Wedding Planning: Overall stress

I originally had something else planned for this post, but I decided to nix it because I thought I might hurt some people’s feelings (and oddly enough, the post dealt with potentially hurting people’s feelings during the wedding planning process). So instead, I’m just going to quote the late Ricky Nelson:

But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.

You see, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.

I’m beginning to realize that no matter what, someone is going to feel disappointed, underwhelmed, slighted, ignored, etc. as a direct result of my and Cory’s wedding and the choices we have made regarding it. As a bride, it terrifies me that a day of such joy could be the catalyst for potentially years of turmoil, hurt feelings or silent grudges. But you know what? Not a thing I can do.

That’s a hard thing for me to grasp. That there’s nothing I can do. That I can’t control certain outcomes. That I can’t ensure everyone’s happiness.

I know what you’re thinking: But, Monica! It’s your day. It’s about you. Only your happiness matters! You’re not wrong, you’re certainly not. I offer no argument against the fact that anyone’s satisfaction and happiness but mine and Cory’s is irrelevant on that day. It’s the repercussions from other dissatisfied or unhappy people that frighten me.

As I mentioned earlier, this is stemming from another, more specific post I had typed out, but I didn’t want anyone to feel like I was calling them out, so you can assume for yourselves what might be causing me the most stress at the moment. And really, it could be anything. Even if you think back to weddings you’ve been to (even if you’re already married and remember the stress you were under during the planning stages) and recall something you didn’t like, you may be surprised at yourself. But I can guarantee you that the bride and groom (or, more likely, the bride and her mother) did everything they could to make that day nice and enjoyable, all within a budget.


Wedding planning got me like…

I’m just going to be honest: this is hard. All the Pinterest boards and inspirational bridal magazines in the world can’t describe for anyone – sometimes not even other brides – what a single bride feels or what battles she wages within herself. As the date draws nearer, if other brides are like me, they constantly second-guess their decisions and themselves. Poring over their plans, guest list, food, cake, music selection, ceremony itinerary can leave them riddled with guilt.

This is not a post meant to have an uplifting ending that other brides can read and say, “Oh! It’ll all seem easy in the end!” This is not a post that contains a list of dos and don’ts for guests or friends of the couple.

This is just a post of me venting for a minute and confessing the stresses that maybe brides don’t want to admit for fear that we’ll seem weak or others will laugh off our frustrations or – sometimes worse – shrug off our frustrations like we should just discard them like we will that bouquet in a few months.

It’s just not that easy, folks. Not for me.

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No better time than now

You know what we don’t necessarily need? New Year resolutions.

Lots of people still make New Year resolutions, and I have absolutely zero concern about that, because that’s their life and none of my business. And I can understand why people still do it. It’s a new calendar year, so any sort of change can easily be traced back to Jan.1 to evaluate progress; or, along the same lines as rearranging the furniture or getting a new haircut, a mark of a new year puts folks in the mood for more change.

To lose weight. To exercise. To eat healthier. To read more. To spend more time with family. To save more money. To be a better person.

But why do those things have to come with the new year? Why, in 2017, do people still ask if we’ve made any New Year resolutions? Haven’t we figured out by now that every time the moon goes back to bed and the sun comes up is an opportunity for a fresh start, a resolution, if you will? That every time the minute hand on the clock lands on a new number, we have a chance to start over? That in the time it took you to read that sentence was an opening for you to change something about yourself?

I’ve teased my mom over the years because she’s often uttered the phrase, “My diet starts on Monday.” It’s become like a joke between us now because I’ll always ask, “Why Monday? Is something happening on Monday that I don’t know about? Should I be planning something major for Monday?”

We have fun with it, yeah, but the point remains: a designated “beginning” on a calendar doesn’t have to serve as the only time we can have a beginning.

It’s been my experience that the more buildup I place on a new task or change for myself, the more I set myself up for failure, which means more disappointment because I convinced myself beforehand that THIS time was going to be different.

When I finally decided I was going to start blogging more regularly, I think it was a Wednesday. I banged out a piece on Halloween, and posted it up the next day. I had fallen off the writing wagon for a few months, and I wanted to keep myself in practice, and I figured there was no better time than right then. When I decided I needed to stop my excessive eating habits and sedentary lifestyle, I don’t even remember what day of the week it was on, because that wasn’t important. I just knew I needed to change and decided there was no better time than right then.

In the moment, obviously, it was present tense: there’s no better time than right now.

Didn’t psych myself up. Didn’t count the worries or fears. Didn’t bemoan how long it would take to get the results I wanted. I just had to start. I had to go. I had to do it.

*Disclaimer: I don’t recommend this attitude for things, like, starting a business, having a child, joining the military, etc. Sure, there are cases when someone just knows when a big decision is right, but that’s why they’re called “big decisions.” A little prep time is usually good. Anyway…

Maybe my method won’t work for you, and you’re more of a logical-calendar-date planner. That’s cool. Diff’rnt strokes.

Happy New Year, everybody! Prepare yourselves for future wedding posts, as we are now in the Year of Matrimony ❤

Also, check out this hat I won from a Twitter contest from Planet Fitness.

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End of Christmas shopping means…more shopping

Elvis Presley asked us in 1957 why can’t every day be like Christmas. In some respects, it appears that consumers do try to extend Christmas. Did you know that Dec. 26 – the day after the traditionally gift-giving/receiving holiday of Christmas – is the fifth busiest shopping day of the entire year? That’s weird, right?

According to this October article from Business Insider, Monday, Dec. 26 is projected to be one of the busiest days of the year for retail stores. Black Friday came in at No. 2 on that list. The article doesn’t predict sales for the day after Christmas, but Forbes, drawing from a survey, observed that 66 percent of people plan to shop that day – compared to 47 percent on Cyber Monday and 45 percent on Black Friday – and spend an average of $186.

The Forbes article outlined possible reasons for this activity as customers using gift cards they received for Christmas or taking advantage of sales to buy things for themselves. Either way, the stuff bought is probably going to the purchaser, who may have received a few hundred dollars in gifts less than 24 hours earlier.

Before I go further, allow me to acknowledge that I see nothing wrong with shopping. I’m pretty frugal, so I don’t often buy things for myself, but I have nothing against people who do. What I find a bit odd in this case is people hitting the stores to buy stuff when they just got stuff. (Obviously I’m ruling out people who are getting a head start on next year’s Christmas by getting the gifts cheaper on Dec. 26, people who got gift cards for the sole purpose of getting the stuff they wanted at better prices, and people who are contributing to the traffic in stores, but not necessarily buying anything, just so they can hang out with family.)

I’ll admit that I’ve shopped (and bought) on the day after Christmas, and those few times have left me feeling selfish and unsatisfied. Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I felt like a spoiled kid who couldn’t be pacified with the gobs of merchandise with which she was showered the day before. I promise that’s not the case, but that’s the image I felt I had claimed. In reality, it was because my mom wanted to take me to some stores because she thought it would be a fun day for us to spend time together before I had to go back to Bowling Green. (Mom, I know you read my blog posts, so please don’t take this as me saying I don’t want to go shopping with you anymore. You know I have fun with you.)

I think what has made me feel uncomfortable in the past is knowing that there are people who truly embody that selfishness I was afraid I projected. I know those people exist because I’ve met them. I’ve literally heard college acquaintances say, “Well, my parents got me a new coat and five new pairs of pants and eight sweaters and an iPad, but I made them take me to Old Navy the day after Christmas to get that coat in two or three more colors. One wasn’t enough.”

These are all just observations on my part, and I don’t know what’s in anyone’s heart, but I know that sometimes it doesn’t seem that we’re exhibiting thankfulness and gratefulness. So I’m going to make that my goal this Christmas and in the upcoming year. I have a lot for which to be appreciative, and then every day really can feel like Christmas.

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After JonBenet

It’s been nearly 20 years since I first learned about true evil.

Christmas 1996. While my family and I went back for seconds of turkey, biscuits and pie – my mom helping me with my plate because of my 6-year-old clumsy hands – a family 15 hours away was about to live a nightmare.

Dec. 26, 1996. If memory serves me correctly, NBC Nightly News ran the story. Tom Brokaw gave us the latest. A little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl, a pageant princess, was missing in Boulder, Col. Her name was JonBenet Ramsey, and she was 6 years old. Just like me.

I remember the shots of the home, people in police jackets going in and out of the house, walking around outside. I remember the home video clips of JonBenet in heavy makeup and sequined outfits strutting around a stage, flashing a sweetheart smile.

That’s about all I remember seeing on TV. What I remember more is how I felt.

For the rest of the evening, thoughts of JonBenet consumed me. Where was she? When will they find her? How did she learn to dance and sing like that? Was she hiding? Why would she hide and scare her mommy and daddy? Did all that makeup make her sneeze? Did someone take her? Why would someone take a little girl my age?

Having only ever seen happy endings to any distressing tale on screen, I went to bed that night fully expecting to see a news report the next day with a dainty JonBenet wrapped in her parents’ arms.

My expectation wasn’t completely wrong. JonBenet found herself wrapped in her parents’ arms once again, just a few hours after the news report; but it was with nylon cord around her neck and wrists and duct tape over her mouth.

A girl born not quite two months before I was born was dead. The same name engraved into pageant trophies and printed in a child’s lettering on kindergarten assignments and drawings was scrawled across a folder inside a filing cabinet full of other open, unsolved homicides.

And there it remains.

Some people say her father John killed her in a rage. Some people say her mother Patsy, a pageant queen herself (formerly Miss West Virginia), killed her out of jealousy or stress. Others say her brother Burke, 9 years old at the time, accidentally killed her with the cord that was found around her lifeless neck. Still others say a stranger killed her.

Whomever it was, we may never know for sure. But that hasn’t stopped a nationwide fascination with the case. Just this week, in fact, a tabloid ran a composite sketch of a “suspect.” In my own life, I’ve never forgotten it.


Photo by Randall Simons/Polaris.

This wasn’t the first time the grown-up fear of what bad things can happen to children had hit me, but it was the first time I witnessed the conclusion of some of those bad things. Many of those same questions I had the night after I saw the news continue to haunt me, not just when I think of JonBenet, but any time I hear of a missing or murdered child.

Just one county over from me in Allen County last year, little Gabbi Doolin was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and swiftly killed in the same night. When I heard the news, I thought of JonBenet. Every vile, unspeakable tragedy that happens to a child takes my mind back to December 1996.

Maybe it’s because she was my age. Maybe it’s because 6-year-old Monica envied her talent. Maybe it’s because it was Christmastime. Whatever the reason, JonBenet Ramsey stuck in my brain, and as I’ve gotten older, my worldview darkened by witnessing the consequences of other evil acts, I’ve seen her more and more as the catalyst for the caution I’ve exhibited throughout my life.

After JonBenet, I began to grasp that my life is not permanent.

After JonBenet, I understood why we had so many lessons at school about staying away from strangers.

After JonBenet, I realized why my parents always wanted me within sight or to know where I was going and with whom I was going.

After JonBenet, I learned that there are dark, scary people in the world with motives more sinister than those of goofy cartoon villains.

After JonBenet, I started to learn to pay attention to my surroundings.

After JonBenet, I became more protective of my friends and scolded them for what I saw as unsafe actions.

After JonBenet, I perceived that the “natural order” of death can be disrupted, that there is no depth to the sorrow a family feels at losing a child and that that was something I would – I hope – never understand.

There may have been parents in 1996 (and probably more parents in 2016) who balked at the thought of my parents allowing me to see such horrors on the television when I was still wearing light-up shoes and struggling to color inside the lines. But I’ve never been sorry for seeing what I saw.

In a way, JonBenet molded me into who I am today, 26-year-old Monica. It’s not just about obtaining a realistic view of mankind or learning to be cautious. No. It’s about refusing to let demons who roam this earth sneak up on me. It’s about shunning atrocities and seeking justice for the victims of those atrocities. It’s about striving to spread goodness every day when malevolence lurks and prepares to strike at any time. It’s about longing to be light amid darkness.

Twenty years. For 20 years I have practiced these lessons and keep practicing every day, hoping they stick. For that, I just have to say, “Thank you, JonBenet. You made a difference in this little girl’s life.”


I wasn’t in pageants like JonBenet, but I paraded our dog in a dog show once. I’m probably 4 or 5 years old in this picture.

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On perfection

Anyone else have those things as a kid you assumed you’d grow out of when you became an adult, but found out as an adult that you don’t grow out of something unless you actively work on growing?

Maybe that’s confusing. I’ll give some examples.

Two o’clock in the afternoon: I’m not afraid of the dark. That’s silly! I was afraid of the dark when I was a kid, but I grew out of that.

Ten o’clock at night: I’m sweating under these covers, but I probably shouldn’t poke my foot out in case someone or something reaches from under the bed and grabs me.


Lunch time: Yes, I enjoy this salad because, as an adult, I’m conscious of the importance of taking care of my body. And just think how when I was a kid I thought I’d get to eat cake and ice cream every day once I became a grown up! Ha!

Dinner time: *shovels in cake and ice cream while watching Netflix*

Not that either of those examples is anecdotal. *cough cough*

Well, I recently had the realization that one of my childhood tendencies hasn’t died.

Confession here: I’m a bit of a control freak. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster I subconsciously wanted to be perfect, and I got frustrated when things didn’t come easy to me. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Goodfellas reference.)

In school, I had to have straight A’s. And I did, for the most part. I loved English, reading, social studies, history, art, PE, because they all came easy to me. I hated math and science because I struggled to attain an A in those classes. I had chicken pox one year and was worried I had fallen behind in my math class. My teacher assured my mom that I was “doing fine.” I got a B, my first B. I bawled.

I played soccer from the time I was 5 until I was 18, but I started hating soccer in middle school when my teammates grew and developed and became slimmer than me, taller than me, faster than me. Some of them already had college ball aspirations, so they were better than me. I spent most practices and games angry, ashamed and watching the clock because that type of athleticism didn’t come easy to me.

Other than during soccer, I seldom wore shorts in hot weather because my thighs, butt and stomach were bigger than those of most girls my age. No amount of running seemed to help, and I got winded quickly, and I couldn’t seem to turn down sweets altogether. Weight loss didn’t come easy to me, and I spent a lot of time sad.

But I knew I could do something about those things. Part of my frustration lay in the knowledge that I could control the things I considered myself to be a failure in, but I couldn’t quite get “there.” One thing that depressed me more than frustrated me was my looks. I didn’t think I was all that pretty, so I was failing in the dating department. Everyone else managed to get a significant other, even if just for a month. Finding someone to hold hands with didn’t come easy to me.

In college, I continued to get mostly A’s, I got a boyfriend and I discovered ways to exercise that I enjoyed and that helped me keep my weight down. From freshman year to Dec. 4, 2016, I believed that my silly childhood insecurities and drive to be perfect had faded.


In the past week, I have been down on myself for not controlling the clutter in my apartment, not figuring out how to get my faulty Fitbit to hold a charge, and the size of my forehead. I didn’t realize I had expressed numerous concerns plaguing my mind until Cory texted me Sunday morning and said, “You don’t need to worry about clutter or Fitbits or foreheads. Life is too short to complain all the time.”

It took me a second to grasp that he wasn’t complaining about me complaining, but rather assuring me that those things aren’t a big deal. Thanks to his perspective, I saw what the problem was: I still wanted to be perfect and for everything to come easy to me.

For at least the past three and a half years, I’ve lived with the assumption that because I no longer had tests to take or projects to turn in or sports to compete in, I didn’t worry about perfection anymore. But this whole time, that worry has been lurking and raring its head on occasion.

When I burn a pan of cookies, I’m on the verge of tears.

When I can’t answer the question of someone in my office and have to ask for help, I feel embarrassed and stupid.

When I straighten my hair and can’t get the right side to look like the left side, I get flustered.

Why did I not see all this before?

I needed to be reminded that just because I may not be getting straight A’s in life doesn’t mean I’m failing.

I then remembered that I’m in good company. I remembered Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, warning them not to put all their confidence in their abilities as humans. If anyone had a reason to be over-confident, Paul told them, it was him. He had been born with all the “right stuff” in the Jewish community. The man seemed to have it all together, like he had everything he needed to be perfect.

But he said that wasn’t the case. Essentially being a high-born Jew in a time and place when that was exactly what anybody wanted to be was not what made him perfect.

Paul said he considered all those accolades and privileges and opportunities “garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8b-9).

As I’ve acknowledge before when I start to discuss religious matters on this blog, I know not everyone agrees with my Christian faith. But in my life, this passage brings me comfort, knowing that being a straight-A student, valedictorian, name on the Dean’s List and President’s List, or being thin or toned will not bring me to perfection. And let me tell ya, I am so glad they won’t. Because if achieving perfection was up to me alone, I would fail every. single. time.

So I’m glad – nay, ecstatic – that any righteousness that is in me is because of Jesus and what He did for me and for the rest of the world. Not because of a clean house, technological genius or movie-star-perfect forehead.

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He just may be the lunatic I’m looking for

This post was originally a frustrated freak-out fest with me getting gray hairs over not having a videographer, photographer or a baker for the wedding, along with a few other things. Fast forward a little more than 24 hours, and Cory somehow found a guy who does videography AND photography, AND is available on our wedding date. And I may have stumbled upon someone who can bake the groom’s cake Cory wants.

But yeah, since August, I had contacted probably eight videographers and seven photographers, all of whom said they weren’t available for our date, were outside our price range or just didn’t respond to me at all. Cory sends his first inquiry, and wah-lah, we have a videographer and photographer rolled into one. It’s like he has the Magic Touch.

With those two big things taken care of, I calmed down and scolded myself for freaking out. As I’ve said on this blog before, my goal during this wedding planning process has been to keep the important thing in mind: that Cory and I love each other and will be husband and wife, no matter what the weather does that day, no matter what the cake tastes like, no matter what the music is, no matter who does and doesn’t RSVP, no matter what the reception table centerpieces look like.

I mentally contrasted all these little things that could stress me out with all the little things about Cory that I love. Not like his eyes or his laugh – though those are nice – but like weird stuff. Like how he has random outbursts on purpose that include bizarre noises and hand gestures, just to see what I’ll do; or prolonging selfie-taking by making as many weird faces as he can; or seeing how long he can lie still with his eyes open before I get creeped out.


As I was driving to Cory’s apartment one day, listening to my Essential Billy Joel album, the lyrics of “You May Be Right” hit me, and I realized the song described Cory quite well. Particularly this verse followed by the chorus:

Now think of all the years you tried to
Find someone to satisfy you
I might be as crazy as you say
If I’m crazy then it’s true
That it’s all because of you
And you wouldn’t want me any other way

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for
It’s too late to fight
It’s too late to change me
You may be wrong for all I know
But you may be right

I did indeed try for years to find someone to satisfy me, but no guy and I seemed to quite match up. After worrying about my future in love, I decided to just forget it altogether. Then in swaggers this good-looking, kind of wacky, unattached man who, like myself, planned to stay unattached. Some of his antics often left me with squinted eyes and a furrowed brow, trying to figure out what in the world he was doing or talking about, but I was okay with that. I thought it was cool that he was just doing his thing.

So I just did my thing.

Pretty soon, it was just us doing our thing, which included obscure pop culture references and showing each other our favorite toy we’d held onto since childhood.

I know what you’re thinking: That Billy Joel song could very well be about both of you lunatics.

Well, you may be right.

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Thanksgiving day game plan

Americans, in two days, we’re about to do what we do best: eat copious amounts of food. Last year, I wrote a list to raise awareness to the abuse and neglect Thanksgiving has endured over the years, but this year, I wanted to address how to handle the holiday respectfully and responsibly.

So here it is, 2016’s Thanksgiving list, the Thanksgiving Day Game Plan:

  1. Get out of bed and do some hip circles (this is basically just moving your hips in such a way that it looks like you’re hula-hooping in slow motion). You’ll want to engage your core immediately after waking to get it warmed up for battle later.
  2. Go ahead and get showered, dressed and ready for the day. Your outfit should consist of a cable-knit sweater and loose-fitting jeans. A cable-knit sweater because what better to get you in the autumny, cozy, traditional mood? And loose-fitting jeans because…obviously.
  3. This item may differ from person to person and family to family, depending on your age, gender and social norms within your family. If you’re a mom or a teenage/adult female, find an apron, preferably one with reds, oranges, dark greens and other earth tones. Don that apron. This will be the only time you’ve ever worn an apron, but act like you know how to tie it without assistance. Tying your apron is the symbol of power and control of the food. If you’re a dad or teenage/adult male, sit on the couch within earshot of the females. Sit comfortably, but with your heels on the floor, ready to rise when the females holler for you to perform a task (such tasks could include heating a bowl of vegetables in the microwave, putting ice in glasses, setting the table, etc.). Just remember that answering the door automatically falls to you. Don’t let the family down on this one. They’re all counting on you. Maybe spend the morning stretching your wrist for all the door-opening you’ll be doing. If you’re a kid, male of female, you have a very important job: asking when it’s time to eat and stating you’re hungry. Both these statements should be made at alternating 93-second intervals.
  4. Set the table according to food temperature within 15 minutes of whatever’s in the oven being done. A good place to start would be the rolls (properly covered with a napkin to keep them warm and discourage flies for looks). Cranberry sauce and deviled eggs can follow, then other side dishes. Always save space on the table for the grand finale, which can be one thing or multiple things (think turkey, biscuits, dressing, sweet potato casserole or whatever weird vegan hipster dish your family digs).
  5. After the prayer – even if you haven’t prayed before a meal in roughly 335 days – pretend like you don’t want to snatch the spoon from the mashed potatoes and eat straight out of the bowl. Instead, glob some onto your plate and pass the bowl. Clockwise, counter clockwise, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t mess up the direction, someone else will.
  6. Say a silent prayer of thanks for jeans that have a little give to them.
  7. Refrain or steer passionate family members away from topics relating to politics, current events or why that one cousin (or you) is still single. Stick to the safe topics of deceased family members, grandparents’ acquaintances’ ailments and, if you’re in between bites and not wanting a long conversation, how younger family members are doing in school/college.
  8. Go ahead and eat a little bit more.
  9. Try to avoid eating to the point of sickness, otherwise you will fail in your aspirations for dessert(s).
  10. Again, depending on your family, males, retire to the living room to sit in typical male silence; females, transform into a flurry of take-home paper plates, Reynolds Wrap and soap suds; kids, make it your mission to crowd the males out of their perches with sleepy, dead weight bodies.

Stick to this list, and your family Thanksgiving will be just as hectic, tense and oddly satisfying as everyone else’s.

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Just a little encouragement

I won’t talk long today, guys. For one thing, there is too much currently being said in America and very little listening. I’ve been guilty of it myself.

But not today. Today, I just want to give a little encouragement. Let’s begin…

Ice cream is delicious. Go have some today. If you’re not big on ice cream, cake is a remarkable substitute. Either way, you deserve a treat.

You know that stuffed animal/those stuffed animals you’ve kept around since you were a kid? I’ve got some, too. It’s okay to hug them.

You successfully spelled “restaurant” one time. Go, you!

Even when your houseplant died, you had the intent in your heart to keep it alive. A short life doesn’t mean a life lived void of love.

Your hair looks great.

Rock some overalls if you feel like it.

Your mom texts you and calls you because she loves you. Your dad would do the same, but he doesn’t know how to text. Just wanted you to remember they’re crazy about you.

That person who’s mad at you may just need a little nudge of kindness. No one says you have to shower that person with affection, but a little cordiality never hurt anybody.

Sprinkles are like a hundred little presents on cupcakes, oatmeal or a spoon. Use them.

The world needs more puppies and kittens – literally and metaphorically. Don’t grow up to be a jaded cat or a temperamental dog.

God bless you if you keep photos in photo albums and/or picture frames.

You know that one thing on your body that you reeeeeally don’t like? Other people do, and so should you.

Recall that feeling you got that one time you beat that super hard level in that one video game. That was sweet, wasn’t it?

If you feel like writing a poem but don’t think you’re “A Writer,” do it anyway. You got this.

You are not alone in this world, and there will always be bright spots amid suffering.

Someone needs to know you love them – not in a romantic way, and not even in a best-friend-forever way, but in a one-human-to-another-human way. Go show them.

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Seeing myself through ugly pancakes

My Sunday began with weight gain and an ugly pancake.

After two weeks of little daily splurges here and there – an activity I typically reserve for only the weekend – my mind and body battled with the degree of necessity to step on the scale Sunday morning. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to be fixated on the scale. I’ve preached against it many times. But I think we all know how hard it is to not worry about the number. I wasn’t too devastated, though, when I calculated only gaining 0.6 lb since Friday.

Probably just water weight, I thought as I drove to the gym, ready to focus on a high-intensity workout with strength training and cardio interspersed. Pectoral flys, high knees, lat pulldowns, ab twists, bicep curls, lunges and more. My light gray Batman T-shirt revealed my hard work with spots of darkness at my back and – gross as it is – under my arms.

Just out of curiosity, I weighed again when I got home right before I stepped in the shower.

A gain of 0.8 lb. Since my last weigh-in an hour earlier. So almost a pound and a half since Friday. Considering the average person gains 1 lb a year, I was ahead of the game. What a mess…


So I showered and tried to put the weight gain out of my mind, telling myself the same things I type on this blog all the time (I’m a work-in-progress with my self confidence, what can I say?). I certainly didn’t want to ruin my appetite for chocolate pancakes I make myself every Saturday and Sunday morning. I was determined to enjoy those pancakes.

I mixed up and poured out beautiful round pancakes. Then I went to flip them. How they’ll turn out after that first flip is always a toss-up (get it?).

Here’s what happened:


“What a mess…” I said aloud, grappling with the spatula to get the uncooked parts of the pancake flipped over while keeping the cooked parts on top so they wouldn’t burn. Partially cooked batter clung to the spatula.

Then I stopped. And for the first time in my life, I saw myself through a pancake.

Not like seeing Jesus’ face in toast, mind you, but rather a metaphor.

In those very moments I was making pancakes, I was feeling bloated, chubby, gross, unattractive. Even after all that hard work – the same hard work I’ve put in countless times – I thought I was worse off than I was to begin with. My recipe for fitness didn’t seem to be working today. Yes, I was being hard on myself.

I looked at my attractive pancake and my ugly pancake. They came from the same recipe. In fact, I’d made the same thing less than 24 hours earlier, and those pancakes had turned out looking pretty. I used the same spatula to flip both pancakes, but one had just faltered a little. But when I scraped the partially cooked batter from the spatula, I realized that the ugly pancake, despite its ugliness, was still going to end up on my plate. The ugly pancake tasted just as good as my pancakes always do. The more I looked at it, the less I thought of it as simply an ugly pancake, and more of a little oopsie, a slip of the hand one day on one pancake.

Perhaps you see where I’m going with this.

Some days, we feel like we’ve never looked so good, like we’ve done all the right things and it’s paid off. On those days, we could just eat ourselves up. Other days, we feel like we look whopper-jawed, despite our best intentions. On those days, we may not even want to look at ourselves.

I had gotten at least 30 minutes of exercise every day last week, which is typical for me. Whether it was a walk at lunch, a run through the park, an intense strength training session or 50 minutes on the stationary bike, I put in the same ingredients to my fitness routine that I usually do. But I faltered a little, eating a brownie here or pumpkin muffins there when I wasn’t even hungry. So my result at the end of the week was, at first glance, undesirable. At second glance, though, I saw that I’d been able to challenge myself in my workouts lately without wanting to die, that “inside” I was doing fine (even had my blood pressure checked on Sunday, and the Walgreens worker’s exact words were “textbook perfect”). A little oopsie, a slip on the scale, was okay. It didn’t make me any less fit, any less attractive, any LESS.

Oh. And those pancakes were delicious.


In fact, if you’re curious, here’s the recipe:

1 large egg

1 large egg white

2 scoops plain protein powder

2 T cocoa

1 t baking powder

Splash of almond milk

1 t pumpkin (optional)

2 T chocolate powdered peanut butter, mixed up, for topping (optional)

Combine all ingredients except the peanut butter in a medium mixing bowl. Mix with a fork until well combined. Dip batter into two dollops on a lightly greased frying pan. Cook on medium heat until bottom is stiff and you can slide a spatula underneath. Flip. Cook on medium heat until pancakes are cooked through, though maybe slightly gooey along the center of the edges. Remove from pan and put on a plate. Spread peanut butter between and/or on top of pancakes.

Calories: 265, Carbs: 20 g, Fat: 10 g, Protein: 25 g, Sodium: 1,550 mg, Sugars: 5 g

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Why I won’t kick the dog

A natural response to one’s own anger is to transfer the punishment to someone else, whether that punishment was deserved by the angered person or by someone at whom the angered person is…well, angry. It’s the whole “Dad got in trouble from the boss, Dad comes home and snaps at Mom, Mom snaps at teenage daughter, teenage daughter snaps at little brother, little brother kicks the dog.”

In my adult life, I’ve consciously tried not to kick the metaphorical dog. When my internet provider wouldn’t send me my bills after repeatedly asking them to and kept charging me late fees, I didn’t yell at the customer service representative on the other end of the line. I told her I knew it wasn’t her fault, that I just wanted someone to help me. When an overworked coworker gave me an earful for not communicating with her as well as I should have, I apologized and told her I didn’t mean to add to her stress, because it was all clearly bearing down on her. I didn’t yell at anyone else, and that coworker and I worked together quite well after that incident.

I’ve undoubtedly slipped up and transferred my frustration onto others, but I try not to. One thing that helps me remember not to is when someone transfers their anger onto me.

I won’t say who it was or what project the person is involved in, but an historic property owner in town came into my office last week per my request that we meet to discuss some potential conflicts between his application for work he wishes to do on his property and what our governmental guidelines say is allowed.

He already knew I wouldn’t have good news for him.

He had previously told me that he was scraping by to pay for the repairs of the building.

He had just come from another one of his properties where a major leak was causing damage.

He had been up since just before 5 a.m.

Summary: this man wasn’t happy, and he was looking for a dog to kick. Who better than the 26-year-old government worker girl?

It didn’t matter that I told him I wanted to work with him and discuss viable options to keep him in compliance with the guidelines. It didn’t matter that I apologized for the confusion surrounding which and how many agencies from which he has to get documentation. It didn’t matter that I told him I wasn’t taking sides, I was just doing my job.

I was the scruffy little family mutt at the end of the line in importance to him, and his foot was drawn back before he even walked in the door.

To this applicant’s credit, he didn’t hurl any personal attacks and he acknowledged that he understood I was just doing my job. But that didn’t soften his 45-minute berating. I was shaking by the time he left. Not because I was afraid of him and not because I was unsure of myself; I was simply rattled from having someone yelling in my face about something I have no power to change.

My best friend works in retail, and I know what I experienced is probably nothing compared to what he faces every day. And I know I’ll probably get used to people yelling at me after awhile (especially since I’ve already got the stigma on me that I’m trying to tell them what to do with their own property, take their land or directly represent their least favorite politician). But right now, I’m just not used to it.

Guys, my chest was tight all day. It stayed tight as I tried to sleep. An event that had occurred nearly 11 hours earlier was threatening to rob me of sleep, a key ingredient in reducing my stress from the day and helping me meet the next day with optimism.

As a tear slipped across my temple and onto the pillow, a Calmness greeted me. That Calmness said, “You know, Monica, you’ve got a lot to be joyful about. You’ve got a Savior Who loves you and died for you and took your sin – even when you’re the one yelling at the worker who didn’t personally wrong you and is just doing her job. You’ve got the man in your life who God made for you, the man who is the result of God’s planning, God’s timing and God’s earnest ear attuned to the many years of prayers from you, your future husband, both your parents and other loved ones. You’ve got a job that offers you opportunities to learn new things and excel at those things, a job you don’t dread going to five days a week. You’ve got parents who have and will always stand behind you, love you and encourage you, but will also give you direction and be honest with you when you’re in the wrong. You’ve got friends who share lunches and dinners and TV show binges with you. You’ve got other friends who live hours away, but who treat every reunion as if the last one was a day ago.

“You’ve got so much good stuff going on, so much warmth, that there’s no room in your veins for you blood to turn cold.”

And I fell right to sleep. My own little George Bailey moment lulling me off to rest.

Maybe I sound like a crazy person. Maybe I sound cliche. Maybe I sound whiny and fragile. Well, that’s okay, because this whatever-it-was – a meditation, if you want to call it that – gave me what I needed to forget the bad stuff and bring in the good stuff.

It kept me from kicking a dog the next day.

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