Don’t settle for less than #1

Checking a huge item off your list is a massive stress reliever. The burden you were lugging around is now gone. You feel empowered because your persistence paid off, but what really made the difference were the prayers. Without God’s assistance, you wouldn’t be where you are. For me, I would still be apartment-less. Thanks to him, I locked in the apartment of my dreams.

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you find it. “ – Steve Jobs

I started looking when my full-time job began two months ago. After seeing its commercials, Apartments.com became my source. The filtering option allowed me to limit search results to what I wanted: one bed/one bath, in-unit washer/dryer, local, smaller size, equipped with appliances, rent between $500-$750/mo., and reliable maintenance. After extensive online research, I visited three complexes in and around the Overland Park. One of them stood out because it matched everything on my checklist.

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The only downside was there wasn’t an A2 floor plan available. They only had an A1 available for mid-September. However, A1 units don’t include a washer/dryer. I told the agent I would think about whether I could live without the in-unit amenity. In an effort to convince me, she said only A1 residents have access to the on-site laundry facility, so I’d only be sharing with eight other units, and that didn’t sound totally unbearable.

After thinking it over, I scheduled a follow-up tour to show it to my parents. When I called to schedule, I found out the A1 was leased, but a couple A2s were getting vacated! We visited on Saturday, and they told us two first-floor A2 units were available. I hated to be picky, but I knew I’d feel safer on the second floor – plus, upstairs-neighbor noise wouldn’t be an issue if I were on the top floor.

Dad told me not to settle. It was going to be my home, so I should get my first choice. The agent said she heard whispers about a second-floor A2, and told me to call on Monday for more detail. For the next couple days I prayed and prayed. When I called, a different agent told me someone had applied for the A2. Before I could start crying (just kidding), she said another A2 would be available in October.

“This unit is better because it’s in a better location overlooking our pool and landscaping and not the parking lot.” I nearly yelled that I would take it! I swung by after work and danced through the front door of the leasing office to sign the papers and pay the deposit. God had once again shown his desire to take care of me. Not only did I get the apartment I wanted, it was also better than the one I’d hoped for. I can’t wait for move-in day in October.

Transfiguration: forfeit control & listen

This weekend was the Transfiguration. During Mass, our gospel reading retold the time Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James and John on the top of a mountain. I’d already discussed the passage at my weekly bible study, which made hearing it on Saturday all the more fruitful.

When Peter, John and James arrive at the top of the mountain, Elijah and Moses appear. At that point Peter starts babbling, Lord, it is good you have brought us here. If you wish, I will put up three tents—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he’s rambling, a strong voice breaks through the clouds, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” When the three look around again, Jesus is the only one there. After the incident, Jesus tells them not to say a word until he’s crucified and resurrected from the dead.

“Listen to Jesus and follow him. That’s the message of the Transfiguration.” – Pope Francis

Peter has a relatable trait in this passage. Instead of allowing himself to be in awe and trust God, he immediately tries to control the situation by asking to assemble three tents. We often plan our lives, foolishly believing we know what’s to come. Instead of slowing down and listening to God, we rush to fill in the gaps. When Peter tries to take control, God puts his fatherly foot down and tells him to “be quiet and listen.” If only he could say that so blatantly to the rest of us.

After the gospel, our priest put the passage into relatable terms. He spoke on the concept of transfiguration and how to get there we first go through disfiguration, or to speak plainly: to achieve desired change, we first go through resistance/suffering. If you want to be stronger, you add resistance to your arms by lifting weights. If we want to become better, we should embrace the struggle in our life – knowing well that God does not give us more suffering than we can endure.

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Our priest talked about the harm in interfering during disfiguration. He told us the story of a young boy who learned about butterflies. He brought home a cocoon, so he could watch the transformation. When the cocoon started to wiggle, he cut it open to help the butterfly emerge faster. When he did this, he found a deformed butterfly. What the boy didn’t know is that without the struggle, the butterfly didn’t have a chance to develop its wings.

Transitioning from disfiguration to transfiguration takes time, and the period of disfiguration varies from person to person. Struggle ranges and so do the people who deal with it. It is in our best interest to learn from Peter – forfeit control and listen to the One who holds us in the palm of his hand. Embrace the suffering he gives us and allow it to transform us into better people when the time comes.

A new home away from home

“Hi, my name is Amy and I still live in my parents’ basement.” This is something most people my age would be embarrassed about, but not me. After I graduated from college, I moved back home, and I’ve been there for a little over a year. The plan was to move out once I found a job and started saving money. I’ve been employed for over a month now, and the apartment hunt is well underway. As exciting as it is to move out and start my own life, it’s daunting at the same time.

I applaud my parents for the way they raised me, but at the same time I feel like they coddled me too much. There are huge gaps in my knowledge: what cleaning products to use for certain tasks, cooking elaborate dishes, car stuff (payments, insurance, etc.), finances and more. I know there’s going to be a significant learning curve once I move out and gain full control over my life. It’s going to be confusing and frustrating, and I’ll continue to rely on my family for support during this adjustment period. I’m sure my mom will receive dozens of trivial-question-based phone calls.

Moving out is like a when a baby bird jumps out of the nest to learn how to fly. Does the baby bird want to jump? Absolutely not. There’s the fear of falling to its death. However, with encouragement from mama and papa bird, the baby starts flapping its wings, and when it finally jumps natural instinct kicks in and the baby bird soars.

“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.” 

I know without a doubt that I’m ready to strike out on my own, but that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous for the first step. This Saturday I’ll be touring three apartments. There are several factors that I’m looking for in an apartment – things I need/want and things I want to avoid.

  • Be within 30 minutes of where I work, so my morning commute isn’t awful.
  • Have an in-unit washer/dryer, so I don’t have to leave my apartment to do laundry. I do not want to have to drag a heavy bag of clothes to a laundry facility or worse, a Laundromat.
  • Top-notch security is a must. Since this is my first time living alone, I want to feel safe in my new home.
  • On-time fulfillment of maintenance requests is crucial. Most places I’m looking at have 24/7 emergency maintenance, which is very reassuring.
  • I’m neutral about apartment floorplans. I don’t need excessive space – a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room is more than enough.
  • Finally, living without a roommate(s) will inevitably result in higher rent, which is why I’m shooting for rent between $500 – $750.

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I pray that I choose the best place for my budget, lifestyle and location. That is why I’ll be visiting each place with a list of prepared questions, so when I go back to create pro/con lists, they will be honest and thorough. I want to move into my new home knowing exactly what to expect in terms of security, maintenance, neighbors, staff, noise and utilities. Hopefully the important people in my life, who will be involved in this decision, will offer words of wisdom during this extensive process.

Game night and ice-cream

Introducing your S/O to your family is daunting, but so is introducing him to your friends. It’s important he gets along with the most important people in your life. If he doesn’t, it can present huge obstacles later on. My boyfriend passed the family test less than six months into our relationship, and he’s spent multiple occasions with them since. However, it wasn’t until a couple days ago that he met one of my best friends. I can’t believe it took almost a year and a half to coordinate this meeting, but we can finally cross it off.

For a little backstory, there was a reason I was nervous for this meeting. We all know guy/girl friendships are complicated, especially when one or both parties are in romantic relationships. Early on my boyfriend and I got into a heated argument about this friendship. When we resolved it, we concluded that neither of us handled it in the best way. I should’ve worked harder to set up a time for them to meet, but since I didn’t my boyfriend felt uncomfortable and shut out.

My friend lives in St. Louis and sporadically visits KC and my boyfriend lives an hour away, so coordinating a meeting time wasn’t easy. Finally timing matched up. Saturday July 8, my friend was in town during a day my boyfriend came to visit. Choosing what to do was difficult. I didn’t want my single friend to feel like a third wheel, so I involved my family – pizza and game night. When my friend showed up at the house, I anxiously introduced them. Like men do, they shook hands.

After dinner, the five of us, my siblings included, gathered in the basement and dug into a pile of games. We started with Phase 10, a complex card game. Next we switched to Bananagrams, a freestyle version of Scrabble. The fun part of this vocabulary-based game was the fierce competition between my friend and my brother. They were both quick thinkers, so the game moved as fast as their minds. The healthy competition sparked laugher and shouting during both games.

After several rounds of Bananagrams, we took an ice-cream break, and then started a board game called Loaded Questions. This was the perfect game because the objective was to learn more about other players. Surprisingly, my brother ended up winning even though I was ahead for most of the game. Our final game was Apples to Apples – the adult version. Two differences between the kid and adult versions were contemporary nouns on the red cards and two adjectives to choose from on each green card. We played to five green cards, and my boyfriend ended up dominating us all.

After four games we were all exhausted. After we finished Apples to Apples it was after 11 p.m. The five of us ended up talking/sharing stories until close to 1 a.m. I was shocked my siblings stayed up so late. I guess when you’re exchanging fart stories… it’s difficult to not be entertained.🙄 At 1 a.m. my boyfriend and I drove my friend back to his Dad’s apartment and said our goodbyes.

As fulfilling as the night had been, I was sad it was so late. My boyfriend left at 1:30 a.m., and I was left wishing we could’ve had more alone time. However, I knew it was worth it because he met my friend and spent more time with my siblings. It was even worth waking up with a horrendous migraine the following morning after not going to bed until 4 a.m. – don’t ask.

I spent the next day recovering from my migraine with movies, R&R and caffeine. During the day I kept having a recurring thought from the night before. During the argument we’d had about my best friend back in January, I was fighting to keep the friendship the same. After Saturday night, I realized the likelihood of the friendship lasting isn’t very high. In that moment, I realized I’d survive if it ended. He and I have been friends for 10+ years, but the reason I’d be okay if the friendship didn’t last is because I have a new best friend – the man I’m dating.

“There’s a reason BF stands for boyfriend and best friend. They should be one in the same.”

Stuttering and paralyzed

Speaking and writing have always come easy to me, but when it’s a sensitive topic I find myself stammering incoherent responses. It’s times of being tongue-tied that I rely heavily on my writing to help compose my thoughts. Most of the time my writing makes up for my mouth’s failure. It’s rare when both entities are at a loss. My mouth is stuttering and my hands are paralyzed. My mind is racing, but my mouth and hands have no clue how to decode the thoughts. 

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“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” – James Earl Jones, 86, American actor

I have a talk coming up with someone I love very much. It’s not a surface-level conversation, it’s important. The kind of conversation you refuse to have over text. It can only happen when you’re sitting across from each other – when facial expressions, voice inflections and body language are present. I have until tomorrow, Friday June 30, to figure out what the heck I’m going to say and/or read to him. I don’t want my lack of preparation to send the wrong message. He might think I don’t care, which isn’t true. It’s consumed my mind all week long.

I think part of the problem is I don’t know what I think. I wish there was a magical formula to calculate what I think, what I feel and what I want, but math was never my forte. Aside from freaking out about this conversation, I’ve tried to pray. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. All I can do is pray for the Holy Spirit to provide the right words at the right time, and for God to open his heart to be receiving of everything I do manage to say.

Stuck in the mud together

When put in a tough spot, people react differently. Some panic and make matters worse, some remain calm and search for a solution, and others resign in defeat. The first and third reactions delay success. It’s the ones who remain calm, stay focused and work hard who get out of the tough spot the quickest. I typically transition between the three reactions based on how challenging the situation is. Luckily, my boyfriend is one of the ones who’s resourceful, persistent and doesn’t waste time panicking. However, when Friday’s dilemma ensued, all bets were off.

I went to visit him for the weekend. He and his brother purchased two jet-skies a month or two prior, and we planned to take them out Friday afternoon. The weather was hot and sunny, and we knew the lake would provide the relief we desperately needed. After filling them up at a gas station, we cruised down the road toward the lake. Being an excellent driver, he backed the trailer into the lake just enough so I could board my jet-ski and hold onto the other while he parked. Holding onto a jet-ski while holding onto the dock was no small task – my arms were fully extended. The wind produced small waves that made it crucial for me to hold on for dear life so I didn’t float away with both jet-skis.

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When he returned and jumped on his jet-ski, we took off around the lake. The waves were very active that afternoon. Traveling at high speed, crashing into oncoming waves was exhilarating. Every time I hit a wave and was air-bound for a few seconds, I screamed! This was only the second time I’d been on a jet-ski. The first was several weeks before when we shared one jet-ski and ventured up the river that was connected to the lake. After cruising the lake, we decided to revisit the river.

We took off in that direction, crossing under the bridge, when out of the corner of my eye I saw him stop. Immediately, I slowed down and turned off my jet-ski. What’s wrong? He informed me that he couldn’t move. What do you mean you can’t move? He said he was stuck on something. About a minute later, we discovered both jet-skis were stuck in mud. After he dismounted to check his jet-ski, I did the same. The moment my foot touched the water it sunk about 6-8 inches into the mud. At this point, I started panicking. I looked around. We weren’t close to land and there was no way anyone on a boat could help because then they’d be stuck too. We were totally alone.

The only thing we could do was start pushing. To no one’s surprise, the jet-skis were not light and the mud was not quick to loosen its grip. I felt like I was standing in quick sand. The mud was slippery, which made staying upright difficult. For the next hour we pushed. At some point, my boyfriend walked back toward the bridge to see how far the mud extended. Let’s just say it was more than 50 feet. Once he got his jet-ski far enough, he came back to help me – the one truly struggling. I’d never felt so weak. My arms and legs were burning, and I felt out of breath and exhausted. Having two people push one jet-ski was a lot easier. Once we got far enough he checked the bottoms for mud and told me to start mine – it worked. I waited as he started his, it also worked. There was a huge sigh of relief from both of us.

We took off toward the dock and loaded the jet-skis onto the trailer. With remnants of mud and lake water stuck to our swimsuits, we returned to the house and jumped in the shower to wash off the horrendous afternoon. Exhaustion did not even begin to describe how we felt. We were relieved it was over, but upset it happened in the first place. We never should’ve gone up the river. We should’ve stayed on the lake. Then he said something that made me smile, “You know, this means we can get through anything together.” 

Falling victim to instant gratification

Instant gratification. That’s what we want. It’s the concept we’ve grown accustomed to with technology’s rapid growth. We place an order and expect said order to be fulfilled in a few minutes (fast food) to a few days (Amazon Prime). Patience is becoming a scarce virtue in our society. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to wait or have free time. We expect our days to be stocked with distractions, deadlines, and multi-tasking, especially during our workweek. We want to be busy. Without busyness, we’re left twiddling our thumbs and losing a staring contest with the clock on our computer screen.

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I’ve fallen victim to instant gratification. For the past few years, I’ve lived life in fast forward: pushing myself to learn new things, put in 100% on assignments and continuously search for the next step. First, my focus was getting through the drudgery of high school, and then I quickly transitioned to a junior college and kicked butt in academics. After that, it was about choosing where to spend two years knocking out my BA. After that, it was all about job hunting and finding the first professional stepping stone.

In the midst of all that, relationships ended, new relationships started, milestones were celebrated and tragedy struck. There were so many times I felt happy and many times I felt like giving up. The truth is, when we’re busy living in the fast lane, are we allowing ourselves time to enjoy our lives or are we too focused on the next project or deadline?

“When you delay instant gratification, you’ll experience long-term satisfaction.”

This week I started my first big-girl job. The first week of any job is always the same: getting used to your surroundings, meeting your co-workers, and realizing you have no idea what you’re doing. My first few days were boring as heck… no deadlines, projects or meetings. It’s been a lot of thumb-twiddling, ear-bud popping and website reading. During the first couple days I felt frustrated. Each day felt longer than the last, and I kept glancing at the time. I knew the root of my frustration: instant gratification.

I realized that even though we live in a society that prides itself on quick service, on-time delivery and fast-paced living – that doesn’t mean we need to become agitated when life switches to the slow lane. Things are bound to pick up at work. After all, I am still the “new girl.” Soon I will be swimming in projects and the clock will read 5 p.m. before I know it.