What is wrong with me?!?

I do not want to move.

Eesh. That feels scary to admit.

I have never, in my entire memory, not wanted to move. In the first six years of our marriage, Nick and I lived in six different homes, in five cities, and in three states, and I still love moving. I love going somewhere new, where everything is fresh and anything is still possible.

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But as we creep closer to the end of graduate school, we have started to casually toss around talk of what will be next. I could feel my internal jaw dropping as I heard myself think, I want to stay here.

It is certainly not because Iowa City is my dream town (although, it is pretty awesome) or that I’ve always dreamed of living surrounded by cornfields. It is not because we love our house or our neighborhood or the schools.

So what, then? What is wrong with me?!?

It is their fault – my people – these quirky, caring, graceful, inappropriate, brilliant, frustrating, witty and spectacularly amazing families who are overflowing with incomprehensible love. By some fluke, we all genuinely enjoy each other. The guys go camping and play pool. There are frequent ‘girls’ nights out.’ The kids have sleepovers.

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They have seen my house at its lowest level of habitability. They have shooed us out the door on date nights while my kids were kicking and screaming on the floor. They have hugged me even though it had been four days since my last shower. We have broken bread together with an Easter katana (don’t ask).image I have snort-laughed at their inappropriate jokes, hugged them in their despair and spat out fuming words at them, angry tears dotting their couch. We surround each other during the rough times, risk confronting each other when we see something amiss, irritate each other, and hurt each others’ feelings when we get too caught up in our own lives. We have been collectively broken and helped each other pick up the pieces.

imageI know that no matter what happens to me, my girls will have a handful of women all within a 30-minute drive who would show them how to be women of grace, honor and integrity. They would have someone to go bra shopping with, have “the talk” with and ask them the hard questions. And no matter what happens to Nick, there are a handful of men who would step up to show the girls how a man should respect, care for and cherish them. They would have someone to scrutinize their prom dates, tell them how boys really think, and teach them how to write code and wire a circuit.

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These relationships have been a long, intentional time in the making. It has required way more sacrifice than I anticipated – sacrificing time, personal space, money and the freedom to do what I want whenever I want. But I would do it again in a heartbeat because these people are worth it. We are (imperfectly) learning together how to let go of this heavily ingrained American idea that my family is a self-sustaining entity. I had to learn to set boundaries, but recognize that the needs of my family cannot always come first. I have had to learn how to ask for and accept help without feeling guilt. My children have had to learn that sometimes they have to put their own needs aside for the moment to help another. And they have seen their friends return the favor. I am learning what it actually means to be the church.

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We certainly don’t all agree on how to discipline, or who the president should be, or what method of schooling is the best. But we do all agree that who our kids become is infinitely more important than what they learn to do. We agree that teaching them unconditional love and introducing them to the One who made them is the most important thing we can give them.

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I have had these depths of friendships throughout my life, but never a group of families in one place. For the first time, I feel like I have a community to raise my children. I don’t feel the pressure to have it all together as a parent. And I have no doubt how much they love us. I hope they know the same.

I know how much mutual investment went into my people and I recognize it for the rare gem that it is. I want my girls to grow up in the messy love of this crazy group of people.

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I don’t know if we will get to stay. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring for my friends. It is terrifying and heartbreaking for me to think about leaving my people and having to start that arduous process all over again.

But tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I am so thankful that today I have this amazing group of people who we love and who love us in return.

And that alone, is worth living the rest of my life surrounded by corn.

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I can do it myself, but…

“I am an independent woman.” This is such an interesting statement to me. In society today, It is often a badge of honor or personal mantra. To me, it is simply a statement of truth. As a single woman coming up on my 30s, I’ve spent my life living this statement. I AM an independent woman. It’s simply what I am. It’s not a positive or negative thing. It’s a reality. IMG_1402Lots of women, even after finding a man and getting married, still want this statement to be a defining part of their identity. It’s been a very important concept to women since the feminist movement and the dawning of an era when women finally had value outside of home-making and child rearing.

In the position I’m in, being capable of taking care of myself isn’t something I often identify, as it’s the default and daily status quo. I actually don’t stop to think about it until I have the rare and wonderful occasions when I don’t have to be independent. I remember feeling ridiculously emotional, after a stressful time of traveling for work, when my dad picked me up at the airport when I was meeting up with them for a family vacation. I didn’t have to carry my luggage, get my own rental car, navigate a new place, find a place to eat, or pay for every little travel thing. It’s like I could take a break from being an adult for a week. It was wonderful.

In general, I am terrible at asking for help. I have always hated feeling like a burden on someone else. I remember, whenever I was sick as a child, walking back and forth from my room to my parent’s a multitude of times, trying to decide whether I was sick enough to warrant waking them up, even though they NEVER made me feel bad about it. I knew my dad was often on-call and had to wake up in the middle of the night for work. And anytime I had a bad dream and wanted to sleep with my folks, I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep because I would lay perfectly still, not wanting to move to a more comfortable position, for fear I would annoyingly wake them up and make my dad move to a different bed so he could sleep. It wasn’t till fairly recently that I realized he moved because HE tossed and turned and didn’t want to wake me. I still have this problem anytime I have to share a bed. I end up barely being able to sleep.

IMG_8207Living with roommates has given me the opportunity to work on my inability to ask for help. They have been wonderful about never making me feel bad for asking. I also have started to put together that, since I never feel put out when someone I care about asks me to do something for them, it’s safe to assume the they probably feel the same.

I have a number of very specific memories of feeling EXTREMELY touched by small gestures of kindness and awareness of my need. Not even need, just awareness of me: when some of my guy friends grabbed my suitcases to carry them from the car to the house, a man who always IMG_0162make a point of making sure he is the one to open the door, two of my closest friends who remembered the earrings we had spotted months earlier and surprised me with them at one of my big performances, and my wonderful friends and colleagues who randomly insist on paying for coffee/lunch/dinner. I can picture their faces, the situations, and my surprised and touched reaction.

When it comes to the 5 Love Languages, my number one is absolutely Quality Time. It isn’t just how I feel loved, it is the basis for ALL of my relationships. I NEED it to be close to someone. In a romantic relationships, Physical Touch is a probably second. Words of Affirmation are a way I express my affection, both platonically and romantically, on a regular basis. I very rarely filter the positive things I’m feeling about someone. I just tell them, awkward or not. But it’s never been hugely important to receive. I never really even thought about Gifts or Acts of Service much, although I also find Acts of Service an easy way for me to express my affection and I’m sort of terrible at remembering to buy Gifts.

However, as I’ve been exploring this concept of being independent, I realized that Gifts and Acts of service are things that make me feel ESPECIALLY loved. They aren’t necessary for me to be close to someone and often aren’t part of my closest friendships, as many of those are long distance. BUT the moment someone does something for me or gets me something as a gift, a wash of appreciation and almost dumbstruck awe comes over me. I honestly often don’t know how to express my thanks and also feel its silly to feel as grateful and touched as I do. I think it’s just a natural part of being a single woman in IMG_9456your (almost) 30s. I’ve spent the majority of my life not being anyone’s number one priority, except my parents… who are AMAZING at making me feel loved.

My dad is the first and most prominent memory I have of Acts of Service. He always sees people. He sees their need and fills it, often before they have a chance to ask. I remember, on vacation, when Kristin, toting baby Nora around, simply mentioned that she was thirsty. Our conversation went on and minutes later, my dad (who had magically disappeared… he’s great at that) reappeared with bottles of water for everyone. He simply saw a need and could easily fill it, so he did. That is how he operates with EVERYONE. And my mother is the best, most personal gift-giver I know. Every Christmas in the Wilde household is nothing short of magical. She decorates the house and each gift with beauty and care. Every gift is specific, purposeful, and meaningful. She even gave me a giant bag of rolled quarters once, as she knew I was always running out of laundry quarters and found it a slight point of stress. I never have to give her a list anymore, because she makes note of things I’ve mentioned and even those I hadn’t even thought about, but were IMG_9382related to specific aspects of my life. She is simply amazing and ALWAYS remember to send cards and gifts.

Having parents like that have made me value deeply people who “see” me. Little things and tiny gestures make me feel loved beyond words. Since I function in adult life in a single state, acknowledging me in a specific way, though words and deeds, makes such an impact. And, by God’s Grace, I am literally surrounded by people who do this. I have some of the BEST people in the world in my life, and that really isn’t an exaggeration. Still being single at my age could leave one feeling wholly lonely and generally unloved, but that is NOT the case for me. While I do have the moments of aching for a man to share my life with, I also revel in having the chance to spend my time and energy investing in my friendships and family. And while I appreciate that I am so comfortable being independent, I love that I don’t HAVE to be all the time and look forward to the day when I can relinquish some of that independence to the man I marry. And get ready, whoever-you-are, I’m a handful. 🙂

Sometimes Blooming is a Bunch of Dooky (and some Fabulous Friday GF cookies)

Since Laura’s last post, I’ve been thinking about what success means to me. And my inspirational gem is:

Sometimes “bloom where you are planted” is a bunch of dooky (yes, I said dooky).

Back in 2006, Nick bought a vanilla orchid cutting. For those of you not as nerdily awesome as my husband, a vanilla orchid is a vine on which vanilla beans grow. They need hot, humid, tropical climates. You know, just like Iowa. The vines typically grow to be 10 feet long before they are ready to flower, and then the flowers last only one day (and are usually hand pollinated). And – voila – you have an expensive vanilla bean!

With Nick’s plant magic, the vine actually grew and we started dreaming of financing graduate school with our mini vanilla farm. Nine years and 20 feet of vine later, still no flower. Because (gasp), we don’t live in the jungle and don’t own a tropical greenhouse.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

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It has taken me three decades, but I finally have a grasp on my gifts and talents. I am creative, spontaneous, laidback, and compassionate. I can reroute a derailed plan with ease. I am a global thinker who can uncover the most unlikely connections to build my case. I love creating and unconventional projects and letting the girls skate on a thin layer of flour sprinkled on our kitchen floor.

But.

My brain cannot grasp organization. Setting and maintaining a routine is about as easy for me as running a marathon (or a 10K). I am not a natural cook. I get overwhelmed by too many choices, so trying to plan meals takes me hours and hours. I can handle detail, but in small doses. Planning ahead and sticking to the plan feels like walking through a giant vat of rubber cement. Keeping my schedule straight, without even adding in the schedules of four other people, is exhausting.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

So, if you can’t already see where this is going, I am that vanilla orchid. In this particular setting of my life, which demands way more organizational acumen than I possess, I will never bloom without constructing a completely artificial environment around me.

Over the years, I have tried hard to bloom. I vacillated between making minute-by-minute schedules for every single day and throwing my hands up in surrender. I tried every organizational tactic, method, and fad. The not-so-subtle message drenching womanhood is that you can (and should!) be organized if you just learn how. If I could just get the time to finally get everything organized, I thought, my problems would be solved. I wasted so much time and energy trying to become organized like the rest of my non-ADHD friends with Pottery Barn-like houses that I lost myself. My unique gifts were suffocating inside all my disorganized organizational bins.

But this past fall, I hit a low (for the third time in seven years). I let everything go. Clutter filled every horizontal surface and we ate lots of painfully expensive gluten-free mac-n-cheese.

As I crawled out of the gutter, I realized it wasn’t that I lacked the time to do everything, I lacked the brain capacity. I finally acknowledged my limitations and embraced my strengths.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

In the last few months, I have found a (mostly) happy medium. I recognize that we have an uncontrollable, demanding schedule where Nick is largely unavailable and all three girls need to see medical specialists on a regular basis. I stopped consulting to seek work with consistent weekly hours. I clean less than I would like, but everything has a place (even if it’s a teetering pile in the corner of the kitchen). We enforce consistent dinner and bed times, but everything else fluctuates daily. The girls have weekly chores and are not allowed to keep something unless they can find a place to put it (even if it’s a teetering pile in the corner of their closet). We only eat mac-n-cheese once a week.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

I am a happier, more creative person, but there are still days where I lose it. On my bad days, I worry that my chaotic way of doing things is stressful for my routine-needing girls, and that they will leave home not knowing how to be functional adults. On my good days, I trust that by respecting my gifts and limitations (and not screaming at them on an hourly basis), I will be able to help them become confident and creative enough women to fill the gaps.

I may not be able to bloom right now, but I can grow. Perhaps not as quickly as those orchids in the jungle, but the growth is there. And, I can even offer a completely different kind of beauty – evergreen beauty during the gray Iowa winter.

So here’s my measure of success instead:

Grow where you are planted and recognize that sometimes, blooming is just pure dooky.

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Property of Kristin Giuliani

 

Aside from the first snow of the season (for which the girls have been waiting since MID-JUNE), my Fabulous Friday this week is my proud creation:

Property of Kristin Giuliani

Kristin’s Awesomely Soft and Chewy Grain-free, Gluten-free Totally Unhealthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (at room temp)
  • 3/8 cup each of brown and white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 1/3 cups of blanched almond flour (Honeyville brand works the best – Bob’s Red Mill can be too grainy)
  • ½ to ¾ cup of chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk almond flour, baking soda and salt together. In a separate bowl, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla together. Add eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture and beat until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 9 – 12 minutes, until just starting to turn golden on top. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Let cool on the sheet for 3 – 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Enjoy! Do NOT store them in an airtight container – they will get soggy.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

Two sisters. Divergent lives. Exposing the fabulous. Savoring the common. Eliminating the Fear Of Missing Out.