The Power of Privacy in the Age of the Internet

The Internet. It’s a magical magical place. It can take us anywhere. We can explore the heights Mount Everest, the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and the vibrant botanical life of the Amazon Rainforest.

When I first started using social media, around the early 2010s, I loved traveling via the Internet. I could explore the most remote places, and during my search, I would serendipitously stumble upon some yummy recipes and adorable photos of puppies.

Pictures and images are very powerful. They have a huge affect on us and it’s wonderful that we can look at so many beautiful scenes, creatures, and yes humans on the Internet. Since my early days of utilizing apps like Pinterest and Instagram, there are numerous influencers now who get paid to share photos, lots and lots of ads, and well there are still cute pictures of puppies (thank goodness!) I can also see what my old high school friends are up to even though I haven’t spoke to most of them in a decade.

It’s strange. We get to share intimate and personal moments of our lives with anyone, and see those of others, and it was once really exciting. I had a lot of fun doing it at first, then I started to feel insecure, anxious, and just not good. It’s hard, almost impossible not to compare your life with what others are doing and only seeing the curated highlights of people can be damaging to the psyche.

Even if we are all well aware by now that most people post the good stuff and that someone’s Instagram profile only accounts for about twenty percent of his or her real life, it can still get into our heads that he or she is doing so much better than we are…

This year, I finally limited my social media use. I deleted my Facebook and now only use Pinterest and Instagram four days a week. I have my three social media-free days and it’s been doing wonders for me. I’m not quite ready to give it up cold turkey, but I realized that I could definitely live without it.

Instagram was where it got bad. I use to go on it more than ten times a day. I would go on it first thing when I got up and right before bed I realized I didn’t want to start and end my day with mindlessly scrolling through an app, so I stopped doing that, then eventually did social media-free Sundays. Now, I’m up to three days a week.

Some people have a healthy relationship with social media like my husband who only follows meme pages and posts once a year. And some people’s livelihoods depends on social media, but I really think it can do so much good for the mind and the soul to stay off screens just for one day a week.

I also limited my posting. I’ve noticed a lot of my close friends also don’t post nearly as much as they use to ( this could also be because of the Stories feature on Facebook and Instagram- you don’t have to “fully” commit to posting). It could be that others are also limiting social media. I’ve talked to some close friends about their relationship with social media and it’s very similar to mine. It’s good in small doses. And it does have the power to take over your life and be the main source for acceptance and validation. This is why there is so much power in discretion at this moment in time. You don’t have to feel compelled to share every little thing about your life. It can be yours. You don’t owe anyone photos of your daughter’s birth or your precious wedding snapshots. Those are your moments to keep that make up your unique life. But, if you desire to post them, go right ahead!

I found that every time I would post, especially if it was something special like a vacation photo or wedding portrait, I would constantly be checking my social media, hoping to see the likes go up. My notifications are turned off for all my apps and I still can’t help but check it every twenty minutes or so. If it’s not getting as much likes as I thought it would, it can definitely put a damper on my day and self-confidence on general.

This wasn’t how I wanted to have a relationship with social media. For me, it’s not really possible to not care at all about my posts. It’s natural to want them to get some recognition. What helped me limit my anxiety over likes was to stop positing as often and just enjoy what I was doing.

You can have a healthy relationship with social media, I do believe that, but it doesn’t take much to fall down the rabbit hole of constant comparison and putting yourself down. That’s why keeping some privacy is always good. There are some things that are just meant for you and your very close family and friends. And that is special. There is a power that is given to you when you claim your own private life and set boundaries with social media. Just like how we need to set healthy boundaries with relationships, we need to do that with social media as well.

Along the lines of simple living, limiting social media can allow you to live a slower more intentional life. You can start focusing on some of your beloved hobbies or spend time with people you love without worrying about capturing that Instagram-worthy picture.

My goal isn’t to delete all my social media. I don’t think it’s all bad. There is good in this technology, it’s just difficult to develop a healthy relationship with it, especially when we are feeling vulnerable in our lives. I do want to maybe limit my social media usage to once a week. I think that would be the ideal amount for me.

We are all different. Some of us want to pursue the benefits of social media and maintain connections, while others don’t see value in it. Keeping some moments private is always good in my opinion. You no longer will have to worry about what your followers think or if they “approve” of those beautiful moments in your life. Their validation doesn’t matter. Its yours that counts.

Hosting in the Millennial Generation

With the holiday season coming up quickly (it always does!) I’ve been thinking a lot about hosting, how it plays an important part even in our fast-paces lives. It’s definitely somewhat of a lost “art” in this generation, but still fills a purpose throughout all cultures and corners of the world.

This topic may excite me at the moment because I just finished reading a Jane Austen novel, and it always fascinates me how much our everyday dialogue has changed since her time (and almost how we still interact just the same in ways!) Social gatherings and parties play a huge role in Austen’s novel.

With many of us hosting for the holidays, some tips can be of use. When it comes to hosting, I don’t always know what I’m doing. I am NOT an etiquette expert. Thankfully, my mother instilled some manners into me at a young age. Nothing too formal, just the basics, and they still play a role in how I live my life and treat others today.

I think many of us women desire to host, but there is a lot of pressure attached to it. It’s not something that people commonly do anymore. My grandmother use to host on a weekly basis (which is probably why my mom was so informed in this skill). Hosting doesn’t have to be stressful and when you are on the opposite end as a guest, you only need to emphasize gratitude and make sure to have fun of course!

There is an air of femininity connected to hosting and being a gracious guest. Welcoming people into our homes for a dinner or get-together is a wonderful way to cultivate our femininity, we can socialize and take care and nourish the ones we love. It can be done simply and elegantly, you don’t have to produce a Martha Stewart-worthy five-course dinner. I always get excited for a dinner party because it’s such an intimate way to connect with friends and family, not to mention it’s more cost-effective than going out to eat!

I tend to not make “advice” pieces on the blog, but I would like to share some helpful pointers my mom taught me for hosting a wonderful gathering and being a gracious guest!

Disclaimer: This post may contain hints of sass. Sorry I just couldn’t help it.

Always ALWAYS Bring Something with You When You Receive an Invite to Someone’s Home/Event

I think this gesture is common courtesy and something that my mother taught me as I was getting older and attending more get-togethers with friends. If someone is providing food, drink, and entertainment, the guest is expected to contribute with a dish or bring flowers, a bottle of wine for the hostess as a thank you.

Even for a casual get-together, I at least try to bring something like wine or a sweet treat just to show appreciation. It’s not always expected, but it’s nice to do for the hostess. Even if it’s a close family or friend, it’s important to show that you care and that you’re here for the person you love and support the event she is having.

When Receiving Guests, Offer Them a Place to Put Their Personal Items

This may seem like common sense, but I’ve arrived at homes and parties in the past and was left waiting awkwardly with a heavy winter coat and handbag in the entryway without knowing where to put them.

Allow your guests to feel at ease and welcomed as soon as they enter the door. Ensure that the place to store coats and personal items is either clearly marked or, as hostess, direct them there yourself. This usually eases sometimes the most tense part of hosting: the initial welcome and greeting. It can be awkward to welcome guests and get them in your home. I’ve felt this way before. Most of us get nerves when inviting people into our intimate spaces. I like to welcome my guests warmly without creating a sense of urgency to get them settled in, but still direct them to the proper area of refuge so that they can feel comfortable as soon as possible! This can be a tricky balance, but with practice, it will be an easy feat.

Always Introduce Your Plus-One When a Guest

Be aware that your plus-one typically doesn’t know the hostess or the other guests attending. Make sure to make him or her feel comfortable and provide an introduction during conversations and greetings. It can be easy to forget this when caught up in the excitement of a party/gathering, but when you introduce your plus-one, everyone feels more comfortable: the hostess, other guest, you, and, of course, your plus-one.

As a Guest, BE ON TIME (Kind Of)

This is CRUCIAL. It may a little strange now to show up right on the mark because most of us expect everyone to be late, but it’s still important to show up on time. My mom always emphasized timeliness when my sisters and I were growing up, and it still sticks till this day. I tend to get anxious when I’m running late and then the rest of my day is thrown off. I try my best to be on time for work and for social activities to avoid feeling frustrated.

When I’m on time, I am more relaxed, which in turn, allows for more ease in social situations like a party or event. I typically show up ten to fifteen minutes after the start time. I think this is a sweet spot so that it won’t catch the hostess off guard, but also communicates to her that you prioritize her event and you respect her time and efforts of getting everyone together.

Allow Guests to Gather and Mingle, but Don’t Forget Your Role as Hostess

I always appreciate a hostess that acts as the director of events, but allows her guests to mingle and feed off of the energy of the party. This leadership is important when transitioning from the welcome to the drinks, from the mingling to the dinner, from the dessert to the games. You don’t want to run a tight ship so your guests feel pressured to have fun, but you don’t want to leave them hanging. If there is a loll in the party, offer to bring out a game. If a guest is hesitating to enter the party and is finding a place of refuge in a quiet corner with a look of discomfort, offer him or her a drink and introduce him or her to other guests.

My mom is a natural at this. She’ll put out the food at the right time. She won’t keep us too long in the entryway if we need to leave (for Midwestern standards might I add. A long goodbye is the norm here and usually takes at least a half hour – that’s on the shorter side!) She is aware of her guests needs and notices who is low on food and drink, who needs an extra dose of social interaction to feel comfortable. Master at breaking the ice (sometimes with inappropriate humor – which makes every party of hers interesting), she is great at this.

A good host feels it out because every party and crowd is different. It can seem intimidating, but I find that your instincts are usually right. Feel it out. Don’t force your guests to partake in something they might not be comfortable with. Create a structure that you can work around so that there is a flexible rhythm to your party. Your guests will appreciate your efforts!

Prepare Food and Be Mindful of Your Guests’ Diet and Appetite

Whenever I have people over, I’m always concerned about the amount of food (perhaps it’s because my family likes to eat…a lot!) it’s important to provide enough food and beverages to your guests and try to calculate the amount of food that is needed for the crowd.

There is nothing worse than not having enough food and drink at a party. Your guests might hold back on really enjoying themselves. It’s also good to note the diets of your guests if there are any restrictions, vegetarians etc. It’s 2019, and many people are on meal plans and diets these days. However, don’t bend over backwards for every single guest and his or her diet, that will make you miserable. Just provide options and include a variety of food groups for your guests.

Even for a casual visit, my mom ALWAYS gets food out. Doesn’t matter if it’s a formal Christmas party or it’s just a Saturday visit. She’ll typically make a beautiful charcuterie board (she’s the queen of charcuterie,) offer us drinks, and have a fruit and vegetable spread laid out. We always feel full and so loved after visiting.

When an unexpected visitor drops by, it’s always important to offer food and drink. I’ve been in many social situations when I wasn’t even offered a glass of water in someone’s home…

Be a generous host. It doesn’t mean you have to work yourself into a tizzy and make something really complicated. It can be simple. Make sure your guests’ bellies and cups are full and their needs are taken care. You will have a great event!

RSVP on Time

When guests do not reposed on time to the invitation, it always takes me by surprise. I should expect it now because it’s happened to me on multiple occasions, even for as something as formal as our wedding reception. When my husband and I were computing the final headcount, we noticed that not everyone RSVPd. It was difficult to add this to our never-ending wedding to-do list. Anyone who has been in or has planned a wedding knows that the weeks leading up to it are stressful as it is.

As a guest, it’s not hard to RSVP. Now, it’s typically done via text or email, and this takes just a few minutes out of our day. As soon as you find out if you can or cannot attend, RSVP or graciously decline. This way, you won’t forget once it’s too late.

Do Not Cancel When It’s Too Late to Do So (Millennials, We’re Guilty of This!)

Whether it’s the day before, the morning of, or a week in advance, we all know when it’s inappropriate to cancel for a specific event. For a wedding, the bride and groom need to be notified of a cancellation much further in advance, so they don’t have to pay for more dinner plates than necessary. And, in my opinion, it’s just rude to cancel the day of for ANY event. Even if you’re just going to your friend’s for a movie night, do not leave her hanging because you don’t “feel” like it.

Emergencies and illness happen and it’s completely understandable if they interfere with social plans. In life, we encounter the unexpected every so often. And for those suffering from mental illness, this advice is relative. It’s important to rest and get the help that is needed so you can show up for your friends and family as a healthy individual. Be gentle on yourself and allow yourself space if you need it. On the other hand, if you are just not in the mood to leave the house while in a completely healthy state, that is by no means a good enough excuse to cancel. Do not cancel last minute! I know it’s tempting. The day comes and you feel like you no longer want to attend your friend’s BBQ. As an introvert, I know this feeling all too well and I’m guilty of doing this too, but it’s important to keep promises and follow through with our commitments. It doesn’t matter if it’s personal or professional, your friends or colleagues, when you make a commitment, you try your best to follow through.

The hostess has been preparing for this event for weeks, maybe even months. Show up for her. She’ll be so glad just to have you there. And don’t pretend like you “forgot.” We are all adults and by no means have any excuses that will cover “forgetting” an event. That just comes across as irresponsible. And many of us have these devices in our pockets and purses that can keep track of events and appointments. It’s pretty easy to use and it will even even remind you the day of the event. It’s pretty cool. Or if you’re more old-fashioned like me, writing it down in a paper planner will help you remember it too 😉

Being a gracious guest and an attentive hostess can be intimating in our world today where most of us communicate via technology, but nothing compares to a gathering of good friends and good food. It doesn’t have to be a complicated dinner and you don’t have to bring a fancy gift as a guest, just make sure to enjoy yourself!

It’s especially hard to do this as hostess, but with enough preparation done in advance, you’ll be able to have fun yourself at your own event! You can express your femininity through and through with a wonderful gathering of friends and food.

It’s great to get together in real life, host to your heart’s content this holiday season if you wish! Your guests will just be happy that you reached out. Hope these tips helped!

How Bringing a Child into the World Connects Us to Ancestry and Nature

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood. It’s an experience I’ve always wanted at heart, although I’ve had some fears and doubts about it in the past and I still do. Our world is a great one, but it’s also a very terrifying place, and when thinking about bringing another human life into it, you see everything completely differently.

Regardless, continuing humanity has always been a part of our story whether it was by choice or not. In the many parts of the world, we are lucky to live in a time in which having children can be a conscious decision. Women particularly can benefit from this if they don’t desire motherhood and want to pursue other aspects of life.

Motherhood is part of the feminine journey whether a woman decides to follow it or not. We all have to think about this strange and amazing ability we have to grow a life and decide whether it would be best for us and aligns with the life we want to create for ourselves. In times before, it was expected of women to have children, and for those eras, it made sense. Accessible birth control is fairly recent in our human history and not until the 20th century did we have modern medicine that allowed much more children to survive from diseases that previously posed a threat to their livelihood. People didn’t have children just for the mere joy of parenthood; they often contributed to the family business, farm, or whatever determined the household income.

In these modern times, most of us in the West have children to make meaning out of our lives and to better our well-being. We do it for the experience and journey, however, it’s still a very instinctual human urge we all still have even now. This is a privilege that our ancestors didn’t have. We have the choice and ability to create a family based on our purest desires to welcome more joy and purpose into our lives.

As a woman who is ready to put all of her energy and focus on family, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. I am ready to pursue motherhood full-time, leave my job, and stay at home to raise my children. This is what we want and what my husband and I been preparing for. This is the future we have always envisioned for our family. It may not exactly work out that way and I am prepared to contribute to the family income with a part-time job or do whatever I have to do if it’s needed, but we are doing everything we can now, so this vision of ours becomes a reality.

It makes sense for us and for me especially since my job entails taking care of another family’s children. It seems like each week that goes by, I am anxious to focus on my family instead of taking care of someone else’s. I’m getting a little restless, but there are some factors that are keeping me there as of now and it’s a great way to support our present expenses and save for our future family.

However, I find that the mainstream narrative in our popular culture abandons the idea family, especially the traditional family. This seems to be a thing of the past, and is almost looked down upon. Many women are choosing not to have kids, and that is a good thing for those who really don’t want them. But for those of us who do want to focus on family, we can feel like outliers in the push for a progressive, “the-future-is-female” vision of the world. There are many women who do want to pursue a more traditional life and they often can feel awkward and misunderstood in the current political climate we live in.

Children and family are often seen as a burden, an exhausting future that deprives us of passion and personal interest. I think many people see child-rearing this way. Of course, it’s great that the younger generation is really thinking about how having a child will affect not only their lives, but the planet as well. Not many other life events are as altering as raising children.

I see having children as an extension of not only myself and my husband, but a continuation of humanity as a whole: all who came before us and all who will come after. We’ll be adding a precious piece of human life in the exquisite tapestry of consciousness. Every birth is an act of hope for our human story, and continues our family’s history.

There is a sublime sense of maternal wisdom every new mother seeks and it’s beautiful to learn the ways of our own mothers, mother-in-laws, and grandmothers. This pool of maternal knowledge has been in the making for centuries and a skill that a grandmother may teach her granddaughter as a new mother was likely passed down to her by her grandmother and so on and so on. Becoming a mother connects a woman to the feminine and maternal figures in her family tree in an entire new way.

We connect with our ancestors by having children. Features that our great aunts, grandmothers, and great great grandfathers possessed may be seen in our children. This is mind-blowing to me. I want to give life to a child that continues our family’s stories and history. Although I know there is some darkness buried in all of our pasts and of those who came before us, I believe that with each generation light is given a place to dwell and grow so that the darkness becomes further from the family.

Perhaps if we saw having children as an act that involves our entire family tree and all of humanity it would seem less daunting and more of an extraordinary experience. It’s an isolating and lonely time to bring up children, and if we look at extending our families this way, it becomes more freeing to parents. No one can raise a child on his or her own! I like to think that my entire family, even those who have passed, those who I have never met, will be there to guide me and my husband with our future children. They will be there to help, nourish, and grow our children, as they did with us when we came into the world. It’s a feeling that is a strong one inside of me even if it sounds a little out there…

I know my family, those who are here on earth and those who have passed on, is watching out for me and my husband. Having a child brings about a lot of fear: fear for their health, future, and happiness. We want our children to experience the very best lives possible. I am assured of my future family’s well-being because of those incredible souls who came before us and who have helped paved our present paths.

Walking Through Fall

My Husband and Dog on a Walk!

Everything is magic here in the Midwest. The yellow and red leaves that gently fall and cover sidewalks, the crisp, invigorating autumn air, and the smells of fresh baked bread and cinnamon: fall is in full swing! And it’s my favorite time of the year.

We’ve been busy the past few weeks with heart-warming celebrations as well as some unforeseen challenges that have come up in our horizon. When life takes an unexpected turn, I make even more of an effort to get outside and walk. I try to include this as part of my everyday (some days are just too busy or the weather is just bad), but “almost” every day I go out for a walk. This is the time that I consciously recharge and clear my mind. Nothing does it like taking in the outdoors while walking at a comfortable pace. I typically have my dog Sasha with me, and she’s the perfect companion for this precious time in my day.

Galena, IL

I’m grateful for my walks. It allows me to just “be” in the world. I try to go when I’m not too much in a hurry so I can enjoy it without having to keep track of the time. I can see what surrounds my home and how beautiful of a place I get to live in. I can hear what my body, heart, and mind are really telling me without any distractions. Sometimes I even get some writing and blog ideas while on my walks. I always get something out of my walks and have never regretted a single one.

With the constant movement and business our modern lives bring, I find that the only way my old soul can take on the day with courage and energy is to get this time to myself. Walking in nature is something that I recommend to everyone. It does wonders not just for for the body, but for the mind. Anyone with an able body can do it. It’s not just for the elite, the rich, the smart, the super fit humans: it’s for everyone. And it doesn’t cost a thing, just some of your time, but it’s time that is not lost to distraction, social media scrolling, and mindless television. I definitely prefer it to meditating, but I feel that walking has similar effects (and is for those who have a hard time sitting still)!

Fall Leaves

I am aware that my daily walks may not be easy to do in the future. Each season of life is different and right now I am lucky enough to carve that time out in my day to enjoy a walk with my dog. I hope that even if life gets more stressful and busy, I can find some time to enjoy just a quick and quiet walk.

Fall is my favorite time for walking. It’s beautiful and the weather is perfect. I’ve enjoyed some magnificent walks with my husband and my dog and have discovered new trails. I like to notice the little changes in nature while on my regular route in my neighborhood. Especially this time of year where everything turns so quickly and then it’s gone – onto the next season. I hope to squeeze a few more fall walks in before the chill of winter arrives!

Alone at Night: The (Sometimes) Hard Reality of an Officer’s Wife

I spend most of my nights alone, reading some comforting pages in a book with my cat curled up next to me while my dog dozes off to sleep. I really enjoy this quiet time. It’s soothing and I get that rare moment of rest and silence before finding slumber. 

As a married woman, it is weird that I never sleep beside my husband. A night of solitude is all I’ve ever known, and it’s great, but it does get lonely sometimes. Even when my husband is home, he’ll sleep in the guest room so he doesn’t wake me when he goes to bed at a much later time. 

During our marriage, we’ve had to manage opposite sleep schedules, working holidays, and demanding over time and that is the life of an officer and his/her family. I think now more than ever people are working odd hours and night shifts thanks to Amazon Prime two-day shipping – not to mention that we live in a culture that doesn’t like to wait.

Waiting is part of the daily life of an officer’s wife. Waiting for him to return home after a night out on the streets to ensure he is safe and sound. Waiting for him to have his morning (or I should say) afternoon coffee so you can tell him about your day (but always be mindful that it’s his morning so don’t mention anything too heavy). Waiting to see if he got Christmas Eve off this year. 

My husband and I are use to this life. It’s all we’ve ever known. I have come to see the night as a time for me to decompress and reflect with some thoughts that only are available in solitude. I am constantly aware that my husband has a high-risk job, and, it took me a while, but I try to dismantle the negative thoughts and all-consuming worry while he’s gone. I say a prayer for him every night and go to sleep, knowing that the unthinkable could turn into a dark reality. 

And, I’m sure many police officer wives feel this too, but I put a lot of pressure on myself making our home is a safe, peaceful, and comforting place for my husband to go to at the end of his shift. I do most of the work around the home and feel that it is my duty to take care of him and our home because of the  nature of his job (plus I just enjoy the art of homemaking!) I am happy to do it most of the time and it gives me joy and pride to provide my husband with a home-cooked meal and clean house (even if this isn’t an everyday occurrence.) 

When I feel a burn-out coming on from not asking for my husband’s help, I get resentful and harbor in my frustration. This isn’t healthy to do whatsoever, but I still struggle with it. I feel guilty asking for my husband’s help knowing that he works more hours than me, doesn’t get much sleep, and encounters stressful situations often. I know I shouldn’t feel this way and by no means does my husband make me feel this way -he is always willing to help with my workload; I put all the weight unto myself. I’m getting better at asking for help when needed, but I still struggle with it, partially because I like to do things myself and also if I let anything slide, feel like I’m not doing my part.

My husband always makes me feel appreciated and often comes home calm and collected. He’s in a good mood, despite with what he has to deal with at work and I have no idea how he does this. He is a master of separating work and home life and I think this is especially important for those who work in law enforcement because the job can really drain you. There’s a reason why divorce rates are higher in police families. 

It’s a demanding and hard life as it is. I very well knew this going into marriage. I was always pretty flexible with his schedule, but once we were married, I put much more emphasis on spending holidays together and being a family. The unpredictable schedule and nature of law enforcement clashes with those special family events and occasions, and once we were married, I wanted to be together for those celebrations. We were officially a family, and I desired to share those moments with my husband by my side. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be if we had kids. 

I am grateful for my husband’s career. It gives us a stable income and has allowed us to do so much. Like any profession, it has its downsides.  It’s a unique life that throws challenges in particular to those in law enforcement. None of my friends currently are “police wives,” so I don’t really talk very much about the inner workings of my world with a police officer husband. And the political climate surrounding police officers doesn’t help, so I tend to not bring it up unless I am really close with someone.

I am so proud of my husband and it really is a shame that so many officers, men and women, who risk their well-being day and night don’t get the credit they deserve. However, those that get the attention in the media have done terrible things, so I can see reasoning on both sides. 

Though the nights get lonely, my husband and I treasure each other’s company even more because we don’t always get to wake up and go through out the day at the same time and experience it’s entirety together. We make more time for each other because if it and our time management skills have improved over the years that’s for sure! 

Marriage Matters: A New Wife’s Perspective on a Lifelong Bond

Photo by Tomasz Kornas

With our wedding anniversary coming up this month, my husband and I have been reminiscing and thinking about how our marriage has progressed over these two years. It hasn’t always been perfect, but getting married was one of the best (if not the most positive) decisions I’ve made in my life. I believe I am one of those humans who just prefers a partner. Some of us are solo creatures and gravitate toward freedom and independence, and that’s also a wonderful lifestyle. In these modern times, we are fortunate to have the choice to stay single or commit to a lifelong relationship (even end up somewhere in between)!

A lifetime partner is a beautiful ideal, however, it comes with plenty of hurdles and hardships. Your struggles become your partners and vice versa, and I have to say, I haven’t always handled stress and unforeseen challenges with grace during my marriage. My husband is a natural when it comes to keeping calm while under pressure. I’m on the other side of the spectrum and get overwhelmed easily with anxiety. 

I haven’t always been the “perfect” wife, nor has he always been the “perfect” husband. We both have our struggles and our bad days, but we always end up coming together at the end of the day with love, forgiveness, and compassion: and that is what marriage is. Despite all the hardship, stress, challenges, and temptations, we choose each other every day and commit to one another. Marriage is a daily declaration of love, commitment, and support. It may not always be expressed in a beautiful ceremony with striking vows of devotion, but it’s a choice two people make every single day of their lives – until death do they part. 

I grew up having mixed feelings about marriage. My parents separated when I was eleven, and eventually got divorced. From a young age, I was cautious about relationships and love, since a lifelong marriage didn’t work out for the two people who represented that type of commitment for me. It was a tough, new reality to process on top of coming-of-age and all the new challenges that stage of life brings.

Photo by Tomasz Kornas

Although my family now is wonderful, my mom and dad are amicable and are close friends – we actually still celebrate the holidays and big events together which many children of divorced parents don’t experience, it was hard for me at the time of their split. For children, when their partners divorce or separate, everything they thought they knew crumbles to the ground; their whole foundation collapses. I see marriage as the base for childhood and family. A strong relationship between the two parents is essential for raising children in a healthy environment. If that falls apart, the the children do in way. I remember thinking that all my early memories were tainted because my parents never really loved each other. Of course this wasn’t true in any sense, but for a child, it can feel that way for a while.

Because of my childhood, I was hesitant about marriage. I valued it, and as a romantic at heart, I truly wanted to experience it, I was just cautious. In college, I didn’t have any prospects for a serious relationship, so I started to see myself having a life without marriage. It was a future that appealed to me. I would travel, write, be a nomad of sorts. This was an attractive life, but in my heart of hearts, God – the universe knew that my pure desire was for a family and love. And soon after I accepted a possible future without marriage or family is when I met my husband. 

When I was in my early twenties, I was inspired to be independent and adventurous, like many young women feel at that age. I put my dreams of parenthood and marriage on the shelf because they were precious and vulnerable and I didn’t want to be seen as weak or not a “strong, independent” woman. However, this is a myth that I came to realize with age. Desiring marriage and motherhood  is NOT regressive. It is not weak. It’s a honor and a privilege if it’s granted. It teaches you to love someone more than yourself and allows you to grow alongside your truest companion. What is weak about that? 

I thought this for some reason when I was young. I did get have adventures of my own and learn who I was before I met my husband- which I think is essential for everyone to do before committing to marriage. We all need to grow into ourselves and we all require different lengths of time to do so. I think I thought this way to protect my heart incase I never got married and had a family. Especially in the current media and politics, women are urged to have careers and be independent, save motherhood and marriage for later. This can work for some women, but some yearn to put family first. And there is nothing wrong with that if that’s the right choice for those women. 

Marriage is beautiful and is suppose to better one’s life, but what I’ve noticed in the culture and media is that it’s painted as a burden, something that holds you back, and is a constant inconvenience. Yes, your spouse may annoy you at times and it isn’t always a fairy tale romance, but he or she is a gift. I can’t imagine life without my husband, and I am thankful that I have a partner to do the every day with. Our culture glorifies the promiscuous single life of swiping right, one-night-stands, partying on the weekends, and hookups with random strangers. This may be appealing for a little while, but, I believe, most of us crave a deeper companionship as we age that goes beyond sex and attraction. Our weary souls end up searching for a home in which to rest and recharge, to love and nourish, and we find refuge in a potential lifelong parter. 

I think many us would be more open to marriage if it was painted in a more positive light in the media. There are plenty of other factors that may affect the way we see marriage: finances is definitely one of them and with most people in their twenties and early thirties in debt from student loans, marriage can be seen as another financial burden, especially if kids are of concern. Also, the costs of a modern wedding are astronomical. As social media has seeped into our lives and has skewed our world views, people have lavish, expensive, and over-the-top weddings just for likes. People go all out for one day. Yes, it’s typically the most important day of your life, but it it doesn’t make it okay to spend a ridiculous amount of money that will leave you or whoever is paying for the wedding with serious debt. 

The wedding is just the first step of marriage. Weddings are beautiful and something to cherish, however, when it comes down to the entire scope of marriage, the wedding day makes up for a tiny sliver of it. It’s wonderful to start off marriage with romance and fantasy, but there will be many days ahead that don’t include flowers, strung lights, and lace. A beautiful wedding does not equate a beautiful marriage. It can most certainly be lovely and memorable, but the real magic starts after the “I do’s.” 

Life is long and hard. Having someone by your side to venture through the mountains and valleys makes it a little more bearable. It may be more of a risk, as every commitment is. You are almost bound to experience disappointments and heartache when you vow to love someone for a lifetime, but you’ll also experience an immense amount of joy, growth, and abundance. You’ll have someone to call home, and that is one of the greatest gifts, if not the greatest of all. 

Enchanting Éire: An Island Close to My Heart

Galway Bay – My Favorite Spot in Ireland!

“ I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.” The Lake Isle of Innisfree W.B. Yeats

This time of year I tend to revisit a land lush in green and Guinness: Éire. It was at the beginning of my senior year in college (many years ago now!) that I first traveled to a foreign country. I suppose Ireland isn’t the most “exotic” of places compared to where I live currently, but before the semester I studied abroad, I never left the US. It’s an experience that brought me into fruition and allowed me to reconnect with what I love and surprise myself. 

Although much time has passed since then and I’ve grown older and changed, I still have nostalgia of my time there and look back at how it formed my early twenties and young adult years. Above anything, Ireland inspired me. It’s a cliche, but I do think that when we are far from home and what we’re use to, we can either embrace it or reject it. 

I flourished when I was overseas. It was the perfect, serendipitous blend of romantic poetry classes, new friends that brought up my sprints, and fresh, salty air straight from the Irish Sea. There are actions I took that surprised me, but, on a larger scale, Ireland revealed my heart’s pure desires, the dreams that have been there since childhood, and gave me the courage and energy to pursue them.

Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

From its dramatic and unpredictable beauty, Ireland’s landscape represented to me how I felt. Old, ancient even, unstable, but grounded in tradition, sad, but uplifting. The paradoxes of Ireland’s history and it’s natural symbols spoke to me even though I don’t have an ounce of Irish ancestry within my veins. 

Once I read the poetry of W.B. Yeats, I was in awe. At the time, I was very much in love with this dead poet and he’s still my favorite wordsmith to this day, though the love has cooled over the years! HAHA. When I first stumbled upon “Adam’s Curse,” I read it over and over again finding the verses so familiar and painfully beautiful that I thought that this brilliant poet was speaking to “me” these words were meant for my eyes to see. A little self-centered, but I think many of us experience this phenomenon when we resonate with a work of art. It feels as if it’s especially for us or that it was destiny it found it’s way to our hearts. I started to research Yeats and his poetry learning about his influence in Ireland and turn-of-the-century literature. Through his striking poems, I felt as if he was communicating with me across time and, in a way, he was. All creators do this, as art outlives the artist, and it’s a sublime, awe-inspiring notion. 

I was so influenced by Yeats that I wanted to go back to school and study his poems. I wanted to work at the Yeats Society in Sligo and live in Ireland permanently: dedicate my life to a dead poet. Yes, I was and still am a bit of an idealist, but I was determined that was my path.

Looking back, I’m glad I took a different one. Though I returned to the craggy shores of Ireland in the name of love after my study abroad experience, it wasn’t to move there. My life unfolded and took a different course, and I am relieved I didn’t dedicate my life to someone I never knew in reality. As much as a worthy man Yeats is, my life was meant to be lived. And now I have a family of my own! 

Co. Galway

Five years after my study abroad program, I  returned to Ireland, except this time, I was a bride and it was there where I married the man of my dreams. 

Our wedding day was really magical. What made our wedding so special was returning to a place in which I felt a deep connection alongside the person I was closest to. I had the pleasure and privilege of experiencing Ireland all over again as a new bride with my groom. 

My husband and I were lucky enough to get married and honeymoon in such a beautiful place and our parents supported our decision to marry in private – just the two of us, something I always envisioned for my wedding. As my husband and I are a bit introverted, not to mention we wanted to have a grand honeymoon without breaking the bank, eloping was perfect for us. We then got to celebrate with our family and friends at a reception gathering when we got back to the States, so it all worked out! It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made to elope and marry in the way that worked for us, even though it wasn’t the most conventional. 

My second time in Ireland was different. I was older and had grown since my first time there. I realized that I had new dreams and desires as a newly married woman. I wanted to have a family and home of my own. My dreams of living in a small Irish town and working with some of the most beautiful poetry ever created were of my past self. I still hold those dreams close to my heart, but my life took a different path than I expected.

I think many of us struggle with letting go of the dreams we make for ourselves when we are young and it’s especially heart-breaking if we try to achieve them and can’t grasp what we want most. It’s okay to move on in life and explore what else is in your reach. Life changes, and so do we, so our dreams do as well. Giving up young and adolescent dreams doesn’t mean you failed, it’s a sign of growth and maturity. The older we get, the more choices we make, which means saying no to some paths that were open to us before. I believe life has a way of revealing our purest desires and we all find them in different ways, most of the time in ways we didn’t expect.

Ireland saw me at different stages in life: as a young woman with a world ahead of her and as a bride with hopes of creating her own family. I hope Ireland greets me as an older woman in the future since my husband and I would like to return for our 20th or 25th anniversary! Someday…

Cheers! {sláinte}