Guest Post: Have Yourself A 20-Something Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve, friends! I'm so excited to share a guest post today from my friend, Erika. We went to Africa together this fall and I'm so grateful for the things I learned from her. She lives and blogs in Hoboken, NJ about love and life as a 20-something. Check out her post below on Christmas love and expectations. Have the best Christmas!


I have always loved Christmas and the anticipation that leads up to it. As a child, I spent many hours trying to find the gifts my mom would so painstakingly hide. I loved the suspense of seeing presents under the tree, dreaming up all the possibilities of what could be inside.

On Christmas morning, I would wake up early, awakened by anticipation in the darkest of night, and sneak downstairs after I knew my parents and Santa had finished arranging their pile of gifts and stuffing our stockings. I’d tiptoe about in the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights, gazing at the overflow of presents, basking in the calm and magic of Christmas before dawn.

As I grew older, the thing that made this season so special wasn’t as much about the presents, but about being able to spend significant quality time with extended family who lived hours away. It was the one time of year we all gathered together, to sit around the table and exchange stories of God’s faithfulness, and to have those unavoidable family debates.

Throughout high school and college, I began feeling a longing, that desire to have someone with whom to share my incredible family Christmas experiences. I looked at the strong marriages in my extended family, the camaraderie between all my aunts and uncles, and I felt the pang in my heart of bittersweet hope. One day I’ll have that, but when?

Brewer Family Christmas 2007, and my grandparents’ 50th anniversary 

The fact that popular culture harps on the ‘misery’ of being single during the holidays certainly didn’t help my case. You can’t get away from it. I felt like I was missing out. My soundtrack to this season became variations of the sentiment behind SheDaisy’s “That’s What I Want for Christmas”: 

‘When you said yesterday that it's nearly Christmas 
What did I want and I thought just love me, love me, love me 
That's what I want for Christmas

When I walk through a room let them see you need me 
Walk through a room let them see you love me, love me, love me 
That's what I want for Christmas...’ 

Over the years, I had boyfriends through the holidays, so I had a taste of having someone to belong to during this magical season. When I was dating in my early twenties, my vision of a perfect engagement involved hot chocolate, a big fuzzy blanket, a one-horse open sleigh. My dreams were grandiose. My expectations for what Christmas would look once I had found my other half were pretty high to say the least. Thankfully, my parents had a pretty strict policy that boyfriends don’t join us on family vacations. At the time it was annoying, but now I am grateful. The sacredness of most my favorite family memories aren’t marred by the ghosts of boyfriends past. 

Me and Nick, our first Christmas as a dating couple 

Finally, the Christmas of 2011, when I was 26, the dream of sharing my beloved family Christmas traditions with my true love came to pass. My new husband Nick came with me for our big extended family Christmas in North Carolina. It was surreal to watch a hope I had held so long come true. Having the reality of my husband among my family was wonderful. The ease with which he fit into our family surprised me a bit. He laughed and swapped stories with my cousins and uncles - it was like he had always been there. 

But can I tell you that on the other side, while having someone forever at Christmas is wonderful, it isn’t quite like I pictured it? I live across the river from New York City, the American headquarters of Christmas cheer. People come here in droves to experience Christmastime in the city. There are many things I love about living here, but there are others that challenge my younger self’s expectations of what married Christmases would be like. I don’t have a big, comfortable living room with a crackling fire and Christmas tree decked to the nines with ornaments telling stories of Christmases past. I live in a one bedroom apartment less than 800-square-feet, and no real room for a respectable Christmas tree. 

So we make do with what we’ve got - a wreath hung on our window, some twinkly lights, and a little tabletop greenery. 

Apartment-friendly Christmas decor: our window wreath 

Now that I’m married, I balance not just my family holiday traditions, but those of my husband’s family as well. My Christmases will never look the same again. There are wonderful aspects of that, but also challenging ones. I am blessed to have incredible in-laws, but now I feel the pang of missing out in a different way - of not being able to be in two places at once. Those extended family holidays in the south will be few and far between. Distance and job responsibilities shape our Christmas season now. 

When we move into the season of life where we have children of our own, our holiday realities will shift all over again. And I admit… I’m looking forward to creating magical Christmas memories for my future kids - even though they will likely be entirely different than I imagined. 

So for my single friends whose hearts ache during this season, those still in waiting, as much as it hurts, know this time will not last forever. You will someday have the opportunity to share your most cherished holiday traditions with someone you love. 

And regardless of where you are... single, dating, married, childless, or a growing family, if you want to experience the magic and wonder of the season to its fullest, start practicing now. Carry on your family traditions or begin building your own. The magic of Christmas happens when you count your blessings and embrace where you are wholeheartedly.

guest post: jaime from la vie...j'aime

Hi friends! Today I am so excited to share a post from Jaime at La Vi... J'aime. She wrote this for me to post while I was in Africa, but I somehow failed to press publish while I was gone. I am so excited for you to read about a time she trusted her gut!

I was excited when Whitney asked me to guest post for her while on her African trip but was slightly intimidated by the subject: tell us about a time you listened to your gut...whether it be taking a risk or sticking with something. 

I can’t really count many situations where I’ve been at a crossroads with Road A and Road B before me. A few major decisions, like choosing my college, came pretty easily. I applied early decision, and off I went to Syracuse University. I knew I’d move back home after to pursue a career and build my life in Boston, near where I grew up. 

Then I remembered a time when I was sixteen and going with friends on a teen tour abroad in Europe. I signed up with three friends and was placed on a trip with one of them that left in late June. My other friend, called me asking to switch trip dates and go with her. This trip left the first week in July. I decided on that phone call to change trips and leave in July, with a girl I actually wasn't as good of friends with but felt it was right to change. 

At the time, my grandma was sick and her health was declining very quickly. She was diagnosed in the spring and passed away in early July, July 3rd. My teen tour that I changed to left on July 5th, the evening of her funeral. I guess that feeling to change my trip months before had meaning, as I was able to attend her funeral. If I hadn’t changed, I would’ve already been on the trip when she passed away.

 It’s something I always remember when I think about listening to myself and having a belief in fate, that things work out for a reason whether you know it then or not.

trusting your gut: kate hampton

Hello Sometimes Always Never readers! I’m so excited to be guest posting for Whitney while she’s in Africa changing the world. I blog over at What Kate Likes about a lot of fashion-related things and occasionally things that are a bit deeper and more personal. I’m excited to have the chance to get into a meatier topic than I normally do, without it seeming random or out of place.

When Whitney approached me about guest blogging for her, she told me that she wanted everyone to write about listening to their gut. To be honest, I really had to think about the topic and do some serious introspection before agreeing.

I am a planner, an obsessive, a person who doesn't even go to the grocery store without a defined list of what exactly I’m going to buy. I don’t take risks or jump into something feet-first unless I've considered all options/consequences/benefits/rewards. I’m the type of person who peels off band-aids bit by bit, even though ripping the whole thing off is much easier and less painful. Making decisions based solely on what I feel in my gut or heart is right is something I seriously struggle with. Maybe it’s the fact that I have a hard time giving up control, maybe it’s the fact that I don’t like taking risks without knowing exactly what will happen.

However, lately I've been thinking more and more about past decisions I've made and how, even when I carefully weighed the pros and cons, things didn't turn out quite like I’d imagined or thought they would. I feel like over-thinking every decision is using up so much energy and brainpower. I’m so in awe of Whitney and her ability to just instinctively say “yes” to this trip to Africa and not get bogged down in the details.

So I’m going to make a conscious effort to listen to myself when I need to make a decision. I know I’ll still probably over-think, but I’m going to do my best to listen to what my heart and instincts are telling me and just go for it. I’m slightly nervous about how much of a change this will be for me, but I think that it’s definitely something I need to do! I’m really going to take Tina Fey’s advice to heart and say “yes” first (or no or whatever it is that my instincts are telling me is right) and then figure all the details out afterwards. Nothing needs to be fully thought-through in order to be amazing or to at least have the possibility to be amazing, which is something I definitely need to remember all the time.


Read more of Kate's posts on her blog, What Kate Likes

trusting your gut: keith wynn

Listening to your gut. What does that phrase mean to you? We hear that phrase a lot but I wonder if we truly ponder its meaning. Listening to our gut, or our intuition, is a “learned skill” in my opinion. I say this because it goes against a lot of what we’re taught in life. We are taught to apply reason and rationality to all decisions so as to make the best informed choice. In other words, use your head, not your gut. But what about those times when our gut is telling is something completely different than what our head is telling us?

I was faced with this internal conflict once. It was a few years ago and I was at a crossroads in my life. I felt I needed a change. A big change. I had spent my entire life in my hometown and I didn’t feel I was going anywhere. It felt like I was reliving the same day over and over. Have you ever felt that way? So I decided to just move. Seriously, just completely pack up and move to an entirely new city and start over.

Most of my family and friends were against this idea. They were saying it was impractical and something that only worked in “the movies”. But my gut was telling me that this was the right decision. My heart was telling me that this was what I needed to do.

It ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I have a career I love, wonderful friends here, and I LOVE the town I moved to. It’s truly home to me now and I know that this is where I belong. I listened to my gut, and it changed my life :)


Read more of Keith's posts on his blog, Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer