Tag Archives: good reads

Liebster “Award”

After a seven month hiatus, I found out that Molly tagged me for the Liebster Award, something I’ve never heard of before but supplies me with a free blog post that requires minimal creative energy. Sign me up!

liebsterThe gist is to hype up smaller blogs (less than 200 followers) by providing 11 random facts about yourself, answering a few questions from the nominating blogger and then tagging other bloggers to do the same. I may just do the first part. There’s a reason I fall into the under 200 category.

So here are 11 things that you never cared to know about me.

1. I sometimes like that I am always late because I feel like it ties me to my Spanish roots. But in reality, it probably only ties me to an offensive stereotype. Cubans eating cubans. Cubans eating cubans.

2. I have bits and pieces of two unfinished books carelessly scribbled in journals, and different chapters mentally planned out for a third, a future memoir.

3. I have broken up with and taken back coffee three times in the last six months. Currently I am at a half-caf morning cup compromise.

4. In a moment of pregnancy-inspired spontaneity, we recently bought a keyboard off Craig’s List so that I could try to recapture those three years of lessons I took as a child. My dream Friday night involves candles, a song I wrote, Clayton playing guitar, me playing the keyboard and our glorious harmonies filling up the living room. And then Addison trips over the keyboard bench, topples into her play kitchen and I am ripped away from daydreams back into reality. Kids really put a damper on self improvement.

5. A few other things on my bucket list include learning Spanish, traveling to a country where I can actually use my bilingual abilities to get us around, visiting every continent and taking a massive road trip with the kiddos out west.

6. If you couldn’t tell, I am obsessed with traveling. I am also terrified of flying. I am a complicated lady.
The meds had most certainly kicked in before I took this picture.
The meds had most certainly kicked in when I took this picture.

7. Obligatory mention: I was valedictorian of my graduating class of 33 students. Roughly 80% of them are doing more awesome things than I am right now.

8. Even through college, I used to despise and rage over getting anything less than an A, even an A-. And then I took Organic Chemistry, discovered what actual studying and preparation feels like and wanted to make myself a medal for the B I earned in that class. (I got an A in Organic Chemistry 2. Boom.)
Take that, hydrocarbons!
Take that, hydrocarbons!

9. Last week I was pleasantly surprised when I counted the books I read in 2014 and realized I actually followed through on my resolution to read one book a month. This victory was greatly impacted by the “Divergent” week, when I cranked out three books in seven days. My notables were: “Bossypants” by Tina Fey, “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green and a reread of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The book tower I scaled for one semester in 2012.
The book tower I scaled for one semester in 2012.

10. Being a mom feels nothing like what I thought it would feel like, in the same way being married didn’t feel anything like I expected. You imagine yourself becoming this totally new, redefined person that is altogether different from the previous non-married or childless version. But you’re not. You’re exactly the same person who now has to figure out how to fit this new identity into who you are, in a way that works for you. Having a kid did not automatically make me love cooking meals or cleaning the house or have a strange affinity for pipe cleaners and Elmer’s glue. That realization was actually a relief; I didn’t want to give up me for them. I am happy to have both.
nat addie walk

11. There are 16 names on our baby #2 name list. I am thinking of doing my first blog giveaway. The winner gets to name our child.

And here are my answers to Molly’s 11 questions.

1. online shopping or in-store shopping - Online shopping since Cyber Monday became a thing and since having a kid.

2. black or white – White. Because I feel guilty for choosing black. Thank you, private school.

3. summer or winter – Summer now that we have the paddleboard, even though I have developed a rather surly attitude toward and complete inability to tolerate the Florida heat after living in Virginia.

4. elephant or moose – Elephant. Trunks FTW.

They also make cuter costumes.

5. traffic or standing in line – Traffic because at least I can sing while waiting.

6. piano or guitar – Depends on the day. I like female vocals with a piano ballad and rough male vocals with an acoustic guitar. Skinny Love by Birdy is my spirit animal and one of the first songs I want to learn on the keyboard. Did I read too much into this one?

7. share it or keep it a secret – Keep it a secret. As a textbook introvert, the less talking the better.

8. dance or watch others dance – DANCE. Even if you don’t feel like it, just dance. You’ll always be glad you did.

9. filter or no filter – Filter. Even if you don’t feel like it, just filter. You’ll always be glad you did.

10. beer or wine – Beer. It’s been one of my most intense pregnancy cravings. Sigh.nat beer

11. Jonathon Taylor Thomas or Jesse from Free Willy – Secret Option C: Jared Leto from My So Called Life.

Getting Away and Getting Back

Guys, let’s get real. Life’s hard. It can be plain exhausting. And you know what? A few weeks ago I was over it. I was sick of being exhausted, sick of all the pressure I felt to be everything at all times for everybody, and sick of feeling like I was letting everyone down.

It was a slow build up, but as a friend of mine says, the fit hit the shan. Try as I might, I was not shaking the heaviness, and my head and my spirit were wilting.

So I got the heck out. Out of a house that was starting to reek of sadness. Out of a routine that was draining my creativity. Out of engagements that were overwhelming instead of enriching.

Within an hour of online research, I found a resort on the bay that was running a fantastic weekday special. Clayton had commitments Wednesday through Saturday of that week, so Addison and I packed up the car and hit the road. Okay, I packed. Homegirl threw everything out of my duffel at least twice.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and stayed through late Saturday morning. While my intent was to work through a lot of the junk piling up in my head, I wasn’t sure how much actual excavating I could do with Addison in tow. But it ended up being a perfect mix of passions that fed my soul and empty-headed playtime.

We went on a run together Thursday afternoon and finished just before a beautiful sunset. We made a mess of the breakfast buffet. We were up all night because someone practices tai kwon do in her sleep. We scuttled around the beach, plopped down in the water and waved at every single person out Friday morning.

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And when Addison napped or after she fell asleep, I wrote. I prayed. I read. I started and nearly finished Rebekah Lyons’ “Freefall to Fly,” which put to words how imprisoned I felt in the everyday. I dove into 1 Corinthians 13 and realized the futility of the best of my actions when they aren’t motivated from a place of love.

I also made the difficult decision to get a sitter for Addison one morning, in addition to the two days she is with my mom. I wrestled with this for weeks and had been attempting–and failing–to get my work done, the house un-messed, the errands ran, half marathon training completed and volunteer projects managed in the small window I had. Some or all of these things suffered on any given week, but I refused to acknowledge both the impossibility of handling every task on my list within my current schedule or the toll trying to handle it all was taking on me. So I finally pulled the text trigger that Thursday.

In the preceding weeks, a recording played in my head that said:
I have it so good. I can’t possibly complain about my life.

I am stronger than this. Why am I being so weak?

That girl and that girl and that girl have it all together and they do more than I do. I must be able to get it under control. I should wake up earlier.

These were the lies  I told myself for a good two months before even mentioning how I was feeling to another person. WOMEN, ESPECIALLY MOMS: The rest of us get it. We all feel completely inadequate, too. Even if we managed to put on mascara that day or wear the cute jeans instead of the yoga pants, we are simply staying afloat. Talk to someone!

By Friday night, just 36 hours into this little girls getaway, smack dab in the middle of the crowded waterfront patio of the resort’s restaurant, I ached with missing my husband.

Saturday morning I felt cautiously drawn back to the place I’d escaped. I knew that anyone can feel refreshed and awakened with the smell of saltwater in the air and a fiery Florida sunset within view. I had to go back. And while the scenery set the change in motion, the true shift had to be deeper than a camera angle, more personal than a standard double hotel room.

It’s been a few weeks since that mini retreat, and I cannot believe the difference in my perspective. Very little has changed within the confines of our weekly schedule. We still have must-do’s most nights of the week. My work is not slowing down. Addison continues to be very good at being 15 months old. But I can breathe. I can make it through a day (a week!) without tears.

I can face the pace, routine and impossibility of my to-do list with a shrug, with sleeves rolled up and a smile. I don’t believe my value, my daughter’s development, or the strength of my marriage depends on the check marks–or lack thereof–next to those tasks.

And that is freedom. That is the power and inconceivable compassion of God moving in a life you said was too insignificant, in a problem you said was too small, in a hidden darkness you said you could transform on your own.

That is hope. A sun setting and a dawn rising. A life that you didn’t recognize for shame and fear breathing again with the promise of all those things you’d dreamed it could be.

I cannot share this without saying how grateful I am for this life I’ve been given undeservedly. For the health of my beautiful baby girl. The love and devotion of an unwavering man. The unconditional support of family and friends others must covet. I recognize the great luxury and incredible overflow of prosperity that I enjoy in every sense. I know I have it so, so good. But a lesson that I am learning in this season is that I do not want to trade “good” for what may be best. I am after best in this life. I hope that you are, too.

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Before 30 Wish List

I originally wanted to list 30 things to do before I was 30. Either because I am so prematurely accomplished or because I am detestably uncreative, I could only think of 10.

  1. Run a 5k in less than 30 minutes. (So close.)
  2. See college friends. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am. Football season usually makes this easier since we take advantage of anyone we know still living in Tallahassee willing to put us up for FSU games.
  3. Make a few new friends. Gals of Tampa, get ready for a stammering, inaudible, likely inappropriate greeting comin’ at ya.
  4. Get out of my comfort zone. By accomplishing #3, I will most certainly take care of this one.
  5. Find a recipe to master. My husband should say, “Natalie makes the best [corn dogs, café con leche, pea soup or something equally as awesome and surprising].”
  6. Participate in at least one service project face to face. Writing a check is important, but getting my hands dirty is a must sometimes.
  7. Think of an idea for a novel. Write a chapter or two, solely to say casually, “I’m working on my book” for the next 10 years.
  8. Run another half marathon.
  9. Visit somewhere for the first time. California. Greece. Omaha. I don’t really care where.
  10. Read (or re-read) a couple of classics. Don’t persecute me for this, but I have not read one book by Jane Austen.