Because it takes more than time to heal a heart

The great Selena Gomez once said that “the heart wants what it wants.”

And then sometimes the heart wants what it needs.

When I moved out to California last September, I had no idea how much I would come to love this place and all of the people in it. It took a little while, but it slowly and quickly (it’s weird to explain) became rather apparent that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

In the fall of 2017, I wasn’t having the best year. I had just had my third kidney surgery of the year after months and months of constant pain and discomfort, and to top it off, I was still trying to get through the worst broken heart I’ve ever had. To be perfectly honest, that heart thing was actually a lot worse than all of the kidney stuff.

When I realized that God was calling me to California, I was reluctant at first. I didn’t want to leave my people and the city I’d known and loved for my entire life. It felt comfortable and safe. When I finally accepted that this is what He wanted me to do, I tried to get excited for a new adventure. It all happened so quickly, and I didn’t have much time to get really sentimental about much. Shortly after I moved out here, though, I had plenty of time for that—and I gave in.

These girls are proof that the next generation is full of greatness.

I eventually told myself that God probably just brought me out here to heal my heart, and I would be able to return to Dallas in a year or less. While I do think that God knew exactly what He was doing bringing me out here—and perhaps healing really was part of it—that mindset that I had limited the scope of just how capable He is and how much more He wanted to give me.

People often say that “time heals all wounds,” and I’m sure that time has something to do with it, but I think that there are so many more factors that can help you forget about all of the pain that ensues when you’ve been hurt badly by someone you thought cared about you. When things like that happen, I think that God puts certain people in your life to help remind you that you are worth so much more than someone’s feelings (or lack thereof) for you.

We’re both thankful that “Jurassic World” isn’t a reality.

I lead a group of high school girls at my church, and last Friday night was a “red carpet” event that a few of them had planned together. They came up with the idea themselves and then spent months putting it together to make sure that everything went smoothly and was a nice welcome for the upcoming freshmen. I AM STILL SO FREAKING PROUD OF THEM! The entire night was a blast, and it brought so much joy to my heart to see how excited and happy they were. Toward the end of the night, I looked around the room and thought to myself “yeah, I’m going to be alright.”

That’s not to say that I won’t ever think about homeboy or won’t feel twinges of hurt if a memory pops into my heart, but it does mean that I’ve got plenty in my life to find joy in to help drown out any pain still lingering.

Celine has always reminded me that my heart will go on.

If you’re a living, breathing human, you’re likely going to face some type of heartache in life. If you don’t, well, you probably won’t ever have Nicholas Sparks write a novel reflecting your life. When it happens, know that there’s no specific timeline for how long it takes to heal—it’s different for everyone, and it may take you way longer than you thought it would. But, during that time, it’s important to let those people who would fight for you be there for you and let you cry or throw rocks or be goofy or do whatever when you need to—and who will do those things right alongside you just to make sure you’re doing what you need to heal. Those gems are keepers for sure.

We have limited time here on earth, but we sure do get a lot of opportunities to spend that time with people. Don’t be afraid to let them love you, and don’t be afraid to love them right back.

Your heart will thank you.

Because life can be exhausting

I wish I could go back and tell my kindergarten self to appreciate and actually sleep during nap time.

Because that little girl is going to miss it greatly when she’s an adult.

I think we all go through periods of life that are more exhausting than others. It seems like there will never be enough hours for adequate amounts of sleep, the madness will never end, and we’ll be in perpetual states of zombie-like existences. After all, there’s simply no time for rest.

To be perfectly honest, I’m tired. Really tired. For years now (probably beginning some time during college), I’ve averaged about four to five hours of sleep each night. I’m aware that adults are really supposed to get between seven and nine hours, but that’s obviously not happening.

And let’s be real: Lack of sleep is not the only thing that makes us exhausted.

Life is hard sometimes. We deal with things that wear us out or leave us hurt and emotionally spent. We face situations that require so much of our energy that it’s difficult to expend it in other areas of our lives, as well.

My friend recently had her first baby, and her life has definitely changed in drastic ways. We met for froyo the other day, and she apologized for not being as perky as usual. She mentioned that there was baby throw-up in her hair, she hadn’t showered in two days, and she had attempted to throw on a little bit of makeup so that she looked somewhat presentable. She also lost her dad last week and yet is somehow keeping herself together. She’s exhausted.

Another friend of mine is going through a difficult breakup and all that goes with a broken heart. Crying sure can wear a person out. She’s also trying to remain strong and positive at the same time, and she still has to go to work and go through many other aspects of her life as if everything is normal. But she’s exhausted.

I met a man on the elevator the other day who was on his way to catch a plane to Chicago for a meeting, and then he had to turn around and fly home that same night. He travels quite a bit throughout the week for work and said he does a lot of day trips like that, and the weekends are spent going to his kids’ soccer games and making up for lost time with his family. He seemed exhausted.

I’ve been in a rough patch for quite a few months now and feel drained a lot of the time. I’m trying to make some bigger decisions than I want to deal with, and I’m also trying to forget about something that just won’t go away. On top of it all, on Friday I found out that I have to have a more invasive surgery than I originally thought. I’m exhausted.

We all have very different situations, and we all deal with them in different ways. When my friend with the newborn asked me how I’m doing, and I said I am really tired, I apologized and said I shouldn’t say that to her. But she said something I’d expect to hear from her: “It’s not a competition. I want to hear about it.”

And she listened.

Moments after this pic, my sister, Audrey (my parents’ dog) and I were all three snoozing.

She’s right, too: We all have our own reasons for feeling worn down, and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. Instead, we should simply be there for one another. People need people. No matter how busy we get or how tired we become, it’s always important to make time for people. If you throw yourself into your work or your training or whatever it is you focus much of your time and energy on that has nothing to do with the important people in your life, and you never make time for those who truly matter, at the end of the day, what do you have?

Exhaustion isn’t exactly a comfort for the lonely.

The difficult periods usually don’t last forever—and time doesn’t last forever, either. When you’re feeling exhausted, remember that there are people who care about you and will be there for you if you let them. And also remember that others out there are tired, too. You don’t know the story of every person you encounter, so try to keep that in mind and show a little compassion any chance you get.

I’m going to try to start making more time for others but also still finding plenty of time to rest and sleep. Sure, I’ll have to make some changes to my schedule, but I think I can do it if I’m diligent about it.

Besides, I don’t want to look back years from now and wish I could tell my 32-year-old self a bit of advice that I should have known all along.


There’s a lot of hate and unpleasantness surrounding us lately, so I figured we could talk about my dating life for a few minutes to lighten the mood.

Because it’s pretty laughable.

When I was a little girl, Disney (and many other companies, I’m sure) led me to believe that, if I wished for it hard enough, I’d get the dream life I had always imagined, and it would include the dream man to sweep me off of my feet, and we would have such a wonderful life together.

And then I met this thing called the real world.

I would like to take a moment to point out that I do not have an angelic voice, and animals do not flock to me, so I probably should have recognized from the start that I was not going to live the Disney princess life. But sometimes we’re blind to the things we don’t want to see.

I’m at the age when most of my friends are either in serious relationships or already married and starting (or growing) their families. And here I am, ending up in situations like the one I’m about to share with you.

I went out with some of my friends last Friday night, which was a much-needed adventure. At one point, my friend Amanda and I decided to get up from our table to walk around, and we ended up going to the upstairs portion of the restaurant/bar. We almost immediately spotted a very attractive fella, and so we began discussing how we were going to talk to him when he was in a group of guys. (This was for me—Amanda already has a man.) Apparently my new go-to tactic to strike up a conversation with a guy is to ask him to take a picture of my friends and me. But I had left my phone downstairs on the table, and Amanda didn’t have hers, either, so we had a slight predicament.

We finally spotted an opportunity to talk to him when he walked up to the bar by himself, and there was space next to him, so we went and stood there, too. And then I did something I’m not too proud of: I asked him what time it was. To those other single people out there, please do nothing I do. We sort of awkwardly stood there for a few seconds, and then I walked away. Amanda and I went back downstairs, and we felt slightly defeated.

“I’m pretty sure I heard the word ‘finance.’ Let’s ask him what he thinks will happen with the DOL rule.”

We told the other girls at our table about our failure, so it was decided we needed to go back up there. This time, Bonnie came with us, and I took my phone. There’s a great view of the city from the patio up there, and we obviously needed a picture with that wonderful background. I went up to the group of guys and asked if one of them would be willing to take our picture, and I was sort of looking mainly at the guy with the watch when I said it. His response: “I am so the guy for this job!”

We made small talk, and he pretended to be a professional photographer, and we commended his work when we saw the pics. He told us he and his friends were about to leave to go to his buddy’s rehearsal dinner for his wedding the next day, so I congratulated the groom when we got back to his friends, and then told the guy with the watch and iPhone camera skills that it was nice to meet him. He said, “It was really great to meet you, too, Natalie,” and then the girls and I went back downstairs, and I’ll probably never see him again.

I don’t think that’s how it happens in the movies.

Being single is not always easy. I could list about 72 reasons why, but I’m pretty sure the story I just told you says enough for now. People have been telling me for years that the right man is out there for me, but I think it’s important to face the possibility that he’s not—I might be one of those people who is single forever. And I have to be OK with that.

The truth is that love is all around us everywhere, and it’s not just the type of love that’s in romantic comedies and fairy tales. It’s the love that makes people know that they matter and that others care for them. There are so many situations right at the heart of where we are that have proven lately that what the world truly needs now is love, sweet love. It’s not love that you get by trying to catch someone’s eye on the second floor of a swanky bar. It’s the love that you give by accepting others for the individuals they are and appreciating them in spite of their differences and in spite of their flaws—because we all have flaws, and we are all imperfect.

Whether you’re single or dating or engaged or married or just don’t care, you always have the opportunity to love and to be loved. I know it’s difficult to show it to everyone all of the time, especially when we all have our own struggles and pains we’re dealing with in different ways, but the smallest acts of love really can impact others in such big ways. And if you see those opportunities, don’t let them pass you by.

Otherwise, you might end up spending too much time eating Sour Patch Kids: Berries by yourself. (Side note: They’re delicious.)

Take your own time

You make time for the things you want to make time for in life.

And sometimes that means making time for you.

I took two days off from work last week, which is kind of a big deal for me. I know I’ve been in the corporate world for more than a year now, but I feel like I’m still kind of adjusting to it in some ways. When I was teaching, I rarely missed days (except for in my final few months when I had so many days saved up that I stopped working on Wednesdays), mainly because it’s almost more work to prepare sub plans and all of the preparations for your absence than it is to show up and work that day. And now I feel like I will get way too far behind on things if I miss, so my PTO just keeps accumulating.

But then I reached a point.

I have a lot going on in life, and I really needed to be away for just a little while—even if I didn’t actually go anywhere. I decided to take last Tuesday and Wednesday off and do nothing that involved thinking about work or stress or anything that would make me sad.

The first thing I did was sleep past 4:07 a.m., which was nice. Then, after my track workout, I met my friend Jayna to go walk on the trail, and she always cheers me up and offers insight to give me better perspective on things. We walked a pretty far distance, which meant I needed to replenish that lost energy with froyo. After froyo, I decided to go ride the uptown trolley. I had only ridden it once before, and because of a fella, it’s a memory I don’t like to think about often.

I needed to change that.

As I waited for the trolley to arrive at the station, I got in some quality people watching—after all, there are definitely some interesting characters in that part of town. I even used some guy’s phone (per his request) to video him riding around on some round contraption that looked like it involved a sufficient amount of balance. Then there was the man who had given up on his shirt for the day. I mean, it was a little hot outside, but I wasn’t really expecting to see someone going for the shirtless khakis look.

To each his own.

Maybe you also take time to sit on a giant bike.

Finally, the trolley arrived. Even though there were strangers all around me, and everything throughout the city was pretty noisy around us, it was an incredibly peaceful experience. Was it a little lonely? Sure. But it was a good escape from the hamster wheel that I often create for myself. I got to sit there—and just sit—without worrying about a single thing going on around me. And I was able to chat with a man about why the hiccups he was dealing with were more annoying than the hernia he suffered two months ago. His logic escaped me, but I’ve never had a hernia, so I can’t say I’m an expert in how that pain compares to hiccups. (I still question his judgment, though.)

I might not have left the trolley wiser than when I got on it, but I did leave feeling refreshed. Thank you, transit system.

I took lunch to my sister on Wednesday and spent most of the day on my sofa taking naps (yes, plural) and watching This Is Us before going to hang out with my niece for a bit before it was time to coach my softball guys. I was nothing close to productive that day, and I actually felt OK about that.

I think it’s good to get away from the norm every once in a while and make time for yourself. You don’t necessarily have to go full out “Treat Yo Self,” but maybe you do. Sure, if you focus solely on your stuff, then it becomes selfish, but taking your own time every now and then is probably healthy.

I think it also helps you appreciate other people more. When I was on the trolley, I felt like no one could bother me during that time. I was riding a trolley in the middle of the day when I should have been at work. No one there knew that about me. No one knew what my story is, what I’m going through in life right now or why I was riding the trolley all by myself with no actual destination. I didn’t know any of their stories or why they were there that day, either—and I think that made me love them more. Maybe they are going through similar or worse times in their lives and needed a trolley ride to remind them that everything is going to be alright.

So take your time, and ride your trolley when you need to, because even if it takes you right back to where you were, it may have been the exact adventure you needed to get you where you need to be.

When you feel like Jessie Spano

I learned a lot of quality lessons from Zack Morris and company during my prime years.

Those episodes were life changers.

Every once in a while (or maybe more like most of the time), I feel like there simply isn’t enough time to get everything accomplished that I need to get accomplished. There should probably be more hours in the day. I usually end up sacrificing sleep, which really isn’t a good idea.

Life can be chaotic, and there are a lot of things I want to do and a lot of things I need to do—and those things don’t always coincide. I even went in to the office for a couple of hours on the Fourth of July because of the workload I had at the time. I would have much rather been napping on my couch (see previous paragraph about not sleeping enough), but sadly, that didn’t happen.

Jessie Spano knows our pain, people.

In the famous Saved by the Bell episode in which she starts taking caffeine pills in order to stay awake, she has an absolutely epic meltdown when Zack tells her there’s no time for her to wash her hair before her big performance. “No time—there’s never any time! I don’t have time to study! I’ll never get into Stanford! I’ll let everyone down! I’m so confused!”

I feel ya, homegirl.

Jessie put a lot of pressure on herself to be successful, and I’m sure many of us can relate. I’m studying for a test right now and don’t always feel like I have enough time to study—or at least not as much as I should. It can be difficult to prioritize the things you want to do and the things you should do.

But then there are the things you need to do.

country dancing
And sometimes you opt to go country dancing with your sister and mom at a sketchy bar.

I believe in working hard, and I believe in focusing on those things that will help you be successful. However, I don’t think those things should always take precedent—especially when people are involved. You make time for the things you want to make time for in life, and I think it’s important to make time for the people who matter to you. My friend Jayna is one of the best examples of this. She is by far one of the busiest people I know, but she always makes time for the people in her life. Sometimes we’re only able to chat on the phone to catch up, but she still makes sure to set aside time for those chats—because she cares.

Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed and lacking enough time, I think about my mom. When we were growing up, she worked at a preschool during the day and then usually had to have a part-time job in the evenings. Yet, somehow she still managed to find time to coach some of our teams and be at almost all of our events. She was super busy, but she still showed up. Then, while still working at the preschool, she went back to school to get both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. And she never once threw a Jessie Spano hissy fit about there not being enough time. She made time for the things she wanted to make time for in life, and I’ve always admired her for that.

When my sister and I took a road trip to Tennessee almost two years ago, it was something I really needed to do. It took a huge chunk of time out of both of our lives, but it was absolutely worth every second in that car. Maybe Jessie just needed a road trip with her best friend—it would have been a lot better than those caffeine pills she took.

A lot has happened lately to remind us how precious our time we have is. I’d rather live with no regrets of not doing the things I knew I really needed to do. I’d like to make sure I get to experience the moments that really matter in the grand scheme of life.

Those moments that make people like Jessie Spano so excited—you know, before she got so scared.

Time can outrun a cheetah

Trying to understand how time moves so quickly is like trying to understand men.

It just doesn’t make sense.

We’re in late May at this point, but I feel like it was January yesterday. On Friday evening I went to an event for a couple of my former students. They’ve been working on projects all year as part of a unique program the school district offers, and Friday night was the night of their big presentations. They are seniors this year, which is really weird to me. I swear they were just tiny insecure freshmen walking into my classroom and not knowing what to expect. Now they are these confident young adults with huge dreams. How did this happen so quickly?

I went a little early to the presentation night so that I could hopefully catch up with some former coworkers and chat with my kids some before they had to get in professionalism mode. I hadn’t been back to the school since the day I walked out the door last June with a rollercoaster of emotions going through me. I remember being scared and excited and sad and happy and confused and anxious and hopeful and a bunch of other things all at the same time.

She’s about to graduate. I’m pretty sure she was a freshman just last month.

Walking back into the same school I used to walk in almost every single morning for seven years felt really strange. I still can’t quite believe it’s been almost an entire school year since I’ve been gone. So much can change over that time period, and I felt like an outsider as I walked toward the doors. (I think one thing that made this feeling even stronger was the fact that I tried to enter through a set of side doors near my old classroom, and you have to have a badge to get in there. I don’t have a badge anymore. Thankfully, someone was leaving right as I got to the doors.) I glanced inside my old room, but it looked so different that I had to scurry away quickly. I have too many great memories in there to go down that road.

I’m going to be perfectly honest—I was pretty nervous walking through the halls. I really love my new job, and I haven’t once regretted my decision to leave teaching. Sure, I miss the kids and my coworkers and school at times, but I’ve never been upset about the career change. And for some reason, I was afraid that being back would make me question what I had done. It was really weird, though, because the exact opposite happened—being back made me realize I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

While it was nice to spend time with old friends and old students (seriously, how are they this old already?!), I know my time in that world has passed. It went by quickly, and the time away has flown by, too. I’ll never forget that first day of setting foot in front of a classroom full of high schoolers, and I’ll never forget that first day of stepping off the elevator into the corporate world. They are two entirely different realms—not in a bad way—and I’m glad I’ve gotten to spend time in both.

Thinking about how distant one year had made me feel from a seven-year career reminded me how important each moment we have is. I’m pretty sure the day I hit 30 was the day time decided to start moving at warp speed. I’m sure science or something ridiculous will try to convince me that it is actually impossible for it to move faster, but science and I aren’t always on the same page.

When you’re a little kid, you don’t really notice the time as much because you’re constantly living in the moment and doing what you want to do. You don’t necessarily prioritize the wrong things, because you prioritize what truly matters most to you. You think dessert is more important than your veggies—and sometimes it is. You think that playing outside or making memories with your friends is more important than homework—and it almost always is. You think that what you want is actually what you need—and it just might be. You think that waiting 30 minutes to get back in the pool after eating is ridiculous—and it absolutely is (because it’s a complete waste of time). You think that summer is SO far away—and it isn’t, but you don’t notice because you take life one day at a time. You think that growing up and becoming an adult takes forever—but it doesn’t, so stay innocent as long as you can. You think so many things that are so sensible yet make no sense at all at the exact same time—and it’s hard to imagine your views will ever change.

But that’s the thing about time: It holds so much change.

Maybe time seems to pick up speed as I get older because I sometimes forget to live in the moment and appreciate every second I’m given. Maybe time hasn’t slowed down because I haven’t slowed down. Maybe adults should learn a lot more from kids—we’re the ones who say they grow up so fast, but they don’t notice it because they’re too busy living. Maybe they know more than we think they do. Maybe the things they do aren’t always the responsible things, but perhaps oftentimes they’re the right things to do. Maybe sometimes what we say is a “waste of time” really isn’t a waste at all.

I love some of Pam’s final thoughts in the series finale of The Office. She mentioned that it took her “so long to do so many important things” and offered us a little bit of advice: “Just go after what you want, and act fast because life just isn’t that long.”

Which is why we should slow down and make every second count—which Ferris Bueller even remind us to do.

Things I don’t understand

There are a lot of things in life I simply don’t understand.

And I’m learning that’s OK.

While I used to get frustrated when things didn’t make sense to me—you know, like why humidity insists on making my hair a disaster—I’ve started to accept that there really isn’t a need to know everything about everything. That would probably be pretty overwhelming, anyway. I’m not claiming to be wise like Mr. Miyagi or Mr. Feeny, but I do believe a person can still get along in this life without having wisdom and understanding about all of those pressing questions and unknown wonders out there.

no sense2
When things don’t make sense

This popped into my head as Lady Gaga was singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday. I think she has a wonderful voice, and this was one of the first times I had seen her not wearing an overly extravagant outfit. I thought her sparkly red suit was pretty appropriate for the occasion. And she belted that anthem like a lot of people can’t. But I’m sure there will still be lots of self-made critics of her posting things on social media to let people know their opinions and reviews of her performance. I’m sure we’ll hear a ton about the halftime show, too. This is one of those things I won’t ever understand: why people have to be so hateful to famous people on social media outlets. Most of us have never met these individuals, yet we somehow become experts on analyzing their every moves and knowing what they should have done in certain situations. Makes total sense.

I’ve compiled a short list of things that don’t necessarily make me feel scholarly in terms of their subject matters. Perhaps you can relate, or maybe you’ve mastered all understanding of these. Either way, I’m going to throw them out there.

So much in politics—I don’t follow the stuff that goes on in the political realm of our country, and I can’t tell you many facts about any of the candidates. What bothers me most and what I can never wrap my mind around is why so many parts of the political world seem corrupt and not at all very nice. People are always trying to dig up dirt on the candidates and their pasts and anyone affiliated with them, and it’s almost as if no one can trust anyone—which then makes it hard for the members of the public to say they trust their leaders. There are so many disagreements, and social media yet again makes it possible for people to start heated debates and criticize others. It’s tiring.

Science—I’ve given up all hope. I don’t understand anatomy, biology, physics, botany or really anything that falls under this umbrella. I did pretty well in chemistry back in the day, but I could tell you zilch about it now. I think the only way I made good grades in science was by memorizing what I needed to for tests, but all of that is gone. I think it’s great things function the ways they do, but I must leave it at that and not try to figure out why.

Financial stuff—I am trying to learn more since I work in this industry now, but there’s still a lot that I don’t get yet. Investments, the market, portfolios and more than a handful of other concepts still go over my head a little, but I’d rather not be a complete dunce. My boss would probably prefer that, too.

Men—Enough said.

Many Super Bowl commercials—Only a small number of them are actually funny anymore. Most of the ads don’t make much sense to me and sometimes leave me wondering what was actually being advertised until the very last second. Maybe they’re all trying too hard. This year was the first time in a long time that I didn’t have to take notes during the commercial breaks to discuss with my students as part of the advertising unit I taught every year at this time, so I maybe didn’t pay as much attention to the ads this time around. I did like the Buick one with Odell Beckham Jr., though. “She Odelled it.” And the one with Ryan Reynolds was definitely visually appealing. I’m pretty sure it was a Hyundai commercial. The Super Bowl babies thing was pretty neat, too. I mean, SEAL.

Intentional meanness—I know I’m not always the nicest person to everyone every single second of my life. I’ve certainly said and done things I regret that have hurt others, but I can’t wrap my mind around calculated meanness. I know a Pollyanna existence really isn’t logical, but it doesn’t hurt us to try to be nice to people as much as we can. There are lots of quotes about love that I could throw in here, but the bottom line is that love is always a better choice than hate.

There are likely more things I haven’t grasped full comprehension of just yet, but I’ve exhausted my lack of wisdom for the time being. I’m fine with not understanding all there is to understand as long as I live a life full of love and spending time with people. I think one of the best things we can give others is not necessarily knowledge but time.

And time spent loving others is never wasted or unwise.