My Madly Magnificent Manfriend

This weekend is mine and Manfriend’s anniversary, so to celebrate I’m going to take a little break from my usual posts and properly introduce this guy of mine.

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Ain’t he handsome?

If you’re wondering why he’s always simply “Manfriend” here, it’s because it sometimes freaks me out that I’m dating a full grown man. Like, not a boy. A full grown adult man. Am I seriously old enough for that? Anyways, we’ve established that he’s a man, not a boy- hence manfriend. And I’m always seeing bloggers refer to their SO simply as “hubs” or “PC” (Prince Charming?), and I wanted to give my guy his own blogging moniker.

How we met: My good friends had just asked me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding, and after exchanging some sly glances told me, “there’s a groomsman we need you to meet.” I tagged along to a party that he was at, we began chatting…and then nothing.

We had a pleasant time talking, but I got no vibes from him at all. No numbers were exchanged, and when my friends left I headed out with them thinking that was the end of it. Too bad ’cause he was cute and actually taller than me, but life goes on.

Fast forward two weeks, I got a message from him asking if I wanted to go to his house for a party he was hosting. I said yes, showed up, we had a blast, and a week later we went on our first real date in the middle of a snowstorm.

That very first party. I absolutely insisted on the selfie. We were Team Australia for the Beer Olympics, so I had the brilliant idea of taking the pic upside down. 'Cause, you know, Australia is upside down.
That very first party. I absolutely insisted on the selfie; we were Team Australia for the Beer Olympics, so I had the brilliant idea of taking the pic upside down. ‘Cause, you know, Australia is upside down.

I thought that date was a disaster- he had to come find me after I went to the wrong place, we couldn’t find a restaurant that was open because of the storm, and then I got so nervous I started telling cheesy jokes (e.g. what’s the internal temperature of a Tauntaun? Luke warm!). I couldn’t imagine that he would ever want to see me again. Thankfully he didn’t see it as a disaster, because we’ve been getting into shenanigans together ever since. I’m just as giddy to see him every time as I was for that first date and by some happy coincidence he seems pretty pumped about the whole thing too.

What he’s like: Imagine Prince Charming as an utter goofball, and that’s him. He spoils me like a princess, pushes me to work hard to achieve my goals (he’s the only one that can get me to run), and makes me laugh every single day. If he hadn’t encouraged me to go for it, this blog wouldn’t be here now and I wouldn’t be back in the saddle. Of course now he pays the price of hauling tack around for me and listening to me yammer on about site views, but he does it all with his usual smile and enthusiasm.

There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his friends and family- I call him Mr. Dependable. Guns are his biggest passion (he taught me how to shoot on our second date! His huge focus on safety made it much less scary) but he also gets excited about anything outdoors; no sitting behind desks for him. Instead of a desk job he’s in executive security (and working towards becoming a bodyguard) and in his other life he’s in the Marine Corps Infantry Reserve. It’s a running (terrifying) joke between his mother and me that he only wants jobs where there’s a possibility he’ll get shot at.

He’s my unofficial horse photographer, my own personal comedian, and my best friend. In short, he’s the funniest, sweetest, best person I know and even that is an understatement.

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He’s also an accomplished horse whisperer, but Addy doesn’t seem very impressed with what he has to say.

What’s your funniest first date disaster or favorite meet-cute? Share your story in the comments!

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6 Ways I Beat the Winter Blues

I’m a list person and always have been: from the days when I would check off every article of clothing I had to don for a horse show, to the neatly filled out homework planner in college, to my detailed moving checklist a few months ago.

When I found myself facing the winter blues (this deserves its own post) yet again, I decided to tackle it in my favorite way: make a list. For your viewing pleasure, here are 6 ways I came up with to stay cheerful when the sun is hiding.

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  1. Stay active. Don’t skip out on barn days or gym days just because it’s cold or you’re tired. It’s going to be cold and you’re going to be tired for months and you can’t stop doing the things you enjoy just because of that. Don’t stop moving and fidgeting and going on walks.
  2. Get some inspiration from others. I’ve mentioned before that I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated solely to beautifully positive thoughts– it’s great to lean on when the positivity isn’t flowing internally.
  3. Stay hydrated. I can’t stress this enough; when I don’t get enough water I start to slow down, my skin gets uncomfortable, and I feel like a blob. This was my single most influential lifestyle change that helps me feel better mentally, not just physically.
  4. Get a creative outlet. It doesn’t have to be a watercolor masterpiece and it doesn’t have to be advanced digital design, but creative streaks still need attention. Getting to write for this blog and my new nightly journal are ways I’m fostering that. (Side note- my new sister gave me this journal for Christmas and it’s the perfect balance of guided creativity! I never miss a night)
  5. Make friends, and then make plans with those friends. I am embarrassingly terrible at making friends as an adult, Dear Reader. It’s hard! There’s no automatic shared bond of the same stressful school, people have crazy work schedules, and established groups of friends sometimes aren’t looking for another member. Spending time at the barn and with similarly-aged coworkers has me slowly emerging from my shell.
  6. Fake it ’til you make it. Smile, laugh, and joke until your face hurts. This almost never fails to give me a boost, even on down-days. On the rare occasion that this doesn’t make me feel entirely better, there is at least the satisfaction of knowing that other people get cheerful attention instead of sullenness.
  7. Give yourself a break. Pushing myself to be active and happy and cheerful when I’m fighting against brain chemistry isn’t always going to work. No matter what, there will be so-so days. And that’s fine. Like Annye from An Amish Warmblood said, those “zero days” are needed. On those days it is OK to curl up under a blanket and ignore all the to-do lists. It is OK to read for 6 hours straight instead of grocery shopping and folding laundry. Binge watching Criminal Minds won’t ruin your month. Giving in for that one day makes it easier to push the rest of the time- I call them “mood cheat days.”

That last point is probably what’s allowed me to relax into happiness more easily this winter than I ever have. I’m going to push myself to get out there and keep my mood up, but I’m not going to fight myself to do that.

Just a little bit longer until the sun and warmth comes back, and I can’t wait!

How do you beat the winter blues?

My Life, My Priorities, My Goals

On Friday I talked about how my job doesn’t make me happy, and I wanted to expand a little bit on something I mentioned.

I mentioned the websites that are constantly telling me what dreams I should be pursuing and what my priorities should be: “25 Places you NEED to see in your 20s,” “Why it’s OK to be a Hot Mess right now,” “12 GIFs that show how to make your Dream of becoming a yoga teacher come true.” I’ll admit that I made those particular ones up- but I won’t believe you if you say that you haven’t seen something eerily similar.

For a while these articles really bugged me and I thought it was because none of those things seemed within my reach. I didn’t have the vacation time to travel the globe, my years of being a hot mess seemed behind me, and my yoga was terrible. It felt like I was missing out on some big secret like that everyone else my age was living.

With that in mind, I made a big change to my life: I moved to an apartment in a younger fresher area and started going out to bars more often.

Turns out, that’s someone else’s dream. I love the convenience of having bars and restaurants close by and moving was the best thing I could’ve done, but not because I suddenly became That Party Girl. On any given Saturday night I’m at home, in sweats, reading a book and eating pizza. Or playing board games with my buds. Also in sweats.

That used to feel like laziness to me- couldn’t I suck it up, put on some mascara and a skirt and just get out there?! But what I took for laziness is actually me letting myself be comfortable. Reading and board games make me happy and relaxed. Bars are fun when I have the energy, but loud noises and crowds make me notoriously anxious (I start doing lobster hands in crowds. It’s super weird and I don’t know how it started).

The next change I wanted to make was traveling the world. My parents have taken me to so many incredible places and I wanted to keep on exploring, so I set out to start saving up my vacation time and my money so that I could get on out there. But then I went home for a week around Christmas…and then I visited my Momma for her birthday…and then manfriend and I took some weekend road trips to unwind…and soon a new  baby will be joining the family and you can bet I’ll take at least a week off to go coo and cuddle…and before I knew it, most of my hard-earned vacation time was earmarked.

I can’t make myself be the slightest bit disappointed about that. It may not be exotic jungles or cosmopolitan cities like I imagined, but I use my vacation time to surround myself with love. These moments with my family and my guy are moments that I’ll never get back and I am so incredibly fortunate to get to make these memories with them. I haven’t given up my plans for traveling, just put them a little lower on my list of priorities.

Once I realized that it’s OK to set my own priorities and reach for my own goals, it was like I gave myself permission to be happy. It doesn’t make me a weirdo that I’m saving up for a down payment on a house instead of shopping for new clothes every other month. My vacations are no less exciting and life-changing for being close to home. My friends are no less important just because some of them have four legs. My Saturday mornings don’t have to be filled with hangovers- it’s fine that I head straight to the barn.

This is the adult version of peer pressure that I’m resisting- I’m determined to create my own life around what matters to me most. Becoming a yoga teacher just isn’t going to happen.

Kindness isn’t earned.

As you may or may not know, I’m a rabid denizen of Pinterest (check out my boards here!) and one of my favorite things to do is pin encouraging quotes. I look at them for pick-me-ups on down days, and I look for new ones when I’m feeling good. Like this one!

But one theme I’ve noticed in a lot of popular quotes is the idea that kindness or respect has to be earned by the other person; that after a certain point you can stop being nice. After all, if they’re “fake” or mean to you, shouldn’t you return the favor?

This bugs me. Like, a ton.

Since when does someone have to earn kindness? Why do they need to prove themselves to you in order to experience your good attitude?

I’m not saying that everyone should smile all the time and be super sweet to everyone no matter what and never respond to insults or slurs. But I think everyone would be happier if we simply gave the other person the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe that friend started ignoring your calls because her brother is sick and she’s focused on helping him get better. Or maybe her mobile plan is running out of minutes. Or she’s super swamped at work. Or any one of a thousand reasons that are not “she hates you and is disrespecting you.”

On the flip side, maybe she’s ignoring your calls because she doesn’t want to hang out with you. And that sucks! But just because they’re dropping you as a buddy doesn’t mean you have to get nasty. There’s no need for that.

Just like your mood should not dictate your manners, the actions of others shouldn’t dictate your own actions. As a wise man has told me (*ahem* Dad), you cannot control what happens, you can only control your reaction. Wouldn’t it be better if that reaction was one of love and understanding?

In short, being kind is not something that anyone else can choose for you. It is something that you choose, regardless of their actions.

What do you do when it’s tough to be kind?

Making You Happy Makes Me Happy

Manfriend and I were attendants in a wedding this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing. We got to stand up with two of our best friends (the ones who introduced us!) and celebrate with them on one of the biggest days of their lives, and then we got to party hard with all our buddies. It couldn’t have been better.

Cheesin’ hard at the reception

It was the first Catholic wedding I’ve ever attended so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew what readings the bride had chosen from, but I was curious to see what the priest would choose to talk about. One thing that he said during the homily really stuck with me and I wanted to share it here.

Focusing on the self does not make a person happy. It is when he denies himself and sacrifices in order to make others happy that happiness arrives.

I loved hearing that! He went on to elaborate that when we keep track of who owes favors, it only leads to bitterness and unhappiness. It’s when we try to forget ourselves and focus on what’s best for others that we really find joy. He asked the guests who had experienced that- denied themselves something for the sake of someone else and found that all along it was the best thing they could’ve done. I know that I was certainly nodding as he said that.

It takes so much reminding of this- my first instinct is to always look out for #1. But then I remind myself of the times that I chose to put someone else first, and how that’s led to wonderful experiences and amazing memories and true friendships. And those are what leads to happiness.

What do you think of this message? Did you hear anything this weekend that inspired you like this?

Do I want to hear that?

As I mentioned in my resolutions post, one of my goals for the year is to have more patience. But how on earth do you measure that, and what concrete steps can you take to get there? Patience is such a broad idea, and I’m a concrete-steps kind of girl. So I did some thinking, and my first step is going to be asking myself this one question before responding negatively:

If somehow said that to me, how would I feel?

That’s it. If someone used the same phrasing and tone as I was about to, how would I respond?

The tough part here is being 100% honest with yourself. No cop-outs like, “oh I have a thick skin so nothing bothers me.” No mental contortions to convince yourself it’s not that bad. Just look at what you’re saying at face value, and think for a second or two.

The great part about this is that it changes for every person you talk to. Something I might say to my mom would be too harsh for a coworker, or something that I would comment on to my best friend might not fly with the manfriend.

I’ve been trying this, and so far it’s been great but tough. I’m almost always in a sunny mood, so in my rare cloudy moments I’ve been able to tell myself that “I’m just telling the honest truth,” or that “someone needs to say something.” But telling the truth is never an excuse for rudeness, and there’s almost always a way to communicate without attacking the other person.

What do you all think? Have you tried asking yourself this? What are some other ways you try to be more patient?