Category Archives: General Musings

Don’t Make Your Life Hard

My excessive emotions really got the best of me this week. Please still by my friend, but I need to confess that I teared up during Grease: Live! Sunday night on Fox. I didn’t want to, but when the cast started hugging one another after the grand finale, I couldn’t help but feel so proud of them that I got misty-eyed. I know what it’s like to work incredibly hard on an exhilarating musical production, then to perform it for the entire world in a 2-3 hour adrenaline rush. Okay, so maybe I don’t know exactly what that feels like, but performing in my local regional theatre a few years ago kind of felt the same way. Almost.

grease live

As a wise man once said, never Jazz Hand and Drive.

If I can’t handle myself during the bows of a musical, just imagine what I’m like during a sad movie or an inspirational fireworks show.

At some point in your life– hopefully sooner than later– you should have a pretty good idea of how you’ll react to certain types of triggers. As you just read, I’m pretty aware that I will be a ball of tears if something is happy and inspiring, or if something is disappointing and sad. I think Kristen Bell said it best when she told Ellen DeGeneres that she needs to be between a 3-7 on the emotional scale, or else she’s crying. The scale goes from 1=very sad to 10=very happy. I completely agree. Though honestly, I might be more in the 3-6 range. I am extremely prone to happy-crying.

kristen bell

This self-awareness should expand beyond just happy and sad tears. Do you have horrible nightmares after scary movies? Does stalking pictures of your ex make you really mad? Does seeing people from high school induce anxiety? Take a good, hard look at yourself and recognize the unwanted emotions that will likely bubble to the surface during particular experiences. Now ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to avoid those types of episodes.

As regular readers know, I often bring up the fact that happiness is a choice. This little mantra applies to so many different topics, it’s astounding. In the case of understanding your natural reactionary tendencies, take some responsibility for your happiness by limiting your exposure to harmful triggers. There are enough emotional challenges thrown your way without your consent or control, so why willingly add to the pile?

Let me give you a personal example of something I could have avoided last week. Because the church in which I grew up really messed with my view of God and Christians (read more about that story HERE), I’ve learned that I shouldn’t expose myself to certain online posts by that organization– and even some of the members themselves. I am still Facebook friends with a handful of the church members, but I have to evaluate what I can handle in my newsfeed without provoking serious anxiety.

I recently scrolled past a recorded sermon by one of the church’s leaders, and clicked on it because he was a pretty good friend of mine back when I was a member. Given that I feel connected and comfortable with God these days, I figured I’d give it a listen and possibly learn something. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how the cadence and tone of sermons in that church are very distinct, no matter who is preaching or the subject at hand, so I immediately felt tense and even sick to my stomach upon listening. I’m simply not capable of exposing myself to that environment without inducing an unhealthy level of fear, discomfort, and memories of a warped view of God. If I don’t want to feel those things, I need to avoid those types of posts. (I’m speaking from only my experience, not for everyone who has been/is currently in that church. Read the blog post I tagged in the paragraph above to get a better understanding.)

What is something you can control that you know draws out negative feelings? Perhaps it’s time to unfollow celebrities on social media who make you feel inadequate about your appearance. Maybe you should avoid the bars where your ex hangs out. Or if you’re me, don’t watch movies like Marley & Me or The Fault in Our Stars when you are already having a tough week. And don’t read articles about serial killers if you’re already afraid of the dark. Oh, and always keep a snack handy because hunger=hating the world.

Evaluate your emotional tendencies, and curb your behavior to make you less vulnerable to those unwanted feelings. Fascination, social pressures, and curiosity are just not worth it.

Happy-crying doesn’t really bring me down, but I definitely need to rein it in at times…if not for my own mental stability, then at least for the sake of people who wonder why I’m acting so deranged. I hope you can think of a few ways you’d benefit from adjusting your exposure, as well, in order to live a steadier, more peaceful life.

2 Comments

Filed under General Musings, Life Lessons

Generation grannY Makeover

Hey hey, guys!! Generation grannY’s big makeover reveal is heading your way next week! Stay tuned for prettier navigation, and for more pictures like this:

21

Change is scary, but so is too much white space. Get ready!

Leave a comment

Filed under General Musings

Stop Saying “It’s Not That Bad”

Everyone endures hardships. To view a personal challenge as better or worse than those of others is extremely egocentric. Similarly, no experience is worthy or unworthy of eliciting certain emotions. While you may view something as a minor inconvenience, another person might view it as an agonizing struggle– and vice versa. I think we’ve all felt the frustration, confusion, and self-doubt that emerges after admitting to a hard time, only to be met with a lack of understanding. Comparison and disapproval serve no purpose in providing comfort.

Because of the unique individuality that characterizes our species, perspectives and reactions inevitably differ. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: There’s no such thing as an “appropriate” or “right” way to feel.

One of my best friends (a Guest of Honor at Aaron’s and my wedding) often uses the phrase “All feelings are valid.” Whenever I spout logical reasons for why I “shouldn’t” feel the way I’m feeling, she always simply states, “Your feelings are valid.” As in, “Don’t let outsiders tell you what is ‘normal,’ and don’t suppress how you actually feel just because you think it’s illogical.” How you naturally react to something is valid. It’s acceptable. It’s real, reasonable, and an important part of who you are.

The part that can be advised and guided by others (and by your own discernment) is how you act upon your feelings. Don’t lash out. Don’t wallow. Don’t be unforgiving. Don’t avoid productive confrontation. Don’t forget to lean on your support system. Don’t forget that God loves you. The list of ways we can manage our behavior, which should eventually curb the emotions themselves, is endless. However, we must first recognize that whatever we’re feeling is not “wrong.”

The books Aaron and I read during our premarital counseling addressed this concept in terms of the male mind. My book was titled For Women Only, and Aaron’s book was For Men Only (highly recommended, for any couples out there). In For Women Only, the author explains that men are physical beings. Obviously. But the book really delves into the details and extremities of male wiring that makes it nearly impossible for women to relate. From a Christian’s perspective, we can’t blame our [male] spouse if an attractive woman crosses his path, and his mind suddenly goes to a sexual place. We can, howeverexpect him to not look again, and to immediately, intentionally fill his mind with a different image (understanding it may take a while for him to get the hang of this). Temptation is not sin. Jesus himself was tempted. The important part is what happens after the temptation. Same goes for feelings. Any feeling itself is not wrong. How you address the feeling is what matters.

This blog post is on my heart because of how difficult I’ve found separation from my husband. He is deployed on a ship for two months, so we can only talk every 2-3 weeks…if we’re lucky. Sometimes I don’t hear his voice for longer than that, and I don’t know when these sporadic calls will happen. Other than those sparse conversations, brief emails are our only form of communication. Every single day, my heart feels pain, sadness, and anxiety. I miss him! His absence hasn’t proven to be taxing on our relationship, but it’s definitely been taxing on me.

Apparently, I’m not supposed to feel so worn. From what I’ve been told over and over again, it’s “not that bad” to be separated for nine weeks from someone with whom you’ve chosen to share your life. Who knew?

Nearly every single person who has asked how long Aaron is gone has reacted to “two months” with one of the following retorts:

“Oh, that’s not bad.”

“At least it’s not nine months.”

“Breaks from each other are good.”

At first, these responses made me feel defective. And perplexed. How does the thought of nine months make the reality of two months any easier? Is being apart really “not bad”? Because I wouldn’t say it’s good. Am I supposed to want a break from my husband? Do most married couples not like each other? I’m pretty sure my stepmom really misses my dad when he travels for work…and they’ve been married for 14 years. But maybe I’m oversensitive? Am I one of those people who is too dependent on another person for my happiness? What’s wrong with me??

emotional gif

The first week Aaron was gone, I stayed to myself because I was so tired of people telling me that I shouldn’t be sad. I had quite a few friends try to check in on me, but I ignored their calls to avoid the redundant “words of comfort” that actually made things worse. I knew that I should be stronger. That being honest about my distress would come across unsupportive, when in reality, I am so proud of Aaron. That they would remind me that other military wives have it harder than I do. (DUH.) That they would somehow view my heartache as annoying, unnecessary, and dramatic.

Eventually, the name of my aforementioned Your-Feelings-Are-Valid friend popped up on my neglected, buzzing phone. I almost didn’t answer, but I knew I needed to stop bottling everything up…and who better to consult than someone who has spent the last eight years drilling into my brain that my feelings matter? Within the first two minutes of our conversation, I was already hiccup-crying and apologizing and telling her all the reasons why I knew it was “stupid” to be sad. She said, “Duh, you’re sad, silly. That’s why I called. It’s completely normal that this is hard on you.” For once, I didn’t hear, “Hey now, two months isn’t that bad.” Her simple acknowledgment of my feelings felt like a burst of air into my depleted lungs.

Naturally, this friend helped me think of ways to make the most of my time apart from Aaron, but she never said it was “a good thing” or “not too hard.” She challenged me to react to my emotions a little differently, but she never blamed me for faltering in my weakness.

Any hardship deserves attention and validation. Whether it’s in response to a hurtful comment or a reaction to death, no feeling is inappropriate or unnatural. If you feel it, it’s acceptable.

When my mom died, people– myself included– compared her suffering to that of others. At least it was a 5 month battle, not 5 years. At least I had the chance to say goodbye. At least we had a healthy relationship. At least it didn’t happen when I was a kid. At least I have a loving family and friends to support me. Everyone did a good job telling me that whatever I felt was valid, but looking back, I spent a lot of time internally justifying why my struggle wasn’t so bad.

Yes, worse things have happened, but I still lost my mother. Viewing that loss in a positive, grateful light was and is very important, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard, or won’t continue to be hard throughout my life.

By unapologetically acknowledging sorrow over my mom’s death or Aaron’s deployment– without comparing them to what other people face, or how other people might react– I’m able to live in far less pain, which is the whole objective in the first place. Only after I legitimize those struggles am I ready to react in a way that actually helps my happiness level. If I were still in the stage of suppression, frustration with how I feel, or bitterness towards insensitive remarks, all of my reactive energy would be unavailable. Trying to ward off “wrong” emotions completely paralyzes our ability to actually move forward.

Accepting our hardships for what they are is the first step to emotional recovery– and if not recovery, then at least stability. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t clean up the mess. Neither does trying to convince yourself that the mess is not actually a mess. With that, it’s important to surround yourself with people who validate (not to be confused with “perpetuate”) your feelings. Whether it’s anger, sadness, fear, or regret, all negative emotions are okay to feel. The goal is just to prevent them from overwhelming your life or leading you to poor decisions. Of course we should continually strive to foster peaceful souls with the help of solid friendships, trust in God, and learned wisdom, but by no means should we categorize internal struggles as “right” or “wrong.”

After saying all of that, I should point out that most people have the best of intentions when they tell you something “isn’t that bad,” or if they try to point out all of the reasons you have to be happy. I’ve done it a million times to my friends. So don’t dump those people in your lives and tell them it’s because Shanny the Granny told you to do so. Trust me, they actually want to help and are just trying to get your head in a better place. But my hope is that we can all take it upon ourselves to be the kind of supporters who validate the emotions of others, and therefore truly become useful in helping them walk in confidence, fortitude, and intentional joy. Everyone will fall short of a perfect walk, but those who know it’s normal to fall tend to have an easier time getting back up.

6 Comments

Filed under General Musings, Relationships

The Leyko Wedding: A Tale of Minivans, Corsets, & Hijacked Ubers

I said I would write a post about our wedding, so this is me following through on my word. Take note, 2016 presidential candidates.

I’m going to tackle this wedding review in Question & Answer format, because organization is hard.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

Q: What time did you start getting ready, and what did you do before the ceremony?

A: I always thought I’d wake up extremely early on my wedding day, like a kid on Christmas morning, but I underestimated Wedding Week Exhaustion. Therefore, I groggily woke up to my alarm at 7:30 a.m. and stayed in bed for about half an hour to read the 500 congratulatory texts I’d already received. Around 8:00, I showered and headed to the hair salon with two of my bridesmaids. Our hair stylist was a wizard, so all three of us were done in 45 minutes flat.

We were back to my parents’ house by 10:00 for makeup and brunch with the rest of the bridal clan. After downing more brie than one should consume on the morning of her wedding, I slipped into my dress, waited for my stepmom to graciously button all 999 buttons, and climbed into my parents’ very fancy minivan, which then took me to the church. You’ll learn during wedding planning that some things are just not worth $350. To me, a limo was one of those things. Throw me in a soccer mom’s dream car with my hilarious family and some show tunes, and I’m livin’ the conjugal dream. A little dog hair never hurt anyone.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: What was your favorite part of the ceremony?

A: Aaron’s vows and communion. Stay tuned– you’ll get to hear the vows on our wedding video, which should show up in my inbox in the next 2-4 weeks. Communion was incredibly special because I felt like Aaron and I got a chance to silently and privately contemplate the depth of our commitment, and dedicate our marriage to God because of His grace.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: Did anything go wrong?

A: The string quartet did not play my bridal music when I walked down the aisle. They were supposed to play Pachelbel’s Canon, but instead repeated the bridal party music (unclear why), which was How Great Thou Art. HGTA is my favorite song, though– and I was too busy staring at Aaron/trying not to cry, so I didn’t care.

wedding blog 7

 

Q: What did you and Aaron do after your ceremony?

A: While guests gathered outside to await the sword arch exit (another favorite part), Aaron and I went into a private room and exclaimed “We’re married!!” over and over. I also took out my contact lens and tried to clean makeup off of it.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: Were you cold during pictures?

A: No, it was 75 degrees in December. Amazing. I did almost pass out, though. I had prepared myself for overexertion and stashed a Nature’s Valley granola bar in Aaron’s pickup truck to eat on the way to take portraits (food=priority), but turns out, hunger was not the primary issue (for once in my life). I only began to feel better once my wedding coordinator undressed me in the parking lot and loosened my corset. Apparently, the corset’s only purpose was to keep me from breathing, since– according to pictures– I looked the EXACT same in my dress during the reception, when my innards were allowed in their rightful places.

I’d also be remiss not to mention The Great Shoe Disintegration of 2015. Aaron’s white uniform shoes were so rotted that they literally started falling to pieces during pictures. He made a trail of white powder and tiny fragments until his right sole was completely nonexistent. Luckily, one of the guys in the sword arch was only half a size larger than Aaron, so he gave Aaron his shoes to wear for the rest of the night. I’m still uncertain what the shoeless man wore on his feet during the reception, but– if you read this, sir– many thanks.

wedding blog 9

 

Q: What was your favorite part of the reception?

A: I cannot possibly choose. I loved eating dinner alone with Aaron at our sweetheart table, overlooking all of our loved ones and seeing what a great time everyone was having. I loved listening to my dad sing, watching Aaron dance with his mom, and laughing/crying during the Best Man/MOH speeches. I couldn’t get enough of dancing with my friends, dancing with Aaron, and soaking in all of the joy. At one point, Aaron and I went into the Bride & Groom suite for a quiet moment to ourselves, which was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. We expressed to each other how in love we were (are), why we were (are) so grateful, and reminded ourselves that this was IT. It was all happening, right outside those doors. Basically, it was the best night ever.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: Did anything crazy happen?

A: Apparently a blonde girl threw up on the dance floor at the very beginning of the night…but no one could point her out afterwards, and we’ve exhausted the possibilities on the guest list to no avail. Aaron thinks the story is a myth. I think we had a wedding crasher. Oh, also– my Phi Mu sisters lifted me onto their shoulders in an adrenaline-induced act of brute strength. That was pretty nuts, in my book. Especially since my wedding dress alone weighed more than any of the girls who picked me up.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: What is one thing you would have done differently?

A: Honestly, nothing. Everything went weirdly perfectly, and I’m so happy Aaron and I had a short engagement. I got stressed out for about two minutes at the reception when I was overwhelmed by all of the picture-taking, but I had roughly 15 friends immediately recognize my “I need wine” face, and was presented with a smorgasbord of wine glasses at an impressive rate of delivery. They all looked at each other in amusement when they flanked me at the same time with wine in tow. I LOVE MY FRIENDS.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: Did you and Aaron go to the after party?

A: Yep. I highly recommend designating an official after party venue for weddings, because the party kept rolling, and we did not want the night to end. After lots of beer, nachos, and general tomfoolery at our designated bar (open beer tab included– thanks for the amazing deal, O’Leary’s!), Aaron and I stole our friend’s Uber and made our way home. I only knew it was my friend’s Uber car because the driver answered her call on speaker phone, and I recognized her voice saying, “Um…it says you’re here, but I don’t think I see you..” Me: “HI LINDSEY IT’S SHANNON SORRY I STOLE YOUR UBER LOVE YOU THANKS FOR COMING.” Don’t worry, I Venmo’d her the next day.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/leyko-wedding

 

Q: What did you and Aaron do when you got home?

lips zipped gif

Leave a comment

Filed under General Musings, Relationships

Holy Moly, This is Happening

I have big news, you guys!! But first, calm down, I’m not:

  • Pregnant (don’t pretend you didn’t think it)
  • The Power Ball Winner
  • Cutting off all of my hair (oddly enough, this is everyone’s second favorite post-wedding question, close behind “are you pregnant yet?”)
  • Finally finished with unpacking our apartment

While all of those things would, indeed, be exciting announcements, I think this one is still pretty great:

I stepped down from my job last Friday and am going full-time with Generation grannY! WHAT. I know. This is crazy.

shocked gif

Here is what you can expect:

  1. A brand new website design, which I’ll launch in February with the help of an amazing web developer
  2. New content 4-5 days a week (once the new site is up)
  3. An array of lifestyle, entertainment, and self-help-ish posts…so basically everything you’re already used to seeing!
  4. Videos and podcasts (eventually)
  5. Pretty pictures
  6. Freak outs (from me) about how crazy I am for forgoing a normal 9-5 life
  7. Elation about how amazing life is, because I get to do what I love (a constant battle with #6)
  8. Tons of prayer, Starbucks, and wine

I still have a few days left in my current position, as well as some preparations to complete before Generation grannY morphs into its bigger, badder self, but I wanted to let you all know what is to come! I am so lucky to have a husband who pushes me to take risks for my dreams and wants to support me in every sense of the word, as well as to have a readership that makes me believe in the good that can come (and already has) from this blog.

Thank you to every single one of you who reads Generation grannY. I hope that we can continue together in building this super fun community! I’ll be asking for your help in spreading the word once everything is in place, and I already know how kind and generous your reactions will be. That unquestionable confidence in your love and support– from friends, family, acquaintances, and “strangers”– gives this dream legs to stand on. I only hope that I can continue to write in a way that betters your lives– be it through laughter, introspection, or faith. Hopefully all three. 🙂

See you tomorrow for Round 2 of The Bachelor Recaps!

2 Comments

Filed under General Musings

Fear of the Dark

I really wish I liked coffee. Everyone talks about the magical zest for life that accompanies the first sip, but I can’t bring myself to get past the fact that it tastes like oily dirt. I drink a tall soy chai latte every morning, which definitely helps the grieving process of no longer being in bed, but my hoity-toity Starbucks drink isn’t offered on a counter in the office all day.

This morning, I thought I was going to be late for a meeting (that no one bothered to tell me was cancelled…), so I skipped Starbucks and decided to muscle my way through life until lunchtime. Big mistake. I feel like the fact that I didn’t curl up on my boss’ couch and take a nap is honest-to-God proof that I’m a good employee. Ugh, millennials. 

at-least-i-had-on-underwear gif

I’m telling you all of this because I have not yet fully recovered from this morning’s caffeine depravation. My eyeballs still feel like led, and my brain still feels like it’s soaked in molasses. I want to apologize ahead of time if this post is not my best work. I’m choosing to blame it on the lack of Starbucks this morning, although some people might blame the red wine I drank last night at Girls Night…or because I woke up at 4 a.m. and was convinced that the bathrobe hanging on the back of my door was an intruder. I spent 15 minutes staring at it to see if it moved, 10 minutes telling myself it’s just a robe, and 60 minutes thinking about what I need to get at the grocery store.

My fear of the bathrobe is just a symptom of a greater issue: I am afraid of the dark. I hate when it’s dark inside while it’s dark outside (i.e. bedtime), dark inside while it’s light outside, or dark outside while it’s light inside. Whichever way you slice it, any sort of darkness elicits an impressive/alarming array of murder scenarios and escape plans in my head.

Last week in Virginia Beach, where the worst crimes are generally poorly executed boob jobs and PTA uprisings, a woman’s body was found floating in the water right next to my gym. I say “my gym” lightly because I haven’t been there since November. The woman has yet to be publicly identified, nor was the cause of death revealed, so naturally I’ve decided that she was a 27-year-old brunette who was brutally attacked by a stranger while her husband was out to sea.

Aaron and I drove past the emergency vehicles at the crime scene on our way to my dad’s house the day before Aaron deployed. We assumed that an older gentleman at the gym saw one too many colorful sports bras and keeled over, so we made a passing comment and continued onto our destination. Poor guy. At least he died happy.

Aaron left for two months the next morning, a few hours before I found out the truth behind the emergency vehicles. My dad and stepmom were returning home the next day, so I was required to return to their house that night to clean up the mess Aaron and I had made over the weekend while they were out of town. My parents have a 66” curved-screen T.V. and a hot tub. While the adults are away, the children will play. Anyway, the last thing Aaron and I cared about before parting ways for two months was restoring my father’s home, so I volunteered to do so by myself once Aaron was on the ship. That’s a very long way of saying that I ended up alone in my parents’ very large and shadowy home the night that I found out a body was found floating in the water just a mile away.

Like any reasonable grown adult would do, I kept a butcher knife next to me the entire time I was washing the dishes. True story: A friend of mine was once washing dishes when a man appeared in the window in front of her with a gun pointed at her head. Lucky for me, I have that image to harp on for the rest of my life. Especially on dark, rainy nights when I’m staring into a dark abyss that connects with the same waters from which a body was recovered.

After the most terrifying 45 minutes of my life (other than the time I thought I might be allergic to gluten), I drove home, which led to a new obstacle: Getting from my car to my apartment without being kidnapped, murdered, and dumped in the Lynnhaven River. Aaron and I park our cars in a secluded, wooded area behind our apartment so that we don’t have to hang decals in our car for the main parking lot. This is completely stupid, because we have two free decals sitting inside our apartment. It is also stupid because it left me in an absolute fit of terror the night I returned from my cleaning dad’s house. Jillian Michaels herself couldn’t make me sprint as fast as I did to my front door.

jillian michaels gif

Fear of the dark is fear of bad things happening, because we all know that evil tends to avoid exposure. Since darkness does, in fact, harbor more danger and anxiety, we should absolutely value the light. The same goes for our metaphysical lives. The more we fall into darkness— gossip, slander, gluttony, jealousy, hate, impatience, etc.— the more we become generally anxious and vulnerable to misery.

Recently, I found myself extremely frustrated with a catty situation. I’m not exposed to cattiness often, given that I’ve somehow surrounded myself with piles of girlfriends who treat everyone they meet respectfully and lovingly. They even challenge me to reel it in when my venting becomes spiteful, and vice versa. When people say that women are catty and mean, I simply cannot relate from firsthand experience. Maybe I’m just lucky— or maybe cattiness turns me off, so I naturally drift away from those types of people. I don’t know. Either way, I’m not well-versed in handling Mean Girl situations. (I plan on writing a whole different blog on cattiness among women, so stay tuned for that one.)

This recent subjection to malice caught me at a time I was very weak, which meant that the darkness easily spread and became an overarching weight on my shoulders. My sadness in missing Aaron for the past 11 days left me more vulnerable to other dark emotions rearing their heads, as well. When this woman, and even her family, took not-so-subtle stabs at me on social media out of perceived (and nonexistent) competition, I let my annoyance cast shadows on my happiness. My friends let me vent for a little while before reminding me to stay kind and maintain my composure by not responding, but internally, I could not let it go. For a few days straight, I was in a cloud of anxiety. The frustration with the cattiness paved the way for bitterness towards Aaron’s job (even though I am normally so proud of him and want him to do what he’s doing), fretfulness about my professional future, and apathy about my health, fitness, and general productivity. Darkness breeds darkness.

I’ve decided (always a choice!) to turn the lights on again— praying when I feel angry, taking my friends’ advice, forgiving the person who lashed out because of her own battles with darkness that have nothing to do with me, and even participating in a Zumba class…because how can you possibly be upset when dancing like an African tribal queen? It’s amazing to see how living in the light has lifted my overall anxiety and vulnerability to life’s curveballs.

Next time you’re up in the middle of night, convinced that the creaking from your heater is actually a sociopath breaking into your home, try focusing on this metaphor of Light vs. Dark. Let that anxiety serve as a reminder of how it feels to let darkness into your heart. It’s exhausting. Coming face to face with darkness is inevitable, but overcoming fear/anxiety is mental and spiritual, so use prayer, scripture, positive people, and maybe even some new dance moves to serve as your Armor of Light.

armor of light

4 Comments

Filed under General Musings

10 Ways to Survive January, a.k.a. One Long Monday

Congratulations, everybody! You made it another year! Another New Year when the Mayan calendar’s “prophetic power” didn’t kill us, our computers didn’t blow up, and The Sleepers vs. The Partiers whose New Year’s Eve plans jammed our newsfeeds didn’t become any more interesting. (No hate. I’ve posted a NYE picture before, and I will do it again.)

I personally rang in 2016 with red wine, horror stories (don’t ask), and girl talk around the dining room table with a few friends in Va Beach, but went home by 10:30 p.m. to FaceTime with Aaron until midnight since it was one of the few times he was/will be in port—therefore able to call me—these next 8 weeks. We kissed the computer screen at midnight, which is really weird when you think about it, but seemed cute at the time. #21stcenturylovers

Now, we find ourselves in January. The Monday of the calendar year. The month where you feel fat from the weekend holidays, dread going back to work, and don’t know how you’ll possibly make it to Friday April, when people start socializing again.

I didn’t get particularly fat over the holidays, primarily because Aaron and I spent Christmas just unwrapping wedding gifts and cuddling instead of eating, however I’ve made up for lost time in the last five days. Since Aaron left town, I have eaten the following…in single sittings:

  • ½ a large pizza, which I ordered for lunch. LUNCH, you guys.
  • 1 full size bag of BBQ potato chips, ½ tub of hummus, 4 Red Baron mini pizza bites
  • 1 personal pan Red Baron frozen deep dish pizza, ½ bag of chocolate covered almonds
  • Another tub of hummus

Basically, I’ve turned into a 15-year-old boy. Living on pizza and glued to the television watching MTV’s The Challenge. My name is Shannon Leyko, and I am here today because I’m in a plan-hole (Aaron’s words).

I spent the last 5 months of my life planning, all while attached at the hip with Aaron. Now, I have nothing to plan, my partner-in-crime is busy being a very productive member of society by protecting our country’s waters, and I’m just over here avoiding organizing our apartment. I need a plan.

I’ve planned my plan, which felt good, so now I’m showered and at Starbucks writing this post, which were Steps 1-3. Killing it. I got slightly sidetracked when my bridesmaids and I group-texted this morning for about two [very entertaining] hours, but I pulled through.

Yesterday, while I did not shower, I did manage to get out of bed to meet friends for some day drinks before going to my parents’ house to eat 25 lbs of mac & cheese and 25 ounces of pork tenderloin for dinner (add it to the list…). As I was reestablishing my social skills with the world over drinks, one of my girlfriends casually mentioned that getting out of the house was her biggest mission of the day. Thank God! I am not alone in the fight against becoming a WALL-E person during the month of January.

Wall-E-2-fat-humans

Since most of you probably won’t brush your hair until Monday morning (most likely the day you read this…but surprise, I’m actually writing this on Saturday!), I’ve decided to put together some helpful tips for how to survive January without considering your closest friend to be the delivery guy.

(If you’re on a “New Near, New Me” kick and already going to the gym among other productive activities, then I’m super proud of you. I mean it. But if, by the very likely chance, you only last two weeks…come back and read this then.)

1. Shave your legs

No, seriously. At least once a week, shave. It’ll make you feel more human, plus your jeans won’t pull on your leg spikes, which is the worst.

2. Make plans after work

Again, I’m not unrealistic. You don’t have to go out more than once a week on a school night, but even if it’s to watch Concussion in theatres, give yourself the opportunity to lay eyes on humans that aren’t your coworkers, roommates, or family. It will remind you that there’s a great big world outside of your couch.

3. Read a book

It’s tempting to let T.V. or social media suck your time, but you can be just as cozy with a good book. Your brain and eyeballs will thank you.

4. Have a project

For me, it’s making a wedding scrapbook, writing thank you cards, and making our apartment livable. Find something to do that has an end product, because end products feel really good.

5. Go to the gym

I know. I’m the worst for even writing this. But moving your body will make you feel one thousand percent better. It doesn’t need to be the focus of your whole life like those “inspirational” people you see on Facebook (I salute them, though), but try to break a sweat a few days a week. Plus, sweat will make you want to shower, which we all know takes a little extra motivation in January.

6. Put on your favorite jeans every 5 days

If they start getting tight, lay off the pizza. Don’t let things get out of hand.

chicken wings gif

7. Try something new

Aaron and I were supposed to take a glass blowing class this month, but our plans were deterred by his last minute orders to deploy. Still, I am learning about and researching a new skill while he’s gone: photography. Knowledge is power. And what is more powerful than knowing you can use a firey torch to make a vase, or that you can take a high quality picture of your favorite bottle of wine?

8. Take one trip

You don’t need to go to Florida or anything (unless you have the money, then by all means GO RIGHT NOW), but take a mini road trip to visit friends, or spend the weekend in a new city a few hours away, just to explore.

9. Buy a new pair of boots or a scarf

Look good, feel good.

10. Watch The Bachelor on Monday nights

And read Generation grannY episode recaps on Tuesdays. You’ll laugh…if not at my recaps, then just at the show itself. Plus you’ll feel like you’re part of a little online community, which is 5% sad, and 95% really fun.

 

There you have it. I will take my own advice and lay off the pizza so that Aaron doesn’t come home to a wife he doesn’t recognize. #letmeupgradeyou

Happy Monday January, all!

4 Comments

Filed under General Musings, Lists

2015: A Lot Can Happen in A Year

calendar

A lot can happen in a year.

Keep that in mind when you feel the singlest of all singles, are miserable in your job, have no money, don’t love the city in which you live, and lack a close circle of friends nearby. I’ll give you some insight into my 2015 as a pretty spot-on example of this truth.

Most of you know that in 2015, I met the love of my life, got engaged to him, and married him. But that was just the second half! (Wowza.)

During the first two months of the year, I reached a level of unhappiness that I could barely handle. I was struggling to get over an ex who broke my heart (shocker), pseudo-dating a new guy that was not at all ready for a relationship (neither was I), living in a house with people who had a different lifestyle than me (not bad, just different), lost in a town where I had no roots, and quickly approaching a breaking point with a job that was tedious (to me) and occasionally– due to one or two higher-ups– demeaning.

By mid-February, I [finally] started feeling the weight of hurt from my ex lift from my shoulders, had an awesome– albeit very single– Valentine’s Galentine’s Day with my roommate, and began delving back into my lifelong passion for horseback riding as a way to rejuvenate my love for life. With those little rays of light as fuel, I began actively choosing to be happier via deliberate change (my favorite mantra). From then on, things started falling into place.

I rededicated myself to church, prayer, and my relationship with God, all of which had fallen by the wayside due to my frustration with life and in turn, God. I took serious steps towards relocating, which led to an apartment and job opportunity in Virginia Beach. I said goodbye to an office full of [mostly] people I loved, friends that I valued very much (I had amazing friends, just not a unified circle), my favorite Starbucks barista (everyone has one…right?), and nearly two years worth of memories. A total life overhaul.

Most people don’t even realize that I lived in Arlington for two years. Everyone assumes I lived in New York City, then moved straight back to Virginia Beach. Sometimes my years in Arlington feel like a dream, when in reality, they were 22 of the most challenging and growth-filled months of my life. It was tough to uproot the little life I had created, but I was paving the way for so much more.

I met my future husband a few hours after I signed my new lease in Virginia Beach in April. The day after that, I landed a new job. A month later, I officially moved “home.” By July, I knew Aaron and was the man with whom I would spend my life. I was engaged by August, married by December. I’m still very close to some of my old coworkers/boss, live one block from the beach and five minutes from my loving family, am more financially secure than I’ve been in a long time, feel spiritually refreshed, and have an awesome circle of friends who all live on the same road as me. I still talk to all of my friends from NYC and Arlington (one of them for 3 hours last night), while also having more time to dedicate to this blog, singing, and other hobbies I love.

I started out 2015 in one of the biggest slumps I’ve ever experienced and ended 2015 happier than I knew was possible.

2015

My life is proof that, yes, a lot can change in a year. But you know one thing that hasn’t? How much I absolutely cherish this blog and all of you who read it.

In the last 365 days, I was stopped at my college homecoming, bars, and random events by the most inspiring and uplifting Generation grannY readers who wanted to introduce themselves. I received encouraging and heartfelt messages from people I’ve never met all around the country. I was told about friends of friends of friends who have discussions that spur from topics on this blog. My heart was absolutely overwhelmed with love and motivation!

There is no feeling quite like connecting with the dynamic, kind, and thoughtful strangers and friends who support Generation grannY. It has become something of a community, and “thank you for reading” does not even begin to cover my gratitude. Writing here brings me joy, and every time you share one of my posts, comment, send me a message, or tell me that you appreciated something I wrote, that joy is amplified and multiplied tenfold.

I love you all! I can’t WAIT to share with you some BIG changes for Generation grannY coming in 2016, and to keep growing this incredible circle of followers (official and nonofficial!). Cheers to a new year! Remember– there’s always opportunity to make it even more wonderful than the last!

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, General Musings

The Reason I’m Getting Married

I haven’t written a post in over two weeks, which is awful, but holy wedding crunch. Anyone who has had a big wedding knows that the final few weeks are insane with things you simply cannot do until the end, once you have a final guest count and subsequent names. I won’t bore you with the details, but you should know that I have two major blisters on my hands from a hot glue gun, the cases of wine for the rehearsal dinner may or may not show up in time, and the table layout is still in process for its 123rd revision. C’est la vie!

In much better news, I’m obsessed with Aaron and can’t wait to marry him. Although I try not to write many posts that are solely about me, myself, and I, Wedding Week calls for something personal. So I’m going to tell you why I’m so excited and ready to marry Aaron. A lot of people have asked, “How do you know he’s the one?” Well, here’s my answer, and hopefully it will give my single ladies something to hold out for, as well as remind my married readers of their own love.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/aaron-shannon-engagement

From the very start of our relationship, Aaron has given me no reason to worry. He has never ignored a text, acted questionably, or seemed unsure. He was open with me from day one about his past and kept me in the loop every step of the way (as much as was necessary) with the process of transitioning a long-time on-again, off-again ex out of his life. I bring this up only because I have so many friends who tell me of their insecurities with a the guy they’re dating, whom they think is interested in someone else or is still holding onto a different relationship. I’ve been there, too. It’s horrible, and makes the girl feel second best, crazy, and unsatisfied.

Aaron’s transparency from the get-go– not to mention how clear he was about his intentions with me– set our foundation on trust, openness, and pure devotion. I’ve never had to be anxious over what he’s thinking, wonder how he feels about me, or overanalyze his actions. The ease I’ve felt from day one is something I’d never, ever experienced, and is the reason I finally understand the sentiment “when you know, you know.” I used to think that phrase was simply describing an electric chemistry, but in reality, it’s describing an unwavering peace. The way he treats me gives me full confidence in our commitment, which is something I’m grateful for every single day.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/aaron-shannon-engagement

But we can’t ignore the chemistry. It’s ridiculous. I mean, have you seen the man? He’s hot. Beyond the physical, we understand each other so well that it feels like he’s an extension of me. Whether it’s laughing until it hurts at some obscure thing that comes out of one of our mouths, him holding me as I cry because American Sniper is the saddest movie ever (and that turns into a cryfest about missing my mom because I simply cannot separate my emotions—I’ve tried), or talking about world issues and spirituality, we’re constantly bonding. I’ve never been more myself, and at my best. He’s my favorite person to hang out with, but I also want to kiss him all the time. It’s really fun.

Compatibility is key, too. We both love to travel, so I can fully support him in the Coast Guard because I understand military life, plus I love living in new places and meeting new people. I also love seeing how much he enjoys his career, and am excited to support him in that—which includes encouraging his decision to accept a new position that he’s been wanting for years, but means he will now deploy for two months just one week after we return from our honeymoon. Gulp.

On top of that, Aaron and I have the same dreams and goals for our future family, both love adventures, both tackle our relationship with direct intention and regular conversations about how we can be better for each other, and both really like sushi. And wine. And Singapore rice noodles. And New Girl. We’ve learned where the other stands with God and found a church that can help us both grow. We have developed guidelines for our behavior so that temptations never tear us apart. We’ve invested in friendships that we know are good for us as a couple and as individuals, including our wise, esteemed, and giving mentors who facilitated our premarital counseling. Basically, we like the same things and approach life the same way, which is just amazing.

Aaron also simply loves me for who I am without asking me to change, yet challenges me to be better. It’s a balancing act that he manages so perfectly. He is passionate about my passions, constantly pushing me to invest more time and resources into writing and singing, never tiring (at least on the surface) of listening to me practice or hearing ideas I have about a blog post. Also, my sassiness (my friends know I’m just a littleeeee Type A and kind of a firecracker) doesn’t upset him because A) he’s insanely even-keeled, and B) he claims that my sassiness is intertwined with my creativity and passion for life, which are two things he says he loves most about me. He dreams big, and so do I. Whenever I’m apologizing profusely for snapping at him or freaking out over something dumb (which I do try to curb, I promise), he just hugs me and says he thinks it’s funny and that it’s why he loves me so much. “Sassiness comes with the territory of someone artistic and invested in the world.” Am I lucky, or am I lucky?

Plus he never makes me feel “crazy.” He lets me scroll through his Instagram or Facebook feed when I get bored of my own, and even gives me his phone to answer texts for him while he’s driving. Total trust. No secrets. Complete unity. And even when I do do something I feel guilty about, like look at old pictures of his out of curiosity, I always tell him what I did, because I know instead of being mad and defensive, he’ll just say, “I mean, curiosity is natural. I don’t blame you. Just know that if I’m ever planning a surprise for you through my phone, you’ll probably ruin it.” Yeah. I’ll keep him.

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/aaron-shannon-engagement

I adore Aaron for who he is, too. He is kind, open, and enthusiastic. He has a unique and impressive way of seeing past exteriors and getting to know people for their souls…almost to the point that I’m concerned for his safety. [Ex: A week or two into getting to know each other, he was driving back from a quick trip to Philly, and we talked on the phone his whole drive home. While talking, he picked up a hitchhiker and told me he’d call me back in 5 minutes or less once he dropped the hitchhiker off, only 2 miles away. Twenty minutes later, I thought he had been murdered, so I called him back. He said he was stopping for gas and getting some food, taking his sweet time– meanwhile I’m in the hot tub thinking that a hitchhiker just dismembered the potential love of my life.] But I love how he so naturally exemplifies the message I work hard to spread in terms of breaking stereotypes and embracing differences.

Then there’s the fact that Aaron is as intelligent as he is open, with an engineering degree from the Coast Guard Academy, and a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland. This comes in very useful, like when we were measuring and cutting our escort cards at Kinkos, or when our fridge didn’t fit into its wall slot. 🙂

I’m in love with a well-trained handyman who can fix anything, feels strongly about supporting our family, and is just an all-around respectable husband-to-be. Not to mention he’s a renaissance man who taught himself to make jewelry, supports the arts, and owns a Ferrari (casual). And nothing is below him or “out of his comfort zone.” He has been an equal partner in planning our wedding, never wanting to miss a vendor meeting, getting excited about making decorations (it’s truly amazing to witness), and even returning the swimsuits I bought for our honeymoon once I realized that they were way too expensive, but I was too embarrassed to go back to the boutique and return them. He’s a real gem.

I could go on and on…about how he gives me a massage almost every day (and has read books on how to make them professional-grade), is an amazing cook, how much fun we have during mundane errands, the way that he just scoops me up in his strong, manly arms to kiss me when I’m in the middle of cleaning, how any little argument or disagreement is solved incredibly fast due to our mutual dedication to deliberate communication, the way he finishes my sentences, how he always calls me “the littlest”– which is both false and my favorite thing ever, and how he texts me randomly throughout the day just to say “I love you.” But I need to stop myself at some point, I guess. Let’s just say it’s good. It really is as good as it sounds.

I don’t know how interesting or beneficial all of this will be to my readers, but I wanted to write it all down for me, as well. Something I can come back to when we inevitably go through a hard time, or when I miss him while he’s out to sea. I am so honored, blessed, excited, and ready to marry Aaron this Saturday. I love him wholly, and can’t wait to take his name and call him my family.

Happy Wedding Week!

View More: http://abbygracephotography.pass.us/aaron-shannon-engagement

Leave a comment

Filed under General Musings, Relationships

Not Your Average Starbucks Red Cup Opinion

My take on the Starbucks red cup “controversy” is different than most, so buckle up. This blog post will probably make people touchy, but I’m going to do my best not to cause any freak outs. If you’re prone to freaking out, I ask that you drink two glasses of wine before reading anything past my disclaimer statement, which is:

Christians definitely shouldn’t (and from what I gather, DON’T…) care if a Starbucks cup features snowflakes or not.

Given that disclaimer, you should be aware that this post is not a bunch of words explaining why Christians shouldn’t care about The [Plain] Red Cup and making fun of the ones who do—which is basically the only take I’ve seen on this subject. Just a friendly warning.

As Aaron put it when I explained to him my idea for this post, “So, you’re complaining about the people complaining about the people complaining about the red cup?”

EXACTLY.confused gif

Summary of Red Cup Gate 2015: A random dude posted a video on Youtube about the fact that Starbucks is serving coffee out of plain red cups this winter, instead of its usual red cups with drawings of snowflakes, snowmen, sleds, etc. Somehow, he decided that meant that Starbucks is firmly anti-Christian (since only Christians love all things wintery…?). A few hundred people agreed with him. Now, a few hundred thousand people have decided to tell him and his agreers that they’re idiots.

I, personally, haven’t seen a single person on my newsfeed say that he or she is offended by The [Plain] Red Cup. From what I gather, a very small sect of people have jumped aboard that crazy train. Because yes, it is rather crazy to say that removing holiday symbols from a red cup is a form of persecution…especially since literally none of those symbols were directly related to Jesus. More on that later, though. In terms of what I’ve seen online, the only opinions I’ve actually read are not posted by offended Christians, rather they are posts making fun of Christians who were offended (who again?) or Christians defending themselves with funny memes. Has no one stepped back to realize that, just like the majority of Muslims are not terrorists, the majority of Christians are not elitists? Why was it necessary for this to become an attack and defense situation?

We’ve GOT to stop radically grouping people together. Not all frat boys disrespect women. Not all lawyers lack integrity. Not all pageant girls are dumb. Not all basketball players cheat on their wives. Not all Republicans are old fashioned. Not all Democrats are bad with money. Not all skinny people have an eating disorder. Not all fat people are unhappy. The list goes on and on and on.

From a Christian’s perspective, the only thing I find frustrating about the Starbucks ordeal is that it’s one more way Christianity is being discredited for the sake of inclusion. I do not understand why inclusion and Christianity are seen as mutually exclusive. [I’m not saying that a plain cup is discrediting Christians. I’m saying that the initial complainers, and even more so—the responses to those complainers, are discrediting Christians. Who gives 2 flips about the cup itself?] If our society wants inclusion, why can’t kids say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at school if they want to, and omit it if they don’t? Why exclude the children who want to include God? Why can’t Christians believe the Bible without being made fun of? Why does a stigma surround people with deep biblical convictions? Why are people allowed to strongly believe that there is no God, but people are not allowed to strongly believe that there is a God? This is just as marginalizing as the other way around.

I know the argument is that non-Christians don’t “shove” their beliefs down other people’s throats. Well, I see post after post about things that are against my beliefs on Facebook…a whole lot more “shoving” of things I don’t believe down my throat than I see Christians doing. Also, stating beliefs is not “shoving.” It’s just being true to personal faith (unless it’s directly attacking another group of people). On that note, I also know the argument that atheists or other religions’ beliefs don’t harm people of differing lifestyles like Christian beliefs supposedly do. But those things that harm other people’s lives have nothing to do with Christianity. Old-school Christians aren’t racist—racists are racist. Christians aren’t homophobic—homophobes are homophobic. They may relate those bigoted stances back to Christianity, just like Jihad-extremists relate violence back to Islam, but that’s just God-awful (pun intended) interpretation…not that the religion itself is bad. See the difference?

Back to The [Plain] Red Cup. Yes, Christmas is a Christian holiday at its roots. But I do not believe that the holiday is celebrated widely because Christians are asserting their dominance in our country (at least, not anymore). Far more people associate Christmas with Santa Clause and vacation now-a-days than they do with Jesus. Right or wrong, that’s just how it is. Therefore, anything with snowflakes or Christmas trees or even a manger is not some big slap in the face to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, etc. Those symbols are just little representations of a season that is supposedly a family and fun-filled time of year—for all.

starbucks red cup

I honestly see nothing to do with Christianity on these old Starbucks cups to begin with…I just see winter. And something that is either a space ship or a deformed turtle. Unclear.

I don’t think Starbucks removing Christmas/winter symbols from their cups was some extraordinary step in their company towards inclusion…because they were never exclusive to begin with. They’re not all of a sudden an open, modern company who supports everybody. I’m pretty sure they already fit that bill…just with a few extra snowflakes. The cup doesn’t represent all of these things the media is now making it represent. It’s just a new design (a boring one, to be honest) that probably costs them less money, but they’re spinning it to be a “blank canvas for whatever people want to associate with the holiday season.” You’re not fooling me, Starbs. You just don’t want to pay for artists and ink. Solid spin by the marketing team, though. Many props.

So instead of making fun of Christians for “their” stupidity and elitism, yet again, why don’t we all stop jumping on trains that never should have left the station. There will be a new controversy that annoys us to death on our newsfeeds each week unless we stop creating divides for no reason. Yes, the small group of Christians that got offended in the first place created the initial divide, but the divide is about 20,000x deeper due to the influx of cheeky responses.

Although I don’t have the time or energy to delve into many of the little points I made in this post, please know that I understand that other people interpret things differently than I do, and that they’ve have had unique experiences shaping their reactions to this controversy—experiences to which I cannot easily relate. This blog is written and shaped by my own interpretations and experiences, so if you don’t understand or disagree with anything I said, please feel free to ask me (nicely) what I meant or why I feel the way I do. I think that’s what we should all do when we don’t see eye to eye, instead of making assumptions and trivializing opposing perspectives. 🙂

2 Comments

Filed under General Musings