Betches are the Best

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I have a super bad case of “people-pleaser syndrome”. Since a very young age, I have always wanted to make other people happy, no matter what it took. And not just anybody – everybody. I can remember at times being paralyzed when someone would ask, “Where do you want to go eat?” My usual answer was (and often times still is), “Eh…whatever you want.” If I ever did get brave enough to blurt out something like, “Let’s get some Mexican!” it seemed like the other person nine times out of ten would say, “No, I don’t want Mexican. How does Chinese sound?” And I would find myself doing a mental forehead-slap and saying, “Oh yeah, sorry, yeah Chinese sounds better, sorry.” (“Sorry” is probably one of the most frequently used words in my vocabulary, but I’m working on it)

This even stretched into making purchases for myself. I would often times go shopping, find a shirt I adored, then look up to realize the same damn shirt was in fifteen colors. I would sit there agonizing for long minutes thinking, “Okay, I love the blue. But my  mom says blue isn’t my color. But my boyfriend/best friend/sister loves the color blue. But my favorite color is green, maybe I should get green?” Half the time I would leave without buying whatever it was at all, because the decision process was too exhausting and I would convince myself I didn’t need it. 

When someone in high school told me I was “too fat” I stopped eating and got obsessive until college when someone else told me I was too skinny (I was) and I was terrified they wouldn’t like me, so I started eating. This whole people-pleasing thing led me on a roller coaster of constantly questioning myself and my decisions and who it would affect. I remember at one point someone telling me, “You know the only reason people like you is because they know they can step all over you, right?” Ouch. 

Several things started helping me get over this (although this lack of confidence is something I will always have to work at). First was getting a job as a case worker. In that job, if you want to make it and not burn out in about two months, “people-pleaser” is about the worst thing you can be. For a while, I was miserable. I had parents and kids calling me every name under the sun, I had paperwork and deadlines, I had attorneys trying to trip me up so they could call me a liar. Many days I wanted to curl up under my desk and hide. However, around this same time I found something else that helped me cope: exercise. I had made up my mind I was going to run a marathon, then I also found the Insanity program through my amazing Beachbody coach, and did some weight lifting. Nothing will build confidence faster that knowing your own body is strong and that you can outrun any kids or their parents who may want to kill you (joking…sort of). 

However, probably one of the biggest things was taking a good look around me and noticing that the most successful women I looked up to in my life (or maybe didn’t look up to, but respected) were all betches. 

Now, let me define the word “betch” for you. In college, I had a group of friends and we all referred to each other as “betches” as a joke but recently it’s taken on a different meaning for me. In my head, a “betch” is a strong woman with a strong opinion who does not give a crap what other people think. A Facebook friend is talking bad about them? Delete. They hear a co-worker doesn’t agree with them but won’t say it to their face? They will go talk to them. A relationship isn’t working out? Sorry, but you’re in my way and I have a lot to accomplish. However, these women are also incredibly sensitive and will do anything for the people they love. Some people refer to these women as “bitches” but I think it’s just men and women who are intimidated by them and need to make themselves feel better (I have been guilty of this, and I think most have). 

Anyway…

I noticed something. Even though these women never changed their opinions just to make someone else happy, they still had a TON of friends – including a lot of friends that really didn’t agree with them on a lot of topics! What?! Here’s the reason: even thought their opinion is strong, it doesn’t mean other people aren’t entitled to theirs as well. Betches recognize that everyone has value, and that quite possibly they can learn something from the other person even if they don’t agree. However, if that other person is being disrespectful, rude, or not doing the same for them – snip! – they don’t need to have that negativity hanging around. They have a raw honesty that is always present and are the kinds of friends that will tell you that dress looks effing awful on you, but that top is super cute. You respect them, you appreciate them, and they are your best friend.

Most people are that kind of friend. All my best friends are that way with me and I try to be that way with them. The difference between myself and betches though, is that they are that way with everyone they meet, not just their best friends. They don’t sugar-coat just because they don’t know you – they tell it like it is, which is why sometimes even strangers feel like they’ve known a betch forever. Betches are the most amazing people you will ever meet, and you will always be better for having known them, even if you didn’t like/agree with them. 

Recently, I started opening up to the lessons these betches have to teach me instead of resisting, avoiding, or agreeing with them. And I have found betches everywhere. My best friend, sister, sister-in-law, an old supervisor, mentors, my Beachbody coach, and others are the most amazing people who, even though they don’t know it, are helping me gain my confidence back. I may never be a full-on amazing betch, but every day I try to do little mental exercises to make sure that “sorry” isn’t the first word to pop out of my mouth when I have a differing opinion or that I don’t automatically turn bright red if attention is directed at me. To most people this means I’m trying to be more assertive which, as one betch once told me, “Assertive doesn’t mean I’m rude or enjoy conflict, it just means I’m in control of me.”  

Now I want to make it clear, I’m not trying to change my personality to reflect someone else’s (trust me, no two betches are the same). I’m just trying to build myself up to more fully be who I was meant to be. Instead of walking into an interview or a party full of strangers and thinking, “just be quiet, agree, and don’t rock the boat” sometimes thinking, “now what would (insert betch here) do?” helps me throw my shoulders back, sit up straight, and talk more passionately and unabashedly about who I am and what I believe. I find “betch music” helps too – listening to songs by women who sing about being passionate, unashamed, and strong (“Brave” by Sara Bereilles is my current fave).

It will take me a lifetime to become who I was truly meant to be (as it does everyone) but I honestly am so grateful because I feel as if I am getting there with the help of one amazing betch at a time. 

What Do You Do?

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I quit my job in Nebraska on January 10, 2014 to move to Colorado for a job my husband received. We have always wanted to live in Colorado and being here is a dream come true. However, getting a job has been much harder than I thought it would be. I have a lot of work experience, triple majored in undergrad, and speak conversational Spanish. However, I don’t have a Master’s (yet!) and in a bigger city, it seems that who you know often matters just as much as what’s on your resume. So, in the last two months there is one question I have learned to dread: “What do you do?”

Whenever I am asked this question, I cringe inwardly because I know that the asker is referring to a job. In American society it seems that so much of a person’s identity lies not in who they are in character, personality, what hobbies they enjoy or what organizations they are apart of, but rather in what their job is. I usually make some crack like, “Well, I don’t currently have a job since we just moved here, but I guess you could say I’m a full-time job searcher.” Nine times out of ten the next question is, “Oh…what did you do before?” I have tried to take this all in stride and be as graceful as I can about it, but it’s honestly incredibly frustrating. Some people have been genuinely interested and give me people to network with or leads, but others I know just are asking because they want to gauge my worth. Last week I had a break down and felt so miserable, worthless and slimy all because I don’t have a job. So, I called the only person I thought of who might be able to relate…my mother.

My mom has not had a job in the “American” sense in probably twenty years (give or take). Her and my dad made a decision early on that she would take care of me and my sisters – and between the four of us having every interest under the sun and being varied in ages, trust me, it was not easy. She often says she thinks having a job would have been easier. Now that my baby sister is well into college, my mom worked for a few years but then had some health issues and had to stop for the time being. When I called her, I broke down crying and asked how she does it? My mom really, truly understood.

One thing I admire about my mother is the fact that she is absolutely certain about her calling on this earth – which is to take care of other people. She took care of the four of us and my dad, even through her own struggles. She took care of her mom when she was living in Rapid City with her and still does what she can from afar. However, what she explained was that she does not let other people make her feel worthless, because she knows she is not. My mom was a leader for her Bible study group where she helped mentor 16 women at a time. She has volunteered to be a mentor for underprivileged kids and is always lending a hand to people who need it. She took courses in gardening and helped with a community garden that donated their produce to a homeless shelter. Her and my dad just moved to Nebraska and I know it will be no time before she is involved in a million different activities there. She turned the question around to me and asked, “So since you’ve moved, what do you really do?”

I started talking and pouring it out. First, I started volunteering for a non-profit within weeks of moving called Children’s Future International (which is incredible) where the Director of Operations has agreed to help me learn more about grant writing and fundraising. I have already helped them with one fundraiser and plan on helping with more. I joined a church (Unitarian), started the steps towards becoming a member, and joined an Eating Ethically book club. I never let myself sleep past 9:30 a.m., I work out almost every day, I don’t drink during the weekdays and I have been reading books on leadership, fitness, business, leaders in history and (of course) fiction. Most recently, I researched graduate programs and am in the early stages of applying.

My mom helped me realize that I DO so much more than what a job can peg me into. For the last 25 years, my worth has been constantly wrapped up in what I was going to school for or what I was doing for work at that point in time. Some bloggers even try to make people feel like their worth is confined to a list like, “20 things you should do in your 20’s” or “The 13 life experiences you need to have NOW”. I don’t want my self-worth confined to my job and I don’t want my self-worth confined to a list of what other people think I should be doing. I want people to think of me as more than just my job – I want to be thought of in terms of my passions. My love for working with children, my interest in non-profits, my insatiable thirst to learn constantly. I want people to go, “That’s Abby, she really loves fitness” or “That’s Abby, she loves community theater” rather than “That’s Abby and she works for…”.

For two years in Nebraska, I let a lot of my hobbies and interests fall by the wayside for the sake of my job. I was always “too stressed” or “too tired” to do much beyond a few select activities. However, I am so grateful for this period of not having a job because it has let me rediscover so many of the talents and interests I let go. Up until last week I didn’t think I should even write in my blog because I did not have anything interesting to contribute, but now I know that’s not true.

Part of me can’t wait for the next time someone asks, “What do you do?” because my answer will be something like, “Well, let me tell you what I do…”
Job or no job!

Why I Stopped Taking Communion

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First of all, if you are expecting bigotry, hatred, sarcasm, or mockery, please go read something else. I am grateful for my Christian upbringing, I am grateful for my faith as it is right now, and this post is in no way going to bash on Christians.

Second, I want to tell you a story. The Christmas of 2012 was a very difficult one for me. My (now) husband and I went to the Christmas Eve service with my soon-to-be-in-laws and I did not take communion for the first time in my personal memory. After much personal reflection, studying, religious exploration, and various life experiences, I had decided it was not something I could do in good conscience. My husband, who had made this personal decision at some point before me, also did not take communion. It is a rather large, somewhat prominent church in our city and so naturally there were stares and whispers.

Later that night, I cried. Not because I felt it was the wrong decision, or because it had felt so strange to not do that after twenty-some years, but mostly because I knew the ‘starers’ did not understand. Because I knew many saw it as a slap in the face. And that many who have observed me choose not to take communion since then also see it that way. I’ve wanted to explain myself, but I’ve also been afraid, because I know that saying this may cause backlash from family and friends. However, I feel it needs to be said: I no longer take communion because I no longer believe I can in good faith call myself a Christian. And because some of my most respected mentors, friends, and role models are the absolute most dedicated, amazing Christians I know.

I grew up in a family where our church was the center of many of our social activities. I played in praise band, attended both Sunday services (and usually Saturday evening), was active in my youth group, taught Sunday School, attended service projects, mission trips, and church camps. My parents are still some of the most active Christians I know. My dad has gone through faith struggles, but came out even more strong, and has inspired many with his God-given speaking and healing skills. My mom is truly one of the most staunch believers I know – her faith is incredible, and she really, truly cares about those she leads in her bible study. I interned for a Christian-based orphanage where I met two incredible people who live God’s plan for them every day. I went on a mission to the Ukraine with two women who are my number one role models, other than my parents. Contrary to what many people believe, the Christians I know, look up to, and love so much are intelligent, open-minded, loving people. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business professionals, rather than the ignorant, hateful hicks Christians are so often portrayed as. I love them and I respect them, because they take their religion and, more importantly, their faith seriously and they do not “fake it.”

However, my path has led me to different beliefs. I would rather not put my own relationship with God on trial to the internet world, but to sum it up, I don’t believe Jesus Christ is the only way to have a relationship with God and simply believe he was an incredible prophet (this is an extremely simplified version – if you want to know more, let’s get coffee and chat, but please don’t attack me if you don’t understand me)! After much soul searching, this led me to realize I could not take communion any longer. For any Christian, former Christian, or person who has been in contact with Christianity, it is well-known that communion is a very personal and important experience. You are deciding to truly take on the “body and blood of Christ” and live up to the expectation that brings – to love your neighbor, to share good news, and to deepen your faith journey as Jesus did.

As someone who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus, I felt that partaking in communion was not only a lie to myself, but it was a slap in the face and cheapened the experience of those who truly believe in the ritual of communion. I would never perform a Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Buddhist, or any other kind of religious ritual without being fully informed about it and knowing I believed it, so why would I do that with Christianity just because it was “what I’ve always done”?

I am happy to say that this year, I once again did not take communion on Christmas Eve – but I was not embarrassed and I did not cry (I also didn’t get stared at as much, or maybe I just didn’t notice). I now feel completely confident in my decision, and feel somewhat sad for those who feel they have to take communion to “keep peace in the family” or “because it’s a habit” or “because I might lose my friends.” If you are unsure about your beliefs, try sitting communion out next time – you may find you do in fact believe in Christ as your Savior, or you may decide it’s not for you. But at least you’ll know.

And Christians, please take it easy on us who remain sitting in the pew when communion rolls around. More than likely, it was not an easy decision to make. However, please know it is only because those like me love you, respect you, and want to honor your relationship with your Jesus.

Just don’t try to “convert” me after the service 🙂

Sooo….

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I’m back. Again. For like, the third time.

I am realizing that what I really need to do is just post, daily, and it doesn’t have to be long. Most of the time I find myself coming back to this blog when I’m feeling down or unhappy to remind me of all the reasons I have to be grateful. However, this time it’s because I have so many things to be grateful for that I want to be able to save them up, archive them, and remember them when life gets tough later on!

Today, I am grateful for weight lifting. Since I last posted I found out I have Exertional Compartment Syndrome. This basically means my calf muscles swell when I exercise or get blood moving, but my fascia (the white stuff on top of your muscle) does not expand and ends up squeezing the muscle and cutting off blood flow. It ends up being extremely painful and can eventually give you nerve damage. Sounds fun, right? So, the only way to fix it without severely limiting your activity level, is to get surgery.

So, I’m getting surgery after my wedding because I do not want to be on crutches, unable to dance, and unable to backpack for my honeymoon (even though this condition could make backpacking very painful). Recovery will be about 6-8 weeks, then I can build up to a normal fitness program. However, until then, running, Insanity, and sometimes even walking is painful. So what’s a girl to do?

Lift like a damn beast, that’s what.

I’ve been trying to get up every morning and go for a walk if my legs can stand it, but basically lifting is all I have for now. Today I did back, and I love the results I’m seeing! I lift more, look a lot more toned, and I feel amazing. I miss cardio…the great sweat it gives you and how you feel like you gave it your all. But in the meantime, lifting isn’t so bad.

And I know, I know. I keep hearing, “You should do yoga”. My goal is to try. Really, it is! Maybe I’ll be grateful for it next week. But for now, today, I’m grateful for lifting.

Day 7: Passion

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First off, I bet you thought I wasn’t coming back, huh? That I would make it one day further than last time and give up. Well, no. I’m here again and I probably should have written something about being grateful during Thanksgiving, but that would have just been cliche. So now I’m back, right after the high of Thanksgiving and that downer that comes when you realize that Christmas is just out of reach and finals are just in front of you (I no longer have finals, but I’m still close enough to be able to sympathize. For those with “real jobs” it’s somewhat similar).

For anyone who doesn’t know, on Monday I tried out for a play at the Lincoln Community Playhouse. This was sort of a big deal because theatre was my absolute life in high school. I lived, breathed, and would have died for theatre. I couldn’t wait to go to college and do nothing but theatre for the next four years of school. Then my freshman year I dated a guy involved in theatre, we broke up, I thought everyone hated me and I changed my major (there may have also been some cowardice on my part…you know, the belief that theater wasn’t practical and was a waste of time). Long story short, I have not done a single show in five years.

Then I moved to Lincoln and realized I have absolutely no creative outlet. For me, that was horrible and awful. I had always made friends through creative outlets, and here I just felt cut off and isolated from everyone and everything. I went to the gym and did some exercise classes, hoping to make friends there, but I felt like an impostor. I mean,  I enjoy exercise, but I’m not nearly as passionate about the gym as some people are (although I strive to be…someday. Maybe. I’ll stick with the outdoors). So, I decided to try out for the local playhouse….

….and I didn’t make the show. A few months ago back in the spring (haha, caught you!). Then life got in the way, but I still checked the website for upcoming shows. Then, suddenly, my life opened up and when I checked the next show coming up it was “Doubt”. I got very, very excited because “Doubt” is, first off, an incredible show. Secondly, I relate so incredibly much with Sister James. For those of you not familiar, Sister James is a young nun who is struggling with maintaining her innocence, but has recently been forced to see that the world is not as innocent and pure as she would like it to be. I went to the first audition and was so, so nervous. There were theatre students from UNL auditioning for the same part. What was I doing? Why was I there?

Then I started reading. And I realized…

I love acting. I love the buzzing, crackling feeling my whole body gets when I pick up a script or a side. I love the pent up energy that has to be so carefully tended to, because you can’t just let it explode…you become a scientist. You have to wear rubber gloves and slowly release that energy strand by strand. Your person melts with this whole other person to become a character. You’re not putting on a second skin, you’re releasing some inner part of yourself you weren’t aware of before. Or, maybe you were aware of them, but when that little inner part sees the character before you it says, “Me! I’m coming forward! I am how you will become them”. It’s just beautiful, and I have never gotten that feeling doing anything else before. Nothing has ever made me want to study so much or dive in with such fervor. I love the costumes, the sets, the lights, the sounds. The way it smells. The crazy way you can form such a bond with a group for such a short time, but when you see each other again you smile because you know that for one moment in time, you created magic.

Anyway, after the first audition I thanked the director and she said, “No, thank you. That was beautiful”. I went home, looking at the stars with my heart crying out to the universe, “Please, please, please, please…”. And I made call backs. And everything came rushing back again. The next morning I got a call at work. I was so excited, so in utter disbelief that I actually got picked. Out of all those people, something clicked. Maybe the universe just clicked for me, or some underlying desperation in my demeanor told the director I needed this at this point in my life. Maybe I actually am good (although I will always doubt my talent, because there is always someone better or a way in which I can improve). Whatever it was, the director gave the part to me and I feel so humbled by it. This part of me was crying out, screaming out, wanting desperately some outlet that was mine.

The best part of this outlet though, is that it isn’t just mine. I get to share it with others. That for one moment, I get to help the audience forget whatever is happening in their own life. For one moment, maybe they can get that buzzing, crackling feeling running through their body that helps them to realize their own passion or even just think about life in a new way.  To some of you this may make sense…to some of you, it may not. If it doesn’t, I hope you find your passion and that you might understand what I’m talking about.

Today, I am grateful for passion. I am grateful to recognize what my passion is, and to know that anything I still feel this passionately about after five years is something worth pursuing.

Day Six: WE HAVE A DATE!!

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So yesterday I said that I had a very big announcement today for anyone who is following my blog. Well, first….let me give you a little background 🙂 (Yes, I am making you wait. Scroll to the bottom if you want to be a jerk and ruin it).

One huge stresser for me the past few months/weeks has been trying to find a location for our ceremony/reception. At first we were going to do both a week apart, with the ceremony in one state and the reception in another. We soon realized that was NOT going to happen. So we decided we would do both in Rapid City, SD where I grew up. Unfortunately, Rapid City is a rather large tourist location (and apparently a popular place for weddings) and Mike (I love him very, very much) didn’t propose until the end of September. We debated whether or not to get married in 2013 or 2014 and it turns out 2014 would have probably been a bit easier because apparently there are a lot of brides out there who have their (pardon my French) shit together and started planning their weddings for NEXT summer before LAST summer was even over.

So all that was left at every obvious location was Rally Week.

For those of you not familiar with Rally Week, it is a week in August where every biker from across the country goes to Sturgis, SD to have this big biker party. Since many towns in the Black Hills are rather close together, and Rapid’s the biggest, there are a lot of bikers all over the Hills. I have only personally been to the rally once, but I always was very angry at those bikers. Mostly because a lot of them didn’t know how to wear anything but tube-tops and short-shorts and no helmet. They also didn’t have an IQ high enough to learn how to follow speed limits or slow down on curves. Therefore, my dad (a surgeon) ended up on-call for about three weeks straight scrubbing gravel out of peoples’ skin and sewing their insides back together. So I’m totally not bitter and love Rally Week a lot.

Not.

(Sorry to bikers who wear full leathers, helmets, and boots. And who drive the speed limit. I respect you, and thank you for not putting others’ lives in danger. Or taking surgeons away from their children).

So, needless to say, I did NOT want to subject my guests to Rally Week. Not to mention the fact that the noise from all those motorcycles would ruin our outdoor ceremony. I kept looking. And looking. And looking. It seemed like I was never going to find exactly what I wanted. I was getting very disappointed and very frustrated. Then, my little sister told me about this place. And my mom’s best friend raved about this place. And I looked it up online. It seemed absolutely perfect, which meant that it probably wasn’t available.

After a few days of mulling it over I finally decided to give it a try. I mean, why not? It’s not like I wasn’t used to rejection at this point. So I called……

…and holy crap….

….THEY HAD OUR DATE!!!!!!!

It seemed to good to be true. I told her to wait so I could call Mike. And my mom. They both said, “Hell yes!” (Except not exactly, but that’s what I wanted to hear, so that’s what I heard). So my mom called and booked it and………….(drum roll please)…………

WE HAVE A VENUE AND A DATE!!!!

It also just so happens that the place where the bride gets ready is called ‘The Cinderella Gazebo”. Could this place be any more perfect?!?

So, we are officially announcing, that on July 20, 2013, Mike and I are getting married!!!! And I am so incredibly grateful 🙂