Real Talk: New Year, New Resolutions

It’s 2016. When did that happen?

As we all know, a new year means New Year’s Resolutions. Everyone resolves to lose weight and go to the gym… and they stick with it until mid-February. Then the gym crowd empties out again (and I can have my treadmill back, dammit), and the resolution falls by the wayside.

I don’t normally do resolutions. For one, I can’t really stick with them. But this year, I thought I’d make a list of things I want to do in 2016. Goals for myself, of a sort. Some of these are serious, some are more lighthearted. Because it’s about balance, y’all.

You can call them resolutions if you like. For me, they’re more like life improvements instead of resolutions.

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No, there’s no reason for this hedgehog. I just thought it was cute.

1. Become more involved in my church.

Over the course of 2015, I started attending Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C. I’d been once, a few years ago for the Easter service, but I hadn’t been back because, well, I was lazy. I didn’t have a car, and Sunday bus service is less than reliable.

In April, I brought my car to D.C. And there went my excuse. I’ve been attending regularly as I can with work travel, but I would like become more involved. First, I plan on joining this year. I’d like to do a small group Bible study, maybe volunteer. I think that that would be good for my growth, as a Christian, and the church is so warm and welcoming.

2. Stop worrying about what my friends are doing on social media.

That sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Let me explain.

I suffer from a syndrome, best diagnosed in the title of Mindy Kaling’s first book — Is everyone hanging out without me? I have this paranoia that while I’m sitting at home in my pajamas and reading a book, all my friends are out having oh-so-much fun together. Without me.

So what do I do? I check Facebook. And Instagram. And Snapchat. And that just reinforces the feeling of isolation — which is funny, isn’t it? We’re so connected via the internet, yet it can make a person feel as lonely as ever. It’s not good for your mental health to worry about such stupid things like that.

But that’s the thing about platforms like Instagram, isn’t it? We present our ‘perfect’ life. One where we’re having so much fun, enjoying adventure, drinks, and other beautiful people. We don’t see the other side, which, if we’re being honest, probably encompasses more of reality than the curated side.

I think it can be best summed up by a friend. She recently moved back to D.C. after a year or so pretty far away. We were talking about her new job and why she’d moved back, and the question was posed, “You looked so happy where you were living. All your posts were of the fun things you did. Why would you want to leave?”

And her response? “Yeah, but I didn’t post about all the nights I sat at home, drinking an entire bottle of wine by myself.”

So in 2016, I’m quitting that. I’m going to do my best (and it’ll probably take effort) to not worry about everyone else. Sure, they’re having fun — but they’re also just like me: on the couch alone some nights.

3. Go home more often

I have a car. Tennessee is only an 8 hour drive away. There’s no reason for me not to suck it up and take a weekend and go see my family. I love spending time at home — why don’t I do it more often?

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My last road trip home

4. Spend money on experiences, not things

That sounds like the most basic, white girl thing ever, doesn’t it? I’ve seen this on several Thought Catalog pieces, but it’s something I’d really like to try. Because yeah, a new Kate Spade purse is nice — but a last minute road trip to the Outer Banks with some friends is way more meaningful.

I’m a travelbug. Always have been, always will be. That’s a requirement to date me — must have passport. If I can snag a super cheap airfare somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, why not go? I’m single and childless, with a great job that encourages me to actually use — not hoard — my vacation days. Why not go?

BRB, just adding to my AirBNB wishlist.

5. Play more golf

I used to hate golf. Hate hate hated it. But then I started playing and fell in love. I’ve got a nice set of clubs and a car. There’s no reason not to play a round every few weekends or so (when the weather gets back above freezing, obviously). I can channel my inner Robin Williams (NSFW video, obviously).

6. Music. Must have more music

I’ve been in D.C. for 6 1/2 years. How is it that I’ve still never been to the Kennedy Center? Home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the DC Opera, and venue that plays host to some of the most esteemed musicians in the world. But I’ve only heard the NSO play once — discounting seeing them on TV for the Fourth of July.

So, a goal this year is to make it to all of them: the ballet, the opera, the symphony. And that doesn’t even count in all the great live music venues in D.C. It’s something I haven’t really taken advantage of here yet, and I intend to change that.

7. Remember to take time for myself

These days, it feels like everyone puts a priority on being busy. The most common excuse for why someone can’t do something is, “Oh, I’m busy.”

Without getting into the cult of ‘busy,’ I do think burnout is very real. Especially in a city like D.C, where you work hard and are then generally expected to play hard. It’s hard to remember that it’s perfectly acceptable to turn down plans simply because you want to go to bed at 8:30. (And yes, I realize this sounds contrary to Life Improvement #1, but I’m channeling my inner Dowager Countess here).

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8. Show gratitude

Nothing is perfect. In fact, I think there’s no such thing. But for everything that is ‘wrong,’ there is so much that is amazing in my life. I’m very blessed with a healthy family, a roof over my head, a steady income, and my own health. I have amazing friends who love me, and who I love in return. There’s so much to be grateful for. Instead of focusing on the negative so much, I want to focus on the positives.

9. Lose weight

Come on, you knew that one was coming. 😉

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City Life: Busy, busy busy!

Man, I am glad that I don’t get graded on keeping a blog. I’d definitely be failing if that were in the case.

BUT. In my very weak defense, I’ve been busy! Let’s us embark on a brief picture memo of my past few months.

April started off with my work legislative conference. Needless to say, that week was a blur. Long nights, early mornings, and a lot of running around. But at the end of the week, it was nice to enjoy a bit of fun with my Southern brethren at Taste of the South.

This year's theme was "Roaring Southern Nights"

This year’s theme was “Roaring Southern Nights”

Taste of the South is a black tie charity event founded over twenty years ago by some other displaced Southerners. It’s always a fun evening, and this sorority girl definitely appreciates the philanthropic aspect of the events!

It was a fun time with Meghan, Molly, and Peter — plus some random run-ins with other old friends!

The end of the night. I just love fresh flowers!

The end of the night. I just love fresh flowers!

Two days after TOTS, my Mom came to town to visit! Her own fly-in was that week, but she stayed after to spend time with her favorite child.

Love

Love

April was also spent rehabilitating my leg. I’m playing soccer again, and I strained my quad in early April. I’ve loved getting back on the field, but man — injuries suck.

The beginning of May brought another one of my favorite rites of spring: Virginia Gold Cup.

My attempt at artsy photography. Also, tasty margarita!

My attempt at artsy photography. Also, tasty margarita!

It was a cool day for Gold Cup, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the fun at University Row. Ladies wore their Derby best, and the gents were dapper in their seersucker (Calgon, take me away!).

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Two groups of friends met for the first time (Meghan and Molly from work, Sara and Meredith from my sorority), and fun was had by all!

Go Glen Coco, go!

Go Glen Coco, go!

And to wrap out the month, my grandmother and brother came to visit!

Brothers who brunch

Brothers who brunch

Despite his dislike for DC, Ross had fun — I think shopping at Vineyard Vines in Georgetown might have had a serious affect on him. It was great seeing family, and I can’t wait until I see them again over the 4th of July.

Last night was a bachelorette party for my dear friend, Katt! While I was sad I didn’t get to spend the entire evening in Adams Morgan with them (seriously, being a responsible soccer player is not fun sometimes), it was great having dinner with these Theta girls. Congratulations to Katt and Robin!

Kiting the bride-to-be. TLAM!

Kiting the bride-to-be. TLAM!

And now it’s June! Where has 2013 gone? I can’t wait to see what other sorts of fun this year has in store for me. Summer 2013 is going to be epic!

Road trip: Back to reality

So pretty

So pretty

So, I was browsing my Google Reader today when it hit me: hey, I totally have a blog I’ve neglected since Christmas. We’re going to just go ahead and blame that on the Post-Holidays Funk. Do y’all go through that? I had a really bad case of it this year — it’s that funk you get into when you get back to the real world after spending a week or so in the warm, caring embrace of family.

Of course, the fact that the sun is REFUSING to shine here in D.C. probably has something to do with that.

But no matter. I’m sorry for neglecting y’all. Did you have a nice holiday? Mine was excellent — so excellent, in fact, that it was hard to get on the plane to come back.

If you had to leave these two goofballs, though, would you?

I can just hear Mom: "Y'all are going to break that chair in a minute."

I can just hear Mom: “Y’all are going to break that chair in a minute.”

My Christmas was fantastic. My big surprise this year was a KitchenAid stand mixer (cue my squeals of joy, y’all) in a beautiful tangerine shade. I’m not sure how it’s going to get up to my house in D.C., but it will. Oh, it will.

And then I will bake ALL OF THE THINGS.

Mwahahaha.

As part of “quality family time at home,” I went out with my parents to feed the cattle on Sunday. There, I was reunited with my show heifer from sixth grade, Mary. She’s one of the few cows that will still let you touch her.

In the background, Daddy's yelling, "She's not going to pose!  Take the dang picture!"

In the background, Daddy’s yelling, “She’s not going to pose! Take the dang picture!”

It was great to get back home for a while. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to get back to east Tennessee, and that saddens me. (This is one of the major drawbacks of not keeping a car in the city). I’m already searching Etsy prints to bring Tennessee to me.

For now, though, it’s back to real life in D.C. The Inauguration is on Monday, which means I’m going home tomorrow night and won’t be leaving my neighborhood for any reason until Tuesday morning. You couldn’t pay me to try and fight the crowds on Monday morning.

That’s definitely my Daddy’s influence coming out in me.

But on one final note, I met a Ralph Lauren model over Christmas. And I took a picture. Want to see it?

Okay, so maybe he's just a model in his own mind.

Okay, so maybe he’s just a model in his own mind.

Hope everyone is able to kick the January blues! If you have any tips, send ’em my way!

Holiday Happiness: ‘Tis the season!

I don’t know about y’all, but as soon as the days prior to Thanksgiving arrive, the holiday rush just takes off for me. I’m catching flights, enjoying that brief time with my family, catching up with cousins I haven’t seen in forever.

Oh yeah, and stuffing my face with turkey and my Mom’s dressing (trust me, monuments should be built to this stuff — it’s that good).

This week is going to be an absolute blur between work, holiday parties, and getting everything done that needs to be done before I fly home for Christmas. It’s important to take time and reflect on the true meaning of the season. My current church (Wisconsin Avenue Baptist) is helping with that. Every morning, I receive a daily Advent devotional in my inbox. The theme is “Waiting for the Light,” and finding a quiet time every day to reflect and read the word of God helps keep me centered in this time of stress.

And there’s also my family. I love seeing them when I can. Living in DC without a car, I don’t get home as often as I would like, and so getting back to Tennessee is a really big deal for me. I took these photos when I was home for Thanksgiving, so you can enjoy my holiday through Instagram. 🙂

Always a welcome sight!

Always a welcome sight!

The animals were waiting to greet me when I got home!

Such sweet faces

Such sweet faces

I think Dad's done a pretty good job with this crop of calves :)

I think Dad’s done a pretty good job with this crop of calves 🙂

Every Thanksgiving, we spend the holiday at my great-grandmother’s home in North Carolina. Even though she is no longer with us, it’s still great to get together at her little mountain home and enjoy the fellowship of family.

Dory Jane -- a champion sugar cookie decorator in the making

Dory Jane — a champion sugar cookie decorator in the making

On Friday, the men head to the golf course or the fishing hole while the women head to Burnsville for a little bit of shopping/wandering around town.

Women of the Houston-Buchanan-Georges family

Women of the Houston-Buchanan-Georges family

Mama and her babies

Mama and her babies

When we got back home to Tennessee, we make a point to put our Christmas trees up that Saturday night. For me, it’s because the odds are that I won’t be back to see them before Christmas — we spend the holiday with my Mom’s side of the family in west Tennessee, and I usually fly straight to Memphis. For my parents, they a) like having the help, and b) know that if they don’t get it done right then, it might never get done!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

The family Christmas tree

The family Christmas tree

And the formal Christmas tree

And the formal Christmas tree

Decorating for the holidays is one of my favorite traditions! (Yes, Mom, it is. I only complained growing up because fluffing that fake garland we used to use was murder on my hands).

Also, egg nog. Egg nog is delicious.

Daddy and I toasting with our Christmas Vacation moose mugs

Daddy and I toasting with our Christmas Vacation moose mugs

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Promoting Tennessee beef — it’s in the family!

By now, my love of Ole Miss football is well documented. In fact, I even had the opportunity to attend my first game since the 2008 season last weekend — but more on that later.

But I haven’t always been a Rebel girl. In fact, I grew up bleeding orange.

Tennessee orange.

You’ll never see another 21 year-old get so excited about meeting a mascot

Don’t get me wrong — I still love the Vols, and I happily cheer them on to victory… just as long as they aren’t playing the Rebels. Sorry, Tennessee friends, but then my heart beats for Dixie.

ANYWAY. Let’s move on to an entirely unrelated subject (that I promise will return full circle).

As has also been proven, I’m a passion agvocate. I grew up on a farm, and I love to help promote animal agriculture in every way that I can. But did you know that I come by this passion naturally?

Bet you can’t guess which one I’m related to… and no, it’s not Governor Haslam.

My mom, Jennifer Houston, is currently the chairwoman of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council. She’s been active in agriculture leadership since before I was born — and honestly, they don’t call her The General for nothing (sorry Mom, couldn’t resist). In addition to serving in leadership capacities with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, she’s a very active promoter of Tennessee beef on the state and local levels.

How does this go full circle to Tennessee football?

Well, y’all didn’t think the embarrassment of a family member was limited to little brothers, did you?

Tomorrow is Beef Day at the University of Tennessee football game! The Tennessee Beef Industry Council will be at the game, providing free samples and promoting beef — which is awesome! And, just like last year, Mom will join Bob Kesling and company on the Kickoff Call-In Show!

Last year’s Beef Day

If you’re going to the game, you can see the action at Gate 21 of Neyland Stadium — she’ll be on at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you’re listening via radio or Internet, you can find her on the Vol Radio Network.

Awesome, isn’t it?

Celebrating 50 years!

It’s no secret that I’m a proud rural girl. I grew up in an agricultural family, was invovled in agricultural activities, and I currently work to promote animal agriculture in Washington D.C.

But I’m also the daughter of small business owners. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Our family business

My family owns East Tennessee Livestock Center in Sweetwater, Tennessee. For those unfamiliar with livestock auction markets, we serve as intermediaries between buyers and sellers. To put it in economic terms (or as economic as I get, which isn’t very), we offer a competitive marketplace for sellers to get the highest price possible for their commodities — in this case, live animals. Specifically cattle, though we have a few goats and sheep pass through each week. I also remember seeing a buffalo and an emu come through, but those are few and far between.

The market was founded in 1962 by my grandfather, Joseph Houston, and his four business partners. Over time, he bought out his partners until our family was the sole owners of ETLC. My grandmother worked in the front office, and by the time my Daddy joined the market after college, the business was 100-percent family owned.

Granddaddy Joe -- founder of East Tennessee Livestock Center

Today, my Daddy is the head of the business with my mother working as his business partner and office manager. And on Wednesday, East Tennessee Livestock Center will celebrate 50 years as the Southeast’s strongest and most innovative livestock auction market.

Yes, I know that sounds hyperbolic, and I know that I’m just the teensiest bit biased. But it’s really true. We were the first market in Tennesee to:

• Hold graded feeder calf sales

• Hold graded Holstein steer sales (a much-needed niche in a strong dairy part of the country)

• Hold video sales of cattle lots

In addition, we were the first livestock auction market east of the Mississippi River to hold electronic ID sales.

It hasn’t been easy. In 1987, my grandmother was shot and killed in an armed robbery attempt. We lost my grandfather — founder of our business — last year. And anyone working in agriculture knows how live prices fluctuate depending on market conditions. After the lone case of BSE was found in 2003, prices dropped and suffered for quite a while. Up until the whole snafu with LFTB earlier this year, prices were wonderfully high.

But despite personal tragedy, market setbacks, and competitors moving in and trying to woo away our customers through whatever means necessary, East Tennessee Livestock is still the most trusted livestock auction market in Tennessee.

Having moved away to the big city, I think I’ve developed a new appreciation for the work my parents do. As a child, no one really appreciates their parents — a sad notion, yes, but I think it’s true. You take them for granted. And I’ve definitely taken mine for granted. But living in Washington has reemphasized my rural (and, dare I say, Southern) sensibilities. While there are a lot of things I like about life in the city (Thai food, public transportation, walkability), it’s just not the same as home.

The Houston family

But on the same side of things, it’s amazing to relearn how little experience the average urbanite has with agriculture. All I could really do was blink in shock when someone told me that all farmers tortured their animals — an outright lie if I’ve ever heard one.

While my parents will say that the amount of actual work I ever did at the market was very small, I think I gained a lot more out of my upbringing than mere work experience. Our family business is just that — ours. I’m very protective of it, of my parents, and our way of life.

So if you’re anywhere in southeast Tennessee on Wednesday, stop by and say hello. There’ll be a big anniversary celebration at the market, complete with a luncheon on the grounds and door prizes. I’m pretty sad I won’t be able to attend, but I’ll be there in spirit. There are a lot more that I could say about it, but I’ll just say this:

To my wonderful parents, thank you. You have no idea how much I admire and love you both. Congratulations on 50 years, and here’s to the next 50 being just as groundbreaking and wonderful!