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Fifty Two Weeks of Adventure #52: And So We Come to the End

This is it. This is the final post in my 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge.

I started this year out with adventures in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. I spent the middle of the year exploring Korea, Japan, and Taiwan and getting my first tattoo(s). I ended the year exactly where I needed to be – in Louisiana having Christmas with my family for the first time in four years.

Not only did I get to spend Christmas with my parents, my grandparents, my two sisters, my brother, and my husband, but I also got to build this super cool gingerbread house with my super cool nephew.

We got back to Columbia yesterday after spending a full week in Louisiana with my family. It was a luxury to have so much time to spend with them after being there for only two days this summer.  The longer stay also made the 12 hour drive each way feel more worthwhile.

This year has been so full of change. Our adventures have taken us through seven different countries where we’ve made new friends, said good-bye to some, and been reunited with others. Some weeks, my adventure was easy to spot, but other weeks I had to change my perspective and either intentionally seek a new experience, or choose to see the extraordinary in my ordinary days.

I want to give a special mention to my friend Pradnya, who completed 52 adventures of her own and blogged about them here. Knowing that Pradnya was keeping up with her own adventures encouraged me to stick with it.

This challenge pushed me to look at all of life as an adventure and to keep exploring the world around me, whether I’m on an international excursion or in my own hometown. The perspective I gained from living intentional adventures is one I hope to carry with me into 2016 and beyond.

So here’s to my year of adventures,  and to all of you who came along with me, both living your own adventures and sharing in mine. This is only the beginning. 52 adventures and counting!

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Fifty-two weeks of Adventure #51: Family Pictures and Purple Hair

Last week my in-laws came to visit us in South Carolina. Jonathan’s sister was home from college for Christmas break and his brother had come back from South Africa where he lives. Since Jonathan and I had been in Korea for the past two years, this was the first time the whole family had been together since August 2013.

I really love Jonathan’s family – they are lots of fun and we all get along really well together. Of course, having people stay at your house is always a little stressful, especially when your house is pretty small like ours is, but the Dunn clan is pretty easy-going and that made their visit lots of fun, even though it was a little crowded.

Since this was the last time we would all see each other before Christmas, we exchanged Christmas presents early. Naturally, we prepared for the festivities by putting on this “Yule Log” video of Nick Offerman sipping whiskey at a glacial pace in front of a fireplace. (Literally all he does is sit there and sip whiskey without speaking for an hour).

 

Jonathan decided to give me one of my Christmas presents early.

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Yes, that is a 2-step step ladder. Because I am vertically challenged and can’t reach things on the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets. (Jonathan says I am his “shorty”). This rivals the Tide Pen of ’08 for most romantic gift he’s ever given me.

The one big event we did with Jonathan’s family was taking family pictures. After much deliberation about the coordination of outfits, we ended up in the most perfectly color-coordinated group ensemble I’ve ever seen. My super talented, amazing, hilarious, soul sister Lorien took these pictures for us. I LOVE them.

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The one negative part of having Jonathan’s family around for several days was that my darling idiot cat, Bart, was incredibly stressed out by it. He does not like strangers and has an impressive commitment to hiding from them. One night, after staying under the bed for probably a good 10 hours, he wandered out and stood at my ankles crying and crying so I picked him up. He doesn’t normally like to be picked up, but apparently he was so stressed out and in need of comfort that he immediately buried his head in my arm and stayed that way. Like, “Oh, Mommy, please save me from this horror!”

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After my in-laws left and the family pictures were safely out of the way, I decided to take my next two weeks of vacation as an opportunity to try something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Lavender hair.

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It’s just a wash out so it’s already mostly faded, but I might do a bit more over the holidays, just for fun. It makes me feel like an exotic mermaid. Or at least a My Little Pony.

Don’t forget that my 10,000 Subscriber Book Giveaway is STILL OPEN, but it does close tonight at midnight. Rules for entering are HERE.

And as always…

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. If you missed last week’s adventure about our grand Christmas Feast, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #48: Thanksgiving with the In-Laws and Teaching Grandma about TMI

Like everyone else in America, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past Thursday. We drove to my in-laws house in Ohio, about a 9-hour drive from where we live. It was our first time back to Ohio in over a year, and we always enjoy visiting Jonathan’s parents who are very relaxed and low-key. It’s usually a restful time which was something I desperately needed after two weeks of non-stop work.

Even though there were only six of us there for Thanksgiving (Jonathan’s parents, us, his sister, and his grandma), our Thanksgiving meal on Thursday was complete with all the traditional foods thanks to my mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook . I contributed a Tollhouse Pie – something I’d never made before, but will absolutely be making again in the future.

Jonathan’s grandma lives nearby in an assisted living community and I always look forward to seeing her because she has so many amusing stories about her life there with the other residents. She’s also a bit infamous for sharing a little TMI and often gets chastised for over-sharing by other members of the family. This Thanksgiving, her significant overshare was referencing the place where Patrick (Jonathan’s brother) had been conceived. It immediately sent me, Brenda (my mother-in-law), and Kacy (my sister-in-law) into variations of, “Ewww. Too far! We did not need to know that!”

“What? Is it just never OK to mention S-E-X now?” Grandma asked, literally spelling out the word.

“It’s just…not when it’s my parents!” said Kacy.

“Grandma, it’s like this,” I explained. “It’s fine if you’re talking about a book or a movie or people we don’t know personally. It’s not cool if it’s someone in your immediate family.”

Apparently this explanation stuck with her because when Brenda dropped her off back at her home Grandma reportedly said, “I’m so glad I was able to talk with Lily. Now I understand when it is and is not appropriate to talk about sex.”

You’re welcome, Dunn family. Also, for the record, I think Grandma is so great. If you can’t speak your mind when you’re 84, then when can you?

After eating ourselves into comas and taking the obligatory Thanksgiving afternoon naps, we all (except Grandma) went out to see the final installment of the Hunger Games movies.  To the best of my memory it ran fairly closely to the book (though it’s been a while since I’ve read it). The ending is pretty bittersweet – not entirely happy, but hopeful.

On Wednesday Brenda, Kacy, and I braved the crowds for some Black Friday shopping. We didn’t get up at the crack of dawn like crazy people, but we did go out late morning and found some good deals at stores that were 50% or more. Black Friday shopping can be hard for me in terms of what I should get for myself because my birthday is the first week of December and Christmas comes right afterwards. If Jonathan is going to buy me presents, I’d rather we get them at a discounted price since the money all comes from one account, but at the same time, I don’t want to just buy all of my own presents since the point of presents isn’t just having more things, it’s the thought that goes into them.

On Saturday we had a biscotti and fudge-making extravaganza. Brenda had thought of making biscotti and fudge to give as gifts to coworkers and friends and I thought this was a great idea. Together we managed to make 3 different kinds of fudge along with 3 different kinds of biscotti. I would never have thought of biscotti, but it was really fun to make and makes a great gift because it stays good for quite a long time.

We drove back home on Sunday which took nearly 12 hours because of bad traffic and multiple accidents. While the driving time was not ideal, the time with family was great. I’m blessed with in-laws whom I genuinely enjoy spending time with and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks to celebrate Christmas.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my visit to the Sesquicentennial State Park, you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Love and Regret: A Letter to My Sisters

I don’t know how it felt to grow up with me as a sister. I only know how it felt to be yours. When you were born, I didn’t know anything about being a big sister, so I imitated Mom, hoisting you onto my hips at nine years old, like real live baby dolls.

I was in first grade when Anni was born and I asked to take her in for show and tell. Somehow Mom agreed to bring her to the school. We walked around the room with you and I pointed out to everyone that pulsing soft spot on your fuzzy little head where I could see your heartbeats if I watched carefully and Marcus Sapp asked if he could pet you.

From the moment I met you I wanted two things – to take care of you and to show you off. I was still a child and we fought like children, but what I wanted most was to make you laugh and for you to never be hurt.

I often hear people say they have no real regrets because even their mistakes taught them something. I have real regrets. I regret that I wasn’t home to see you grow. I left home when you were 13 and 11 and I never really came back. I regret that I didn’t drive you to school on your first day of high school, or go shopping for your prom dress, or help you practice for your driving test, or weigh the pros and cons of different colleges with you, or the million moments that I missed in between.

Maybe I had to go. Maybe I couldn’t have become who I needed to become if I had stayed. But I should have tried harder to be with you, to be a part of it all. I’m sorry. I will always be sorry.

Now you are women – strong, beautiful, caring women. Women who are brave enough to do hard things, who make a way where none exists, who see the world the way it could be and chase after that vision relentlessly. You are women I want as my friends, but I’m not sure I know how to move forward.

For years we defined ourselves and our place within our family in contrast to one another. Maggi was the athletic and passionate one, Anni was the artistic and shy one, I was the brainy goody-two-shoes, afraid to rock the boat. We each played a particular role, and we came to know each other in those roles, but now we have outgrown them.

We are those people, and yet we aren’t those people and sometimes it feels like it’s all too much. It’s too much for me to change and you to change too. Because here is a truth I never expected to find–I don’t quite know who I am without you.

You are my history, you are woven through the threads of my life in ways even I don’t  understand. But you are also my future. Because no matter where we’ve gone and what we’ve done, no matter how many moments we’ve missed, one thing has stayed the same. My truest, deepest, down-in-my-belly feelings towards you are the same. I want to take care of you and to show you off. I want you to be safe and I want you to laugh often and I want the whole world to see how amazing you are.

So I will keep trying. I will hold you fiercely inside of my heart and I will try to find ways to show you that I am proud of you, that I am dazzled by you, that I love you. But also that I want to know you, just as you are, right now, even from across the world.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That (catching the anti-baby bug, or an update on the state of my uterus)

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mommy. Not only did I play with baby dolls from toddlerhood to embarrassingly far into my preteen years, but I also routinely made lists of the names I would give my children, updating them as my tastes matured.*

Not only did I want kids, I wanted a lot of them. Six! With a set of twins! Preferably redheaded! I said before I understood the dark realities of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. By the time I graduated from college I had bagged myself a red-headed sperm-donor husband and had brought my hopes down to the more reasonable goal of three to four biological children and at least one adopted child to break up all the little redheads.**

I wasn’t entirely naïve. I had done A LOT of babysitting in high school and college. Mostly with very young children. At one point my senior year I was getting up at 5:30 AM to watch kids for a few hours before school, heading to another family’s house from 10:30 – 3:30, and then finishing my day with a third family from 4:00-6:30. And after college I worked for a year as a full-time nanny, which I extensively chronicled earlier on this blog. I got burnt out and exhausted from working with small kids all the time, but no matter how tough it got, never once did I waver in my conviction that I wanted to have kids of my own someday.

About a year ago I got baby bug in the worst way. Everyone was getting pregnant and having babies and, being in a meaningless corporate job at the time, I found myself wishing for motherhood more than ever before. I knew that the timing wasn’t right. And I knew that the sudden, overwhelming urge to quit my job and grow a baby was not a good enough reason to bring a human into the world. But the logic of the situation did not stop me from hoping against hope that the baby fever was God’s way of preparing me for a surprise pregnancy. And even though I wasn’t trying to get pregnant (in fact, I was actively preventing) I still managed to feel disappointed every month when it became clear that God had not miraculously intervened and made my body defy science and logic to conceive anyway. Jonathan and I agreed that we would re-visit the topic of baby-having in a year or so and see how we felt about it then.

For several months I continued to have baby-on-the-brain. Then I decided that if getting pregnant in a year or so was a possibility, I should probably do all of the things I really wanted to do pre-baby. Hence the commencement of Operation Lily Runs a Marathon and Operation Lily Goes to Grad School. I really wanted to undertake Operation Lily Travels the World, but sometimes even I have to be an adult and realize that I can’t have everything, so I settled for last summer’s vacation to the Dominican Republic and my marathon trip to Disneyworld. I also decided that before I had kids I wanted to be healthier, which led me to a radical diet change where I cut all sugar and starch from my diet and started eating lean meats and vegetables. I lost 20 lbs in 7 weeks and have a lot more energy and much fewer health problems than I did before.

I’ve made a lot of changes and a lot of progress over the past year: I quit my job, started grad school, ran a marathon, changed my diet and lost weight, did some travel, grew out my hair, and stopped biting my fingernails. But something else changed too. Starting in about October and growing steadily ever since has been a strong feeling that I no longer want to have kids. Not just right now. Maybe not at all. Ever.

If you know me at all, you know how weird that is. Like I said before, all I have ever REALLY wanted in my life is to one day be a mommy. I mean, I’ve wanted to have a meaningful job and a good marriage and to write and help others and all of those things too, but even when some of those things have been unclear or I have felt directionless, I’ve always had this deep desire for motherhood someday to hold onto.

In fact, my desire to be a mother has driven me to the point of fear sometimes. Thinking of having a house full of kids has made me feel a lot of pressure to figure out what I want to do career-wise as fast as possible because I don’t feel I will have the luxury of going back to school or trying to figure that out once I start having kids. I have put a lot of pressure on myself to get these things figured out because, after all, I’m 25, and if I really want to have 4 kids, I’m going to have to get started on that in the next few years.

But for the last 4-5 months I’ve found myself wondering if I really want to have kids, and I’ve concluded that what I really want is to have babies, not children. In other words, I love the idea of carrying a baby and then having this tiny little creature who is part of Jonathan and part of me and part something all his own. But I don’t want to bring an 8-year-old to dance class or fight with a 10 year old about cleaning his room. And I certainly don’t ever want to have a teenaged son.

Frankly, there’s a part of me that doesn’t even understand what the point is of having children. I know most of you won’t get this, but sometimes I think, “I could spend most of my life raising these kids who may or may not turn out to be good people, regardless of how good of parents Jonathan and I are, and for what? So they can go out and have their children that they spend their lives raising those kids so that those kids can grow up and have their own families.” There’s just something inherently narcissistic about it to me. I mean, if we just wanted children out of a desire to give of ourselves and our love and raise great men and women to right the wrongs of the world, there would be no more orphans. We would look at these millions of parentless children and find exactly what we were looking for. But that’s not all. We might want those things, but we also want mini-me’s made in our own likenesses.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that there are parents in the world. After all, if my parents had felt this way, I would never have existed. And I like existing. I’m just not sure that, for me, the reasons above are good enough reasons to have children. I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting and how, to do it correctly, it really does require you to sacrifice everything for the sake of your kids. I see the family I work for now where the parents aren’t willing to self-sacrifice for the kids, and how their kids suffer for it even though they have all the material wealth in the world.

And I look at my own family. I have two parents whom I respect and admire deeply. Not once in my life have I ever doubted that they loved my siblings and I and that every parenting decision they made was genuinely out of a desire to do the best for us. And yet, I look at my siblings and me – my brother who has wrestled with addiction for at least 10 years, my sister, whose entire understanding of her world has been rocked to its core since leaving home, and me, who has lived believing that my best would never be good enough and that no matter how good I was and how hard I worked, fault would be found in me. My youngest sister is on the brink of adulthood now and we have yet to see the things she carries.

My point in saying all of this is not to rag on my parents. It’s to point out that even having some of the hardest-working, most self-sacrificing, godly and loving parents in the world, we have reached adulthood deeply scarred. If this is the reality for a family so committed to raising their children well and loving them deeply, I am utterly terrified to think of what I, a much more selfish person than either of my parents, might do to my theoretical children.

When I started to articulate how I am feeling about all of this, it sort of freaked me out. I mean, I have ALWAYS been the one who loved kids and couldn’t wait to have a family. And more than that, I’m really good with kids, especially really little kids. It’s one of my main skills – something I pride myself on. Jonathan and other close friends are convinced that this is a phase I am going through and that I won’t feel like this forever.*** They might be right and that will be ok. It may be a phase I am going through that will last 6 months or a year and then it will fade away and I will go back to the way I was before. But for now, this is where I’m at and I’m embracing it instead of fighting it.

So what does the future look like for the girl who spent her whole life planning on being a mommy only to discover that she might not want to be one? Honestly, from right here it’s looking pretty unlimited.

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* If I had named my kids at age 11 they would have been called Chloe and Oliver. But then, of course, we named our dog Chloe so I couldn’t use that one anymore.
**Because I am convinced that all of our children will be redheaded, recessive genes be damned!
***At least, Jonathan is certainly hoping that’s the case. I can’t really blame him, I mean it’s sort of false advertising for him to pick a wife based on the fact that she wants to bear him 4 sons, only to find out after the deal is sealed that she really doesn’t want any. Bad form, Me. He has assured me that he will still love me if I do not bear said sons. But I can tell he still thinks the whole thing will blow over.