Drunk Tattoos

I have two tattoos.

One is a celtic knot, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

I had thought about this tattoo for years before getting it.  I did research of the symbol and daydreamed about where I wanted it on my body.  It represented my faith, and I wanted is as a constant reminder.

But seriously, let’s be real.  I was 20 years old and could barely afford rent, but could always afford beer and apparently permanent ink.  I cussed the entire time.

This tattoo was about as deep as my faith was…barely below the flesh.

Still, I’ve always loved and wanted this tattoo and it truly has been a great reminder of what I believe.  I never had a regret.

Then there’s the second one.

I  also had a vision for this one, and daydreamed about it, etc.  I wanted the phrase ad petendam pluviam, a Latin phrase translated, “to ask for rain.”

I read it in a book that I couldn’t finish because the author didn’t use periods and it drove me absolutely nutty.  No periods, just commas. It was like a giant run-on sentence that was totally unnecessary and I never had any idea who was talking, and now there’s a new character and maybe someone’s speaking and there’s a totally new topic, but no one will ever know because there are NEVER ANY PERIODS (OR QUOTATION MARKS)!  My sweet readers, I solemnly swear to ALWAYS use periods (and quotation marks).

But anyway, this phrase stood out to me in this period-less book and became my muse for my next tattoo.

 

This Latin phrase, for me, represented hardships in life that make you stronger.  Just as those who originally said this phrase were asking for rain in order to grow a thriving crop, I felt that we should also ask for these painful times since we would in turn grow in our character, and there was a Flood Watch in my life at that time.  I wanted to feel stronger and bigger than the struggles I was going through, and I felt like this would be a reminder of that.

So one beautiful morning in the mountains, my good friend asked if I wanted to get brunch.  No matter the season, rainy, sunny, or muddy, I freaking LOVE brunch.  You can have all the goodies of breakfast without feeling badly or needing an excuse that it’s well passed breakfast time, because it’s brunch!

Brunch also allows you to sleep in.  And this girl adores sleeping in.  (Ryan said to me yesterday that there are 2 Hannah’s: one before 9:30am and one after…the one before is slightly more difficult.)

We arrived to our favorite spot and indulged, as we usually did, in all our favorites.  Starting with coffee and bottomless mimosas.  (This restaurant no longer offers the bottomless mimosa deal…and I have a feeling we may have been a reason.)

After brunch, our buzzy brains got the brilliant idea to get tattoos since there was a tattoo shop just across the street.  What a perfect time to get my Latin phrase, and I decided I would like it on my wrist.

When we got to the tattoo shop the artist has you fill out and sign a waiver stating that you are not being forced to get this tattoo and that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Away I signed!

When the tattoo artist asked what I would like I paused and thought.

I couldn’t remember how to spell it.

Thoughts went through my mind:

It’s freaking Latin, no one would know if you get it wrong, just go for it!

You just had 84 mimosas.  Don’t get the tattoo right now.

You know how to spell it, remember?  It’s ad petandarmquirwod….was there a number in there somewhere?

Get something else, duh!

I responded, “I would like the word ‘grace’ in cursive right here on my wrist.  It’s the meaning of my name.”

I had never come up with this backup idea before, but the tattoo artist wrote up a nice swirly little ‘grace’ and away he buzzed with his permanent skin engraver.  (Thanks for stepping in here and stopping me, Cole!)

As the mimosas wore off I got more and more aware of what I had done and was furious.

GRACE???

YOU COULDN’T JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU WEREN’T DRINKING???  THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU WANTED YOU FOOLISH MIMOSA CHUGGING, BRUNCH LOVING IDIOT!

What about my reminder to be strong through the struggles in life?  To ask for these times so that you can come out a better person?

How stupid, right?

 

I actually think that God had an angel with me that day, holding the tattoo ink pen.

 

Looking back, I don’t think I would have been as happy with that Latin phrase.  Had I known how long the depression would last and how hard that rain would fall I don’t think I would like a reminder to ask for it.  Why would any of us ASK for hardships?  What I should have asked for was No rain ever, k thanks.

What I needed more was exactly what I got, grace.

I needed forgiveness from a lot of people, and they gave it gracefully.

I needed healing in myself, to show myself epic grace.

I needed to move on from a dark time and I didn’t need to depend on how strong I was, but I needed to depend on the grace of God that is bigger and stronger than we can ever imagine.

That’s my reminder when I look at this drunken tattoo.

That a girl was lost and scared and was brought out – still imperfect, still damp, but WHOLE – through grace.

 

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I hope it never fades, and I’m confident it won’t. (His grace, that is.)

Keep swimming, loves

Cheers!

Learning

We are already creeping into crisp air and early sunsets.  It’s hard to believe that summer 2015 is coming to a close.

It was a summer of learning, for me.

After spending May with lots of work and only passing each other in the mornings and late evenings, Ryan and I decided we needed to make a decision.  We were newly married for only three months, and we knew we couldn’t spend another month the way we spent May.  So I did something that I haven’t done in years.  I took a step back at work and spent the summer working two, sometimes three shifts a week.

I was terrified.  I have spent most of my adult life working five to six nights a week at busy restaurants.  Allowing myself time off seemed a bit negligent, but I knew that taking this step was imperative to my marriage and to my own mental sanity.

It ended up being the best summer.  Ryan and I were able to take trips, go camping, spend time with each other and our families, and I remembered that mornings and evenings still exist…and they are glorious.

I was able to take a trip out west with my friend Betsy to photograph a gorgeous mountain wedding.  Returning to the place  I once lived healed deep parts of my soul that I didn’t recognize to still be broken (that’s an entirely new blog in itself).  It was quick and busy and a twelve hour day of photographing with one of my best friends made me feel alive and fresh and challenged.

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oh and hey, we met Willie Robertson.  We spotted him at the Cowboy Bar in Jackson, Wyoming.  To my father’s dismay, I introduced myself in a whisper saying, “Hi, I know you don’t want people to bug you, but, my dad LOVES you…”

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checking out the wedding site.  Tetons in the background.

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On a beautiful hike with beautiful people

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The wedding day just after the ceremony.  Hi mountains!

This summer Ryan and I were able to GO ON DATES.  We are generally frugal people….

Let me re-phrase:  Ryan is so great at being fiscally conscious, while I try determinedly to spend our money on important things like food and wine and dates and home decor.  He has been an enormous blessing in the money world by reminding me of what’s important and necessary.  Thank the Good Lord that he agrees an occasional splurge on date night is necessary.

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I mean, just so.freaking.adorable.

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If you are not familiar with Michigan, I’ll let you know that there are lakes EVERYWHERE, and we are blessed to be able to spend time on this particular lake often in the summer.  Boat rides and these people happened, often.

I was able to go with Ryan up north to Traverse City, MI for a business trip, where we rented a cottage on Old Mission Peninsula, ate fabulous food all weekend, and even got to visit our cousin, Jamie, who works for the local news station.

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We ended this great weekend with a perfect night camping.

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Our last trip of the summer was to North Carolina for a wedding with a quick stop in Washington D.C. on the way to visit with some dear friends.

Aside from the travel, we were able to spend time with each other and with friends, have dinner on our deck, go golfing (oh we golfed; we golfed endlessly.)  It was an incredible summer.

But I also learned.

I learned that I don’t need to work my life away to feel accomplished or justified.  And although I do love what I do, it doesn’t define the person I am or the life I want to live.  My priorities are far beyond what I do to earn money.

I also learned that I have passions to re-ignite.  I say RE-ignite because they were coals that were cooling from neglect, and this summer I was reminded that doing the things you love will feed your soul.  For me these include photography, my writing, and travel.  I always keep a notebook and pen on me, but have rarely taken them out these past few months.  I was once going to school for photography and was crazy in love with capturing these still moments representing so much more than that one second in time.  I adore exploring and finding what makes places special.  Somewhere along the way I forgot I had a camera…and a notebook…and a pen…and a passion.

We constantly look for those things that make us feel fulfilled, and sharing stories and lessons and moments is one of those things for me.  It’s putting a pen to paper and scribbling, and spending time with people who want me to help share their story.  It’s discovering a new place and sharing what I love about it with others.

But it’s also time that I spend learning from someone else’s craft.  It’s reading and learning from other writers, shooting with photographers whose work far surpasses my own, and it’s GETTING OUT and going places.

This summer, I’ve learned ENORMOUSLY that I never want to stop learning.

To you and to me, may we always be pushing to be a better version of ourselves than the day before,

Cheers!

Bad Dogs and Amazing Grace

Have you ever seen that movie Marley and Me?

It’s about this couple who adopts this yellow lab puppy.  The puppy is so adorable in all its soft, puppy fur and sweet brown eyes…and it grows up being what the author of the original book (based on a true story) called “the world’s worst dog.”

Turns out I can relate.

We took Charlie into our home when Ryan moved in last October.  Before that Charlie lived with Ryan’s parents, who took him in after he had bounced around a couple other homes.  We decided we would give Charlie his forever home, and were excited to give Cooper (our angel dog) a sibling.  What we knew of him was that he was a little dense, but incredibly sweet, and got along with Cooper great.

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What we have learned about Charlie since is that he insists on barking incessantly at squirrels, innocent passersby, our mailman, any delivery person, falling leaves, any sudden movements made by Ryan or myself, and I swear, should I think too loudly, he will resound his booming bark.  We have learned that we need to precariously monitor his water intake or else he will create small lakes on our floors.  He has intense bowel issues and needs to eat very specific (and expensive) dog food.  This will take away a touch of the smell, but the farts remain.  He is never allowed a bone or a treat or anything other than that food.  Try to give him scraps in my line of sight, I dare you.

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Charlie is a nightmare on walks.  If he sees another dog he will growl so vehemently that he also begins breathing fire like a murderous dragon as he pulls me like a rag doll across the sidewalk.

He also has terrible allergies and licks his paw through the fur to his skin, causing massive sores.

So last night, Ryan and I thought it would be a brilliant idea if we took the dogs to a beautiful off-leash dog beach on Lake Michigan for a relaxing picnic and family time.

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From car to beach there’s a short hike on which they require dogs to be leashed, and before we even approached the beach we passed four dogs, and Charlie maintained his erratic supremacy for each.

As Cooper ran the beach freely with new sweet doggie friends, Charlie remained on the leash, but not without attempting to remove my shoulder from its socket and causing leash burns all over my hands.

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The relaxing evening I had planned was replaced with one of anxiety.  I constantly prayed that he would not latch his jaws around another dog’s neck.  I prayed for no blood.  I growled through my own clenched teeth, “I cannot stand him!”

At one point he freaked so intensely that in my retaliation I allowed my emotions to become physical and I smacked him…hard…several times.  “Feel better?” Ryan asked.

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I felt terrible, and guilty, and still so angry.

We went home and went to bed, me wallowing in the sadness of my bad dog ownership.  Until around 3am when I awoke to Charlie peeing in my closet.

The Devil knows how to ruin me.

Ry and I cleaning up a huge puddle of urine at 3am is not a pretty sight.  It was a lot of swearing and partial nudity, followed by apologies and jail time (for Charlie).

Did I mention that Charlie’s original name was, indeed, Marley?  After the “world’s worst dog”?  Fitting.

In all of Charlie’s ridiculousness, in his frustrating antics and infuriating behaviors and habits, I can still say that I love this dog.

I am consistently reminded of God’s grace with our goofy dog, because even when I want to throw in the towel with him, I often think about what would have become of me if God acted in the same way.  What if the One Who Saves would see my behavior time and time again and shake His head and give up on me?  What if He thought I’ll never get through to her, I’m done!  I’m taking her to the pound!

If there was no such thing as grace, I would be totally screwed, because let’s be real, I’ve peed in the good Lord’s closet many times.

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With Charlie, I’m reminded of the importance of forgiveness, not only with him, but with others in life and with myself.  If I’m incapable of moving on past his barking and his farts and his doggie dominance, how will I forgive those who hurt me, dominate me, or use words to bring me down?  How will I be able to see past my own giant flaws and be able to feel the warmth of God’s forgiveness?

I believe we would all be lost without grace…without forgiveness, and I hope Charlie is around for a long time to keep giving me those reminders.

To the cute blonde sunbathing quietly on my back deck, our little Charles Vader,

Cheers.

Vegas Adventure.

So it’s been a while.

I could totally dive into all the things that have happened since my NYC adventure.  We found a house, got hitched, welcomed another fur-baby into our lives…it’s a lot of big stuff.  Lots of BIG, MONUTMENTAL, LIFE-CHANGING stuff.

You know, the stuff I was craving last summer when blogging was difficult because life was just so CALM.

I’m actually not going to write about any of that today.  Because today is dedicated to Vegas.  Even more so to Francis and Lisa.

I’ll be honest, of all my travel destination desires, Las Vegas was never one of them.  I’ve never been a gambler, I hate crowded pools, loud all-day bashes, and I was also too scared for my liver to make a lengthy visit to Sin City.

However, two friends of ours (yes! you’re right! Fran and Lisa!), decided to get married there, and little Las Vegas soared to the top of our Travel List.

Ryan and Francis became friends while serving in the Marine Corps together.  They have this man-love for one another that just doesn’t happen after “hanging out a lot.”  It’s an incredibly bond that formed after hours together of hard work and sacrifice.  They spent days of exhaustive, relentless, and punishing training.  It’s a bond that builds after countless hours practicing dangerous scenarios, knowing full-well that they could come to fruition, and in those cases, your brothers beside you would die for you.

….Like I said, it’s a serious man-love.

And it’s the best.  They are constantly embracing in these muscle-y bear hugs, and making each other roar with laughter.

Lisa has a heart of solid gold.  She is witty and funny and will tell you what you need to hear.  She doesn’t sugar-coat anything, and that kind of honesty is FRESH AIR.  She is down-to-earth and easy-going.  Not only that, but she is over-the-top, stop-dead-in-your-tracks beautiful.  Wrap it all into one human and you have Lisa. I’ve known Lisa for a little bit, and finally met her last summer when she and Francis visited Michigan.  I knew the minute I met her I wanted her as a friend for life.

That’s what it’s like with these two.  It’s fresh and easy.  We can talk about the serious and the mundane, the important, gut-wrenching stuff that shapes us, and we can talk about how good Francis looks in a man thong.  It’s a friendship we hold dear to us, and booking those tickets to Vegas was the easiest click of the button.

So why did they choose Vegas?

Fran and Lisa decided to get married there for a very specific reason.  New Jersey.

These two have been together for years, and had plenty of time to decide exactly what they wanted for a wedding.  In Jersey the weddings are over-the-top, and after they started the planning process in their hometown, they decided they didn’t want that.  They didn’t want the pressure to spend thousands and invite hundreds and undergo the pressure of “how big can we make this event.”  For them, it was never about that.

So they sent out an e-mail saying they would be going to Vegas, and if you wanted to join, they would love your company.

I love them.

SOLD. We were going to Vegas.

So first of all, Vegas is quite beautiful, which I never really imagined.  Everything is glamour and glitz, and then it’s surrounded with jaw-dropping mountains.  IMG_4771.JPG

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Day of the wedding!

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I mean…unreal. (Photographer was www.tylerfreear.com and he was FUN and amazing.  If you are looking for a photographer in the Denver area…or clearly Vegas area, check him out. )IMG_4798.JPG

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The wedding was to take place at 5:00pm at the Elvis Wedding Chapel.  The lovely couple rented a party bus to bring us from the chapel, to the Vegas sign, to Old Vegas, and then back to the Strip where we would dine and party.

Things got interesting.

The party bus was 15 minutes late and traffic was crazy.  Francis and Lisa missed their 5:00 wedding.  I have to tell you, Lisa stayed so calm.  (Francis was clearly stressed, which I don’t blame him, he just wanted to marry his girl!)  They were able to reschedule for 8:00, and we moved on to Old Vegas for some photos.

It was here that one of Lisa’s friends was called out to dance for a crowd of strangers, the couple got a photo with an Elvis impersonator, a tiny old lady with Cheetos all over her face and holding a Sephora bag stalked me asking for $5, I lost Ryan on several different occasions and found him conversing with random new “friends,” and I began to worry that not all of us were going to make it til 8:00…the Vegas fun was flowing.IMG_4815.JPG

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We made it.  All of us.  Most of us coherent and some of us on the way out of that realm.  We watched and laughed and even got teary eyed as Elvis married our dear friends.

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It was unlike any wedding I’ve ever experienced.  And despite the costumes and the singing and the humor in it all, it was still beautiful and heartfelt.  I don’t think Grand Rapids could pull off weddings like that, and I don’t think New Jersey could either.  It was something that only Vegas could get so weirdly right.IMG_4872.JPG

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Oxygen bar we tried before leaving…don’t waste your $40!IMG_4883.JPG

Sad to say goodbyeIMG_4886.JPGSeth, Francis, and Ryan.  All served together.

Vegas was everything I thought it would be, but it was also beautiful and surprising.   I didn’t know any of their friends, and I think the raw spirit of Vegas broke us out of our comfort zones and our shells.  We were quick friends.  In the busy, crowded pools we were forced to sit close together for conversation.  We bonded on the Strip in the chaotic evenings, trying to decide if we wanted a grand dining experience or pizza in the hotel.

We have these expectations for things, places, people, moments in life, and I love when the actuality destroys those expectations.

Vegas, you were a lovely reminder that things may not be what we imagine, that friendships break barriers, that our preconceived notions may be inaccurate, degrading, or even complete bullshit. Thank you for reminding me that beauty is immeasurably more than what we may expect…

Francis and Lisa, we are so blessed to have shared in your amazing weekend, and even more so by your friendship.

To Vegas, surprises, and mostly to the new Mr. and Mrs. G,

CHEERS!

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New York City Adventure

Hi Internet friends!

I’ve missed you.

The end of summer is a crazy time, isn’t it?  It’s been wild for me.  Between having friends visit from out of town, weekend getaways, weddings, and a quick trip to NYC, these past couple weeks have drenched my soul with joy, wrung it out all over my footsteps, and is now hanging to dry, like a new painting – fresh and thought provoking.

I want to share with you today my trip to New York City.  There are endless photos (phone pictures blown up to all their grainy glory) and way too many selfies due to many solo excursions.  I’m afraid I don’t apologize for them.  

I was invited early August by my friends Joash and Michelle to come to NYC for a visit that month.  They had just found an apartment in their dream neighborhood and their leases would be overlapping for about three weeks, allowing friends and family a place to stay should they have an opening to make the trip.   I had just taken a week off for a family vacation in early July, along with most weekends for weddings and cottage getaways, so the notion of taking more time off and spend more money for another trip seemed a little out of the question.  However, when it came down to the wire, I decided I couldn’t pass it up.  

Ryan had close friends visiting from New Jersey the second to last week in August and offered me a one-way trip to the city.  I found a cheap one-way flight back, and before I knew it, I was going.

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I arrived late Sunday night after being stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge for over two hours.  Bless Francis and Lisa, because had I decided to make that trip myself, I would have been in trouble.  My accommodations turned out to be a beautiful high-ceiling studio with a cozy little mattress.  All to myself.

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The next day I did a lot of solo wandering.  Michelle and Joash both had to work and Francis and Lisa were back to work and school also.  My home away from home was a block away from the Hudson, however, so clearly I started my excursion there.  Selfie to prove it.

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I wandered for a few hours, eventually cutting back into the heart of the city.  Michelle sent me a text just before noon asking if I would want to visit her at work and eat at her restaurant.  I was walking as I read and stopped mid-step.  Let me tell you a little about the restaurant Michelle works at.  It’s called Jean-Georges, and has received four stars by the New York Times and three Michelin stars.  It’s fine dining heaven, and sits on the southwest corner of Central Park while also overlooking Columbus Circle.  Did I mention it’s also located in Trump Tower?  So when Michelle asked if I wanted to have lunch there, I figured I would have a liquid lunch.  As long as I could see and feel the ambiance, I was sold.  I began my hundred block, ninety degree sun-blasted walk over and showed up with a “gorgeous glow” (aka dripping with disgusting all over sweat).

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Michelle was working on the terrace that day, and seeing this stunning face made every ounce of sweat and every blister worth it.  The cold martini helped also.

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My happy heart found tuna tare tare on the menu, and for a price that didn’t terrify me, so I ran with it.  It was decadent.  I was then spoiled with fois gras brulee (not pictured) followed by butterscotch pudding and a perfectly paired port.  I died.

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I forget this guy’s name, but if you are anywhere near a food photo of mine, you will be asked to smile.

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Angry/confused partial selfie to show the terrace.

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And my view from my seat at the bar, clearly aware that I do not belong in such a fancy place, but totally soaking in every second.

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After my lunch, Michelle showed me how to take the subway back to her neighborhood.  I walked the streets for a couple more hours before deciding it was happy hour.  I walked into this spot and found myself in a dark, we are talking nearly black, space, with a worn bar with two guests sipping cocktails and flaunting English accents.  I sat down, smitten, and ordered a gin and tonic.  Not four sips later, a voice came over the speaker system.  It sounded like the voice of an old villain, the wicked witch of the west, maybe, only male.  I couldn’t find the source until it popped up again, and a man fully garbed in a red velvet suit and top hat with a stringy black mop of hair stood behind the bar patrons.  My eyes had finally adjusted to the dark, and when I took a moment to look around the bar as the crackly voice spoke I noticed there were full skeletons hanging from the ceiling.  I didn’t stay for a second drink.

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Instead, Joash met up with me after getting out of work and we decided to go over to Soho to walk through Little Italy and Chinatown, and find other spots to eat and drink.

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At our last spot, a kitchen guy came out and gave me this enormous “sparkler” (which burnt the cuss out of my hand), to which Joash responded to by serenading me with “Happy Birthday.”  We then drank Hennessy for free.  A very Happy Un-Birthday to me.

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Oh yeah, then the bartender did this.

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The next morning, Michelle and I had plans to venture to Brooklyn, with a quick stop at her favorite coffee shop first called Whynot.  Yes, we drank Morning Wine.

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New Yorkers at their finest.

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Our brunch choice, Egg. 

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Brooklyn Bridge

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The subways are smelly, disgusting, hot, and feel like murder.

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It was a beautiful day exploring with my friend.

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Since Michelle had to work that night, I walked 50+ blocks the the ferry and took it over to Hoboken to meet up with an old friend from college.  I hadn’t seen her in years.

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Her babe, Jack, who I got to meet for the first time!

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You guys, I ate alligator.  It was so good.

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Pier 13 in Hoboken.  Dinner, wine, friends, and good conversation.  

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Up and at ’em the next morning for my last day in NYC and spending it mostly with this cute thing.  I walked over late morning to see their new place before heading out.

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Cappuccinos and quiet.

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Scenes from our walk on the High Line, a railway turned park above the streets.  It’s gorgeous (and hot.  Freaking hot that day.)

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Ramen is the cool thing there, guys, so I ate at their favorite Ramen spot.  So good.

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Spicy margarita, mojito, and topped off with a free shot of rum accompanied by an orange squeeze and raw sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa.  People ask what I did in NYC and I say I walked, ate, and drank at all the best spots with all the best people.

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City selfie as I wandered the Upper East Side.  

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And then got two free drinks. 

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I subway-ed back after my afternoon solo adventures and over to Michelle and Joash’s for an evening on their patio.  When I walked in, Michelle had music playing, candles lit, steak being cooked, bottles of wine ready to be opened, and this insane spread.  

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Every sense was rocked on this trip, but the conversations I had with friends about God and humanity and relationships and the solo time I had to think and soak everything in is what I took home with me.  On the last night, as I sat with Michelle and Joash on the candle lit patio, we decided each of us would say something about God before our meal.  I had felt overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious on this trip, and on the flip side I had felt peace far deeper than I had in a long time.  I felt fulfillment and curiosity and anger and love.  The journey that I am on (and that we are on) is vast with opportunities, but short.  It’s leaking with extravagance, but bound by hours, by priorities, by standards put in place by society.  At that moment when I had to say something about God I felt like He was and would continue to teach me in bizarre ways, through cocktails and kind strangers, through subways and chaotic crowds.  I looked up and closed my eyes and took a deep breath of New York City’s potent air.  “God is Crazy.” (totally with capital “C”)

That was all I could come up with.  But I hope you feel the craziness of God.  In whatever way that is, whether you want it or not, I hope it’s never what you expect.  

I can’t believe I almost didn’t make that trip.  

To Fran and Lisa, to Kelly and Nicole and baby Jack, to Joash and Michelle,

THANK YOU and Cheers!

Why I don’t need Ryan

It’s been three glorious weeks of engagement bliss.  

Despite the extra high levels of anxiety and the epic panic attacks/meltdowns that have settled just beneath the surface of my calm exterior due to my manic obsession with wedding planning, it’s safe to say that I nearly have to whole dang thing planned.  Down to the dress.  I’m serious.  21 days after the initial proposal and I have a dress picked out, ordered, shipped, and now hanging in my closet.  Like a boss.

I have our photographer booked (Rachelle Rae), our DJ picked out, caterer in the works, decorations planned, and honeymoon being dreamed up.  

I am in such pre-marital bliss that I have started singing in the shower.  There is not one lie about that statement.  In the past three weeks I have started singing boisterously in the acoustics of my shower for the first time in 27 years.  I vomit wedding talk over every conversation also.  It’s attractive, and I totally can’t help it.

I’m embarrassingly giddy about being engaged, but I don’t need it.  I am not basing my every happiness on marrying Ryan Innis.  As a matter of fact, I don’t need him at all.

Now before you get all hurt for this sweet and incredible man I am marrying, let me explain.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and, per my new terrible habit, I had found different ways throughout the conversation to steer it back to my upcoming nuptials.  There was wedding bile everywhere.  She was sweet as she allowed me to get it all out before she steered it away and described to me the difficulties she was facing in the dating world.  She was having frustrations and anxieties, and I realized that even though I am in this magical state now, this was not always the case, and it isn’t the case for many of my dear ones now.  

I remembered that just over a year ago I would have boiled my blood over another’s engagement.  Dating was obnoxious and constantly depleted my hopes of ever finding someone I would want to hang out with forever.  

In my early twenties, I found my worth in gaining the attention of others.  I was falsely happy only if I was pleasing everyone else, and never focused on what truly brought me joy.  My happiness was fake, and I had fooled everyone, including myself.  

It wasn’t until I decided to put in all my efforts to find what brought me joy.  I switched the focus to myself for a time, and although I will always believe selflessness is imperative to happiness, the necessity of my selfishness during that time was one that would save me.  

I had no idea what I enjoyed.  What perked up my senses?  What made me feel?  What did I want to surround myself with?  And whom? 

It wasn’t until I intentionally explored these questions that I began to understand myself…as a human, a woman, a sister, a friend.  I could see more clearly the things that were important to me, along with the relationships and activities.  I felt more fulfilled emotionally, physically, spiritually.  I was sincerely finding joy as I put effort into loving myself.

If I had met Ryan after that first encounter with his parents and sister, I don’t think it would have worked.  I didn’t know myself well enough.  I would have tried to find my happiness in myself through him, instead of adding to my happiness by being with him.

I think it was all planned that it would be another year before I met him.  Because now I know I don’t need him for my own happiness.  I know what brings me joy.  But I want him with me every second because he adds to it monumentally.  

I don’t need him to feel confident.  But he builds me up every day because he wants to.

I don’t need his money. But I’ll take it. (okay okay, we’ll share 🙂 ) 

I don’t need his input to know my faith.  But I adore his encouragement.

Ryan doesn’t define who I am, and likewise I don’t define him, but I want to be with him every day because he brings out all the good in me, and now we can find all the things that make us happy together.

So to all those frustrated by the dating world, I encourage you to have faith, and spend your time with a bit of selfishness to focus on your JOY with who you are.  Don’t let anyone else define you.

Cheers!

 

 

Ryan

I’ve been asked several times why I’ve never written about Ryan or how I met him, and since we are creeping up on the big ONE YEAR, I am finally giving in.  Here you go, y’all, here’s how it all began (WARNING: I could get mushy) :

 

July 12, 2012

It was the second Friday of July and I was waiting tables, per usual, at my beloved fine dining restaurant.  I was still new, fresh out of training and slightly intimidated by the chandeliers and fragile glassware, by my intelligent and well-versed co-workers and also by our clientele.

It was on this night when a couple came in with their daughter to celebrate her college graduation.  They were fantastic and fun and we talked as if we had known each other for years.

When the evening was coming to a close, the mother said to the daughter, “Do you know who she’d be perfect for?”

The daughter responded immediately, “Ryan.”

As it turned out, Ryan was the oldest son of their family, and was serving in the Marine Corps and soon to be deployed for the second time.

“He’s going to be on pre-deployment leave, though, so while he’s home I’ll take him in for a drink so he can meet you,”said the daughter.

“I’d love that!” I responded, and then smiled for a picture with the daughter (her name is Kayla) for them to send to Ryan. (How could he not fall for the bow tie?)

 

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These wonderful people went on their way, and I didn’t hear from them.  Eventually they were tucked quietly in the back of my memories with all the other cozy, good ones.

Fast forward a year to the day later, July 12, 2013 and we come to meet Hannah again, understandably frustrated by the depressing topic of the male race.  I had had several mediocre to hilariously awful encounters, dates, and set-ups, and I had begun to worry that there were no good eggs left.  They were all single for a reason, and apparently so was I.

I was still serving at the same restaurant on the day my manager handed me a note with a couple names and a phone number.

“Call them to confirm a reservation.  They requested you,” he said.

I didn’t recognize the names at all.

I dialed the number, and the first person I spoke to was male.

“My daughter and wife are actually the ones setting this up, you may want to talk with one of them,” he said.

Before putting his wife on the phone, however, he had given me enough information to piece things together.  They were the family from the previous year, and just as sweet as I remembered.

As I spoke with Mrs. (Innis) on the phone, I learned that this time around they would be out celebrating none other than Ryan, who was home from the Marines for good.

More than anything, I was excited to see that family again, but in the back of my mind, I remembered how they wanted me to meet him.  It was a bad day to pass on a quick tease of the hair and a little extra make-up.  And let’s be real, my bow tie and vest don’t do me any favors.

Picture it in slow motion, people, because it’s seriously like a movie.  I’m chatting with the family when he walks in through the glass doors, tall and tan and manly.  You guys, serious, it all happened in slow motion.  I drooled all over the table.

Five days after our first meeting we had our first date, and have spent few days apart since.

Ryan is good to the core.  When I prayed about finding someone, it’s amazing how I was praying for him.  He is tall and tan and manly, yes, but he is also caring, goofy, and intelligent.  He is crazy about his family, adores his grandparents, and has faith that inspires me.  He makes me feel safe without being dominant, and at the same time he makes me feel strong and confident in myself.

Today is the 12th, and yesterday was the second Friday in July, making it one year since I met him.  Last night we went up north to one of our favorite places, the home that belongs to his late best friend’s mother and stepdad (Aunt Char and Uncle Jim).  They live on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, and as the sun set he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. (Side note: Aunt Char tied the ring around my dog’s neck and he delivered it to Ryan….you guys, I KNOW.  Literally dying)

366 days ago.

Ryan, I never saw you coming.

To Kayla and Mama Innis for the best set up ever, to my dad for giving permission, to Aunt Char and Uncle Jim for their help, but mostly, to my favorite person that I get to live with forever-Ryan, I totally do.

Cheers!

 

 

 

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MOMENTS

One of the goals I made for the blog this year was to write a post every week – to keep the creative juices flowing, fingers typing, mind working.  Clearly, this is a difficult one for me.  Recently I’ve felt that I just don’t have enough going on or happening in my life to form a post that’s worthy of reading.  My readers want adventure and pictures and excitement, and my days are surrounded by my nieces and nephews, reading easy books, racing last minute to work, and returning home late at night, exhausted and wide awake.  I come to the morning where I told myself I will absolutely blog today and think nothing has happened worth writing about.  I walk away from my computer.  Maybe next week.

I always want to entertain you, make you laugh, make you think, maybe inspire you,  but then I put pressure on having these momentous occasions to refer to, ones that teach lessons or are cause for laughing so hard you get the hiccups.

But it’s time to admit it – my life right now, is simple.

It’s beautifully and perfectly simple – full of the most monumentally simple things.

I’ve had the travel bug for a bit now, tugging at me to set everything aside and GO. Go somewhere, anywhere.

I want to see all the places I’ve never been.  I want to breathe that air and swim in that culture and explore everything that makes others lives what mine is now.  What do other’s lives look like when it’s “simple”?

I have friends that are spending the summer travelling through Europe.  Others who are planning weeks later this summer for epic road trips and adventures in South America.  I see on Instagram and Facebook pictures of moments that are life-changing, soul-bursting, heart-wrenching.  It makes me want to leave even more.

It also makes me think of all these beautiful, small moments in my life now with less gratitude.  How often do we compare our lives with those we see online?

I don’t want to do that.  I want to see these pictures and find inspiration and encouragement, yes, but not a means to belittle my own life.

So today I’m thinking of the small moments the past few weeks, because they’ve added heaps of joy to my life.

Like last night, when I sat around the table with my parents, three of my sisters, and my boyfriend, with candles lit and wine open and kids’ happy shouts coming from the basement.  Phones were set aside as we sat and talked late into the evening.

Or the other day, when my three-year-old nephew jumped on my lap and asked me to look out the window with him.  He pointed out trees and puddles and flowers and then we laid our heads on the back of the couch looking at each other.  He was looking not into my eyes but all over my face and I asked him, “What are you looking at, D?”  I was certain his stare was aimed at a zit of blemish, an imperfection I should be more aware of.

“Your face,” he responded, “it’s so pretty.”

He popped his head up, ready to jump off the couch before he paused and said, “Or do you like awesome better?” and then leapt away with a squeal before I could answer.

I think of this moment at work the other day, while I set up the restaurant.

My boss and I had gotten into a couple small arguments recently that made me sad and frustrated, and I was declining into a period of desperation to leave.  That day, I was setting up in the dining room whem my boss pulled out a chair and asked, “Hannah, are you okay?  I’ve been noticing lately that maybe you aren’t as happy here as you used to be, and I want to make sure that we do our job to keep you happy.”

I scrambled for words – I could have said a million of them, and responded, “I have my ups and downs, but I’m happy.”

He paused, maybe also searching through millions of his own words before saying, “I think you carry a lot of the spirit in this place, Hannah.  I truly think that.”

It was a compliment my restaurant-weary soul needed, and least expected from him.  My eyes immediately filled with tears (I’m a crier, he knows this and I also know that it makes him intensely uncomfortable).  I said a thank-you and warned him I could cry, to which he responded by nearly jumping out of his seat and moving on.  It was a strangely perfect way for the two of us to make amends.

I think of my sister and her three kids who are staying with us for the summer as they do each year, visiting from Alabama, so there’s always a mob of kids (her and my other sisters’ kids) running around.  It’s a fun, loud, creative, hilarious mob of loving cousins, and I see magic when they’re pretending, when the big kids tend to the little ones, encouraging their imaginations .

So yes, I want adventures and travel stories and big, momentous occasions that drastically shape me, but I never want to overlook the small ones.  These perfectly simple moments of kindness, innocence, beauty.  These moments you can’t catch and post online.  The conversations that aren’t texts, the things you only get to keep in your memory.  I want my eyes to be wide open and away from a screen for each of them.

To all of the little things,

Cheers!

WEDDING SEASON

June is wild.

Wedding season has arrived with every ounce of energy it it can muster, and it has a cuss ton of it.  Last week alone I attended three weddings, beginning on Sunday the 8th at Gun Lake and finishing it off in Chicago on Saturday, with one in between here in Grand Rapids on Friday.

They were all as different and as lovely as the couples.  The wedding on Sunday I spent photographing for a friend from work, which is actually a touch humorous, considering I am in no way a professional photographer.  It was also terrifying.  I crapped my pants shortly after agreeing to do my friend this favor of capturing lifelong memories of the most important day of her life.  Then I wanted to do so again when I woke up the morning of her wedding to see dark clouds and deep puddles everywhere.  Thankfully when I arrived to the lake/wedding site at 10 am that morning the clouds had already dispersed and the day turned out to be absolutely perfect.  Except for when I broke a lens, but thankfully it was not the one Ryan bought me for Christmas nor was it either of the two lenses I had rented for the weekend.  One is forced to find blessings in tragedies as expensive as broken camera lenses.  Dan picked Karly up after they were pronounced husband and wife and he carried her down the aisle.  Pure magic.

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Friday’s wedding was for an old friend who has been in my life since elementary school.  There is a group of 20-30 (seriously, I’m not even going to count) who has kept quite close even after our high school days were over.  Many are married to each other – high school sweethearts whose relationships survived the odds, and others who we’ve since added to the group.  They’re my people.  We can move away, make mistakes, be absent from the group activities, forget birthdays, not speak in months, and then when we do all get together, everything is forgotten except that we have been through it all and that is enough to carry our friendships through.  It’s a beautiful crew.

and these are just some of the females…

Both the bride and groom that day had wide smiles they couldn’t quit.  They would try to give their cheeks a break and couldn’t.  It was happiness in its brightest, best fashion.  The reception was in an old brick building with antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the tables covered with white linens and decorated with bouquets of baby’s breath and white hydrangeas.  Romantic, man.  It was freaking romantic.

and seriously…photo booths? Awesome.

 

The morning after I rode with my parents and two of my sisters down to the Chicago suburbs for my cousin’s wedding.  She and I are the same age, but dramatically different.  She’s petite, sweet, teaches elementary, and has a heart of solid gold, whereas I’m brash, loud and unorganized.  And definitely not petite.  Despite our differences, she is my blood to the very heart of the meaning.  She is part of me and I of her.  She inspires me, and her now husband, Dave, clenched his jaw as she walked down the aisle to hold back his tears and then threw his fist in the air after their “I do’s.”

Hannah and her sisters (that should totally be a movie, right? 😉 )

 

We stopped in Saugatuck on our way home to soak in the smell of the lake and to eat pizza and ice cream in a waffle cone, and from there I sped north to Ryan’s family cottage where we took a late evening pontoon ride around the lake with a glass of wine.

And now it’s Monday.  My schedule is nearly packed with work every night, and part of me wants to quit my job just so I can keep going with this season…but I’m also exhausted.  Happily exhausted.  My body needs a break from mounds of endless food and bottomless glasses of wine.  However, finding that balance of crazy fun and endless work is not my strength, and there’s this idea brewing, wondering, imagining if it didn’t have to be a balance and could, instead, be all wrapped up into crazy fun.  Wouldn’t that be what we all hope for?

June is wild.  In the best way.

To Dan and Karly, Amber and Jon, and Christine and Dave,

Cheers!

Rachelle Rae was the photographer for Amber and Jon’s wedding, and clearly, she is awesome.  Visit her page here

Being Kind is SO Overrated

I’m serious.

We’ve given it up.  We used to effort ourselves to “kill people with kindness,” and now we’ve reverted to killing people with bitterness, snarkiness, anger, and behind-closed-doors-cursing.  We’re a bunch of smart-asses, waiting for the opportunity to roll our eyes and make the other person feel the angry shadow we cast as we loom above them, glowering in our headiness.

We can feel this like a thickness in the air, weighing everyone down, our shoulders drooping forward and our eyes downcast.

I see this often.  I see it in the way we handle conflict, in our demeanor towards co-workers, strangers on the street, on our oh-so-beloved social medias where we turn into sharks, safe behind our plastic keyboards.

I’ve been a victim, but I’ve also been the antagonist, though it breaks my heart to admit.  I’ve responded to harmless questions with sharp words, sarcastic and dry – sandpaper to a baby’s soft skin.

What happened to our effort for kindness?

Putting ourselves above others seems to come naturally.  Quickly defensive and slow to take blame, we are becoming a society where we are never wrong and the other person is always the idiot.  Throw them under that roaring, angry, hateful bus.

It’s slowly, but visibly, wearing us down.

It has to change.  If we ever want to see better, to do better, to be better, we have to change.  Change our mindset, our vocabulary, tone of voice.  Change our pedestal…lower it a few levels.  There isn’t one of us who has it all together, with all the answers and the perfect plan.  You will make mistakes today, and so will others.  So what if we decided to take a deep breath and be kind?

I’ve worked in the service industry for nearly ten years and I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to scream at a guest an unpleasant reminder that although I am waiting on them, I am still, in fact, a human.  Their rudeness is a baseball to the head, shouldn’t I return the favor?  But I smile (no, it may not be a genuine smile) and continue on.  I want to keep my job.  I want to be professional.  I want to KILL THAT PERSON with kindness.  More often than not, they notice how big of a jerk they’re being, and take it down a notch (though, not always).

What if we took the extra effort in our every day lives?  A deep breath and clenched smile and a genuine effort to not become a jerk could go a long way.  There’s one world and we all have to live in it, we may as well try.

I like you all, in my most sincerest way of liking,

Cheers!