Declining Opportunities is Okay

Thanksgiving feast

Well, hi, December. Where did you come from?

November blurred by in an unusual way this year. Every day felt like I was riding a roller coaster and couldn’t figure out how to get off. There were highs and there were definite lows. And you might think that’s just how life always is. You’d be right, but this was different.

This was a month punctuated by wonderful weekends with friends, but overcast with stress and worry and dropping every normal priority. Writing went out the window (BYE NaNoWriMo, #fail), along with reading and all momentum with DBK Photography. Because while I had a beautiful birthday weekend, a beautiful last weekend of true warmth shooting mini sessions, a beautiful weekend in Denver, and, at last, a perfect Thanksgiving weekend, much of the month my thoughts were occupied by The Big News.

The Big News. The news that Ryan received a job offer in Iowa, to start quite nearly immediately. As in right after Thanksgiving. As in before Christmas. As in, life as I knew it was potentially about to completely change, and right around the holidays, at that. And I just didn’t know what to do with that.

We started planning. Ryan would take the job. It seemed like a good opportunity. I wanted to be supportive. We scoured Craigslist for apartments. We Googled the weather. We started gathering things we’d need. I bought plane tickets to fly him home for Christmas and fly me back and forth. I started to wonder how long we could live in two separate cities while he determined how he liked the job and I got ready to give notice to my employer. I didn’t want to leave my job, and for that reason I hoped we could maybe last a few months. Then I remembered the familiar ache of long distance and felt like cowering under the covers and forgetting everything altogether.

In the end, the day before Thanksgiving, we decided to decline the opportunity and stay. And I couldn’t explain to you the type of relief that went through me. I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I did not want to leave my home, my job, here. I had worried that we would feel a missed opportunity if we didn’t go. I had thought maybe this was a chance for adventure, for Ryan’s career to take off, for me to set real time aside for my writing and photography. But in that moment, I realized how great we have it here. I realized I have all I need right here.

And let me tell you, that realization was a sweet one for Thanksgiving. I made a list of all I had to be thankful for regarding Ryan, family, friends, jobs, and this place we live in, and it seemed to have no end. The long weekend spent here at home was that much sweeter when I thought about the idea that we could have been spending the time packing up the car and driving the 17 hours to Iowa. What else made it sweeter was hearing our friends and my parents tell us how glad they are we’re staying–just after they’d been voicing their wholehearted support for our decision, something I couldn’t have lived without when thinking of moving. What good people I have in my life.

That’s all. That’s the update. I can breathe freely again. And plan for another cozy holiday here in our little apartment, the two of us, right near family, just like I’d been hoping for before.

Any big news in your life lately? Any happy holiday plans?

love always, Delia

5 Ways to Make Progress Towards Your Goals

5 ways to make progress on your goals

I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on life or even achieving your dreams. While I’ve read and heard the opinions of the masses regarding finding happiness and success in life, and I’ve seen a lot of inspirational quotes on Pinterest, the truth is that I’m only 23, and I have a lot to learn before I can deem myself a successful adult or become any sort of expert on anything.

That said, in the past few weeks I have made a few personal discoveries that have demonstrated to be beneficial to my achievement of my goals. I often find myself overwhelmed by all of the things I want to do and hope to accomplish. I want to keep up with this blog, but also keep up with my creative writing. I want to grow my photography business, but also remain invested in my day job now. I want to live a healthy lifestyle complete with a well-balanced diet and a regular exercise regimen, but I also want to bake all the sweets in the world. I want to try new recipes, keep a clean house, and still have time to watch TV with my husband. I want to host parties and go out with friends, but I also want to stay home and veg after a long week. I want to travel the world, but also save money to invest in a home.

It’s enough to make you just want to bury your head in your pillow and never come out of bed. And I know I’m not alone in this dilemma. But over the weekend I came to a sort of sense of peace. I realized in which ways I can change to make myself more productive towards achieving my goals, and I also realized that it’s okay to not be able to work towards them all at once—because, well, that would just be impossible.

Thus, the five things I, the total non-expert, suggest for anyone who hopes to strengthen their progress to their own goals:

  1. Ask for what you want. If you don’t let your desires be known, then no one will have any reason to grant them to you. I have always had a hard time with this. I am a naturally quiet, people-pleasing person. I don’t like to raise a fuss. But I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone on this a few times lately. When I found out there would be an editorial position at the press opening, I went straight to our editor-in-chief and asked him what he’d suggest I do to best be considered for it. I turned down another opportunity at the press in hopes that the editorial job would pan out, and it did. If I had just sat around and taken what was first offered to me, I would not be in the job I’m in now. Similarly, I would not be shooting my first wedding in a couple weeks if I had not reached out to my friend who was searching for a photographer. Putting myself out there with my desires known was terrifying, but it has paid off time and time again.
  2. Start the day off right. Sometimes, my favorite thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning is to park myself right in front of the TV for a lazy couple of hours. While there is nothing wrong with that, it can get me started on a lazy streak throughout the rest of the day. Last Saturday, I woke up at 9, got myself a bowl of cereal and some coffee, and delved into my writing project all morning. Starting off the day with doing something productive actually made me feel ready to tackle the other things on my to-do list, like doing the dishes and adding to my photography website. Then I got some relaxing time in later, and felt better about taking it.
  3. Balance your time between your tasks and pursuits. If you have several things you NEED to get done during the week, don’t overestimate your time and energy and expect to get them all done at once. I get much less stressed if I divide each day during the week by tasks. For example: Monday I’ll catch up on blogging; Tuesday I’ll take care of photography business; etc. This doesn’t always work out, especially since there are other things that do have to be every day, but it helps me feel better when I reach the end of a day and realize I had no time for blogging after I worked, went to the grocery store, worked out, made dinner, and did creative writing for half an hour.
  4. Come up with realistic short-term and long-term goals. Strive for something you know you could achieve in the short term, if you put your mind to it. And keep all your short-term goals in mind when you think of your big, long-term goal. It’s okay if it seems unattainable at first. It’s not going to happen overnight. You’re going to have to go through a lot of short-term goals before you’ll reach your long-term one. It’s okay. Your goals will keep you focused.
  5. Pray and/or meditate. Whether you’re religious or not, taking five minutes out of your day to recount your blessings, ask for your wants, and free your mind of all preoccupations has such an effect on your zen. It’s freeing.

Happy pursuits, my friends. Did I miss anything on my list? What do you do to increase your productivity?

love always, Delia

Currently…

Currently (latte art)

Writing a fiction story I began working on at the Taos Summer Writers’ Workshop, which I hope to turn into a novel. We’ll see how that goes, though, because I tend to be distracted in my writing with too many ideas. I’ve also got about five other stories rolling around in my head, and have begun to dabble in starting a personal memoir. Not to mention blogging ;)

Such is the writer’s life!

Anticipating shooting an old friend’s wedding in just over two weeks! I am so excited for this awesome opportunity. I’ve always loved wedding photography, and a great wedding photographer was my top priority when planning my own wedding, so I am frankly honored that my friend Jeremy and his fiancé Michelle have entrusted me with this job. I have been spending the last few weeks preparing in all ways possible—researching, getting new gear, and finally taking the leap and starting up an official website!

Wearing shorts, while I still can! What’s funny is that I honestly had forgotten about my many pairs of cute lil short shorts in my bottom drawer until about a month ago. I guess I’d just gotten used to wearing all my work appropriate attire most of the week, so my shorts never really crossed my mind. It’s nice to get reacquainted :)

Craving a Seattle latte with beautiful foam art.

Also craving: being able to make such beautiful caffeinated art myself.

Missing being on vacation. Amiright?

Linking up with Dearest Love and Anne in Residence! What’s currently occurring in your life?

love always, Delia

Crossroads

holding the final pieces of the puzzle in our hands

It seems that time is winding closer and closer to the anniversary of one particularly important day in my life. And no, I don’t mean the anniversary of being hired as an official employee at the Press, though that is another mile marker I’ve recently passed.

My one year anniversary of being married to Ryan is just two short weeks away, and I find myself quite often musing about that life I was living in the time leading up to our wedding day. The monsoons have arrived in Albuquerque, and I am brought back to the memories of packing up my room and moving my things across town in the rain and into our apartment a week before the wedding. As the thunder booms and the giant rain droplets pound down for just a few minutes at a time, I’m reminded of when it did the exact same one year ago, as I stood in an empty apartment kitchen and unpacked the brand new dishes and appliances my mom bought for us. I think of my parents losing power for four days that weekend before the wedding, and each day praying for, at the very least, clear skies between 4 and 7 pm on August 2.

Now I have no such worries. The skies are free to rain any time and any day of the week, and I will welcome the drenching with open arms. I still have other worries for the future, as I always will, but I smile thinking of the monumental crossroads I stood at one year ago in comparison to the new, yet just as important, ones that I stand at today.

While at this time last year I was in the midst of starting a new job, finding an apartment, finalizing the last possible details of my wedding, and preparing for a life together with Ryan, these days I find myself in the midst of beginning yet another new chapter in my publishing career, anticipating Ryan’s official completion of his college career (as of this Thursday!), waiting to see where he’ll end up getting a job, making moves with my photography, and becoming newly inspired in my writing, thanks to the creative writing workshop I had the opportunity to attend this past weekend (but more on that in another post.)

It’s comforting to know that everything and still nothing has changed. Life was, is, and always will be busy, and it has turned out beautifully alright since last year’s crossroads; I’m soothed by the notion that the same will be true yet another year from now.

love always, Delia

Occupational Hazards of a Life Planner

picking peaches

I am a major planner. I planned my entire college course load at the beginning of freshman year in order to be able to finish early, and I did indeed graduate a semester ahead of the rest of my class. I planned internships in publishing for myself throughout college to give me the necessary experiences to more easily get a job after graduation, and I in fact attained a position at a university press within months of graduation. I have gone so far as to plan my life ten years ahead—all tentatively, of course. I know that life often gets in the way of our best laid plans, and God often has alternative plans for us. But it’s just something I can’t turn off in my head. I partially blame my mom—she’s made certain family vacations happen that sound like total fantasy when she concocts them, and she made my wedding happen with fairly little outside help. What can I say, I learned from the best.

But this need is hard to turn off, which makes it really stressful when life gets entirely unpredictable. And my life is about to enter the stage of entirely unpredictable.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like having a little spontaneity and variety. But I need stability, and the fact that I have a full time job with a consistent schedule, salary, and vacation time seems to bode pretty well for me. So, the notion that this lifestyle which has become so normal to me in the past year could very quickly completely change is kind of really throwing my planning brain for a loop.

I should explain. Ryan is a month away from finally completing his college career, and is attempting to foray into the real-life engineering world. We don’t know when his efforts will pay off and he’ll receive a job offer. We don’t know where the offer will come from. We could be looking at relocating to a different city, or we could be looking into buying a house here. But we don’t know.

That scares the crap out of me. How am I supposed to plan for the next steps in my career when I don’t know what city I may live in within the next few months? How am I supposed to decide whether we should renew our lease next month, or for how long? How am I supposed to know what kind of vacations I can plan for next year? How can I shop for patio furniture if I don’t even know whether the goal of earning a yard and patio within the next year will be feasible?

So many unknowns. It all turns my brain into overdrive when I begin thinking about it. That’s when I have to remind myself to find joy in the journey, and trust that soon enough, these unknowns will become known, and soon enough, I may find myself nostalgic for this time of great change and potential. If I can’t plan anything right now, why not enjoy this time as if it’s time off?

marcelpagnol

via

I love this quote because it is so true, and a good reminder of how to appreciate life for what it is, and find happiness with what you have. By the way, did anyone associate the photo of peaches above as metaphorical for looking up at something just out of reach? Just me? I tried.

 How does the unknown frustrate you? Are you as terrible dealing with it as I am?

love always, Delia

Wait, it’s June already?!

Looking across the Grand Canyon

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve been around these parts. I could say that I feel bad that I haven’t even logged into my WordPress account in about two weeks, but frankly, that would be a lie. It’s pretty easy to swallow that twinge of guilt when I think about how happy I’ve been to just live the crazy life that’s been my reality the past several weeks, without concerning myself with writing it down. And hey, it’s my blog, and I can do what I want to. (Cue Lesley Gore.)

I realized this morning that it was the first time in about six weeks that Ryan and I were able to sleep in and enjoy a plan-less Saturday together. Slightly mind-boggling, and only further proof to myself that it’s okay to let certain things slip when the schedule gets a little hairy.

Grand Canyon at sunset.

It is already a month ago that I went to my high school reunion and my in-laws moved back to Seattle. It is already nearly two weeks since I got back from my jaunt to New York City. And it has only been a few days since we returned home from the Grand Canyon, but I’m finding it hard to believe we were even there. Time has been such a blur.

You know what makes time blur together even more? When the hours at work are spent scrambling to keep up with the influx of work to do and the pile-ups of paperwork that naturally occur when one is out of the office for five days within two weeks. But now I just sound like I’m making excuses for myself, so forget about all that.

The truth is, May has been a pretty intense month for me. “Has been”? What am I saying? I guess it’s already June 7th. I don’t know how that happened, but what I do know is that this morning, for the first time in weeks, I got to sleep in and eat breakfast at a wonderfully late hour of the morning, while finishing a movie with Ryan. (I couldn’t stay awake for it last night. Such is life for a 23 year old married woman who knows how to party on her Friday nights.) I also got to cleanse the apartment of all the mess that builds up when its two inhabitants have for several weeks been in and out of town and struggling with stomach flus and head colds, as we have.

Ah, home, sweet home. The clutter is in the closets, the carpet freshly vacuumed, and the hard drive christened with new folders containing evidence of my latest, well-photographed adventures. And I finally have a moment to sit here on my couch and process all that has recently been added to my memories. I almost typed that maybe I’ll take this opportunity to finally get back to writing, but look: I already have!

Grand Canyon at sunset.

Sometimes, you really do have to wait patiently for that spare moment before you can fathom all of the twists and turns you just went through. All you can do until then is enjoy the present for whatever is, and not worry about too much else.

I hope you enjoy some of these Grand Canyon photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Don’t worry, I’ll post more on that soon.

love always, Delia

Spouseless for a Week: Lessons Learned

Last week, Ryan was out of town, vacationing with his parents as they got settled with a new home in Seattle. Thus, I was on my own for the week, something I have never quite experienced. I mean, I lived alone in a single dorm room for the latter half of college, but I feel like that doesn’t completely count. How can it count when I had a meal plan on campus, communal bathrooms, and friends living within a 30 second to 2 minute walk away? This was an entirely different beast. I was going from sharing my little apartment with my husband to cooking, eating, watching tv, and sleeping alone. There are definitely lessons to be learned when this type of thing comes your way.

concerned-texts-because-spouseless

Texts from friends, clearly thinking of me in my time of need.

Thus, I bring you the list of…

Top 12 Things You’ll Learn When You’re Spouseless for a Week
  1. Cooking will feel pointless, and getting takeout alone conspicuous.
  2. Going to sleep without a kiss good night and waking up without worrying about waking your spouse up will mess with your sleep patterns a little bit.
  3. Even with the banging and yelling of your obnoxious neighbors, your apartment will feel too still and too quiet to think.
  4. You’ll need the tv or music on pretty consistently to drown out the stillness and the quiet.
  5. You’ll spend the entire week watching 80s dance movies and catching up on the current season of The Voice.
  6. You’ll play a lot of country music. Because you can.
  7. For a while, you’ll dread the flashbacks to the era of long distance. After a couple of days, you’ll think how silly that was; he’s coming home in four days, after all. Then Friday will come and you’ll remember how lame you are when you hole up completely alone at home instead of holing up alone with your spouse.
  8. You’ll appreciate your spouse that much more, because you’ll realize how lucky you are to find someone to be lame and anti-social with.
  9. The mess of one person is half the mess of two people. (I know, so obvious. But whatever, it’s astonishing to come home to the exact same amount of dirty dishes as there were before you left.)
  10. There will not be someone to come home to and complain about the busy workday and rush hour traffic with.
  11. There will not be someone to baby you when you get a headache. You’ll have to get the ibuprofen yourself, and put yourself to bed.
  12. Alone time can be pretty cool, and getting to play Couch Commando and head DJ for a week straight can go to your head, but the little everyday moments you get to experience with your spouse are priceless.

Bonus points if you can spot the Clueless reference. Have you been caught spouseless? What has alone time taught you?

love always, Delia

Finding Joy in the Journey

Finding joy in the journey.

Last week, I had a lovely little epiphany.

I was reading Jana’s beautiful post, “I Need to Be Content,” on her blog Life Could Be a Dream. She was talking all about how easy it is to just dream about the future and not appreciate the present fully for what it is. This tendency, as she points out, can be particularly harmful because it means that we can’t see how our now will soon become our past, and something that we may wish one day that we had appreciated before.

I do this all the time. I dream now about the day when Ryan and I can afford a nice home for ourselves, complete with a yard, a large kitchen, and a dog (or three). Two years ago, I was dreaming of getting married and living together in an apartment. Well, here I am, married and in our apartment, and while I do take the time to appreciate where we are, I do not do it enough to justify how much energy I spent two years ago daydreaming of this lifestyle, and I do not do it enough to justify how much energy I spend now focusing on the unforeseeable future. Why do I do this?

I loved reading what  Amberly had to say on the topic. She noted that though we once wished for where we are now, we can’t appreciate where we are because we’ve already moved on to bigger and better dreams. That really stuck with me. What a great way to put it; she’s so right! Once we’ve completed a step, it’s so hard to just be in the present moment and appreciate life having reached the next step, because we’re already mentally jumping ahead to the next step.

It all got me to thinking–what should I be appreciating, right here and now, that I just don’t enough because I’m too busy daydreaming about my next steps? In the spirit of Kaysie’s The Positives–

1. I have a job in publishing. Period. This is all I hoped for when working to complete my degree in college, so why waste so much time now worrying about moving up into more editorial work? I’m sure the time will come, so right now I need to do justice to the simpler dream I held for so long, not too long ago.

2. Part of my job right now is to read manuscript submissions of fiction, memoir, art, and some essay collections. This is the step into editorial I need, and, hello, I get to be paid for reading. I’m not sure how I could be luckier with a first “real” job.

3. Furthermore on my job: I do have upward mobility, and I have great benefits. How awesome is it to have something like paid leave and holidays? It was totally unheard of for me until I reached this point, and you can bet that I’m going to appreciate it all that I can.

4. I am living in an adult world. It is complete with my own apartment, kitchen, and desk. It is also complete with bills and a daily commute. For so long in college, all I wanted was to finish and be able to move back home and be with Ryan, and now here I am and much of my time I spend either reminiscing about the college times I couldn’t appreciate in their present, or musing about the home and travels I hope Ryan and I will have in the future. No. While some of that is fine, why not enjoy the now, since I spent so long dreaming of it once upon a time?

5. I am married to the man of my dreams and my best friend. Period. That’s awesome.

6. Despite the increased distance and busyness between us, my closest friendships remain strong.

7. I have the time and even resources to pursue my dreams of writing and photography. Now that I’m not planning a wedding or finishing college, I can shift my focus to these other things that really make me happy. It’s a blessing in itself, so I really need to learn to step back and appreciate this ride as it (hopefully) gains success.

What a number of things to be thankful for, right here and now! What are the joys in your journey?

love always, Delia

How is married life? – the impossible question

Since getting married three months ago, one of the most popular questions of me is, “How is married life?” This question is one that always makes me a little giddy, but at the same time a bit befuddled.

Befuddled? Well, it’s kind of a difficult question to answer, when I think about it. For one, not much as far as my relationship has seemed to change, except that now we live together and have earned the titles of husband and wife. The simplest and most immediate answer that I can and often do give, is that married life is fantastic. I wake up every day next to the boy I fell in love with when I was fifteen years old. I miss him every day I have to spend at work. We watch sitcoms together every evening from the comfort of our own couch, in our own living room, in our own apartment. I make him dinner, and he fixes my computer.

But that’s not all that life has held since I got married, and I think most people would be skeptical of me if I tried to argue that it was. So what else could I tell someone who asks the inevitable, “How is married life?” For me, getting married has entailed the additional life steps of moving out and living independently from my parents. On top of that, only a couple weeks before the wedding I began my first full-time, real-life, pertinent-to-my-college-major job. Thus, “married life” for me is waking up Monday through Friday at 6:30 in the morning, driving in rush hour traffic back and forth from the office, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, watching what seems like half my paycheck disappear to taxes and benefits, paying for rent, utilities, food, internet, and a wild assortment of other things you never think about when you’re dependent on your parents, cooking dinner, keeping our place clean, and collapsing into bed by 10:30. It’s all very adult. It’s not quite what you imagine life to be when you’re still living in your childhood bedroom and planning for the seemingly distant future. But it’s still pretty great, once you get past all the disappearing money and lack of free time.

It’s like the saying goes, “It’s the simple things in life.” Or something like that. It’s having our own couch and living room, where we can do what we want and not worry about interruptions. It’s spending weekends in their entirety together, from morning to night, and not having to worry about driving across town to see each other (not to mention traveling 850 miles to see each other as in our long-distance years). It’s buying the groceries I prefer and making what I feel like eating for dinner. It’s experimenting with recipes. It’s watching the sun rise from my living room in the morning. It’s staring at our framed wedding photos lining our walls.

The simple things. They’re actually the most notable about my newly “married life.” But since I can’t go into such detail during small talk, here is where I can really lay it out, even trying to understand for myself what “married life” really means.

I guess it means all of the above. It may also mean dealing with my husband leaving his wet towel on the bed after he showers, and forgetting food on the counter that should be put away. Perhaps also my leaving cabinets open and the both of us allowing our dirty clothes to pile up until it drives one of us crazy. Even further, it’s balancing family time with our time, and putting in the effort to be social, when we often just feel like holing up together like hermits.

But really, it’s all pretty awesome. Perhaps the next time someone asks me how “married life” is, I’ll say, how is it to live with your best friend? Daily chats, comfortable silence, sometimes irksome, most times a party, blasting music, fighting over the remote? It’s just like that. But better.

The Balancing Act

To be a good writer, one must invest not only countless hours in the act of writing itself, but also an immeasurable amount of time simply living a life. With few life experiences, what would a writer have to illustrate to the world? If I were to sit in my room and do nothing but write all day, every day, quite honestly I feel like I would run out of things to say, of stories to tell. How could I create characters like the crabby Starbucks barista or convey the imagery of a snowboarder falling his way down the most scenic mountains in New Mexico, without experiencing such things myself? True, writers have the artistic license to make things up. But you can’t make up everything. I can’t tell you how many times my creative writing teachers have advised to take a break and go for a walk, go see a movie, have dinner with friends, go do something I’ve never done before. Writing must derive from some sort of inspiration. Personally, my best inspiration comes from just living life. The moment I relax, forget about my constant mental to-do list, and quit over-analyzing what the future has in store, I realize that I have something new to offer. Whether this is a new story idea or just an idea for a character’s development, my leaving the writing behind for awhile ultimately pays off. And much more wonderfully than it would have if I’d instead spent a couple extra hours staring at the computer screen.

Write what you know. That is the Golden Rule of creative writing I feel I’ve heard hundreds of times. And while its secondary rule is that it should be stretched as far as believably possible, every work of fiction, even the most fantastical and surrealistic, has elements that must be based in reality, in the author’s experience. Otherwise, no one will be interested, because there is nothing for a reader to identify with.

And, quite frankly, writing might even become as much a chore as a  minimum-wage job, if that is all a writer allows himself to do. And we don’t want that.

But here is my problem. I get so involved in the rest of my life that sometimes the actual writing-it-down part falls through the cracks. I’ll attain many of those moments of inspiration I mentioned before, make a mental note, but then not revisit the old files of mental notes stacking up in my brain until weeks later, when the sheer volume of them is so overwhelming that I haven’t the energy to put them to any use. This problem of mine is even more accentuated when it feels to me that my time is on fast forward, as it has been this summer. Somehow May has become late July, and I can’t seem to remember how I got here.

I attempt to keep up with my writing every day, as so many great writers advise. But I must get better at setting aside this time, because too often it gets swept aside for my studies, working, and keeping up commitments to friends and family. Sometimes it feels as though there isn’t enough time in the day, or enough days in a week, to accomplish all that I set my mind to. This is when I worry that my high hopes for all my writing endeavors either won’t pan out or will take far longer than I would hope to receive any vindication. There is too much rolling around in my brain that I want to get out, too much life to keep living, and too little time to do it all.

Do you have any advice towards a better balanced writing life?