Thankful

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If I’m being honest, I’m thankful for these boots. I am living in them this season.

The weird thing about getting older is experiencing the changes in holidays. As a kid, if your childhood was anything like mine, the holidays were a constant: you had the same rituals, the same meals, the same people around the table. But eventually you grow up and out out baking cookies for Santa. People move away, people die, new babies  and jobs and stories fill the empty spaces. Before you know it, the holidays look nothing like they used to. It’s sad, but also encouraging: our lives are changing and we are growing and we are (hopefully) getting better as the years pass.

As I tend to do on Thanksgiving, I take stock of all the year’s changes & the things, new & old, that I am thankful for. Here’s my list for 2013:

  1. I am so, so thankful for my marriage. I love being married. I love coming home to Cory. He drives me crazy sometimes, and we have a lot to work on, but we are happy. I am thankful for such a kind & sweet man to do life with. We got married young, and it was a leap of faith. But one I’m so glad I took. IMG_6557cory_jess1
  2. I am thankful (we both are) for the decision we made to move away from home. All we can say is, if you are a newlywed: do it. It’s scary, it’s brave, and it’s the best thing you’ll ever do for each other.
  3. I am thankful for the cozy little apartment we share.
  4. I am thankful for our jobs. We are financially blessed, and blessed with kind co-workers and thoughtful bosses. I pray, often, that we continue to be wise with our finances by saving and giving.
  5. I am thankful for God’s gift to me – my writing. I think God gives us all something, and I am so thankful this is my thing. I am equally thankful for the mentors he has sent my way, including my boss at the Noble Foundation. To have someone support, teach, edit, believe in me and push me to be better at my craft is priceless.
  6. I am thankful for my health, and the health of my family. 
  7. I am thankful for my readers. Your encouragement, comments, tweets & conversation about these posts keeps me writing and keeps me authentic, honest and real. Thank you for sharing this space with me.
  8. I am thankful for my friends, especially of the female variety. I’ve done some breaking up this year, but I’ve done some incredible bonding as well. Shout out to the kickass ladies in my life…JCC, Tish ladies, my book club girls, Devon, Morgan, Brentney, Stacy, Mom, Abbey, Sherry, Char Baby, Haley, Lindsey (seriously, like the big sis I never had), Britt, Alesha…All of you, near and far, mean so much to me. I love, respect and enjoy each of you. IMG_5306MOMfIMG_2796
  9. I am thankful for the babies in my life…My nieces. I am thankful they are safe & happy & beautiful and know that Aunt Jessica & Uncle Cory love them. When Hialeah hugs me, I melt in her skinny little arms. IMG_6599
  10. I am thankful for my faith. It’s not something I write about often in this space, because I get it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But for me, my faith in Christ and my daily spiritual practices, like praying and reading his word, keeps me grounded. I am hopeful, whole and joyful because I know my life is in His hands. I am scared of nothing. He gives me that, and because of Him I can do anything.

I hope you, dear readers, have the warmest & happiest of Thanksgivings.

J.

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Let’s break up.

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No, I’m not announcing my divorce. Yet. (Kidding). Today I want to talk about breaking up with a toxic friend.

I’ve gone through a handful of friend breakups throughout college and, recently, finally broke up with a friend who has been bullying me for, oh, the last 6 years. Her behavior ranged from flat-out mean to sisterly, back to aloof, switched to conniving, and back to sweet again. It was an emotional roller coaster, but I continued to try to make it work. I would do whatever it took to bond with her, even if that meant joining her in all her mean girl games. But she continued to stand me up when I really needed her, become jealous of my own happiness and leverage our friendship when it benefited her the most. After years of this, I woke up and decided it was time to break up.

There are a million ways to break up with a friend…delete, unfollow, repeat. In addition to those, you should probably let your soon-to-be ex know that the relationship is coming to a halt by simply telling them it isn’t working anymore.

But how do you know whether it’s time for a heavy dose of GTFO instead of a come-to-Jesus, you ask? Well, lucky for you, I have had my fair share of friend fights and breakups, and I’ve learned a lot.

Here’s the big, flying red flags of a friendship in trouble:

  1. Her personal life is a giant mess. If she’s railing coke, stealing from her boss, cheating on her husband, or any combination thereof, run like hell. Here’s the deal: everyone is entitled to a personal meltdown now and then. But if your friend is making a habit of straight up bad or dangerous decisions in any area of her life, chances are that will spill over into your life as well. Not to mention your friendship with her. If she is a train wreck, she has nothing left to offer herself, much less you. Move on.
  2. She doesn’t ask how you’re doing. If over lunch you can’t get a word in edgewise, there’s your sign: she’s motivated by selfishness. It’s her show, and at that point you are only a prop. And you deserve to me more than a prop, right? You’re a breathing, living, thinking human being with a lot of love and laughter to offer. You both should be sharing and engaging, 50/50. If she’s not interested in that, walk.
  3. She doesn’t respect your tribe. Cory & I are married, and that means we are a team. You don’t have to like him, but if you shit talk him, I’m going to have to ask you to kindly eff off. And I promise you, the same goes for him. Being friends mean we are respectful of one another, and that includes being respectful of their other (positive!) relationships. If your “friend” is shit talking your parents, sibling, other friends or spouse, she’s competing with them for your attention and energy. No, thank you.
  4. She doesn’t celebrate with you. Being friends means you both made the decision to do life together. To celebrate the good  times and drink wine together through the shitty times. And if she’s only down for the latter, she’s not willing to share the sunshine with you. Be watchful of who is showing up for what. You show up, gifts in tow, for her baby shower and she’s a no-show to your birthday dinner? After a few times of that, enough is enough. It’s obvious who is invested in the relationship and who isn’t.
  5. She makes you feel bad. Instead of saying, “Gosh, Jess, those couple years were really hard. But I am so proud of who you are today and all the awesome things you are doing!” she chooses to say “Hey, Jess, remember that one time in college you were upset about that fight with Cory so you got wasted, puked all over the place and then failed your Algebra test!? Yeah, you made what, a 14 on that? And we got 5 points for just putting our name on the paper! AHAHAHAHA!” Um, if I chose to share with you what I’m struggling with and you use it for your personal entertainment or for the entertainment of complete strangers in conversation, you suck. We are not friends anymore. We can laugh together, but we do not laugh at each other.

Of course, you don’t have to break up with a friend on the first foul. You can decide to lovingly confront them or simply take a break from the friendship for a bit. We all go through growing pains and difficult times, and the best people usually come out even better on the other side. If your “friend’s” behavior is a result of a difficult time, let them know it’s no excuse to be mean BUT you are there to help them get through it in a healthy way. If your “friend’s” behavior is a reflection of your own assholishness, get your shit together. Take a good, hard look and evaluate your behavior. And if it’s you, say you’re sorry. If it’s them, and they genuinely apologize, accept it.

But if you have a truly toxic friend, do yourself a solid and say goodbye. In the words of Gary from Remember the Titans, “Sometimes you gotta cut a man loose.”

J.

photo credit: alias65 via photopin cc

OklaHOME

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I was at a house party, playing foosball with a bunch a burly, bearded and beer-guzzling half-grown men when I got an odd and seemingly out-of-place tip. One guy, a dad of one, was cashing in some “guy time” at the party. I’m not sure how the conversation got started, I’m sure I asked about his daughter, and then ended up expressing that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have kids. I mention this tidbit often…as a sort of test to others and to myself. Is it a crazy notion to NOT have children? Is it unnatural? Do I really mean it? Saying something out loud forces you face the question, and often allows you to hear your heart’s answer.

But instead of my heart talking, I heard my friend.

“You want kids,” he said softly, assuredly. “They bring you a lot of joy.”

I didn’t “get it” then, but I think I’m starting to. Spending the weekend in Oklahoma with my nieces had me feeling lighter, in a way I didn’t realize I was missing. It wasn’t happiness I was feeling, but joy. A deeper, quieter, longer-lasting high that only comes from hours of kissing on baby rolls, jumping on a trampoline or playing audience to a little girl in dress up. Kids are silly and honest in ways adults can’t be, even when we try. But being around them is a pretty good consolation.

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Nifty Fifty

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I am a frugal person, but when it comes to making kick ass memories I’ll spend right down to my last dirty little dime.

Trips to Colorado. Grad school. HOVA world tour tix. And now, a bitchin’ lens to add to my camera bag…All in the name of making and capturing a life. I’ll wear the outdated clothes and sit forever on my Big Lots! furniture and drive that ’03 Liberty till the wheels fall off if it means I can afford to go, see, do and learn. And it’s not a crazy idea…Studies show that investing in experiences versus material things makes us happier. So drive that piece of shit car and take your family on a dream vacation, y’all.

But, I digress. This weekend, I decided to spend the $100 on a (slightly used) EF 50mm f/1.8 for my Canon Rebel (known on the streets as the Nifty Fifty). I  bought the Rebel a couple years ago for my photography class, a requirement for my degree. I got the standard kit – a body and couple cheap lenses. While they worked for a beginner, now I’m ready to explore different lenses.

I love to shoot while I travel, while I’m at home with my family and of course for this blog. Cory has been known to take a couple good shots of his own for W&W, too. Lots of people ask me how to begin buying for and learning to capture the everyday bits of their life with more than their iPhone (hey, the iPhone is a helluva camera, too). But if you’re one of these people, here’s my suggestions:

  1. For the love, do not invest in the biggest and baddest Canon or Nikon offers. It would be like a 16 year old boy getting in the driver’s seat of a souped up Corvette…disaster waiting to happen. Just face the fact that you don’t exactly know what you’re doing yet…so buy something basic (I suggest the Canon Rebel – user-friendly for even the greenest) and go ahead and get the kit lenses if you’d like. The zoom capabilities on the 250mm is great if you’re shooting your kids in sports or wildlife. Remember, you can always upgrade lenses later. If you’re at that stage, I suggest the 50 mm or an 85 mm.
  2. Learn how to shoot manual. Take a short course or ask a knowledgable friend to teach you some basics. Learn the basics of lighting, focus and all about the bells and whistles your camera comes with. You’ll shoot better and more efficiently. But in the meantime, if you’re on the go, shoot on auto with the flash off.
  3. Read, shoot, repeat. Right now I’m loving the A Beautiful Mess blog and all their photog tips. Really simple stuff that is so effective.
  4. Find your style. Ripping off someone else is so tempting, especially when you are trying to learn or just starting out. This is true for any creative endeavor, I’m afraid. But try lots of things and see what your eye loves the most, and do that. I love super-tight shots in natural light. I’m also a texture freak, so I try to capture the texture of the thing I’m shooting. Maybe you really love movement, or color, or a funky point-of-view. Do you.
  5. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. At least, for Photoshop. Cory is my editor when it comes to this…He is not afraid to call me out when I’m getting a little wild in CS6. Just try to shoot well enough that work in Photoshop is minimal. It saves you time & headache.
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I can’t wait to share with you what we capture with the Fifty.

XO

J.

Weekend Wear

 

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I shop in the men’s section. A lot.

Sometimes its from a store and sometimes its from my husband’s closet, but I’m always wearing something certifiably “man”. I have a thing for androgyny and duplicity, and I like exploring both in my wardrobe (and hair, note the dreadlocks). Here, I’m wearing my husband’s tee from T.J. Maxx.

I also have thing for breaking the rules. For example, I am wearing some super comfy leggings here. As pants. Whoever started the leggings-as-pants hate fest is, well, a hater. What better way to show off some leg during the fall than with leggings? I say as long as you’re comfortable with ’em, rock ’em.

Someone in high school told me mixing brown with black is a wardrobe no-no. Which, obviously, I find to be complete bullshit. I love both colors and mixing my black leggings with my brown, leather Steve Madden’s made for one cozy/cool outfit.

What fashion rules do you love breaking?

J.