Day 2932 – Why I’m Thankful For Long Distance Relationships

I had originally planned to post about Junk Food Day, I mean how fun is that? But as I scrolled through On This Day on Facebook, my status from 10 years ago, was “Missing him….” That him was Bret, and he had been deployed overseas for about a month. We had only recently started officially dating. Bret was only deployed for a little over half a year, but he lived in California, and I lived in Maryland. By the time we got married two and a half years after we met, we had only spent roughly four months in the same time zone….and three of those months were when he moved to Maryland a few months before the wedding.

I forget that such a large chunk of our relationship was long distance. It was our normal – saying hello and saying goodbye at the airport, long phone calls, big phone bills, and lots of sleepless nights from talking late.

But I can point to that time as one of the biggest reasons we have the great marriage we have now. Being that far apart forced us to ONLY have communication. It caused us to be honest with each other, I mean, why not be honest with that much distance between you? During those hours and hours of conversations, we talked about everything. During those hours, we developed a deep friendship, which is one of the core pieces of our marriage.

While long distance relationships aren’t for everyone, I sure am glad that I had one. 🙂

This is a photo of Bret from his first visit to meet my family in 2007.

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Day 2918 – What’s It Like For A Sober Jennilyn To Go Into A Liquor Store?

One question I get a lot is if Bret still drinks around me. He does, and I have no problem with that. I even will pick up his beer. I went to a local store that I’d never been in before yesterday. I ended up texting Bret most of the time I was there, trying to nail down which beer he wanted. I looked through one line of cases, which I thought was all of the cold options. When I got to the non-alcoholic drinks (sodas and the like), the guy working there said there were more of the type of beer I had, and craft beers down that way…..a whole BUNCH more. So it went from an ok store, to a pretty epic store pretty quickly.

So what’s it like for me to go into a liquor store now? Just like going into a regular store in most respects. I’m still texting Bret to make sure I get the right thing. I’m still buying something that he needs.

When I go into a liquor store, I find myself seeing different beverages, and thinking about when I got drunk on them. What happened in that moment. Oh, hey, there’s that Rita stuff from Bud…oh yea, I got WAYYYYYYYSSSSSSSSSTEEEEED on those a LOT. It was a really interesting thought. Here I was, surrounded by the thing that took down so much of my life. Here were the liquids that brought so much, and so much heartache. Here, were things that didn’t have power over me anymore. Like any vice, it can be a good thing in moderation. A little disclaimer, my journey is my own. I don’t recommend a recovered/recovering/etc alcoholic going into a liquor store. I know myself, and I know my limits. DO NOT TAKE MY EXAMPLE AS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO!

I say repeatedly that all of my success is because of God’s work in my life. From opening my eyes to taking my sin seriously, to giving me strength to say no again and again. Yet, when was the last time I thought about this, or pointed to His continued work in my life? So I want to take an opportunity to give another shout out to the Big Guy. I have become accustom to this amazing change in me. It is my new normal. It is so much a part of me now. Sobriety. Clearheadedness. All, completely, totally, irrevocably, God’s work. If you want to read my full story, or at least a pretty good summation, check out my testimony.

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Day 2911 – Recap Of My First Personal Retreat

Whew! What a great retreat! I’ve always wanted to lock myself away to write and think for a few days, I’m glad I was finally able to do so. Just going made this a successful retreat.

It was a beautiful drive down.

Of course we had to get Krispy Kreme!

We did go over our $227.38 budget. We spent $280.15. But a few things about that. $21.47 of that was spent via giftcards we were given, and money already on my Dunkin account. We spent about $10-15 more on a tip because of a really great server. We have leftover food and gas, so in my mind, it wasn’t THAT much more. If you look at the cash spent, we spent $258.68. And I wouldn’t take a single purchase back.

This was the first time we stayed at a cabin in a state park. I will definitely be doing that again! It was nice not having to set up a tent, and pack up a tent. Our set up and clean up were very easy. We did have a critter trying to eat the cabin early in the morning but that just goes with the territory. There were a few points when Bret was on a walk or in the restroom, when I thought I might get eaten by squirrels. They were SO brazen in how close they got.

That’s a squirrel under the back corner of my chair!

Critters seemed to be the theme of the retreat. While walking one day, we noticed a deer. Because of our angle and the sun, we thought….is that a white deer or just the sun? Upon further investigating, and terrible quiet walking on my part, we got close enough to find, yes, it was a white deer! After a little research, it turns out it’s a Piebald deer, and they are really rare. How cool to see something so rare!

We’re listening to a great book called Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke, which was a great intro and outro to the retreat. He talks about aging and it is just a fantastic ride. I highly recommend it….and make sure you get the audio book read by the author.

I’m really glad that we got breakfast on the way home, because I have to say, it was one of THE best I’ve ever had.

It seems that this retreat was also about doing things I’ve always wanted to do. Every time I drive home from the beach, I’m tempted to stop at one of the stands or shops with produce and Smith Island Cakes. I always see them, think, ooooo, I want to stop!, but I never do. There is a twinge of regret each time. Yesterday, I saw the big sign for Smith Island Cakes (at this point, I thought we had passed all the shops), safely slammed on the breaks, and turned in. It took a few minutes to decide between a cookies and creme or a peanut butter slice, but I settled on peanut butter. Oh my goodness. So worth the stop!

I learned a lot about myself this week, and I got confirmation on things that I suppressed about myself. I’m embracing me as me. I cried, I laughed, I grew. I read four books. I highly recommend taking a retreat like this. Have a few goals before you go….but don’t make them so large you can’t hit them. For me, the biggest success was just going. It was something I always wanted to do. While I had 3 pages of notes, questions, and goals, I accepted that what would happen would happen. My biggest takeaway was that I can have a retreat mindset every day. I experienced so much growth and thinking just preparing for the time away. I’ve found a few hacks that work for me to recreate this “time away” feeling, so I can keep growing, even though I’m at home. Just last night, I cranked up my classic music and read from a book I’ve been trying to read for months. I learned that I make WAY too many excuses for things. I can’t wait to see how the things I recognized in myself and my work change over the next few weeks.

Have you ever taken a personal retreat? Let me know in the comments below!

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Day 2909 – How You Can Plan A Personal Retreat For Roughly $200

I’m writing this two days before it will actually post….because I’m ON my retreat right now! Woo hoo!

I’ve briefly mentioned a retreat over the past few days, but I didn’t go into too much depth. My life is great, I love my work, my writing, my marriage. But for the last 3 years, I haven’t had a “Jen project.” I’ve heard of people taking personal retreats, locking themselves away in a hotel to write, and I’ve always wanted to do that. We had a little bit of money left over to celebrate, and I received some money for my birthday. All told, I figured I had a budget of $227.38. I went back and forth on if I should include Bret or not. Ultimately, we decided it would make the most sense if he came along.

Oh friends, I spent SO much time looking for a place. I scoured Groupon and Living Social. I searched my hotel chains. What gave me a breakthrough was looking for places near a Dunkin Donuts. Yes, you read that right. It’s funny, sure, but one piece of advice I gleaned while researching creating a personal retreat was – how do you want your retreat to feel? I spent time thinking about this, and thinking about things that were important. I wanted to have access to Dunkin, because it makes me happy. I wanted to have access to showers and bathrooms. I didn’t want to travel too far, because I wanted most of the time spent at the location of the retreat.

When I was about to book my hotel, I happened to see reviews of the hotel….um, hello, look at the reviews first guys. Oy. Bed bugs, a smoke smelling room…..in a non-smoking room. All kinds of “not quite what I’m looking for” in my retreat. So, back to the drawing board.

Then I thought about a cabin again. I had looked at a ton of airbnb’s across MD, VA, WV, PA….but nothing really stuck. Ok, well, the State Parks have cabins…I did a statewide search for cabins with electricity. And that my friends, is when the magic happened. I found the perfect cabin in Martinak State Park! With some more searching, I realized that NO one was staying in the whole loop we booked our cabin, the whole time. There are folks checking out the morning we arrived (yesterday), and there are folks arriving tomorrow (after we leave). AND there is a Dunkin 1.4 miles away.

So far, we have spent $107.23 on lodging. We’re estimating $20-30 for gas, $20-30 for firewood, and the rest for food. I’ll do a follow up post with how things went and how much we actually spent.

To plan out the retreat, I spent several hours rereading some of my journals. I took notes on things that spoke me. I realize there are a few things I need to meditate on – specifically how my life has changed over the last few years, I want to spend time just thinking about things. I thought about questions I want to ask myself. And I want to work on my memoir about my alcoholism.

What I’ve learned so far about myself while rereading my journals, is that I really need to journal more! I loved looking at life through my 19 year old eyes, and other various ages. It is so so so important to journal!

After I finished reviewing my journals, I typed up my notes, and organized everything into categories. I’m still fleshing out the “schedule” at the writing of this post. But the best “how to” advice I can give you – craft something that YOU enjoy, not what you think you should do. What will speak to your soul the most? Where are you most at peace so you can really focus on what needs attention?

Have you ever taken a personal retreat? What did you learn? What mistakes did you make? Let me know in the comments below!

(This photo is from our local State Park, stay tuned for photos from this new place!)

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Day 2882 – How Checks Made Me Cry

The title for my book, Trusting God With 2 Cents, came from a very tough financial time in our lives. There were little to no bookings for photography, a massive amount of debt, and a lot of discouragement. On one particular day, I was paying bills, and after I paid everything, I had 2 cents left. When I realized that our daily bread had been provided that day, I cried. We were still in debt, money was still tight, but our bills were paid with a little left over.

Today, I had a similar experience. For the full story, let’s go back about a month. We use checks sooooooo rarely, to the point that we had our first apartment address on our set. We haven’t lived there for 5 years. I ran out of checks at the beginning of May, and I placed an order. I knew they took a while, but for some reason, they were sent back to the bank. I received a call on Tuesday to let me know my checks were just chilling at a branch about an hour away. They asked if I wanted them mailed to me. I said, honestly, I’d rather just pick them up because I’ve been waiting so long. They offered to interoffice mail them to my local branch, and that they would arrive the next day (yesterday). I called that branch yesterday and they hadn’t arrived yet. This caused me to stress and get angry. What injustice! I need those checks! I have two important checks that HAVE to be written today. I was all keyed up to demand free checks if my personal checks didn’t arrive. I lost sleep over this. What am I going to do if they don’t come in? How am I going to handle this? I worried over my large to do list with all of my running around. Not fun, let me tell you.

This morning, I listened to a sermon about the “Why are you so downcast, oh my soul” verse. I love that verse. I love that reminder that we need to talk to our souls and be like, um, dude, don’t you remember what God has done for you? Come on now friend. In the middle of this sermon, I received a call. “hey lady, your checks are here, calm down and quit worrying.” Is what the rep would have said if she could read my mind. I thanked her, hung up the phone, and just cried. I cried for joy that I wouldn’t have to run around today. I cried because I got the call so early in the day. I cried because I couldn’t believe that God loves me so much, that He cares about little things like this.

So soul, you need to calm down and trust.

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