28 reasons i loved 28

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i went on a date with a guy once who, in learning my age, was quick to tell me how good i looked (in spite of it). “i thought you were like 21 or 22,” he said. thank you? does this mean my anti-wrinkle cream is doing its job? maybe it’s the oil-pulling. mostly i just think it’s good genes (so thanks grandma & momma).

at any rate, i turn the big two-nine tomorrow. even writing that feels strange. how on earth did i get here? i’m one year away from thirty and i still feel like i’m 18. to be honest, the closer i get to closing out this decade, the more liberated i feel. i think most people would expect me to feel the opposite, to be honest, i, too, expected to feel opposite -instead of liberated, maybe scared or disappointed or saddened that my life doesn’t look like what i imagined it to be when i daydreamed of my late 20’s as a high school freshman. but the 20’s have been a rough go, y’all. they have been filled with all sorts of crazy insecurities and growing pains and really really dark times. don’t get me wrong, they have also been marked by some of the biggest joys and accomplishments in my life. but it is truly only in the last two years that i’ve felt good in the skin that i’m in. i’ve learned to really enjoy who i’ve become -flaws, scars, idiosyncrasies, and failures and all. i’ve learned to embrace my story instead of always trying to run from it, or worse yet, apologize for it. the me of today is so much happier and healthier and dare i say it, more stylish, than the me that embarked on this decade.

i know i still have one more year left in this decade and this all might be a little premature, but when i do this again in one year and i’m freaking out about turning 30, i need this here as a reminder that no matter what life looks like in 365 days, i will be grateful and excited for a new decade and a clean slate and the opportunity to say that i’m “thirty, flirty & thriving.

so with all of that said, i really loved being 28. if for no other reason that i could use the hashtag #28isgreat during a week’s worth of birthday celebrations last year (don’t worry i already have my hastag for this year’s shenanigans -#twentyFINE). no but seriously, i could probably think of 128 reasons why i loved this particular year so much, but i’d probably lose your attention after number 14, so i’ll settle for just 28 reasons why i enjoyed these past 365 days.

one. let’s just start with the biggest reason of all, you guys. australia. australia. australia. my 28th year brought me what can only be described as the trip of a lifetime. koalas and kangaroos and australian open titles, oh my. clearly choosing to fly to australia to spend two weeks with a friend i had never spent more than two hours with was the most adventuresome things i’ve ever done in my life, but it was also one of the best decisions i’ve ever made, too. you know i could talk about this subject until i’m blue in the face (and i have, considering how many recaps i dedicated to this trip) so…i’ll quit while i’m ahead. but not before posting this photo because it’s my favorite and it hangs right next to my closet door and i pass by it every morning and remind myself of what a perfect evening that was. and i’ve made a pact with myself to get myself back there someday.

photo cred: M.

photo cred: M.

two. three of my best gals got hitched and i had the pleasure of seeing it all go down. Mac got married in malibu, H got married in austin, and K rounded out the year with a wedding nearly right in my own backyard. the weddings were all beautiful and unique in their own ways and i was reminded of what makes these occasions so special. the love, yes, but also the epic reunions (see below) AND most importantly, the dancing.

six of the eight senior cheerleaders. also, our girl's a bridal babe.

senior cheerleaders in austin | september 2013.

three. my relationship with my biological father (hi dad!) grew exponentially. a few weeks after my 28th birthday, darling online published my article entitled “forgiveness in the family“. while it was a tad bit scary sharing such a vulnerable aspect of my life, it was just the catalyst to truly change the dynamic of my father’s and my bond. looking back on this past year, i can honestly say it has been one of the best we have ever had. what once was sporadic catch-up emails and never-followed-up-with plans has become weekly phone dates and “i love you and am proud of you” text messages and holidays celebrated together as a family. i may tend to always err on the side of hyperbolic, but y’all, i am not exaggerating when i say this -the Lord is capable of anything. and i feel so grateful and blessed to be standing on the other side of a long journey with a whole new perspective and appreciation that i get to do life again with the man who gave me his big brown eyes, long legs, and hard work-ethic.

christmas at the ritz.

christmas at the ritz.


four. i dated again. after year 27 was fairly rough in the romance department, i shook off the cobwebs and dipped my toe back into the dating pond. i will preface what i’m about to say with the simple fact that i had a lot of fun this year. i opened myself up to new possibilities and tried so desperately to stay out of my own head. but i soon realized that making the transition to “just friends” to “more than just friends” but never quite arriving at “boyfriend/girlfriend” kind of makes things messy. and turns out, i’m not so good at compartmentalizing emotions when expectations aren’t met and blurred lines aren’t made straight. living in the grey is not a place i’d like to live for long.

however, i don’t believe in regret. each situation has only made me stronger, wiser, and more aware of what i want and deserve. 28 showed me a lot about my behavior in terms of dating and boys and relationships in general. some facets i’m not so proud of, but others, i’ve been pleasantly surprised by. so baby steps. one thing i’m sure of though: i am really ready for something spectacular. just “okay” isn’t okay anymore. and if that means i have to wait a little longer for my future mister to break through the traffic, i’m honestly content to wait. i brought a book this time.

five. one word: community. in case i’ve ever doubted what an amazing army of people i have behind me, this year was the year to remind me. not only did i rekindle old friendships, but i deepened existing ones, and even made a few new ones, too. sometimes i think i would be content to live the rest of my life spending my days at coffee houses or cafes simply conversing with people, hearing their stories and offering encouragement, counsel, or in the very least, comic relief. who knew that painfully shy girl who hid under tables when people sang happy birthday to her in public or who wouldn’t make contact with the audience at her dance recitals would come to be so social? maybe she finally grew up and realized that while material things look nice hanging in your closet or parked in your garage, the most important thing in life are the relationships you have with your family and friends. and man am i ever blessed by the ones i have in my life.

six. after my beloved pure barre studio closed in late september of last year, i became a tucker without a home. but thankfully, my displacement was short-lived. i have since found a new place of barre residency at studio barre in la costa. and while it’s never easy being the new kid on the block (cue “the right stuff“), this whole experience has proven that sometimes change can be a good thing, and that if you attend class often enough, you’ll make new barre friends and instructor friends, and maybe even become a centurion in your first six months of membership. 

100 strong


seven. i volunteered for casa de amistad. for her entire spring semester, i tutored E, a 7th grader with the most covet-able eyelashes and a maturity that far surpassed her twelve years of life. while i’m not sure how much i aided in boosting her GPA (turns out 7th grade curriculum is a lot harder than i remember it being), i hope i at least offered her a bit of older sisterly advice and if nothing else, made her laugh at my references to movies that came out long before she was even a twinkle in her momma’s eye (she looked at me like i had a third eye when i referenced shes’s all that and the mighty ducks. oof).

eight. i became an auntie (okay, second cousin) to the most perfect tiny human ever. jack evan bishop was born on july 30, 2013 and is nothing short of a modern-day miracle. after a brief (but scary) residency in the NICU, he was finally released from the hospital and given a completely clean bill of health. he is now nearly 11 months old and doing exactly what an almost 11 month old should be doing -cruising, and clapping, and eating, and drooling, and pulling himself up onto everything in sight. he is the apple of his momma’s eye and the joy of our family.


bubba’s dedication | february 2014.


nine. i took a road trip to visit my cousins in central california. and by “road trip” i mean i let amtrak do the driving. taking the train was certainly an experience in and of itself, but despite the questionable sobriety of my fellow passengers and a few delays, it did its job of delivering me safely to arroyo grande. i spent the remainder of the weekend touring the quaint towns of san louis obispo and avila beach and most importantly, bonding with relatives i unfortunately only tend to see a handful of times a year at miscellaneous family functions.

arroyo grande | july 2013.

arroyo grande | july 2013.


ten. i went paleoish. in a very personal post, i fessed up to some not so admirable eating habits, or rather, lack there of. since being gung-ho to pale-oh, i have experimented to find a happy medium between the strict regimented world of a paleolithic lifestyle and the rest of mankind that doesn’t always cook their vegetables and meat in coconut oil and eats, GASP, gluten. like everything, it’s all about finding balance and moderation and most importantly, what works best with your body. and after a year of trial and error, i think i’ve settled into a foodie routine that leaves me both feeling my best and satisfied. it’s mostly paleo in nature, but with significantly less bacon and a lot more acai bowls.

eleven. i fell back in love with my job. you know how couples reach seven years of marriage and they start to get “the itch?” i think i got the itch at about year five in my “work marriage” and it wasn’t until this last year that i really started to reconnect with the reasons why it is i truly enjoy what i do. for me, it’s not always about the day-to-day tasks of answering emails or processing paperwork. it’s about the people i get to work with and for and meet on a daily basis. it’s about getting to drive into the picturesque town of la jolla, california and having my very own office with a view of the manicured course. it’s about the fact that i am have found this awesome balance of both being respected by my colleagues but also friends to them, too. and most importantly, i have a boss that cares just as much for my personal well-being as he does for my professional progress. i might not being doing my dream job, but then again, i never had a clear-cut vision of what my dream job would be. all i know is that i’ve found a place that celebrates my strengths, forgives me for my weaknesses, and doesn’t make me wear a suit (hallelujah). add in the fact that i work a 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m schedule and get matched for my 401K and i’d say working for “the man” ain’t so bad, y’all.

twelve. i solidified my love for lake-life. when K decided that she’d like to have her last fling before the ring up at our friend’s family’s house in lake arrowhead, i may or may not have been the first to respond to that evite with an enthusiastic “YES PLEASE!” over the course of our weekend away, we lounged, shared stories, laughed, cried (happy tears) and ate our weight in cookie dough and hummus. not only was it a celebration of K -a woman full of beauty, poise, and grace, but it was also the perfect opportunity for all of us to escape to a simpler form of life -one where God’s glory is clearly displayed in the rawness of His creation (romans 1:20). in other news, when i become oprah rich, i’m buying a lake house.

lake arrowhead | september 2013.

lake arrowhead | september 2013.


thirteen. i found a whole new appreciation for the former mr. katy perry. C and i went to john mayer’s san diego leg of his paradise valley tour in early october and it was definitely his best concert to date (i’ve seen him three times). he sang all of our favorite songs and even gave some heartfelt commentary in between sets. and albeit a tad bit cheesy at times, his CGI stage backdrop was kind of amazing. as were the ponchos worn by his back-up singers. p.s. this was my favorite performance of the night.

john mayer concert | october 2013.

john mayer concert | october 2013.


fourteen. after seeing her every sunday morning for the past year and a half, i finally asked michelle, the sweet-natured lady who hands out programs at the front of the north coast calvary sanctuary, if she’d like to meet me for coffee sometime. i think i get why guys are so nervous to make a move on a girl they like. asking a stranger out for any sort of beverage or meal is actually quite terrifying. lucky for me michelle accepted my invitation. and since that initial exchange, we’ve continued to foster a mentor-like relationship. aside from the worship and mark’s messages, michelle has become my favorite thing about sunday morning.

fifteen. on account of L’s amazing surge of bravery, i met one of my celebrity crushes -miss tristan prettyman while eating dinner at whole foods. not only is she just as naturally stunning in person, she’s also incredibly nice. i did my best to not go completely fangirl on her, but i really do regret not letting her know how much her lyrics have comforted me through some of life’s toughest seasons. 

sixteen. i discovered madewell and my wardrobe (and checking account) will never be the same. as the candles on the cake steadily increase in number, i’m finding that i’m finally honing in on a style that is all my own. a little charlotte york-goldenblatt. and a little carrie bradshaw. there will always be pearls and sequins and ruffles, but i’m also finding the beauty in less is more. don draper once said, make it simple, but make it significant. i can’t help but think that if i continue to cultivate my love affair with madewell (and her sister, j.crew), my wardrobe will be just that -simple but significant.

styled madewell poncho dress

madewell dressing room | may 2014.


seventeen. two words: oil-pulling. i jumped on the hippy-dippy bandwagon and gave oil pulling a try. not only that, i also kind of jumped on the whole coconut oil as a remedy for anything/everything bandwagon, too (it’s difficult being on two bandwagons at once, let me tell you). i’m not a good judge of whether or not this addition to my morning routine has truly enhanced my health (i didn’t feel terribly toxic pre-oil pulling, but i’d like to think i’m way less appealing as a bacteria vacation home as i was before), BUT i can tell you that my teeth are significantly whiter and my nutritionist is impressed with my current state of health. that may or may not be attributed to the increase in my fruit and vegetable intake, but i’d like to believe swishing a teaspoon of coconut oil around in my mouth for 20 minutes every morning (AND remembering not to spit it in the sink every single time) also has something to do with it. otherwise, i’ve wasted a lot of time and coconut oil.

eighteen. i went to nashvilletwicebringing my number of visits to the country music capital total to a whopping six. while my latest plans of getting back to B and my favorite southern city were thwarted by san diego’s recent firestorm, i am already in works of getting a new date on the calendar for this fall. because despite the fact that its summers are muggy and there’s a significant lack of salt water and sand, i love this city with my whole heart.

i believe.

i believe.


nineteen. i invited my first non-family guest to our annual thanksgiving dinner. JP joined our little clan for turkey, mashed potatoes, and a few competitive rounds of scattergories. not only did he fit in seamlessly with our tight-knit crew, but he helped me take home the W in a late-night game of pictionary against my parents.

thanksgiving | november 2013.

thanksgiving | november 2013.

twenty. i read some really good books:

gone girl

the fault in our stars

me before you

the husband’s secret


a million miles in a thousand years

books that inspired me to continue to keep writing stories of my own and books that i cannot wait for hollywood to turn into movies (i’ll see you in october, mr. affleck).

twenty one. speaking of writing stories, i decided to write a book. again. after recounting nearly every detail of my time in australia, i was reminded of why i love writing so much. i’m a story teller. i love sharing my stories. and what better way than to share one of my most life-changing stories yet than by writing it all down in a novel that i can show my grandchildren some day? plus, let’s be real, i still have a lot to say about his trip. and by “a lot to say” i mean i’m sharing most of the inner dialogue that continuously played before, during, and after everything went down. for example, i thought M and my airport reunion was going to look just like the opening scene from love actually -complete with hugh grant narrating and all. turns out, my life isn’t actually a romantic comedy. shucks.

twenty-two. i also saw my name in print. again. last october, the print version of darling magazine (which is produced quarterly) published another one of my articles. entitled “the parting,” it also came accompanied by a short film featured on darling‘s website based on the principles i discussed in my composition -that when it comes to relationships, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. (this was really cool, y’all).


twenty-three. i took a new driver’s license photo. after carting around “blondie” for a decade, i have since replaced my 18-year-old self with my almost 29-year-old version. never mind the fact that despite being auburnish in my photo, i’m still listed as blonde. but i suppose that gives me free reign to highlight, right? and in other-picture-taking-for-government-documents news, i also took a new passport photo this year, and it was quite the ordeal.

twenty-four. i said yes. (not to the dress, like my favorite TLC show). to invitations, rather. one in august. and most recently, to two bbq’s where i hardly knew a soul. i realize my idea of “adventure” and your idea of “adventure” may have very different definitions (if that is so, let’s get you a copy of my dictionary, shall we?), but i’m really quite proud of how i’ve somehow managed to arrive at an inner confidence that makes accepting last minute plans a not so scary thing anymore.

twenty-five. momma and i took a girls’ weekend to santa barbara last october. we walked and shopped and tasted dessert wine. and it only further solidified the fact that she is without a doubt my very best friend (and basically my twin).

santa barbara | october 2013.

santa barbara | october 2013.


twenty-six. i discovered the magic of dates. not the kind that you get dressed up for and wait for a gentleman to pick you up at 8, the kind that’s a dried fruit and that when combined with cashews and blended in a food processor tastes like cookie dough. it might not ever trump the real thing, but this recipe comes pretty darn close.

twenty-seven. per the recommendation of a fairly aggressive dental hygienist, i started using an electric toothbrush. touche, nicole. touche.

and last but not least,

twenty-eight. on december 22nd, two of my oldest and dearest friends got engaged. after knowing both of them separately for more than a decade, i couldn’t help but feel particularly giddy about this next chapter in both of their lives. you see, their story is one of God’s most beautiful compositions. and while i won’t go into any real detail (mostly because it’s not my story to tell), i will say that the road down which they traveled to arrive at this point -nearly exactly one month away from their wedding -gives me the hope and encouragement that God is not only capable of anything, but that His timing is always perfect.

you know, birthdays and i have always had sort of a love/hate relationship. i’ve never been too scared of adding another candle to my cake -age truly is, just a number. rather, each birthday was just another reminder of what i hadn’t accomplished, or what life stages i hadn’t quite reached yet.

but this year feels different.

i’m in a really good place. for the first time in a long while, i’m really enjoying the season i’m in. there’s a lightness about me, as if the weight of insecurity i have been carrying around for the past nine years has finally been lifted. so even with all of the awesome things that transpired over these past 365 days (yes, even australia), i think that has been the best gift of all -this intangible realization that i kind of love who i am. so with that inner confidence finally in tact, i’m really ready to take full advantage of this final year in my 20’s.

bring it on 29. you’ve got some big shoes to fill.

  • Momma
    June 3, 2014

    Love the 28 reasons post. Here’s looking at a great twentyfine!

  • Teresa
    June 4, 2014

    Just wonderful. You are a strong, beautiful woman who graces the lives of those around you. I loved your 28 reasons (I loved the NKOTB reference!!); you have such a refreshing view of life. Seems you forgive all the ugh parts of life and move forward with the enriching parts. I feel privileged to know you. And yes, God’s timing is always perfect. My brother and your mom meeting and falling in love. Your mom wonderfully bringing you to our family get-together meals (you were such a brave little girl; we could see the doubt in your eyes). And look at you now… a lovely, accepting woman… very much like your mom. Everybody should have a Shawna in their life. Have a great (camel) day.

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