to also help with anxiety. Of course, it’s mainly for me but he’s willing to do it with me in order to have some accountability. Some of those changes include getting 8.5 hours of sleep a night, exercising every day (*gulp*) and reducing caffeine intake (!!!). I’m really hoping some of these changes will help and will let you know if they are effective! If anyone has some other tips out there please share!

Boundaries

On the note of anxiety, another helpful tool for me has been the idea of having boundaries with your thoughts. That may seem a little weird, to have boundaries with yourself; but the idea is that when a fear comes to mind, instead of letting it loose and it then wrecking havoc in your head, choosing to set a boundary by simply dismissing the fear altogether. Right off the bat, just saying ‘nope, not gonna go there.’ Shutting down the fear instead of exploring it can be really helpful. The trouble isn’t so much the thoughts themselves as much as what we do with them.

Forgiveness

Something I’m coming to realize more and more is the number of times we have to forgive and be forgiven. It happens so often that I have to let something go, whether I feel like it or not. Even more often is the number of times I have to sincerely apologize for saying or doing something I know I shouldn’t have. Forgiveness is really difficult sometimes, but it’s easier when we remember how many times we have messed up and relied on someone else’s willingness to let it go. This week I want to be me proactive about letting the small things go and giving people the benefit of the doubt, especially since I know the same has been done for me over and over.

xo

Miranda

Monday 5: Self-compassion & other things I’m excited about

IMG_6412 (1)

This weekend was another action filled one with both family on my side and on Nicholas’ side in town. After a quick trip to Sullivan’s Island with the Cundiffs, my brother, my sister, her boyfriend and I all picked up my dad from the train station and had dinner together.

The next morning my brother prepared us a Venezuelan brunch (so good!) and we explored a historic site called ‘McLeod Plantation’. it was a beautiful, peaceful place and the weather was perfect. We also stopped on the pumpkin patch on our way!

IMG_6390

We also went to the movies to see Tom Cruise in ‘American Made’, it was a movie that was very well done with a pretty crazy story (based on real events) about a pilot and the American government’s involvement with the drug cartel. Note: it is not family friendly.

Saturday evening we had dinner at one of our family’s favorite restaurants in Mount Pleasant, The Granary. Sunday morning we all said goodbye to dad and then I went to the 11:15 service at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist with the Cundiffs and after we went to brunch at Hominy Grill!

IMG_6437 (1)

IMG_6442

It was a nice weekend filled with quality time with family, one of my favorite things!

Hopefully your weekend was fun and relaxing and you have things to look forward in the week ahead! In case you need some ideas, here are some things I’m excited about this week.

Meet the fam

Thursday evening we had the Cundiffs over for dinner at my house. While Nicholas had met my family before and I his, they had never met each other. Since the Cundiffs live at least a 12 hour drive away, the chances for them to meet my family not been many (read 0) so it made sense to take advantage of this rare opportunity. There’s something scary about families meeting, you really can’t control how they are going to act or if they are going to get along or not. I think most of tend to avoid this encounter for as long as we can, but it really is important. Our families know us the best, they are an incredibly important part of who we are and including them in our intimate relationships is not only healthy, but necessary. It’s easy to isolate ourselves as we get older and keep our different ‘lives’ separate, and while I understand why that’s attractive (believe me, I really do) there is something really wholesome about inviting others, especially those you are close to, into your relationship and not closing yourself off. I think the dinner went as well as we could have hoped for, and I feel at peace knowing that my family knows Nicholas just a little bit better now.

Self-compassion

We all have our weaknesses, some which at times can get the best of us. Whether it’s a bad habit, a difficulty in a certain area, or strong fear we have, it’s easy to get down on ourselves for being/having/doing something we dislike. However, I think criticizing or begrudging those parts of ourselves that we struggle with is actually counter productive. While it’s certainly helpful to have awareness of those things we want to work on, I’m not sure that condemning them is. We want to allow room for us to be compassionate towards those parts of us that are lacking, the same way we would toward a friend or family member who is going through something. I think compassion is a much better starting place for healing or improvement than disparagement. It’s a hard habit to break, but I think working toward a understanding of our shortcomings is an outlook worth developing that will be more likely to lead us to progress.

The King’s Speech

I hadn’t seen this movie in a while but when we watched it over the weekend I was reminded of how excellent it is. Talk about weakness, to see the soon-to-be king of England absolutely grapple with his speech impediment is straight up painful. I liked too, how his speech therapist (Logan) recognizes that the physical problem is really just a symptom for a deeper, emotional and psychological trauma. He treats the wound itself and not merely it’s manifestation. I loved the King’s wife (played beautifully by Helen Bonham Carter) and what an important role she had too. Her encouragement, support, faith and gentleness kept His Royal Highness sane and grounded when he felt tempted to give up. It is a beautiful dynamic that demonstrated how we can be loved despite our worst problems. If you haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t seen it in a while, I think it is well worth your time.

Halloween costumes

How the heck did Halloween come so fast?! This Friday we are going to a couple’s house who throw an epic Halloween party party every year and I’m so excited. The problem is, I’m not good at Halloween and have no idea what to dress up as! It would be fun to do a couple’s costume too, but it has to be something that isn’t too cheesy. I love the idea of doing something clever or well thought out (without spending much money on a costume, of course). I’m really excited to look at some more ideas, but suggestions are welcome!!!

This quote

Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.

-Dorothy Day

Love love love! Such a good, true, beautiful statement. I want to remind myself of this every day.

Hope you have an untidy, messy, haphazard week!

xo

Miranda

Monday 5: Obedience & other things I’m excited about this week

IMG_6052

This weekend included the first lazy Saturday I’ve had in a while and it was amazing. We also got drinks with friends Friday evening, I had my first bachelorette party Saturday night and yesterday we paddle boarded all the way to Shem Creek! It took us a couple of hours, between the ride there, the drink we got there and our ride back. But it was so cool paddleboarding at night under the stars! Nicholas admitted he was worried about sharks for the last bit, but we made it safely without running into any finned friends.

We also decided to try Husk Sunday evening, one of the more well known upscale restaurants in Charleston but backed out at the last minute (it was so fancy) and decided to just try the bar food instead (like the peasants that we are). We ordered a basket of 6 pieces of fried chicken (which ended up being double of what we needed) and a side of lima bean salad. It was very good and we both enjoyed the outdoor patio scene, but it wasn’t amazing. Next time we’ll have to try the real deal and see if it’s actually worth the hype.

In any case, it was a great weekend and I feel a lot more well rested than I have in a while, and that is definitely something to be excited about! In addition to that, here are five more things I’m excited about this week.

Family visiting

Nicholas’ mother, sister and brother arrive here tonight! We are so excited (Nicholas especially, obviously) to see them and to show them around Charleston. We spent a fair amount of time yesterday afternoon putting together a tentative schedule of fun things to do while they are here! Additionally, my sister comes back from school for her Fall break Wednesday, and my dad will be here this weekend! I love when family gets together, especially when you live in a place that has so many opportunities for outings. The weather is supposed to be a little cooler too, so that is exciting!!

Meditation

Anxiety can be super tricky. It creeps up on us and convinces us that are worst fears are becoming reality. It also becomes habitual, making it harder and harder to see things clearly. Our bodies become addicted to the chemicals released by the sympathetic nervous system when we feel fearful. This complicates matters further when we want to overcome anxiety because our bodies crave that rush of norepinephrine and adrenaline. There are medications out there I know are helpful for dealing with this, however I’m really trying to avoid that by relying on meditation instead. Mindfulness meditations have been shown to be successful in healing people of anxiety and increasing health and well-being. While I initially hated making time to do even just an 8 minute meditation, I’ve grown to really appreciate that time to just be and I’m hopeful that it is helping me make progress in my goal of being a calm, peaceful person. If you struggle with anxiety at all or are remotely interested in this, I highly recommend reading this book and doing the guided meditations that come with it.

This gyro recipe

Nicholas and I have been talking for a while about trying some Greek recipes, and last week we finally did! I loved this recipe for chicken gyros, it was simple and delicious. I will say gyros involve several steps, it was great doing it together but I know if I had done it alone I would have needed more time, so just a heads up. But it was so good! And a cool variation from our typical meals. I doubled the recipe for the five of us (three of which were men) and there were leftovers, which is always exciting. I plan on trying more recipes from this site soon!

Obedience

As adults, obedience may not be something we think about often. After all, we’re adults, we do what we want…isn’t that the point? We don’t have to listen to teachers, parents, or older siblings who want to tell us what to do! However, I think obedience is actually still highly relevant even as we get older, especially in relationships. This article gave some interesting perspective on obedience in marriage and how it actually helps us to love more. It’s not about being a doormat or being walked all over, but it is about sacrifice and gift of self. Mutual obedience can actually lead to a deeper, more beautiful love than if we are constantly trying to push our own agendas…who would have thought?!

This quote

A couple whose family I spent vast amounts of time with for a few years in my childhood recently celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. I love this family, not only for inviting me into their home, but also because of the example they set for marriage and parenthood. They were very well known in our community, partly because with 6 kids they were hard to miss, but also just because of their strength as a family unit. It was awesome to see a family so involved and so fun. I think there is such stigma with ‘settling down,’ but this family showed us that family life is supposed to be just the beginning of an amazing adventure, not what you resort to when you’ve checked everything else off your bucket list. For their 23rd anniversary, the wife posted this quote which I thought was so beautiful and so true! Something to think about as we move forward this week.

“We all bring our ‘garbage’ into this union, but if we have the courage and the heart to love even the weakest parts of each other, well, what happens is nothing short of miraculous!”

xo

Miranda

‘Promises’: Demi Lovato & what I wish I had known about my parents’ divorce

IMG_6200

For at least a month (up until last week) I was driving around with no radio. I know…the horror. My car radio (intelligently) locked me out after I had the battery replaced and even though I looked and looked, could not find the code for it. I finally called Honda a few weeks ago and they attempted to help but after a little bit on the phone were also unsuccessful.

Resigned to the worst, I was preparing myself to visit the Honda dealership in person when Nicholas rode with me one day and – as I was telling him the radio malfunction saga – he pressed a button that miraculously turned on the radio for the first time in weeks.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but things like that happen to him all the time…and I’m not bitter about it at all.

Having had a fair break from the current radio stations, I was eager to catch up on the latest releases. One that stuck out to me was by Demi Lovato called ‘Promises.’ The gist of the song is that love is difficult and so even though I care about you, ‘promise me no promises.’

I was a little disappointed at this message, especially because it’s not the first or second or tenth time that I’ve heard it spoken to me from various sources recently. I think my generation has become very guarded and as I’ve gotten older I’m starting to understand why.

From 1960 to 1980, after the no-fault divorce bill was passed (saying that you could get a divorce without proving spousal wrongdoing), the divorce rate more than doubled.

A lot of us millennials and some from those in the previous generation (gen x) were born to those parents.

Ex: my mother and myself. We were both born into families whose parents went on to get divorced.

IMG_6201

What has occurred as a result of this breakdown in the family, is that we are terrified of making a promise that could later on be broken. What we have learned is that a vow doesn’t mean anything, it is unsafe. I can say ‘I love you’ and still walk away. Marriage, therefore, has lost it’s place in society as an outdated and ineffective tradition.

We treat relationships lightly and avoid getting attached at all costs.

The problem with this, is that family is the foundation of society. We learn to love in the home. The best example we’ll ever have of love is that which our parents show us through their love for each other. That is why we are falling short today, we don’t know how to love.  It is something we have to learn, we are not born on an island; our ability to love, our identity and sense of self are all things we develop in relation to others.

I wish I had known all of this earlier; my dating relationships have been made dramatically more difficult because of my own experience of what happens when we fail to keep our marital vows. We make a vow for a reason, it is not meant to be broken. Not merely because of the heartbreak that happens to the individuals who were married, but because of the damage it does to the children affected and society at large. The children of divorce live with that for the rest of their lives.

IMG_6202

Distrust, skepticism, and overwhelming fear often get the best of me, leading to strife between myself and the person I love. These thoughts and feelings aren’t things that come from nowhere, they are leftover from the reality that I’ve seen what happens when our love falls short and the pain that it causes. It honestly has gotten between us over and over again. I am constantly battling the voices in my head telling me to run…I am wary of being hurt and willing to do just about anything to avoid it. At times it is excruciating, exhausting and entirely discouraging for both me and my s/o. Experience and the fear it causes are powerful forces, more than I’d like to admit, however it is evident in myself and the culture around us.

This secondhand effect of divorce is rampant in people my age who refuse to ‘settle down’ and avoid family life altogether. We have, instead, become concerned with career achievement and having a good time. While these are good things, they are not the best things. The most convincing lie out there today is that you can’t have a good job, have fun and be married with children. It is either one or the other. If that were true, then I wouldn’t blame anyone for not ever wanting to get married, that sounds awful!

The reality, however, is that family life doesn’t steal our joy, it increases it. The studies concerning singles vs. married couples shows us that married couples tend to be happier.

This makes sense, because we are made to be in relation to others. We are born into families for a reason. Our deepest joy doesn’t come from getting drinks with friends (again, not a bad thing), it comes from loving and being loved deeply.

I know how discouraging it can be when people left and right are leaving their marriages. I know what it’s like to grow up convinced that family life is for the sitcoms and love doesn’t work. I know how hard it is to love when all you know is what happens when we don’t love.

However, Nicholas reminded me in a moment of frustration that hope is a virtue because it only makes sense in the context of hopelessness. If things are just fine, we have no need for hope. We need it when we are most tempted to despair.

IMG_6203

As millennials get older, I hope we realize the absolute necessity for family life. I hope we’re brave enough to give it our all, even if we’ve seen others who haven’t. I hope we learn to prioritize what is truly important and to overcome the fear that tells us to run the other way…because if we don’t, I guess I’m not sure who will.

It’s up to us to undo the cycle of broken promises and give the generations after us the opportunity to be learn what it means to love and to love others themselves.

IMG_6204

What we can learn from the evolution of Taylor Swift

IMG_5650

I still remember where I was when I heard one of Taylor Swift’s songs for the first time. I was riding in the back of a neighbor’s minivan and my friend showed me the CD case of her debut album as we listened to ‘Teardrops on my Guitar.’ I liked her music right away and from then on was an enthusiastic ‘Swiftie (Swifty?).’

Most of Taylor’s early tunes involve her liking someone, longing for them, enjoying and admiring them, or breaking up with them. As a fourteen year old, I related to her thoughts quite a bit. Even as I got older I continued to enjoy her songs and got so excited each time a new single or album was released. I remember freshman year of college gushing about ‘Red’ with my friends and two years later listening to ‘1989’ on repeat.

Over the years, you can definitely notice a shift away from the country style she started out with to a more pop sound. Not only that, but as Taylor got older, her lyrics also lost some of their hopefulness and sweetness that are so prevalent in her early songs like ‘Love Story’ or ‘Fearless’ or ‘Hey Stephen.’

Her song ‘Blank Space’ made this especially evident as she mocks the reputation given to her by the media of being a psycho man eater who preys on a guy any chance she gets. I remember watching the music video in a music class junior year of college and being in awe of the dark humor we hadn’t really seen before.

This change of tone was also clear in her song ‘Bad Blood’ with a threatening music video to accompany it; now the difference is especially vivid with her newest release, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ which would give a younger me nightmares.

Taylor Swift certainly knows what she’s doing as an artist. Everything she does she does very well, she clearly has a vision and carries it out faithfully. Her tunes are catchy and communicate clearly what she wants to say with each song and video…it is admirably intentional. Not only that, but especially the last two albums have been sensational, meaning they have created a sensation. People talk about it, whether you like her, hate her, think she’s overrated…you’ve probably had a conversation about her newest release.

While I admire her work and can enjoy her latest hits, this last album especially has made me nostalgic for the sweet, romantic Taylor we first met. I think growing up in the spotlight has to be really tough, and I think her experiences have made Taylor Swift a lot more jaded. Even behind the scenes you see her joking around, playing it cool, not wanting to take anything too seriously.

Seeing her change you could say that this is what happens to all of us as we get older. We realize that life isn’t always peachy, we get hurt, we learn from it, we become more realistic…we grow up.

Maybe you can say that 27 year old T-Sizzle is a lot more mature than her 16-year-old self, and I’m sure you’re right; but I wouldn’t say that her outlook on life is somehow superior now than it was 10 years ago.

Her songs now express a hurt that has been caused by friends who turned on her, criticisms she’s received and repeated heartbreak. We see this in her lyrics that denounce romance and instead pronounce relationships as little more than games to be played (Are You Ready For it).

I think to an extent we all experience these sort of wounds over the course of our lives, but I guess I’m not sure becoming hard and cynical is the answer. I think as children we’re really good at trusting, we’re highly dependent on others. As we get older we become more independent and often reluctant to rely on others for anything. We have our own dreams, our own goals, our own needs and wants that don’t require someone else’s help. As long as we can get the job, buy the house, run the marathon, travel…we’re satisfied, complete, invulnerable.

I wonder, though, if those ‘acquisitions’ are enough to fulfill our desire for intimacy. I wonder if we let someone in, we could someday prove that the new Taylor Swift isn’t 100% right in denouncing love. I wonder if our dreams and goals are things we can share and work toward with another person. I wonder if maybe the young Taylor had it right and just got a little misguided on her rise to fame. I wonder if that’s what happens to all of us (minus the fame).

Maybe Taylor Swift isn’t as cynical as her new songs imply, I hope that is the case. Being open to loving and being loved by other people is possibly the most important part of our lives, hurt is inevitable but I don’t think we would ever want heartbreak to have the final word.

Recently I’ve been listening a lot to singer/songwriter Alanna Boudreau. In her song ‘I’ll be your Woman’, she says:

“Keep your affection in boxes, keep your heart free, that’s what they told you those sly foxes but that don’t faze me.”

Isn’t that so true though? We are told that, whether it’s by Taylor Swift, media, our friends or family or even our own experiences…we’re told to be on guard and I think that may be causing more harm than good. If we’re always looking out for ourselves we’ll miss the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from deep communion with others, from self-gift and from really knowing and being known by another person.

I may sing along with Taylor Swift’s newest, catchy hits, but I hope I live my life a little more like the teenager who sung about dancing in the rain and eyes that are like the jungle.

 

 

*Picture taken on our way to Sullivan’s Island while listening/singing along to some old school Taylor*

Unprotected: Why contraception isn’t enough

IMG_5701

Today we we’re generally very safety oriented. Speed limits, hand sanitizing stations, screen protectors, phone codes, childlock, birth control…prevention prevention prevention.

All these precautions have the good intention of protecting us from potential danger, and most do this effectively. Birth control is somewhat of an anomaly in that it does prevent (generally) women from getting pregnant, but it doesn’t really protect us. In fact, it actually has the opposite effect.

The reason is that there are ramifications to sex that aren’t pregnancy, or even STD’s, and a pill or condom is simply not enough to cover all the bases.

The weird thing about sex is that even though it’s a physical thing, it very much affects us emotionally and psychologically as well.

The human person is so integrated that it’s impossible to separate the physical from the emotional or the emotional from the psychological. Think about how much better you feel when you are working out regularly and eating well, your mood improves and you think more clearly. When you’re sleep deprived you’re a lot more likely to break down in tears because you feel stressed and overwhelmed than when you’ve had a good night’s rest.

Sex is an excellent example of how united we really are. There is a connection or bond that forms in sex that lasts beyond the act itself – a bond that isn’t merely physical. We know this because it has been studied a fair amount.

In the book that is linked we learn how a campus counselor witnessed the damage ‘safe sex’ is doing to our young women. Intelligent, driven, beautiful women are being overwhelmed by depression and anxiety that is largely due to the attachment resulting from detached sex. Birth control does not provide safety from the pain resulting from the tearing apart a unity made in a sexual act by someone who is not truly committed to that unity.

Just to be clear, the attachment itself is in actuality a very good thing because within marriage, that bond is essential. If we are to be with someone for the rest of our lives we certainly want to be connected to them in an intimate way emotionally and physically. We don’t just want to chat with them the way we share with our girlfriends, it has to be more than that, more complete.

Sex is inherently a wonderful thing, it is also extremely powerful. But like any good thing, it can also be dangerous (similar to a jar of Nutella in the pantry).

The problem arises when we form this bond with someone who is not around for the long term. As a necessary result of sex we can feel intimately connected with someone, and when they are no longer in our lives, we suffer a deep loss as a result. Our judgement can become clouded because we feel so close to someone and will do just about anything to protect that relationship (again, something that is so essential in marriage); without knowing if they will choose us for the rest of our lives or whether we should really be with them.

Birth control makes this attachment outside of marriage a lot more feasible. If we’re not worried about getting pregnant the ‘risk’ of having sex is seemingly minimal. And you may say that people sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend and break up down the road and survive…no damage done.

Humans have the ability to become desensitized; to weird smells, annoying background noises and even to the powerful effects of sex. And unfortunately, though you may think this solves the problem, it actually creates a different one. The reason is that when someone who has had past attachments repeatedly broken, if they then do get married, that bond which is so necessary in a spousal relationship isn’t as effective. 

If someone makes a promise to you and then breaks it, you’re less likely to believe them the second time around. Similarly, our bodies intelligently form a defense mechanism to protect us from suffering that can result from bonding. Therefore, when we really need that bonding to come into play, we have difficulty forming that deep bond because it has been broken so many times before.

Yes, birth control ‘protects’ us from pregnancy, but it doesn’t prevent us from attaching to someone that maybe we shouldn’t have that level of attachment with. And it doesn’t stop that bond from losing it’s strength when we most need it. Contraception is considered to provide us with ‘safe sex’, but to me the safest sex is the kind that is with the one person you have vowed to be with ’til death do you part.

To most of us the idea of waiting util marriage to have sex is outdated at best and comical at worst. We have become increasingly cynical of marriage and so we resort to sleeping and living together as a pseudo-married life. I wonder what would happen if as as individuals and as a society we started to value sex as something beautiful and necessary, something precious to our families. I wonder if we would have more faith in marriage if more of them lasted because we’re bonded to our spouse in a special way.

I wonder if we saw that contraception just isn’t enough to save us from the risks of something as powerful as sexual intimacy, how we would benefit from treating it as the incredible gift that it is.

Monday 5: Relationships edition

IMG_0376

The first picture I ever posted of Nicholas and me was shortly after our first date when we met up in Raleigh, NC six months ago. It was a great date, especially considering we had only hung out a total of 3 or 4 times before then and hadn’t seen each other in three months.

While cute, the picture didn’t quite depict the whole…picture. On the way to the train station (where the pic was taken) I had broken down into tears when Nicholas told me he was excited about our relationship…#irrational. Moments after we took the pic, I got on the wrong train…oops.

As an avid social media user, I can be the first to admit that our Instagram or Facebook posts can make everything look so peachy and mysteriously leave out the messy or unpleasant parts of our lives. I don’t post photos of my crying when I take something Nicholas says or does the wrong way, there’s no Instagram story of the stony silences that occur when we’re upset with each other, no captions voice the concerns or doubts or disagreements we’ve had.

I say all this not to give the impression that our relationship is actually awful but because it’s real…warts and all (figurative warts of course…we both have perfect skin thankyouverymuch).

In celebration of the past six months, here are the top 5 things I’m excited about regarding our relationship (and relationships in general). Not all of it is ‘Instragram worthy’, but that’s kind of the point.

Forgiveness

At least four or five times a week I have to sincerely apologize to Nicholas for something. Whether it’s being too quick to judge, or not giving the benefit of the doubt, or assuming the worst, or being a little too brutally honest…there have been plenty of occasions for me to gulp down my humble pie and for Nicholas to practice the virtue of forgiveness. Similarly, I have had to forgive Nicholas when he makes a careless comment or hurts my feelings in some fashion which happens frequently since I am the most Sensitive Sally. It’s been cool to see us forgive each other over and over again. Reconciliation has become one of our strong suits and I have a feeling it will come in handy often.

Selflessness

‘You do you’ has become such a common saying today, and despite it’s casual nature, I think it can be a dangerous mindset. We really shouldn’t just do us. If love is willing the good of the other then there isn’t room for us to simply pick what we prefer…someone else’s well-being is at stake. There are so many times that I have to choose what is best for him over what I want in that particular moment. Whether it’s something trivial like talking to him in the car when I really want to just listen to music, or something more serious, I often have to give up what I want for him. As ‘woe is me’ as that may sound, where rubber meets the road in love is sacrifice and self gift…and I know he often has to do the same. I also think it comes more naturally over time…fingers crossed.

Celebrations

Each month Nicholas and I celebrate our ‘monthaversary’ as well as the day we became exclusive without having gone on any dates – we call it Charleston-Cleveland (or CC for short) Alliance Day. On those days we make sure to do something special, whether it’s wearing our Ohio Against the World t-shirts, or going to dinner or just grabbing a beer. I keep pictures of random days we spent together as well as special occasions in a scrapbook to commemorate our good times. I think celebrating these little, seemingly meaningless milestones adds so much joy to our lives and reminds us to focus on the good.

Growth

An important goal for the two of us from the beginning has been that of personal growth. It’s so easy to get comfortable and become complacent in our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual lives; so we try to avoid that by reading stimulating/inspiring books together, exercising, making time for prayer….things that are easy to let slide if we don’t hold each other accountable. When we have this goal that is bigger than ourselves, it adds meaning to our relationship and helps guide our decisions in a healthy way.

Sharing

One of my favorite parts of our relationship is our shared life together (in the context of what’s appropriate for dating). We started texting each other every couple of weeks or so when we first became friends, then texting every week, then almost every day. From there we moved to daily phone calls (often 2-3 a day) and Facetime sessions. Finally we got to visit each other and spend time together for days at a time. Now living in the same town, we aim to see each other every day; whether it’s visiting friends or family, working out, grabbing a beer, eating dinner…we strive to stick together. There are things we can’t do together (coffee dates with my girlfriends, tennis with his buddies) but generally we try to make each other a priority and share in our thoughts, memories, opinions, hopes and experiences.

I feel incredibly grateful for every minute of the past few months (even the painful, crying ones). The photogenic moments of our relationship are vastly outnumbered by the hard, painful, uncomfortable, tense, awkward and boring ones, but it brings me a lot of peace knowing that we are not choosing this because it is easy, but because we both genuinely hope it could be worth it.

Here’s to relationships that aren’t nearly as perfect as the pictures that depict them.

xo

Miranda

If I could write a love song: My response to Maren Morris

IMG_0020

When I was seven or eight, I had an altercation with my BFF (shout out to Maria in NYC!) and decided to write a song to her explaining how I felt.

It didn’t end well. Unlike Mozart or Lil Romeo I was not a young musical genius and so my music writing efforts didn’t result in much.

However, I’ve always enjoyed music and loved expressing myself that way. I played violin through college and have always loved listening to music too. Early on Taylor Swift was my girl (she sings about boys, what else do you care about in middle or high school?). Even now I love coming across a song with lyrics I relate to and a sweet tune.

Recently, country singer Maren Morris’ song ‘I could use a love song’ has been stuck in my head. I think she really hits the nail on the head as to how a lot of us feel today in regard to relationships. Despite overwhelming cynicism in our generation, a part of us longs for romance and the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. As much as we fill our lives with work and friends and hobbies and a date or two, part of us is longing for more.

Having been in a committed relationship for the past few months, I’ve learned a LITTLE bit (just a tiny bit) about what it really means to love someone…and unfortunately it’s not in any of T-sizzle’s catchy tunes. If I could write a love song, Maren Morris, I would. But I can’t because it would be terrible. But if I could, here are some things I would want to say:

Love doesn’t feel good.

Okay, sometimes it does. Sometimes you’re smiling and laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy. But a lot of times it’s a lot less like the Notebook and a lot more like a documentary that’s a little too real or even slightly boring. Loving someone isn’t just a feeling, it’s choice that you make over and over…even when it’s hard. There are times when you’re both really tired and just sitting there next to each other has to be enough. There are times where you go out with their work friends and feel a little awkward and left out. There are times where you disagree on sensitive topics or even really little things like whether gages are cute or not (they’re not…just so we’re clear). There are times where the person will disappoint you; whether it’s something they did now or yesterday or when they were in college…none of those times feel good. But the good news is that love isn’t a feeling. That is good because when these discomforts arise – which they will because we’re HUMAN and not a Hollywood film – we can still choose the other person.

Love takes work.

Somehow movies tend to end when the couple gets together…we never see what happens after the ‘happily ever after.’ Falling in love is just the beginning. A lot of divorces happen because people stop ‘feeling it.’ They slowly move farther and farther apart as they get caught up in other priorities (work, children etc) and neglect their relationship. Regular date nights, reconnecting daily, playing together, sharing in each other’s interests…these are all necessary to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your significant other. Also things like keeping a lark journal or photo album are helpful. I think it’s easy to get comfortable with the ones we love and then complain when the ‘spark’ is gone. Fortunately the ‘spark’ is something we can work on. It just takes…work. Love needs to be nurtured and protected, not taken for granted.

Love is healing.

We all have wounds from loved ones. Whether it’s our imperfect parents, previous romantic relationships or some traumatic event, we have hurt that stays with us. Love is healing. In healthy and loving relationships we re-learn (or un-learn falsehoods) about what it means to love and be loved. Today a big movement out there is telling us to be independent; as counter cultural as it may seem, I’m saying you’re not and never have been. We’re born reliant on others and though we may learn to provide for ourselves, love is something we can only learn in relation to others. That doesn’t mean it has to be a romantic relationship; we can learn this from family or friends as well, but it does mean we need others. To trust and be trusted, to give and receive, to be vulnerable, to be intimate…these are only things we can learn outside ourselves, regardless of your ability to feed yourself.

Love demands sacrifice.

It just does. Loving someone requires time and energy and effort. You can’t continue to live your life exactly how you want. You begin to take the other person into consideration and think about how your decisions affect them. You think about what makes them happy instead of only what pleases you. You eventually begin to put the other person before you…that is what love does, it makes you selfless. We’re born inherently selfish, (did you as an infant ever think about whether it was convenient for your mom to feed you or not?) out of necessity. Our goal as we grow up is to unlearn that. Loving another person is a wonderful wake up call that can sometimes feel like a slap in the face. We’re no longer just looking out for ourselves and it’s painful. Every instinct tells us to focus on self-preservation, meanwhile we know that we don’t have room for selfishness in relationships. Love is ultimately gift of self, a sacrifice.

Maren Morris could use a love song and I think a lot of us are in that boat. Maybe they aren’t being written as much because we’ve lost sight of what love really looks like. How can we write (or sing) about something we’re not familiar with? Love is hard, and we don’t want that. We’re looking for the easy way out and coming up empty; empty hearts and empty playlists. But we’re missing out, because love is wonderful and absolutely worth fighting for…maybe if someone would come out with a song we would realize that.

xo

Miranda