Friday Five: The New Year

Remember the golden age in blogging, when everyone had a Blogspot or Xanga? When you joined a blogring and had an instant, engaged audience?  When posts were like daily journal entries instead of carefully curated articles (frequently sponsored) and made-for-Pinterest graphics?

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I do. And I miss it! Not that there’s anything wrong with today’s blogging trends—but I’d post so much more often if I released myself from the pressure to only share essays.  

So I’m starting a new thing: Friday Five. I’ll share 5 little thoughts or maybe a comedic-memoir-style list or something else that comes in 5’s each week. I think keeping a loose format will be the key to actually posting consistently. 

1. I just spent 8 minutes on the internet trying to find a similar phrase to “without further ado” because it feels overused. But I also didn’t want to just start the list without a transition. Google had nothing! So without further ado, we are now in the Five portion of this post.

2. I failed spectacularly at my “December Daily” project. 20 stories by the end of the month? All with unique imagery and coordinating titles? It was just too lofty a goal. I’m still happy with the fact that I tried to make writing more of a habit; I’m happy that I got a lot of stories started (to share eventually ) and I’m exceptionally happy with The Gift. So maybe it wasn’t a specTACular failure. If I post something Christmas-themed at a random point this year, you’ll know where it came from.

3. I finally  see a light at the end of the tunnel with this illness. I’ve never had the flu before and good grief, it is as bad if not worse than everyone says. I’m so glad Abbott got over his in time to go back to school, because I need a few extra bed rest/ER binge watch days. I’ve never seen the point of getting a flu shot before but these last few weeks may have changed my mind! 

this is your brain on influenza. photo by Fabio Jock

this is your brain on influenza. photo by Fabio Jock

4. New Year’s Resolutions are great. They really are. Sometimes starting fresh/with a blank slate/setting intentions is absolutely good and necessary. But where I am right now, my “resolution” is just to keep doing what I’m doing. I am by no means saying I’m perfect or exactly where I want to be! But I am so good at starting things; So good at doing a re-brand, setting a theme, using all the drama and fanfare to make changes. I am terrible at following through to completion. Last year I set goals to be better at two things: showing up, and finishing. I think I have succeeded in adding those things to who I am; but it will always be a work in progress—they don’t come naturally to me. So this year, I want to continue . No big fresh starts, just small, quiet ones. For me—that’s the key to success.

I love seeing people’s one little word projects, or hearing other ways they intentionally incorporate a topic or trait into their lives. I’ve never done the actual OLW project, just casually picked one that seemed right and thought about it from time to time ( last year: “Revive”, this year: “Dwell”) . Do you choose a word or participate? I’d love to hear in the comments!

5. Do your kids watch The Lion Guard? We don’t have cable/WiFi/local tv at home, so every week we pick a few dvds from the library. I chose this show for him while Abbott was at school, and it turns out he loves it! But he had me hide his eyes at a *very* mild peril scene with the hyenas. I think that means that he is DEFINITELY not ready for the actual Lion King Movie! insert cry laugh emoji  

Well, we did it! We made it to the end! To say thanks for reading, I’d like to buy you a coffee. Local friends, I’ll even deliver it (if our schedules allow)! Internet friends, we’ll work out a gift card. All you’ve got to do is leave a comment—anything at all, blog or non-blog related. Make sure you add your email address in the comment form or leave your Instagram handle in the body. I’ll choose one winner and announce in the next Friday Five post!  

Thanks for making it this far! Your reward is a photo of me from that around that same blogging era. Until next time!

I had my first pair of Vans and was very cool

I had my first pair of Vans and was very cool

The Gift

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Of all the memories I have with my dad growing up, I think our most bonding moment was wrapping presents together.

Present wrapping was something he took very, very seriously. He was rarely the one to pick out or purchase gifts, but Mom always left the wrapping up to him. I don’t think he would be considered a detail-oriented person overall, but in his work as an aircraft mechanic and his position as official-family-wrapper, he was meticulous. There is a formula for the perfectly wrapped present; steps that must be followed in order. The selection of scissors and tape is vital to the overall success. I remember being sent to rummage through all the junk drawers, closets, and storage containers for a specific pair year after year that somehow never ended up designated “wrapping paper only” and packed away with Christmas stuff.

It was one of those things I didn’t know I’d take with me when I left. When it comes time to gift something, I’ve always chosen paper over bag. His voice and those images are in my head from the very first unrolling. The scissors start to glide and instantly I am hiding from gift recipients in different rooms, different houses, different states—but always with my dad, on the floor, eagerly watching. He is explaining every step; I’m lining up edges, making sure the pattern matches, placing the tape as hidden as possible, making sure creases come to perfect angles. I’m flipping the box over, hearing him describe how to trim and fold all the flaps evenly before placing the last bit of tape. 

This is different than a lot of my other memories that surround him during my growing up. There is no dark shadow over it, no reminder that our relationship has been complicated over the years. There is no sweet moment turned bitter by knowledge and maturity. It is just me and him. Every step reminding me of him purposely taking the time to show me something he cared about. Those memories giving way to other times he worked hard in meticulous detail to do something with me; for me. Like the time he built a doghouse for my beanie baby, Little Joe. I told him what I was dreaming up, and he just went out to the garage and built it to my exact specifications (half red, half white, black chimney, and a curved door that actually opened)!

Now that I’m a parent, I get that. When Abbott has an interest, I do everything I can to cultivate it. I love to surprise him with things that make him smile. And the times I can show him something I care about, and teach him how to do it enough that he cares about it, too? It fills me up! It feels like I have achieved the highest purpose or honor, and we have something beyond just blood to connect us forever. Growing my relationship with my son helps me understand my relationship with my parents. It brings us closer together, and helps to heal old wounds.

I told my husband all this while I was wrapping Christmas gifts last night. He said that I mention it every single year. I didn’t realize that...how important it actually is to me. 

I taped the last flap of the last gift in place. I peeled off the backing and put a bow in the top right corner (where bows are supposed to go, always). It sat there on the floor in all its beauty: the item inside, the thought behind it, the product of what my dad took the time to teach me; the knowledge that I am the person I am today because of the things he added to me, both on purpose—in painstaking detail—and without even knowing what it would become in me. 

It is a beautiful thing, and I can’t help but be thankful. I love my Dad.  

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Images by Susie Ho and Kira auf der Heide

The In-Between

Welcome to my “December Daily” project! My goal is to dedicate serious time to writing each day this month. I want to have at least 25 stories by January 1st. Some will be just for our family yearbook; but I hope to post frequently, as “sharing” is currently the part of writing I’m struggling with most. They’ll be more laid back and conversational than my normal style, and I hope you’ll enjoy.
-Brit

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I'm not in the mood for Christmas this year.

Not in a terribly scrooge-like way; and perhaps “not in the mood” isn't the best way to describe it. I just don't have the same can't-wait-to-decorate, celebrate, make magic like I usually do. I'm fully aware of the several factors that may be influencing my frame of mind:

-We spent thanksgiving out of town, staying as long as we possibly could—which lead to a marathon of a weekend—which made for an exhausting start to the week—which might have contributed to the cold that hit me like a train and kept in me in bed several days in a row. No one feels festive after all that.
-We won't be able to spend Christmas with my side of the family, and that's always a little hard.
-This is the first holiday season since losing my father-in-law, and that's always a little hard, too.

But after considering all those things and reflecting for awhile, I decided it's not foundationally a lack of Christmas spirit I’m feeling. It's that we're in a season of in-between.

Life has seasons of trial, rest, sickness, grief, joy, waiting, expectancy, work, struggle—and I would consider all of those completely different categories. This one, being in-between, is somewhat strange to describe. We aren't waiting for an answer or for a specific event; we have goals and desires for our family. We have game plans (from A-Z) on how to achieve them. We know what to do and how to put the work in, and we're crossing off the small goals on the way to bigger ones. But similar to a season of waiting (though less uncertain), we're just not at the place we know we're going yet.

One of the goals (the easiest one to describe and share, at least) is buying a house. We've more than overstayed our welcome in our current home. It's hard to want to put up a tree in a living room that's already too small. It's hard to lovingly arrange decorations in a place that doesn't feel like home, especially when I don't really want it to feel like home anymore. Right now, it has become just a passing lane on our journey.
That’s just something tangible. There are many more personal things keeping me and Anthony both feeling we're in an in-between place.

The real stuff that “Christmas” is made of—the pause, the wonder, the magic—it's just not appealing this year. I don't want to pause. I/We have worked hard to get here and it's finally paying off in progress. I want to stay focused! And I don't feel as inspired to create magic for Abbott, when he has grown (so recently!) enough to have real conversations—actual exchanges of thought with him about the world he sees. I still want to protect his innocence and sense of wonder of course, but these talks we've been having where He's processing the knowledge/feeling that Jesus is a very real thing, and what exactly that means to him—these are incredible. They fill my heart and spirit like I never imagined possible. They are sweeter to me than any North Pole fairy tale.

I know the value of Christmas spirit and the Christmas season. I know the value of fairy tales and have no intention of breaking the real news about Santa Claus yet. I understand how important it is to experience small moments and savor them. I actually consider that one of my strengths! I can point to multiple small, but eventually life-altering moments through the course of my life where I stopped and took everything in. I purposely cataloged every physical thing around me, every person in every relationship, every thought and emotion I felt; collecting those things because they'd never be the same again. I will certainly continue to do that!
So this is not another sentimental Instagram-caption-reminder to enjoy the little things. This is, if you need it, the prompting to give yourself permission to just be who you are and where you are right now; and not have to particularly enjoy it. I’m glad that I'm not content with who and where I am right now—because if I was, I would never move forward to anything else. I think a little discontentment is sometimes good. I remain focused on my bigger goals and aware of the small choices I need to make daily to get there.

I promise I will enjoy this Christmas season. Reluctantly putting up the tree and unpacking my beloved nutcrackers warmed my heart up a little bit. Hearing Abbott declare excitedly, “Wow! I waited all year! It's beautiful! Call Nana, Papa, Josh, Kimmy, Austin, they will love it.” warmed my heart up considerably. I'm not a scrooge, a Grinch, or even an Elsa. I'm not a cliché small-town Hallmark movie character, either. I am just in-between. And right here, here I am.

Photos by Kari Shea & Tyler Delgado

Photos by Kari Shea & Tyler Delgado

Puddles

I have never been happier to be a mom than I am right now. 

 Way to go, Hampton Inn.

 Way to go, Hampton Inn.

I think I always pictured having kids when I pictured my future, but never as my main focus. Never as a stay at home mom, and for sure never this young. I always thought I'd get a degree and a creative job with crazy hours, do lots of traveling, be on my own for awhile...and then maybe settle down in my 30s. Yet here I am at 24, with a 3 1/2 year old and almost 5 years of marriage under my belt. (But I'm pretty glad God's plans overrode mine.)

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My focus shifted after I realized I was going to settle down so young, and for awhile I kind of lost my identity in the process of becoming a mom. I know it happens to a lot of people! Regardless of where you're at in life, having a child changes so many things at once. It's impossible to adequately prepare for. As I feel like I've mentioned before, I'm just recently coming to terms with who/what God wants me to be, and I'm more content than I knew possible. I'm still on a journey...but I'm really living vs. surviving.

One of the things I have a newfound passion for is making the best life possible for my son. Yes, of course I've done that in different ways as long as he's been alive! But I mean really putting an emphasis on it. When he was younger, we had to focus a lot on his physical health, or that of our close family members. And for a long time, my greatest desire was a sibling for him, thinking that would make all of us happy. But when I finally surrendered to the fact that I am where I'm supposed to be, who I'm supposed to be right now--I was finally able to embrace and grow the relationship I have with him. We are all better people because of it!

While visiting friends & family recently, we were able to take a little detour to the beach. We didn't have a whole lot of time, and the weather wasn't obliging, but all of us really wanted Abbott to see the ocean for the first time. It's just one of those experiences every one should have! Even though we had to adjust plans and expectations, his reaction didn't disappoint. I loved seeing him take it all in.  

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As fascinating as the ocean was...the puddles left by the morning's storms were equally (if not more) fun. He took the liberty of splashing in each. and. every. one. I shot away and looking through the photos later, I was so glad to see how many really captured the "essence" of who Abbott is right now, and memories I hope he'll keep forever. 

Here are some stories for my Abbott: 

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I want you to remember being silly. I hope that stays a part of your personality! I hope I remember to take a step back and just let you do you sometimes...even if that means running after seagulls yelling, "QUACK QUACK!!"  

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I want you to remember the carefreeness that is so fleeting in childhood. Here, you aren't worried one bit about the people staring at you a few feet away; or the fact that you don't have dry socks/shoes to ride home in; or even what nasty germs lie in that rainwater. You're just enjoying life. I want to keep you that way as long as I can.  

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Sometimes it's just not feasible to run wild and splash in puddles, and you need to act appropriate and obey. But I love when you give me that look, as if asking permission for something you know you might not be allowed to do. I love when I get to say "yes" and you grin even bigger. I hope these little moments teach you that I only say "no" because I care. I know you'll be way older before you fully understand, but I hope you know that I only want the very best for you.

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I love watching you explore new things. I missed out on so much because I was so nervous and afraid of things growing up. I hope moments like these keep your natural curiosity alive and thriving. I don't know what was so interesting, but I love watching you find out.

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I want you to remember me and Daddy joining in on the fun, too. I remember the first time I realized that (some) adults seemed so disenchanted with the world and bored. I don't want to be that way. I'd like to think that's something you can teach me! Some of the most fun moments with my mom were moments she shocked us by acting crazy right along with whatever we were doing.

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I'm trying to be a better photographer, to capture better memories and tell better stories. Not for my own sake, but for yours. I want to capture the kind of photos that make you feel things; that refuse to just be uploaded to Facebook and left alone. Because if they make me feel something, maybe they'll do the same for you. They can capture an emotion I can't express, but one you can understand.

I also want to show you the way I see you.  

I'll always try to tell you how smart and kind and brave you are; how perfectly created, how capable of anything. I know that you'll think I have to say that because you're mine. But if I could show you the way I see you and how strongly I believe in you from my very core...I think that would be the key to you doing great things. Perfect love casteth out fear; and I want to love you so well you're fearless.

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I want you to be able to see me how you see me right now, too. I'm going to make some mistakes. I already have. One day we might argue. We might struggle to understand each other and cause hurt and disappointment even with the best intentions. I hate the thought of that! But if I do...I want you to remember how much we love each other. I want to have worked on our relationship so much when it's "easy" that we have something to hold on to when it's not.

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I want you to know how happy I am to be your mom. To be something I never planned on, but needed to be so much. I want you to find the joy in being in God's Will, and how it dominoes into all aspects of your life. I want you to see how wonderful life can be, even when you're in the middle-not the end-of your journey.  

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I hope you remember splashing in these puddles. They're so much more than just puddles to me.

Words for Mother's Day

I was raised by an incredible woman.

You can't see her very well, but her kids are happy. 

You can't see her very well, but her kids are happy. 

 My relationship with my mom has come a long way. It's true that becoming a parent has a way of putting everything into perspective!

I spent my last years at home so frustrated at having to move across the country again; so discontent, and just so ready to get out on my own. I missed a lot of opportunities to enjoy being mothered. To have a mom at my side 24/7...it was the life and I didn't even know it.

With this year's project I've undertaken-catching up and keeping up with memories-I have been thinking a lot about what my son will remember about me. I'm excited that he'll get to read all these stories I'm carefully telling in my albums! But the real memories, the life lessons, I wonder what he'll take with him.

Like any young mom, I'm sure that mine had a million things she set out to teach us. I'm also sure that she wonders often (with 2 "grown ups", and 2 still at home) how much we really learned. I don't know if I got every lesson she taught, but here's some things she might not know I remember.

This is for you, Momma.

When I was a toddler, and dad worked the night shift, every night you'd pack his lunch (in that red and white Igloo cooler) before saying goodbye at the kitchen steps. Now I do the same (some days) up for my husband, who thanks me profusely and treats getting a sack lunch like it is a huge deal. I wonder if Dad felt the same, and if that's why you did it? I wonder if you knew how much the little things meant?

I remember going grocery shopping and being so excited to pick out a Kids Cuisine tv dinner. You'd get one, too (I remember it was usually a Smart Ones brand) and we'd eat them in the living room when we got home. I wonder if you even remember doing that or know how special it made me feel?

My first memory of having a prayer answered was when I had found this pink and frilly leotard in the JCPenney catalog. It had the tutu attached, and looked just like a "real" ballerina! I prayed--begged--the Lord to let me have it. Just a few days later, we went to JCPenney to pick up a phone order (like she frequently did). It was in one of the packages when we got home! Now, I may have asked for it. I don't know. But I do distinctly remember the feeling that God had given it directly to me! You made that happen. 

I remember staying up late the Saturday nights before Christmas, making chocolate-dipped everythings, banana bread, and all kinds of other treats. We'd wrap them in green and red Saran wrap and curling ribbon and load them in huge bags to pass out at church. Sunday school teachers, choir directors, random people walking by...it made you so happy to give those away! There was never a Christmas we didn't do that. But it wasn't just Christmas! You gave people cards with messages that filled every single inch, even the back. You would make construction paper cards for Dad and me with silly but sweet little drawings. We made and delivered gift baskets on at least several occasions.

Every one who's ever known you has adored you! You are just that generous and over-the-too kind. I'm aspiring to be at your level!

I remember your perfectionism. And sometimes it was a good thing! Other times you stressed yourself out so much and were ridiculously hard on yourself when you "failed." Just to let you know, Mom, I'm picturing our house on Mountain Village Court right now. The stone fireplace, the lime green carpet, the wallpapered-everywhere because #nineties...the background to so many memories for me. In all of them, the house is spotless. Not a thing is out of place! You eventually had 3 kids in that house, I very seriously doubt that even you could prevent 100% of messes. I'm just saying that I can't remember it being messy at all. So while I often heard the phrase, "This place is a wreck!", it's just not the type of thing kids remember. (Hashtag note to self) 

I remember when Kimmy was born and I remember you going through what we both know now as postpartum depression. I remember you seeming different. But I don't remember feeling any less loved, any less taken care of, or any less important. You were still an amazing mom, even when you were at your worst. Having been through the same with just one child, I have no idea how you did it with two. No idea. I'm glad that you did, though.

I remember all the thought and care that you put into your 4 & 5 year old Sunday school class, and later on, to the youth group that Dad lead. I bet that you made those kids feel so loved and so special! I bet a lot of them remember you, and I bet that you had an impact of some kind on their lives. The work you did was important.

 

Here's me at peak obnoxiousness, circa 2001. Sorry, Mom. 

Here's me at peak obnoxiousness, circa 2001. Sorry, Mom. 

I remember when Dad told you he was going back to college...when he started taking preaching opportunities all over the country. I feel like you, with a newborn and a loud/obnoxious 5 year old (that was me, hi 👋🏻), would've had every right to say no or to be selfish. But you weren't! All I can ever remember is your complete support. If you ever fought about it...we kids sure didn't know.

I remember when we moved thousands of miles from home. From just outside Atlanta to a smallish town in Texas; from your huge support group to a church with only a handful of members. I'm sitting here trying to picture you complaining or angry...but I can't! You made everything seem like an adventure. I can't imagine completely changing course 12 years into your marriage...suddenly having a position you never pictured for yourself. But you thrived as a Pastor's wife, and were adored by everyone in the congregation. You made the best of life. I'm sure you might have felt like you were just surviving...but it doesn't feel that way to me.

Then there was that distinct point in our lives where everything changed. Where we were thrown into absolute chaos, and your world was shaken to the core. Nothing could've prepared you for the path you had to go down, and no one on earth walked it with you-or could even show you how.

For me, there was so much confusion. There was hurt and there were consequences that you never could've protected me from. I reacted to that pain in ways that I'm sure made it harder for you. In some ways I had to step up to the plate; and these were character-building situations I needed for adulthood! But at the time, I know I resented them. I took so much out on you unnecessarily.

And how did you react?

With hate or counter-resentment? With belittling insults or abuse? No. Those reactions are for the ordinary and for the weak.

You, Mom, reacted in love. In kindness. You lived a life that you did not choose, and you lived it alone, with sometimes everything working against you. And all you ever had for your children was love. I know some of the things I said and did broke your heart, but you still surrounded me with compassion.

In my mind, I see it as a hurricane. The waters were tempestuous and the wind was raging against you with such force that everything around you had been destroyed; but you did not lose your grip. You had your arms wrapped around your children, clinging to them for dear life, and you were not letting go for anything...even when they were trying to break free.

There are several times I've felt that you and I had a connection that no one else could. The first being when I was 15, the night I came into the kitchen and told you I was dropping out of high school. I had plenty of logical arguments and was prepared to be yelled at, ridiculed, and fought. But you did none of those things. You recognized my hurt, my desperation, and you responded with a simple, "Okay." We hugged and cried, and I took down all my defenses for the first time in way too long. That's exactly what I needed from you! I just needed you to understand. I just needed your unwavering love.

Then there was the week I became a mother. Nothing prepares you for any of it. The fact that his delivery was an emergency situation, that I came so close to death's door and got yanked back...it just added to the overwhelm. I remember talking with you and Grammy, tearing up trying to describe what I was feeling. You put your hand on my cheek and said, "I know." (And we both cried and cried.) I needed you more than I ever had, and I'm so glad you were there.

The last time was when Abbott was about a month old, and I had been married for a little over a year. Things had been awkward between all of us since I left home. I still had a wrong attitude about growing up in general; and there was just something lacking in our relationship. We had too many barriers in between us.

Everyone was sitting around talking after dinner and, as it tends to do, the conversation shifted from silly to serious. I don't remember what all was said, but what had the most impact was when you said this: "I want you to know that I've always loved you, and I've never loved you any less. But I need you to know that I was hurt.  And that I forgive you." With those very simple-but so hard to say-words, you taught me more than I can ever explain. You put my whole life into a new perspective. All at once I felt regret, so deeply, for all the years I resented you. For the relationship we could've enjoyed while I was at home, but didn't. For the things I've said and done that broke your heart but didn't break you. And all at once, I realized how much you loved me. How strong you must've been to never show me that you hurt; to finally have the courage to say it now. And how powerful your love is-that it could forgive so many unforgivable things.

 

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Our relationship now is better than ever. We're honest, and understanding, and we don't have any barriers in between us. I trust her, love her, look up to her like no one else. I'm jealous of my siblings still at home! 

I was raised by an incredible woman.

She rarely, if ever, complained. She defended and refused to talk ill of certain people, even when it was expected. She gave of herself to anyone who needed her, and never seemed to mind. If she ever doubted God, she never let us know! She stayed faithful when it seemed impossible. She was funny, and she made life fun for us. Yes, I watched her make mistakes. I've seen her completely fall apart too many to count! But not once did I see her stay broken. She always put the pieces back together, always kept fighting, always kept moving forward. She protected us from more than we will ever understand. She is a rockstar, a superhero, a perfect 10, all of the above. She loved us, and she loved us well.

You are blessed, Momma. Many have done virtuously, but you exceed them all.

That time in my life that felt like a hurricane, I thought I was alone. I was keeping my own head above water, struggling to survive. But really, it was my Mom holding me up. 

50 years in love

February 3rd of this year, my grandparents reached their 50th wedding anniversary. As you can tell...they are still so young and crazy about each other.

Most of my all-time favorite memories involve these two and their antics. Pulling pranks on people, getting kolaches in our pajamas, so many  road trips from Houston to Denver...and stopping at 3 different McDonald's drive-thrus because the 33-cent senior cup of coffee wasn't hot enough...they made my childhood great.

My Grammy has always been my biggest fan. Whether it was becoming a NASA astronaut or a LA music producer, I can't remember her ever discounting my dreams. She always knew I was different than everyone else-but made me feel like that was worth celebrating, not apologizing for.

She gave me their original wedding rings for my 18h birthday, not realizing I'd have a boyfriend using them to propose a year later! They're a daily reminder of the beautiful legacy we're working on. Talk about real deal (hashtag) relationship goals.

We did this impromptu photo shoot at their surprise party last month. It was my first time with my new lens, but I'm happy with how they turned out. They make me smile so much I can't help but look at them over and over. Enjoy!

Specs: Canon Rebel xsi, with 50mm f/1.8 & 800 ISO. No editing.