Monday, March 28, 2016

Lemons

We've all heard the saying "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." This was something I used to REALLY struggle with. I'm a planner, a perfectionist, a very type-a personality, oh and I also used to be a pessimist. It's not the best combo to have in a personality! I'd work hard to make plans, have them "perfect," be in control of everything then BAM! Something would go wrong and I'd be devastated. 

Maybe it was a boyfriend that broke my heart...I'd be in bed for days and miss out on a family trip to Maine because I was too miserable to suck it up and have fun with my brother and dad. Maybe it was a date night that went wrong...my "world" would come crashing down and the night would be ruined due to one issue or mishap. Maybe it was a friendship that I messed up or a job recommendation I didn't get. Whatever the cause of disappointment, I would get really, really down on myself. Down on my place in the world. Basically I'd get so down I was in a hole that would be really hard to climb out of.

My worldview was most often one where the glass was half empty. I can relate to Britt as she's SO much like me in that view. When she gets dressed for school rather than being happy about the cute outfit or shoes she's wearing she'll get upset over the hair bow she doesn't adore. We can be at Disney but even she will find something to complain about. I can empathize because that was me. 

In high school I felt a close bond with Daria and, of course, Emily the Strange (btw...I found this fake movie trailer for a Daria movie. OMG this NEEDS to happen right?!?!).


I'm so, so thankful I was given the gift of time. Time to grow up, mature, and especially time to find the Lord and put him on in baptism.  A LOT has changed about me since becoming a Christian but the biggest change has been my world view. My outlook on life in general. I don't overly worry about Britt's more negative outlook on the world because I know once she is old enough to understand what Christ did for her that she'll find that inner peace and that ability to see the GOOD in all things. 

Because that's just it. We have a God and He is GOOD and therefore even in tough times there IS something good to focus on. I went from being a "Debby downer" to being a "silver lining finding pro." I have found it's the best way I cope with disappointments...I simply find that ONE good thing and focus on that. And everything we face, yes even the worst of worst circumstances, still has something positive in it. Maybe even if the only positive is knowing that we have a home in Heaven waiting for us! It's still a positive and is something to focus on and a way to make that lemonade out of whatever lemons we've been handed. And we all know Heaven is the greatest gift of all! 

We've all had our share of lemons. Some of us bigger than others. I think we've all had times in life where we hit small detours in our path and we've all had other times of larger detours. I'm in NO WAY saying that I am currently dealing with some huge issue in my life that overshadows any issues anyone else is facing. Nothing even close. But recent disappointments have really shown me the difference, and growth, in myself in the way I have handled them and I wanted to share this experience!

Zach worked EXTREMELY hard last year. We are blessed that he works for a company that rewards hard work. Aflac has a President's Club award that is given to it's Top 85 agents for the year. Every year the offer a different travel incentive. Zach has earned this prestigious trip a few times now (Paris, Bermuda, Toronto, Ireland). He's also had a few disappointment with it. One year he was ranked #86. So he legit didn't make it by a very slim margin. Another year he made it but had ONE account totally mess him up b/c they canceled so he had HUGE no pay which caused him to lose his qualification status. 

This past year he busted his butt and he made it! Not only did he make it but I think it was his highest ranked year ever (in the top 50 in the company). I couldn't be prouder and we couldn't be more excited about the trip he earned!

We have been planning for our upcoming Italy trip with Aflac for months. Aflac pays for the big expenses. Flights, fancy hotel, fancy dinners, breakfasts, activities, even spending money! (You can see the full agenda as well as the AMAZING hotel here!) We saved up some of our own money and added on 4 extra nights to our trip. 2 in Venice and another 2 in Salerno (along the Amalfi coast). 

We are supposed to fly out in less than two weeks. We have childcare arranged and everything set and ready to go! We have been more excited for this trip than we have any other in a long time. We went to Italy 4 years ago on our own dime and did all the must-see stuff so we've been excited to be able to explore other things and have a good mix of tourist stuff/relaxation. It's the first BIG trip we'll have been on since our honeymoon where I'm not either pregnant or nursing! I've also lost a good bit of weight (Italy is a great motivator!) and have been excited about all the cute outfits I've been buying for our trip! Zach has been SO pumped. He's worked hard so the week off from work won't affect our income and has been SO ready for a nice long BREAK. 

Well. 

Thanks to freaking terrorists we got word this past Thursday night that the trip has been canceled due to safety concerns. This is the current travel warning.  We had two options given to us by Aflac. We could a) still go on the trip. They've already booked the flight and hotel stay and we'd be allowed to still travel. We'd have to sign a waiver and acknowledge that we were going against the safety advice of the company...or b) we could cancel and receive some money (not a dollar amount even close to the cost that they spent on the trip for us but still some money!). 

Y'all we were both SO UPSET. I cried a good bit of tears. Not because it's Italy but because I know how hard Zach worked for this and how deserving he is! Even if we still were to go, it wouldn't be the same. Aflac wouldn't be there, so the fancy dinners and awards banquet and the activities would all be canceled. 

At first we were both torn as to what to do. Do we go? Do we stay? Do we hurry and plan another trip for the same time period? Zach felt strongly that canceling was letting terrorists win. I felt pretty strongly that if we went and something DID happen that I'd forever feel terrible (assuming I wasn't dead) that we chose to go against the advice of people who know a LOT more about the situation than we do! We just recently did our wills and updated our life policies...I'd rather not need to cash all that in just yet!!! 

About 40 min or so after we got the shocking email...Tess started puking. We were up all night with her. She threw up over 10 times from 10:10 pm until 1:20 am. It was MISERABLE. I laid on the couch and just let her lay on my chest until she got it all out of her system. We've spent the entire weekend with the stomach flu. Tess first then Britt and yesterday Zach and Kye. Hoping I'm not next ;)

1:15 am Friday morning, pitiful baby


Happy Easter from the Parkers!


Zach said that Tess puking was a sign to him that we shouldn't go on the trip. He said that we take so many safety measures with the thought of "better safe than sorry" (our hardcoreness on car seats was the example he used) that it goes against who we are to go on a trip where we've been told it's not safe. I agreed!

Here is where I can say I REALLY saw the difference in Emily 2016 vs Emily 2002. Yes. I've done a WHOLE lot of maturing since then but I really think the majority of that maturation has been thanks to the Lord and my growth spiritually. Zach and I both felt SO MUCH peace about the decision and although we are disappointed, we know there is always a plan and a reason for things and that we just have to trust that!

I did allow myself to cry when I called the hotels and tours and other travel plans I'd made to have to cancel. Whew, canceling that romantic gondola ride through Venice caused me to SOB some ugly tears to the poor girl on the phone with me! ha! 

But my first priority in all of this is Zach. Zach worked to earn the trip and I wanted to try to come up with something that could honor and recognize this big achievement. Aflac did tell us that on the next trip (National Convention in October) that they will be honoring the President's Club qualifiers but I wanted to make sure Zach got the FULL experience. 

We talked about it and he felt strongly that he still wanted to travel somewhere and during the same time period as the original trip. Um. That's less than two weeks away. Plus we have sick kids. Plus we have another trip planned for the weekend prior as a family. Hello stress! 

My silver lining perspective kicked in pretty quickly. While it's hard to find a whole lot of good about not getting to experience Italy for FREE at least we've already been before. And at least we know we aren't risking our safety. And at least we don't have to have that mega long flight. All positives! They may be a stretch to think of, but we have done our best ;) 

I also think that our recent Disney trip was preparing me for this experience! I mentioned in this post that we decided to switch up our park days the day prior to leaving. SO against my normal self but it was a valuable lesson to me that sometimes we have to be flexible and that by being flexible things can still work out just as great, if not better, than originally planned!

We talked about it in length. Zach at first really liked the idea of going to an all inclusive resort somewhere and just relaxing. I really didn't love that idea because it was SUCH a drastic switch from Italy. I was excited to explore and do fun things together and didn't want to spend that much time just relaxing. Some relaxing? Yes! But not that much relaxing. I also didn't feel comfortable leaving the kids for that long of a time period. A couple days I do fine, but more than that and I get that mama bear anxiety where I'm just ready to see my kids. IF we go on longer trips I HAVE to stay busy so I can focus on what we are experiencing and remind myself that the kids are fine and having a good time. 

We tossed out ideas of going up to Maine but it's still pretty cold. We thought about an Alaskan cruise but a shorter one isn't really running until summer. We've been so blessed to do so much traveling that it made this a tough decision! Where could we go for cheap, somewhere we've never experienced, somewhere safe, and have it feel like a "trip of a lifetime" like Italy would be???

Well! We came up with a plan! I spent LITERALLY my ENTIRE day Saturday hunting and planning and booking. If you know me then you know I like a SOLID plan and I like it WAY in advance. This situation truly has tested my ability to stay positive and I truly believe that because I've had a good outlook about it all that it's all working out so well. I've had people tell me before that I "get lucky" and I don't think that's the case. I think attitude has a LOT more to do with what happens to us in life than we realize. 

We could have just been upset and could have shut down and focused on all the negatives. But instead we found positives in the situation and got to work in creating a new, completely different trip that we both are SO excited about!!!

I was able to book our flights, all hotel stays, rental car, as well as two rounds of golf for Zach (he has major back pain but will bring his brace and make the best of it b/c HELLO these are some top rated courses in the country!) and two days at DISNEYLAND for us all with spending less out of pocket than we had for the Italy trip! California is NOT Italy by any means but we are going on a road trip down the west coast and experiencing things we've never done and would probably never do if we didn't have this opportunity given to us by Aflac and earned by Zach! I truly believe it'll be a trip that honors his hard work and provides that perfect blend of fun experiences and relaxation for us both! I CAN'T WAIT!

Our stopping points in Cali are: Monterey Bay, Santa Barbara, Anaheim. and Hermosa Beach. We'd LOVE suggestions of things to do, especially places to eat, as well as any cool stopping points along the coastal drive from Monterey Bay to Santa Barbara!  It's also our first time doing Disneyland (I did it once as a child but remember very little of it) so I need tips!!! And I need to adjust my wardrobe from Italy weather to Cali weather so any tips on what to wear would be amazing too :) 

I'm so proud of my husband for his hard work and so thankful that he's the strong Christian man that he is. He is the person who brought ME to Jesus and I have loved walking this path of spiritual growth together. I'm thankful we have each other to vent to during times of disappointment but especially grateful that we both try so hard to find the good and focus on the positives in any given situation! 

My sweet friend must have been reading my mind on Friday as she posted the most on point blog post for what I was feeling! If you are dealing with any sort of disappointment, large or small, then this post is SUPER encouraging :) 

Can't wait to hear some California recommendations!!! Whoop whoop!

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