Friday night I went to a yoga class with my friend Rachel. I took yoga for the first time when I was in college and really enjoyed the experience. I’ve made a few feeble stabs at getting back on the horse since then, but there’s nothing quite like having a friend and a classroom setting to be in. A video just won’t do the trick.

As we were going through the poses, our instructor (a med student named Judy with a really nice voice and a great presence) said something that struck me so hard I practically started crying in class.

It’s much more important that you find the place where you can do it sustainably than to push yourself to reach your maximum

It’s obvious she was talking about poses here, you know shortening your stance if your legs hurt or coming up out of the pose if the stretch is too deep, but as is often the case with yoga- her advice lifted right out of the studio and hit me right in my everyday life.

Guys, this is such a lesson for me. If you’ve read my “About Me” page, you know that I jokingly refer to myself as a “Jill of All Trades,” the emphasis being on the “master of none.” I so often feel like I stretch myself thin so that I’m doing a hundred things and none of them well. I let myself get taxed out at work, then at home, and then I volunteer for another project- at least I did.

I’m a certified perfectionist. I’m the oldest child, I was a “smart” kid, and in my nontraditional family- I always pushed myself to stand out and be “special.” That’s translated into some successes for sure, but also a lot of anxiety in my adult life. It’s embarrassing to say, but it’s a bit of a revelation to me that it’s better to say no to auxiliary activities in my life and focus on what I can feasibly do, sustainably- that is, what habits can I build for a lifetime? What behaviors can I cultivate that will take me into old age? What commitments can I accept that I will do with joy, and in doing so, bring blessing to others and myself?

Let me say this- working part time has made a tremendous difference in my ability to handle my shit. And I’m just thankful to God everyday that I have a boss who fought hard to get me the position I have now and a husband who was willing to say, “it’s okay, we’re going to be okay.” Debi and Brett and probably the two strongest and best influences in my life.

When I look at how I spend my time now, I see a lot of joy:

-Stimulating and challenging work
-Training at FKS
-Running (okay, walking) and yoga with Rachel
-Quality time with my husband
-A happy, tidy home
-Crocheted scarves, hot tea, Jessica Fletcher
-Game nights with good friends

I cannot tell you how incredible it feels to say that this is how I spend my time now. Folks, I was down to broken earlier this summer. I was crying a lot, I felt incredibly trapped, and bitterness was creeping up all over me. I really, really needed a break from that and I hope it doesn’t sound like gloating to say I’m thankful that I’ve gotten one.

I’m sure I won’t work part time forever. Who knows what new opportunities will bring? However, it’s incredibly important to me that I continue to evaluate my life from a stand point of sustainability.

How would you describe your schedule right now? Are you over taxed or have you found a great balance? What are your coping mechanisms? How do you stay healthy, mentally or physically?

On Winning Awards

Last week I was honored with an award from the young professionals group I’m apart of. Kirksville Young Professionals named me as one of the 5 Under 40 in our community. Here’s the story.

I’ll say it again, what an awesome honor. There were 22 nominees and each and every one of them have done outstanding things for our area. It was an honor enough to be named in their company. Brett and I have simply fallen in love with Kirksville during our time here and even if we move on to a new town, it will always hold a special place in our hearts.

My fellow awardees 

My best friend and nominator, Amanda!

It feels so awesome to be recognized. It makes me happy and feel so warm and fuzzy. It makes me feel good. But it also gives me a chance to reflect on leadership and service and fellowship.

Here is what I want to say about being recognized as “top” professional- I’m really not.

Probably sometime last year, I read this blog post on Single Dad Laughing. (Read it. Seriously, it’s life changing.) You might recognize him as the author of the “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage” post that has gotten quite a bit of traffic lately. Since then, it’s been a bit of a mantra for me. I see people around me as “SP” or “FP,” that is those who spread perfectionism and those who fight it. I’ve vowed to be a person who fights it.

I don’t mean to be self deprecating, only to be honest. Sometimes, I don’t really like being so busy. Sometimes I skip meetings so that I can go home and watch movies. Sometimes I say “yes” when I mean “no.” I leave tasks undone. I check Facebook at work. A lot.

I want to be inspiring to others. I want them to feel that service to their community ought to make up the fabric of their personhood. I want people to give and to praise and above all, to experience the awesome fellowship that is sharing the human experience. But make no bones about it, I’m far from perfect.

I’m humbled and simply thrilled to have been honored by my recognition. There are many thanks to be given to both of my bosses, my best friend Amanda, and my husband Brett- all who nominated me. There are thanks for those who have let me share in their successes, who have welcomed my input, implemented my ideas, and mentor me still. As always, there is a pillar of supporting holding me up.

I hope you feel like you can engage in real leadership, be ambitious, contribute to your community, and yet maintain relationships that encourage, support, and uplift.

If you could give one piece of advice about leadership or service, what would it be?

Unsolicited Advice for Brides to Be: Part Two

Back with the second half of my wedding reflections!

3. The Internet is your best friend and your worst enemy. 

Getting married in what I can only refer to as the “Pinterest Age” created a unique set of circumstances. Pinterest provides a wealth of resources and insurmountable challenges.

We’ll start with the bad news:
The fact is you can only have one wedding. So each time you visit a blog that features a beach wedding, a farm wedding, a blue and yellow wedding, a Hindu/Jewish fusion wedding, an urban wedding, and so on, you fall in love with it and you have to kill the other wedding you were already planning in your head.

Brett and I imagined the following weddings:
-A wedding at Red Barn Farm in Kansas City
-A rooftop wedding at the Kansas City Public Library
-A wedding in a loft in Downtown Kansas City
-A wedding on the beach in Dauphin Island, Alabama
-A wedding at my grandparent’s house

I also imagined decorations running the gamut from deep jewel-toned Moroccan flair to Dr. Seuss inspired bright colors and fantastically shaped centerpieces. The wedding we ended up with? One with a rustic, antique decor at my parent’s farm. But the cascade of ideas didn’t stop there! Hay bales for seating or chairs? Escort cards? Centerpieces? Altar?

A little inspiration is good. A lot is bad. Very bad. Your wedding won’t look as good as the gorgeous ones you see featured on blog after blog. It will look better, I promise. It will turn out better than you ever imagined. That’s the good news.

My advice regarding sites like Pinterest is to harness its energy in a controlled way. Limit your time just browsing for “inspo.” Let your style and good taste guide you. From there, use Pinterest and wedding blogs as a tool. Want to make your own invitations? Search “DIY Invites” and focus your time on that project. Too cheap to use a florist? (Me too.) Pinterest helped me find a tutorial for coffee-filter flowers that was easy and saved me a ton of money.

My final piece of advice is the most important. If you forget the rest of it, please remember this:

4. Plan a marriage, have a wedding. 

Note how this is remarkably different than planning a wedding and having a marriage. Your marriage is not a by-product of your wedding. It’s not a consequence. It’s is the foundation, the gas, the lifeblood. A wedding isn’t a party for you. It’s not a party for your soon-to-be spouse. Or your parents, or families, or friends. It’s a celebration of a lifetime commitment. If you spend the duration of your engagement focused on the wedding day without spending significant time considering what comes after, you’re doing it wrong.

In past incarnations of my life I have been a lot of things: bossy, demanding, dramatic, bitchy. I wanted my wedding to be an opportunity to be the best version of myself- focused, considerate, gracious. I consider my family and friends to be my A-Team. These are the people on whom I know I can call when things are not always as magical as our wedding day. When Brett and I inevitably experience the valleys of life, it is on this support group that I know we can lean.

Because I expect so much from them (we had our wedding guests make a vow of commitment to us during our ceremony…) I wanted to give them the best of me as well. Put your relationship(s) front and center during this process. Be a kinder, more patient, more forgiving person. Do this for your spouse, your friends, your parents, and yourself.

It isn’t about not being a “Bridezilla.” It’s about cultivating the blessings of deep, committed love. Dig into it. Invest in it. I already know how valuable the returns really are!

Unsolicited Advice for Brides to Be: Part One

Coming fresh off planning a wedding and better yet, getting married, I thought it might be prudent to write down a few of the nuggets I uncovered during my journey. I know a gal or two who are getting ready for their own weddings (I’m looking at you Sarah!) so I thought I’d share what I’ve come to know.

I read a lot of articles before I walked down the aisle, hoping to prepare myself for what was to come. Some of it helped, some of it didn’t, and there was still a lot that caught me off-guard.

Reading my tips won’t help you avoid mishaps any more than anything else, but perhaps it might offer some auxiliary guidance! I learned a little about planning the big day and some about experiencing it as well. I’ve narrowed it down to four thoughts, and I’ll share the first two today.

1. If it’s a detail no one will notice, don’t spend any emotional energy on it. 

I think this was the biggest lesson I learned during the planning process. There are a lot of details to be decided and each one offers opportunity for frustration- if you let it. 

I implemented this rule when we were printing our invitation envelopes. Knowing that we couldn’t afford professional calligraphy and not wanting to burden any of my friends with nice penmanship, I considered handwriting the address myself. Then, realizing that was an absolutely insane idea, I opted to download a pretty font and print them from our home printer.

For the life of me, I couldn’t get the addresses to align in the center of the envelope. I changed the page size, I printed from a pdf, I changed the font size- all useless attempts. When I called for back up and even Brett couldn’t figure it out, we decided, in so many words: “Screw It.” These envelopes are literally going in the trash.

And so our mantra was born: if no one will notice, we aren’t allowed to worry about it. Remember that no one else is in on the planning process (except those you chose to involve) so they won’t know that you really, really wanted brown gravy, but your caterer only offered white. They’ll never know they had any other choice.

2. Don’t underestimate your ability to forget. 

Even if you are a list maker, a reminder-setter, a Grade A organizational all-star, you’ll forget something  on your wedding day and you’ll forget something big. If it’s important and you want it to happen on your big day, tell someone else. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it. You’ll forget about that too, but no one else will notice anyway. This goes back to number 1.

I really wanted to stop as my dad was walking me down the aisle and give a big hug to my godfather. Knowing that I would already be a bundle of wild nerves, I made sure to tell my dad, our officiant, our usher, and the entire wedding party. I think just telling other people made me remember it.

However, I did end up forgetting our checkbook at the hotel, fabric markers for our guest quilt, forks for our cake- these things had to be brought to us later. We also completely forgot about the marriage license until our officiant had already left the reception! Our witnesses remembered to sign it only right as we were leaving the farm.

I would suggest not letting these things bug you, but there’s hardly a chance in the world that they will. You’ll probably be so over the moon seeing all your friends and family at once and trying your hardest to hug each and every one of them, that you won’t remember what you forgot until a week after your wedding. Then it won’t even matter. (Unless it’s your marriage license. That matters. Deal with that.)

Back tomorrow with more wedding tip goodness!