Two Roads.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What I HAVE learned at 30

What I HAVE learned:
1.       Wear sunscreen
a.       Oh, to be a bronzed kid…it isn’t worth the damage
2.       Eat healthy
a.       Boring, but overall it is worth it
3.       Toxic people aren’t worth it
a.       They AREN’T worth it. Ever. For any amount of time. They will suck the life out of your life and leave you when they are done.
4.       Surround yourself with people and things that make you smile
a.       Better to have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.
5.       Read more
a.       More and more and more. It expands your mind and your imagination. Don’t trust a leader who doesn’t read.
6.       Wine is worth its weight in gold
a.       Bold reds are a personal fav
7.       So is whiskey
a.       Neat please
8.       If work makes you miserable, find a new job, then QUIT
a.       A company will value you if you work hard. If they don’t find one that will.
9.       People who want to stick around WILL
a.       No. Matter. What.
10.   Invest in good friendships
a.       Bring them coffee, a card, a smile. It goes a long way in the long run.
11.   People who leave…let them go
a.       You can’t convince them to stay and if you do, you will always wonder, and so will they. Just let them go.
12.   Tell your mom you love her more
a.       Even if you are mad at her. She deserves the love.
13.   Tell your sisters you love them more
a.       The relationship is always worth more than just being “right”.
14.   Tell your family you love them more
a.       You never know when tomorrow isn’t promised.
15.   Send more handwritten letters/cards
a.       It’s a lost art that should be brought back. It is worth the five minutes.
16.   Be pickier
a.       With what you wear, where you go, who you speak with, spend time with, everything. Life is too short.
17.   Smile more
a.       Wrinkles from smiles are well earned.
18.   Workout
a.       C’est la vie. It makes a difference.
19.   Eat the damn cookie
a.       Don’t miss out on life with too strict of rules. Everything in moderation. It will be ok.
20.   Journal/write
a.       It is surprisingly therapeutically even if you aren’t a “writer”.
21.   Invest in organizing
a.       It makes everything in life easier and less stressful
22.   Let the dog on the bed
a.       He just wants to snuggle. You are his whole life while he is just a part of yours.
23.   It is ok to cry
a.       It doesn’t mean you are weak. It actually proves your strength.
24.   It is ok to not give a FUCK
a.       It really it. Easier said than done, but once you reach it…WHEW.
25.   Never stop learning
a.       Languages, music, industries, crafts, cooking, trades, etc. Something!
26.   Buy a nice mattress and sheets
a.       You spend half your life in your bed. Pamper yourself a little.
27.   99% of things can be controlled by choices
a.       This is a tough one to swallow, but it is true. You can’t control what other people do, but you can determine your own boundaries.
28.   Floss
a.       Otherwise…yuck.
29.   Get enough rest
a.       Your body will thank you for it.
30.   Don’t have too many expectations about how life should be

a.       The sneaky bastard will just end up surprising you anyways

Beautifully Broken

I have been 30 for almost five months now. I honestly, in some naïve world, thought I would turn 30 and have some great epiphanies about life. Maybe, that is a little far reaching and unrealistic, but I hoped.
                Last year before the end of the year I decided I didn’t like the direction my life was going. In many ways I was a complete mess. So, I decided with incredible veracity to do something about it. I changed everything that was in my power to change. Besides changing my number, address and work the biggest thing I did for myself was to cut the toxic people out completely. Deleted, blocked, etc. They were like an anchor on my feet and I was drowning in the ocean desperate for air. I remember waking up on New Year’s Day this year and for the first time in a long time I breathed in deep. I decided that before I turned 30 I was going to start doing things differently. But, I had no idea how difficult it would be to not only keep those toxic people locked out of my life, but how to not let new toxic people in.
                For the most part my life has changed for the better, but for some reason my heart is just as foolish as it was when I was 6 years old with a playground crush. I have been through and accomplished a lot in life. I consider myself to be blessed in the midst of all the good and bad. Somehow the humanity in me always wants to assume and hope for the best. I should really be more jaded, but for some reason I believe…have to believe...that the fairy-tale does exist. I realize it might not look how I expect it to, but it must be real. Our Once Upon a Time’s have to have stemmed from somewhere. I have found moments and glimpses of what it might look like, but through the process of finding it, my heart hurts. I have discovered that a lot of the qualities that initially draw people to me are also the same qualities that wear on them over time (independence, strength, stubbornness, ambitious, etc). As women we are often made to feel like we are ”too much and not enough” all at the same time, and it has to stop.
                The feminine heart from an early age is constantly attacked. We are told on the playground that if a boy is mean to us it must mean he likes us. This continues into adolescence where relationships are blurred. This is a time of discovery while our hearts are at one of their most vulnerable points in life. As we enter into adulthood, movies and books create this hope that things will somehow be all of a sudden different from growing up. It isn’t. The games just become more intense. 
                We try to hold out and then someone comes along…and everything changes. Or so we think. In reality we see the red flags; the jealousy, insecurity, accusations, the silent treatments and angry fights, but we convince ourselves that THIS time it has to be different. They told us it would be different and we tell ourselves it must be true. After all, we feel differently. We make excuses for their behavior and our acceptance of it. In turn we find ourselves acting out of fear and out of character. We quibble with family and friends to just give it time, it will change. And then in the blink of an eye it’s over. Not for long though. We find a reason to reconnect and the cycle starts again. The next thing we know our hearts are beat to a pulp. It takes on a form that you no longer even recognize and you are lift to pick up the pieces, alone, wondering why you didn’t stop it sooner. The circumstances would have been the same, but your heart…oh, your dear precious heart might be a little less broken and bruised. 
                Your tears sting the emotional scars you told yourself you wouldn’t put yourself through again. The experience makes you questions everything, whether it is logical or not. Worst of all it makes you question yourself. The full circle of “not enough and too much” come stealing through every memory, every moment. You tell yourself it isn’t true, but you can’t deny the fact that they left…again.

                I believe in fake it till you make it. And so with heavy doubt I have to tell myself, “Be brave dear heart…you are beautiful. You are perfectly broken. And one day, it will be different."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fifty Shades is Abuse

http://endsexualexploitation.org/fiftyshadesgrey/ Frankly, it disgusts me. Society pays a price when we teach men to be turned on by women in pain. 89% of scenes in mainstream pornography today depict violence against women and this is spilling over into the mainstream media. As a result, sexual violence is on the rise in our military, in our best universities, and on the street. When we make violence sexy, it is no wonder that these are the consequences we face. These books perpetuate the rape culture that so many, especially recent, have been trying to deal with. The main character is in fact raped in the book and women are fawning over Grey as a romantic hero. It sets women's suffrage back 50 years. It is disheartening. Women cannot expect to fight for rights and then hand them back by telling men that this type of behavior is OK. It is so far from OK.
Even the BDSM culture is upset with the books, because it portrays it incorrectly. Author E.L. James has often insisted that Fifty Shades of Grey is wildly popular not because of its titillating trappings of transgression, but because it tells a simple love story for the ages. But this is a romance for a particular kind of age — a time of growing inequality. The social order is breaking up and leaving massive human wreckage in its wake. Dreams of love turn into fantasies of power – who has it and what they can do to those who don’t have it. "I’ve long struggled to define feminism, but if 50 Shades of Grey makes the cut, then feminism is dead and buried. Surely the movement is worthless if it won’t loudly reject a book about a woman’s adventures in being manhandled and used by an emotionally stunted playboy." -Matt Walsh

Saturday, May 9, 2015

#ShesMyHero

So, every year on Mother's Day I post a lengthy, crazy comment about how awesome my mom is. This year for some reason there is a deeper nagging sensation. A keen sense of awareness that she is so far away. And I wish I could do more. With my mom in Uganda it makes it difficult to spoil her like I wish I could. Cards and gifts have all gotten lost in the mail process. We have a saying TIA (this is Africa) to explain away such situations. I have started writing posts about her on Twitter. She has a Twitter account, but isn't the most tech savvy. Not to mention internet in Uganda is spotty to say the least. But if she did she will have seen my #shesmyhero comments. The most recent of tweets was: Nicole Mills @NicoleMills85 · May 8 My mom has no idea how awesome she is, but she should #shesmyhero
Growing up my childhood was blessed in many ways, but not always the easiest. We struggled. She was a single parent raising twin daughters. I watched her struggle with her self worth and body image, working long hours to make ends meet. It broke my heart. We fought constantly growing up mainly due to my extreme stubbornness. But I remember we were always going on amazing adventures. We traveled constantly. We explored Mexican villages, panned for gold in the Colorado river, went horse back riding on a working farm ranch, braved the rapids...through it all I listened to my mom talk about her incredible dreams. She spoke of flying over the jungles of Africa in a black and orange plane. She never forgot to tell us we were born to dream big. I remember her saying, "if your dreams seem possible, then you aren't dreaming big enough." Most of the time she tried to not let it show, but I watched her continue to struggle; barely making ends meet. I remember always wanting to make her proud. I worked hard in school and athletics. I worked to find my place in the big wide world. When I accomplished my goals of being an Air Force Academy Prep I assumed my life was set. My perfect plan was in place. And then everything came crashing down. I was hospitalized and then medically disqualified and sent home. I felt like I had let everyone down, especially my mom and grandparents. I was suppose to do big things and I had no back-up plan in place. While my life was falling apart it seemed like those around me were progressing on the opposite path. During my short stint back at home before returning to college, the main topic of conversation in my family was my mom going to Africa. She had nothing holding her in the states anymore with my sister and I both moving onto live our adult lives. I didn't realize how serious the conversation was until then next thing I knew my mom sold and gave away most everything she had, packed two 70 lb suitcases and got on a plane. I was left in...awe. She had done it. She had really done it. Just like that. The conceptual idea of "living out one's purpose and dreams" was suddenly being done right before my eyes. I was never more proud or scared. It was the best thing that could have happened for her (other than me and my sisters :) ). Even at this point things were still a little conceptual for me with her being half a world away. Until I got an email while at college. It was from my mom basically stating that she and another woman had been abandoned in Uganda and needed a contact. They were in the North and this was 2005. The War the World Forgot was still on-going with Kony and the LRA. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Kony ) My mom ended up living with a local family in a three room house, with no running water, or bathrooms for the next 8 months. At the end of 2005, I was home from college and she was visiting for the holidays. I was miserable. I had not been able to produce a new dream or plan for my life. I decided to go to Africa with my mom. My reasoning was that if I didn't have a dream, I would help her build hers. I needed to be a part of something bigger than myself. My mom's dream was HUGE. I know she was shocked when I told her because I will never forget the look on her face. "Are you sure, Nikki," she asked. I answered honestly, "no." But I had made my decision. We landed in Uganda and as we got onto the bus to go to Kampala, the landscape began rolling by. The dirt was distinctively Uganda red and the sky was a clear pollution-less blue. I didn't even notice my mom looking at me, but she just very quietly said, "you love it, don't you." I nodded. I did. I was in love with Africa already and it was impossible to explain. But, now I understood. My mother's passion suddenly became tangible and real. She had a calling on her life to go to Africa and she was here. She was home. My mother's and my relationship changed forever that year. I finally had clarity that growing up the reason we butted heads so often was that we were just alike. It is always a humbling time in one's life when they reach that point in adulthood and realize their parent was right. I saw my mother in a capacity I never had the honor to before. She lit up in this world, even on the hard days and there were a lot of them (TIA). She showed me what it meant to have faith. To know that no matter the circumstances things weren't just going to be OK, they already were. I got to witness her have big vision (and then leave it to me to figure out the logistics). There isn't a Starting an African Nonprofit and Building a Village 101 handbook. We took it one day at a time. I learned how precious and fragile life is and to tell her I love her everyday. I learned there is a reason to dream big outside of one's own self because the world needs it. Not everyone is called to Africa. I am not, but it will forever hold a very special place in my life and heart. 10 years later she is still there and I have four amazing sisters added to our family circle that I wouldn't trade for the world. Living in Africa with my mother changed everything. I attribute a lot of who I am today because of the decision to help my mother build her dreams. We are still building. We will continue to build. She will continue to be my hero and never really understand the depths of how or why. She defines beauty and courage. She is the person you hear stories about, out changing the world. But that is MY mother. Being able to say that is hugely humbling. For God to have blessed my life with an example of "possible" is an honor. She is far from perfect, but I prefer it that way. Mother's Day is my favorite holiday because of the mother I have. In a way this is a vain attempt at a thank you. So, thank you mom. You are amazing. You are strong. You are powerful. You are courageous. You are beautiful. You are MY mother. I love you. #shesmyhero