Happiness Series: Body Image

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When expressing opinions on my own body image I automatically start making excuses, as if the current state of my body is something I need to apologize for or explain.

I could tell you that I’m overweight because I’m still working off the post baby body. But my baby was born a year and a half ago and I weigh more now than I did when I was pregnant.

I could look back at old photos and dream about my skinny days when I was 22 years old. But back then when I was skinnier than I had any right to be, I still thought I was fat.

Once I got past all the excuses, what I came to realize is that my current body size or weight isn’t the real issue.

The real problem is how I view myself.

I know that I am not ugly, but I don’t have a single memory of looking in a mirror and feeling satisfied with what I see. My husband calls me beautiful and I catch myself rolling my eyes. Compliments from acquaintances and friends make me uncomfortable because I can’t believe them. Until I can learn to love myself as I am, no measurement or number on a scale will ever be good enough.

I wanted to start this happiness series with body image because that is what started this journey in my own life. I was searching for answers to why I wasn’t happy because it didn’t make any sense. I have an amazing husband, a miracle of a child, and an excellent career, why wasn’t that enough? I decided it must be because I wasn’t happy with myself, because I am absolutely happy with my life. I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as starting an exercise routine and changing what I eat (although both are good life changes to make and will be addressed in later posts). I wanted to dig deeper and analyze what really brings true happiness to our lives. The more I thought about it and researched it the more it changed my life!

Happiness is not something we find or something that happens to us; It is something that takes constant effort to create and maintain.
Happiness is not a destination; it is the journey itself.

It may seem simple or obvious to some but for me it was a revelation! I have identified and researched several areas in life that have a heavy impact on personal happiness. Through this series I will explore those areas and offer insights into manageable life changes we can all make to further our happiness journeys.

Step one for me was to change my own perspective of my body, and I started with my closet. My closet was stuffed full of clothes I never wore. Each morning I would stare into the depths and as my eyes touched item after item my inner voice was commenting “you look fat in that”, “that doesn’t look good on you anymore”, or “you need to loose a few more pounds before you wear that again”. This ritual of negative self-talk every morning just to get dressed was setting a tone of negativity and dissatisfaction that flowed through the rest of my day. I dedicated an entire Saturday to physically trying on each and every item of clothing I own. If I didn’t feel good about myself wearing it, it had to go! I made four piles; storage, donate, trash, and keep. If I wasn’t sure about an item, I asked my husband for his opinion and let him help me with the decision.

Body Image Piles

Step two was to buy more cloths (let’s be honest I wasn’t left with much…). But first I had to get my mindset right so I could make good, healthy decisions and not end up with a closet of new clothes I never wear. I made a list of all the types of clothing I needed to buy (jeans, work pants, dress shirts, casual shirts, tank tops, etc.…) and how many of each type of item I needed so I wouldn’t go overboard. The most important things I decided to focus on were, size doesn’t matter and live for today. I repeated these to myself before and during my shopping spree.

Size doesn’t matter: Society taught me growing up that the smaller the dress size the better and this pressure still surrounds me today. Between photoshopped models in advertising or unrealistic role models on Instagram, it is hard to escape the expectation that skinny is beautiful. It is hard to accept the dwindling options as the size number grows. It is a battle to avoid the thought “maybe I can squeeze into a smaller size”. Instead of focusing on the size of the jeans, or shirts or dresses, I forced myself to focus on the comfort and fit of the clothes. This was no easy task… I could feel my spirits dropping as I tried on jeans that were too tight and knew I needed a bigger size than I had expected. However, once I bought the clothes I liked, that fit me well and looked good on me and put them in my closet; I forgot all about what size they are. Size really doesn’t matter.

Live for today: I had just removed the clothes that were holding me in the past and I struggled to keep the thoughts of “but what if I lose weight…” at bay. It was important to me that when I looked in my closet each morning, I felt good about anything available to choose from. The clothes I removed weren’t me anymore. I don’t know who I will be in the future and I shouldn’t buy clothes that future me may not like. I focused heavily on what I want my style to be right now. What makes me feel good? When I tried on an outfit, I took my time to analyze what I liked about it and what I didn’t like about it. If there was any doubt at all, I didn’t buy it. I had to go to several stores, and it took an entire day but what I ended up with were only clothes I truly felt good about myself in. To assist I took my sister and my mom with me. Only do this with people you trust to give you brutally honest opinions!

Body Image Results

This was my closet after the overhaul. Each morning since has started with excitement on what I get to wear that day! This exercise alone is not enough to change a lifetime of negative body image. It was however, an excellent first step and led to a deeper look at small life changes that can change our perception and increase our own happiness. This is only the start to my happiness journey stay tuned for more life changing posts to come!

What steps have you taken to improve your own body image?

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The Many Benefits of Sage

From the Native Americans to ancient Celtic Pagans, sage in all it’s glorious forms has been used for thousands of years. Sage is more readily available now than ever before. You can venture to your local new age store or check out your everyday grocery store, wherever you go pick up some sage to change your life!

Now you’re on the look out for sage, but what do you do with it? You have come to the right place! There are are a few main areas that sage is great for but within those categories the options are limitless!

Medicine:
Digestive system: Suffering from gas, diarrhea, bloating or heartburn? Sage to the rescue! Chewing on sage leaves would be a bit intense in flavor so a tea or tincture is a great option.
Skin: The anti-inflammatory properties of sage are very useful for many common skin conditions. A sage salve can help fight against eczema, psoriasis, acne, cold sores and even sunburns.
Menstruation: Thousands of years ago sage was thought to increase a woman’s fertility. Now we better understand how sage aids in regulating menstruation and can even help alleviate painful period and menopause symptoms. A tincture or tea made from sage leaves as needed can help us all get through this natural but often painful time in our lives. Do not use sage if pregnant or breastfeeding. Sage can assist with reducing an over supply of breast milk but should be used with caution.
Mental Performance: Consuming or inhaling small doses of sage daily appears to improve focus and memory. Research included in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics even found sage helps treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Asthma: Inhaling sage can be a wonderful natural treatment for asthma but always consult your doctor before changing medical treatment plans.
Immune System: Sage contains powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. A sage salve can help treat arthritis and gout. Incorporating a topical product containing sage to your daily routine can also help protect you from cold and flu season!

Food:
Sage is a common herb that can add powerful flavor to any dish. I just recently discovered the tasty benefits of sage in the kitchen but be warned, it is a powerful herb! Less is more! Cooking with sage is an excellent way to reap those medicinal benefits mentioned previously.
Similar to rosemary, the peppery flavor will add a fresh note to savory dishes. Best used in meat dishes, especially fatty meats. Alternatively it can be finely chopped and mixed with melted butter to be stirred into pasta as they commonly do in Italy.

Home:
Household cleaners: The anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties in Sage make in an excellent choice for natural for household cleaners. Mix sage with vinegar and you have one heavy duty all purpose cleaner!
Smudging: Sage smudging is an ancient practice from many cultures all over the world. There are so many benefits to smudging I will have to cover them in more detail in a later post. Here I will just list my favorite reasons to make smudging a part of your household routine. Purifying the air both from illnesses and negative energy is the biggest reason to incorporate smudging into your life and space. Smudging can help alleviate respiratory issues such as asthma or allergies. It can remove negative energy or even spirits attached to spaces, people or objects. Sage can help improve your mood and reduce stress or depression. Even if you just need a little pick me up in mood or energy, sage is a powerful go-to tool.
Soaps & Cosmetics: Sage is popular choice to add both fragrance and health benefits to soaps and cosmetics.

Spirituality:
Sage can be a powerful tool for meditation and your overall spiritual well being. In meditation, sage can be use to take you deeper within your consciousness and can also assist with solving and reflecting on internal dilemmas. Sage can help cleanse your space or you of negative energy making self exploration and discovery easier and more enjoyable. If you use crystals within your home or on your body (see my post about using crystals for relief of stress and anxiety) they will likely need to be cleansed and recharged every once in a while. Sage is an amazing tool for cleansing your crystals, so they can get back to work for you and your well being.

Sage is an amazing and diverse tool gifted to us by nature herself! I can’t think of a single reason for anyone not to incorporate sage into their life in some fashion. Whether you use it to aid your health, spice up your dinner or bring peace to your space, you can’t go wrong with sage!

What I learned In My 20’s

Today is my 30th birthday! Happy Birthday to Me!

There are hundreds of “what I learned in my… [enter age here]” on the internet and this is just one more. Each one is different and utterly unique because we all learn different things through life. This is mine!

This was me as I entered my 20’s, following is what I learned along the way.

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What I learned In my 20’s

  • BFF’s Aren’t Forever
    That best friend in your teens and early 20’s is the most important person in your life! You just know you will be best friends forever and you plan how your kids will grow up together and be best friends too! You laugh about how when you’re old you will terrorize the nursing home together. At first when your careers take off you make sure to still make time for each other. Then before you realize what’s happening you each get married and start having kids. Suddenly your friendship has moved down the priority list. Just a few years ago you would have never considered moving farther than a few minutes from each other but now what’s best for your family takes you far away in different directions. One day you wake up and realize that you haven’t talked in ages and you only see each other a couple times a year. You will always be best friends but it means something different now.
  • Mom Was Right About Everything
    She tried to warn me about so many things but I was determined to learn life’s lessons the hard way. With each new lesson learned and each tear shed I came closer to admitting that Mom was always right. I should have believed her more but hind sight is 20/20.
  • Getting Drunk Isn’t Fun
    It takes far too many bad drunken mistakes to learn this lesson… I am ashamed to admit how long it took me to figure out. I suppose most 20 somethings indulge this way but the stupid decisions and painful hangovers are certainly not worth a night of “fun”. I hurt people I carried about, I put myself at risk and I made a fool of myself more times than I can count. This is one lesson I am incredibly happy to have learned.
  • Disney Movies Have Bad Moral Lessons
    Watching my favorite Disney movies now I see them in a whole new light! Why do the main characters always disobey their parents? Why do they almost always “fall in love” before they even know the other person. They make horrible, dangerous decisions but happily ever after is still always handed to them in the end. I still love these movies but lets face it, I wouldn’t want my kids to disregard my rules and run off with a stranger because they “fell in love” after 15 minutes.
  • Doing Something You Love As A Career Is Rare
    I never dreamed of becoming an accountant. Even now, if I had the opportunity to get paid to travel the world learning different cultures and histories or get paid to write, I would quit my job in a heartbeat. I have a great job, I’m good at it and it pays the bills but it’s not my passion. Most people don’t get to live their dream job, they get to do what they can to get by. If you have the opportunity to do something you love go after it because you are lucky!
  • Starting A Family Is Not Easy
    Everyone in my family got pregnant on the first try, some on accident even. I expected to try for a month or two and BAM I’d be a Mom! Not so much… After a year of not getting pregnant we started having tests run. We couldn’t pin down what the problem was. After a few more years and three miscarriages we started seeing a specialist which means more tests and trying meds to help increase fertility. We were giving up hope and planning to invest in IVF when we finally succeeded at getting pregnant and made it through the terrifying first trimester! I really thought it would be easy they way you see it on TV and hear about from strangers. It isn’t always easy…
  • Nothing Goes According To Plan
    I am an obsessive planner but my anxiety spikes when things don’t go according to plan. I am still working on this one but I have made a lot of progress in learning to go with the flow. When you have your entire life planned and things take several big turns that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have made plans and re-made plans but life is constantly evolving and what is best for us is constantly changing. Stop trying to plan life because nothing ever goes according to plan.
  • Happily Ever After Is Hard Work
    Every little girl dreams of their happily ever after (that may look different for each little girl but we all have one in mind). The society fed expectation is that once you find your happily ever after it’s smooth sailing from then on out. I was lucky enough to find my soulmate! But it isn’t enough to find the right person, it takes hard work every day to keep the happily part going strong. Life struggles can easily tear people apart if they don’t consciously make an effort to rise above life issues together. It’s hard work but it’s worth it!
  • Money Is More Important Than I Thought
    Maybe it’s the Oregon hippy upraising 😉 but I never put much importance in money. I always said I would rather be happy and live under a bridge than have money and stuff and be unhappy… BUT as I got older I realized that having a house that works for our needs and a big enough yard for our dogs and reliable cars are incredibly important. Making enough money to support our desired life style is suddenly more important than I had ever wanted it to be.
  • Metabolism Slows Down At 25
    This one may be a big fat duh but I unrealistically thought the days of eating whatever I wanted and never exercising would last forever. Surprise! It doesn’t… On my 25th birthday someone threw a switch and I started gaining weight like never before. It was a pretty big adjustment to start thinking about what I eat and making time to exercise but it’s a good life adjustment.
  • What Was Once Challenging Is Now Impossible
    Physically speaking I’m aging too quickly. I used to be flexible and energetic and now it’s a struggle to get off the couch… I’m not entirely sure what the lesson here is but i’m sure there is one.
  • You Can’t Please Everyone
    This is one that most young people have to learn but for me it was a life changing lesson. I spent far too many years trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. All it ever led to was low self esteem and a few identity crises. I finally learned who I was and to let that be the person I share with others. This was the hardest lesson for me to learn; I like to make people happy. Sometimes at the expense of myself. It is more important to be you then to care what anyone else wants from you.
  • Going To Bed At A Reasonable Hour Is Amazing
    There aren’t enough hours in the day to meet all the responsibilities of adulthood. I miss the days of going to bed when I’m tired. Now it’s a matter of is the laundry done? Or are the dishes washed? Is the baby hungry? I just want to sleep…
  • A Nap Is A Rare Dream Come True
    Along the same lines, I learned during my pregnancy when I was unbelievably exhausted that a nap is a god send! Kid don’t know how good they have it. They fight naps with every fiber of their being while I fight to stay awake. Enjoy the opportunity for a nap when it comes along.
  • Teenagers Look Younger As I Get Older And Are Incredibly Annoying
    Babies are driving cars and toddlers are smoking cigarettes. I hate to believe that I was that annoying when I was a teenager but I’m sure I was.
  • All Pictures Of The Past Bring Up “What Was I Thinking” Thoughts
    The hair, the clothes, the makeup, I just can’t believe I thought I looked good like that. I’m sure 10 years from now I will look back at my current look and think the same thing. Looking back at some of my bad decisions give me new perspective when making style choices now.
  • Time Flies
    I didn’t really get this one until I had my daughter. Time goes faster not as we get older but as we get better life experiences we want to slow down and cherish. As my baby grows and learns I realize just how fast time really goes… I want it to slow down so I can enjoy they way she is right now but at the same time I am excited to take part in her next adventure. I learned a lot of lessons in my 20’s but she is learning life lessons every day!
  • Comfort Over Fashion
    My Mom once told me that some day I would value comfort over fashion. At the time I was 21 and wearing short skirts and stiletto heals everyday. I spent hours on my appearance and never could have imagined a day when I wouldn’t care about that. That day sneaks up on you… I don’t even know when it happened but suddenly my closet was fully of flats and tasteful slacks.  I can’t imagine wearing those old clothes and would probably break an ankle in those old heals. I barely have 20 minutes to get ready in the morning now and I would never want to sacrifice any of my other morning time for doing makeup and hair.
  • Alone Time Is Vital
    I used to be afraid of being alone, now I crave a little me time. I wish I could have known sooner the bliss of an afternoon alone reading a good book. The heaven of a couple hours in a hot bath and a cleansing face mask. Even just uninterruptedly watching a girly show without hearing complaints. I love my family and wouldn’t give up a minute of the time I spend with them but I appreciate alone time more than I ever could have imagined.
  • It’s Ok To Be Selfish
    I have never been one to think of myself first, or second, or at all… But I have recently learned that the advice of putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others is now joke. You can’t be a good spouse or parent or employee if you don’t take care of yourself. This is a hard one to accept, especially for women but we have to take care of ourselves too!
  • There Are Different Depths Of Love
    Again I didn’t truly learn this until my daughter was born. I love my parents and my siblings and that love is real but there is a deeper love. I love my dogs like they are a part of me. I don’t want to even consider the day they won’t be here anymore. I love my husband unlike I have ever loved another man. He is my soulmate in every way. The love I feel for my daughter is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. She is my whole world and has opened my eyes to the true depths of love.

 

These are the biggest lessons I learned in my 20’s. I know I have a lot more to learn and I am excited to see what my 30’s bring!

Bring on the 30’s!
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Pre-Baby Meal Prepping

 

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I knew I wouldn’t feel like cooking for a little while after the baby was born. So I had this great plan that I would pre-make and freeze several meals so I could just pop them in the oven and have real meals without the work. What I didn’t realize was how hard it would be to stand in the kitchen for hours prepping these meals while eight months pregnant…
If I had the opportunity to do it over, I would still make the meals (even more of them) but I would make them earlier, maybe during the blissful second trimester!

I started by picking the recipes I wanted to make (meals I know my husband and I like). Then I hit Costco with a list of supplies I needed.

Here are the meals I decided to make to freeze for after the baby came.

Meal #1
Sausage, Potatoes and Peppers:

Ingredients:

  • Your choice of sausage (I picked mango jalapeno chicken sausage)
  • Onion
  • Bell peppers
  • Yukon Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Blackened seasoning
  • Poultry seasoning

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Directions:

  • Cut sausage, potatoes, peppers and onion into bite sized cubes.
  • Season all evenly and mix in a medium bowl.
  • Vacuum seal and freeze.

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Meal #2
Bacon, Egg and Cream Cheese Bagel Sandwich: 

Ingredients:

  • Cheese bagels
  • Cream cheese
  • Precooked bacon
  • Eggs

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Directions:

  • Scramble the eggs, season to taste.
  • Spread cream cheese on each side of the bagel.
  • Layer bacon and egg and place the other half of the bagel on top.
  • Wrap in clear wrap and foil.
  • Freeze

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To Cook:

Preheat over to 400 degrees and place bagel sandwich in over for 30 minutes.

Meal #3
Cheese Stuffed Meatballs:

Ingredients:

  • Ground Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Garlic
  • Season Salt
  • Salt
  • Pepper

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Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients except the cheese.
  • Grab a chunk in the estimated size of the desired meatball.
  • flatten meat in the palm of your hand, place a square of cheese in the middle and roll into a meatball.
  • Vacuum seal and Freeze.

Meal #4
Breakfast Burrito Filling:

Ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Precooked bacon
  • Yukon potattoes
  • Shredded cheddar jack cheese
  • Season salt
  • Garlic
  • Salt

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Directions:

  • Scramble eggs
  • Cut potatoes into cubes
  • Tear bacon into small pieces.
  • Season eggs and potatoes to taste.
  • In a vacuum seal bag layer salsa, eggs, potatoes, bacon and cheese.
  • Vacuum seal and freeze.

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To Cook:

Thaw ingredients and warm up in the microwave for 3 minutes. Spoon filling into tortillas for breakfast burritos.

Meal #5
Chicken Enchiladas:

  • Chicken Breasts
  • Tortillas
  • Cheddar Jack Cheese
  • Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Onion
  • Sour Cream
  • Salsa
  • Diced Tomatos
  • Rotel
  • Chili Powder

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Directions:

  • Boil chicken breasts and shred and cool.
  • Chop onion.
  • Drain tomatoes.
  • In a medium bowl, combine soup, sour cream, salsa, onion, tomatoes, Rotel and chili powder.
  • In a separate bowl combine chicken, cheese and 1/3 sauce mixture.
  • Fill six tortillas with chicken filling and roll into enchiladas.
  • Place rolled enchiladas in a tin disposable casserole dish.
  • Pour remaining sauce evenly over enchiladas.
  • Top with additional cheese, chopped onions and diced tomatoes.
  • Cover with tin foil and freeze.

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To Cook:

Preheat oven to 375 and place enchiladas in oven still frozen (DO NOT THAW). Cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until warmed through and bubbly.

 

These meals worked out great for my family! It was so convenient to not have to worry about all that goes into creating a meal or running to the store for missing ingredients while trying to figure out this new tiny human I had just brought into the world.

DIY Cat Box Cabinet

Some say there are Dog lovers or there are Cat lovers… I am both!!! being such an unbiased animal lover has it’s challenges… Anyone who has had both dogs and cats at the same time can attest to this.

We haven’t had to worry about them getting along. Our dogs and cats play together, cuddle together and beg for scraps together…
Begging

One of our biggest challenges has been keeping our dogs from eating the “delicious kitty treats” out of the litter boxes. They just can’t seem to help themselves. The way we have done this up until now was to dedicate an entire room in our house to the cats. A baby gate in the door way (and lots of training of the dogs not to jump over it) has kept the litter boxes safe from hungry canines. This was working fabulously for the last five years, but now a baby is coming… And the cat room must become a nursery.

We debated for months about where to move the litter boxes…
The guest room? Our out of town guests don’t want to share a room with our cats. Plus they would not be able to close the door for privacy because how would the cats get in to use the bathroom?
The office? The downstairs access to the backyard is through the office. The dogs need that door available for their own potty needs.

Finally we realized we would have to get creative. With help from Pinterest and supplies from Lowes we created the perfect solution! We created a cat box cabinet that fit right under the stairs. This solution solved everything! The dogs can’t get to the litter box but the cats can and it looks pretty nice if I do say so myself.

Before COLLAGE

Cat box setup before

After Collage

Cat box setup after

This project was so easy and turned out so great, it surprised even me!

Here is what we bought:
1. A stock kitchen cabinet insert (in the size to fit our space and the style of our house)
2. A sheet of unfinished pine board
3. Finishing screws
4. Waterproof clear finishing spray
5. A medium cat door insert kit
6. A stick on “pop it” light

Here is how we did it:
1. We cut the pine board to fit the top of the cabinet (with a small lip over hang).
2. We treated the pine board with the finishing spray and let dry.
3. Using the instructions and cut out sheet from the cat door kit, we cut a hole in the side of the cabinet and installed the cat door.
4. Next we cleaned out the shavings from cutting the hole for the cat door.
5. Using the finishing screws we secured the pine board to the top of the cabinet.
6. For convenience we added a “pop it” light to the ceiling of the lower cabinet to provide light while scooping the used litter box.
7. We moved the cabinet to the desired permanent location under the staircase.
8. We put the litter box in the cabinet space, the scoops and plastic bags in the drawer and the food and water bowls on top.

We did have to teach our cats to go through the cat door to find their litter box. We found treats and desirable wet food as motivation to go through the scary new contraption helped a lot.

Now we have a beautiful way to hide the stinky side of having cats while also keeping our dogs from helping themselves to the “kitty treats” they so desire. We did all of this in one afternoon and still had time to clear out and clean up the soon to be nursery!

Nursery Before

Project 365: March 2017

During the month of March what I learned most from this exercise is how much time I spend at work.

March 1st

March 1

March 2nd

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March 3rd

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March 4th

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March 31

Our New Home!… Oops

I have lost count of how many times I have started and restarted this post over the last 7 months. Each time my outlook and feelings on the subject completely changed from the draft before. Seven months ago we sold our first house, our “Starter house” if you will and bought our second house. Days after we closed on the purchase I drafted a blog post that clearly shows my optimism and excitement. I held off on posting it only to take the time to add photos. Here is a snippet to give you an idea of how I was feeling…

August 2016: “One major change in my life recently has been the sale of our cookie cutter, ranch style home and the purchase of a quirky, 1940’s bungalow! Words cannot explain how over the moon I am about this new adventure. Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of taking an old house and making it my own, piece by piece. The possibilities are endless and the pride of fixing it up, just my husband and I is unimaginable! I am going to spend far too much time on Pinterest… But in the end I hope to create something we will love and enjoy for many years to come! Of course I will share our DYI journey with all of you!”

In September we hired Lowes (they hired a 3rd party contractor) to build a cedar fence around our .21 acre yard. The contractor came and drew up designs for us and from that moment on came up with the most absurd excuses to not start the project. We requested a new contractor from Lowes and they provided one. He and his crew tore down the existing chain link fence and then proceeded to make excuses of why they weren’t going to show up or would only stay a short time. This contractor refused to talk with me and would only address my husband. Finally after weeks of waiting they finally finished and we were so desperate for them to be gone we ignored that fact that they didn’t fill in the holes they dug, clean up their materials or the work area. we found unused materials all over our yard and had to call Lowes to send a truck to remove it. We also found screws and nails all over the yard and drive way. At this same time Lowes sold the fridge we had paid for to someone else and informed us that the model was now discontinued so they couldn’t get another one. By the end of this I was still trying to be optimistic but was frustrated.

September 2016: “The fence is finally built after weeks of frustration and taking the dogs out on leashes several times a day. I have to admit though it looks fantastic! the cedar is beautiful and truly compliments the natural beauty of the yard. Our new appliances are in but Lowes sold our fridge out from under us so our fridge is not what we had wanted… We are working on painting the cabinets for the second time. Inexperienced as we are we forgot to sand them first!”

By October we had remodeled the kitchen and were very happy with the results. We were finally starting to get furniture and getting things unpacked. Then one Sunday morning we ambled down to our basement living room only to find the carpet sopping wet and no idea where the water was coming from. Eventually we discovered it was coming from the wall between the downstairs bathroom and one spare room. We immediately called our plumber and our insurance company. We managed to survive the few days our water was turned off and once the pipes were fixed they started ripping out the damaged walls and flooring. The pipes from our kitchen and bathrooms had burst, spewing water and sewage into our living space. A few days after this my husband was hospitalized for his chronic illness, (an episode worse than usually) this one lasting a month.  During the month of October we had scheduled a few other improvements as well. We had the dinning room rewired to include a chandelier at which time it was discovered that the electrical wiring in the upstairs was unsafe. He fixed it and completely rewired the bathroom as well. We also had a wood stove and new chimney installed. Our general contractor re-built the walls and installed the new bathroom vanity (the old one had to be thrown out due to sewage damage).  Keep in mind that during all of this I was trying to juggle Work, Contractors, my dogs and my husband in the Hospital. Most of the contractors were wonderful, only the wood stove/chimney contractors took advantage of me. My husband is the knowledgeable one in regards to home improvements so I assumed the contractors were doing what needed to be done in the appropriate way. When my husband was finally able to come home we discovered they had made the chimney too short and our house filled with smoke when we tried to use it. So he demanded they come back and build it to code.

October 2016: “I am seriously considering just burning it to the ground…”

In November the new carpet was installed down stairs by two very lazy installation guys. It was delayed and therefore got installed the day of my company holiday party and the day before my father in-law came to visit. They removed the steps from our spiral staircase to put the new carpet on then left without reinstalling them. Looking back now I’m sure it was an amusing sight to see me body slamming the stairs into the slots in a dress and heals, hair curled, makeup done up but at the time I was not amused. At this point we stepped back and took stock. Several unexpected issues came up and took immediate precedence. We had barely touched our wish list of improvements but on the upside the house was now safe to live in… Unfortunately we were also out of money.

November 2016: “What is wrong with societies work ethic? When did everyone start half assing their jobs? I would be unemployed if I treated my clients the way most of the contractors we have dealt with have treated us. At least it’s done! There is a lot more we want to do but we have spent all of the money we had set aside and then some… The cosmetic improvements will just have to wait.”

Little did I know the worst was yet to come. The house stayed as it was but in late December my husband lost the function in his legs. It was sudden and unexplained so he was back in the hospital but this time a specialty hospital 30 miles away from home. After the hospital he couldn’t come home because a wheelchair wouldn’t fit through our hall ways and he couldn’t manage the stairs. I had to tour and pick a nursing home for my 33 year old husband. It was a terrifying and depressing experience I hope to never relive. Eventually he was able to come home, through physical therapy he was able to walk again over time. My bitterness for the house that kept my husband in a nursing home was well rooted by then.

February 2017: “This house was a mistake. I won’t stay here longer than absolutely necessary. Denver (my husband) and I have decided to sell our house, buy land and build the house of our dreams. We never again want to buy a house full of horrible surprises and waste every penny we have trying to make it work. We will instead build what we want!”

I will still post the before and after pictures of the improvements we made. I will also be sure to blog the entire process of building our forever home! In the end the universe gave us sign after sign that this house isn’t right for us and we are going to listen. Wish my luck on our newest adventure!!

 

Everyday Mental Health

I have always believed that happiness is a choice. Bad things happen to everyone and life sucks sometimes, it is up to each of us to choose to find happiness despite what life hands us. Lately I have been wondering, where is the line between choosing to find the good in life and pretending to be happy when you aren’t… 2016 (and 2015 and 2014 and 2013…) has been a very challenging year, and 2017 hasn’t started any better. I have lost count of how many people have commented on how strong and positive I am despite the circumstances in my life. On the outside I present a positive, bubbly, happy persona. On the inside I’m drowning in fear and solitude, chocking on stress and despair. I tell myself that the smile on my face is how I choose happiness but the smile is not for me, it’s an act for others.

Let’s be honest. When a co-worker or acquaintance greets you with “How are you?” most of the time they don’t really want to know. It’s not a sincere inquiry into your well being, it’s a hello. A truthful response makes people uncomfortable. The response they want from you (if they even wait around to hear a response) is “I’m good, how are you?”. It’s easier to smile and provide the socially acceptable reply but is it healthy? What effect does the detached, self-absorbed society we live in have on our mental health?

Uh oh, hear we go with another rant about the mental health crisis in America… Hold on, before you click off to a riveting buzzfeed video about different types of spanx, let me explain. I’m not talking about schizophrenia or clinical depression. I want to discuss the everyday mental health of your average Joe (or Josie). The idea of “Mental Health” comes with a stigma of crazy people screaming on street corners or the need for padded rooms and straight jackets. In reality we all need to be aware of our own metal health. Stress is a fact of life, no one is immune and some stress is healthy. On the other hand chronic stress is not only damaging, it’s dangerous. Denying to yourself that you are overwhelmed by stress or the need to appear strong and self-sufficient to others can put you at risk for illnesses, diseases, depression, and damage to your brain. When you have a cold, no one judges you for taking cold medicine and resting. Doctors urge everyone to eat right and exercise; to put effort into protecting a healthy body. No one expects physical health to be a natural given, requiring no effort or thought. We all understand the steps required to keep our bodies healthy and we all make our own choices about taking (or not taking) those steps. Mental health is the same but not viewed this way in our society. It is subconsciously accepted and an incredibly unrealistic belief that if you aren’t happy and stress free with no effort, there must be something “wrong” with you. It only makes since that mental health requires equal attention and effort as physical health to maintain.

We all need to be aware of our own true mental state and be prepared with coping mechanisms to better handle what life throws at us. Whether that be a challenging job, an unhappy family life, loss, illness or a life altering trauma. We will all be faced with more than we can handle. Will you be ready? I still struggle personally with my mental well being but I’m taking steps to improve my coping skills and live a happier life. If the suggestions here can help enlighten even one person, I will have exceeded my goal.

  1. Self Awareness – The first and most difficult step on the road to everyday mental health is self awareness. You can’t improve if you aren’t honest and open with yourself. Becoming self aware is incredibly difficult and can take years to truly accomplish. Each person will find themselves in different ways but here are some basic first steps.
    • Evaluation – Most of us have had to do an annual evaluation at work. Think of this step as that on a deeper level. Make a list of accomplishments, failures, positive personality traits, negative personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, desires, fears, goals, what you enjoy, what you dislike, etc. Gain feedback from people close to you if you feel comfortable doing so (or better yet step out of your comfort zone). explain your need for brutal honesty and add some trusted outside perspective to your list.
    • Analysis – look over your list. Analyze why you are who you are. Why you do what you do. Don’t make excuses or criticize yourself, just look at the facts objectively. Find patterns and behaviors you didn’t realize were a part of you.
    • Meditation – ok, ok I can see the eye roll from here… Meditation is not a one size fits all practice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sitting cross legged on the floor clearing your mind of all thoughts. Just sit quietly for a couple minutes to start out. Don’t try to think of nothing, try counting your breaths or evaluating how each part of your body feels in that moment. As you gain practice and meditate longer and deeper start detaching yourself of your thought. Simply let your mind go as it will and observe where it leads you. You can learn a lot about yourself by simply observing your minds natural tendencies.
    • Acceptance – Don’t judge yourself. Accept who you are, good, bad and indifferent. Create realistic goals for self improvement but don’t dwell on your “flaws”. Self awareness is not so you can change who you are, it’s so you can accept who you are and be honest with yourself in all things.
  2. Take Control of Your Own Life – I categorize stress in two ways. Stress that happens to you and stress you create. Both are under your control. Stress that you create, you can change. Stress that happens to you can be dealt with and processed. For example, let’s say you have a decent job but never seem to have enough money. Living paycheck to paycheck is stress you create. Evaluate your spending habits, create a budget and eliminate the costs in your life that you don’t need. Stress that happens to you is not something we can avoid, but we can decide how to handle it. For example, imagine someone you love gets sick or dies. This isn’t something you can change but the choice to deal with it in a healthy way or not is yours. Don’t let stress control you. Evaluate the stresses in your life and take the control back!
  3. Find a Healthy Outlet – While acknowledging the stresses in life is important, dwelling on life problems can do just as much damage as avoiding them. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a break. Do something you enjoy that relaxes you. It can be painting, gardening, kickboxing, cooking, cleaning, etc. Stay away from false relaxations like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. these provide only a false suspension of reality that only steers you to avoidance of the issue. A healthy outlet is not a solution, it’s a break from the analysis of the problem. Don’t turn your outlet into your crutch.
  4. Talk to Someone – Don’t try to cope alone. Talk to a friend, a family member or a professional. Talk to someone who will listen and support you. Maybe they will offer advice and maybe they won’t. Don’t place expectations on them in regards to the response you want or fixing your problem. Simply talk to someone and let it be enough to say the words out loud. Don’t keep it bottled up. We are only human and we can’t do it alone.
  5. Take an Interest in Others – Sometimes perspective is all we really need. Volunteer with a charity for those less fortunate than you. Take a sincere interest in your friends and co-workers lives. Be the shoulder to lean on for someone else in need. I strongly believe that troubles in others lives in no way minimize the troubles in your own life or vice versa, we all have our burden to bare. But often times helping to lighten the load of someone else’s burden can add much needed perspective to our own lives.

My Advice: Moving Day!

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No one has ever wished they had an excuse to pack up everything they own in boxes and haul them across town, the state or even the country… No One!

Moving can be stressful… Trust me I know! We are currently moving out of our first home and into our (hopefully) forever home! While we are excited to be taking this next step in our family journey, the process is less than appealing. Between a lazy loan officer, an unresponsive appraiser and impatient sellers, getting into our new house has been one frustration after another.

The process is rarely painless but moving doesn’t have to be a disaster that causes you to rip your hair out. Focus on what you CAN control and hope for the best with the rest.

Here are my top 10 suggestions for making your move as enjoyable as possible!

 

  1. Start Early!
    It can sometimes be difficult to get started but don’t procrastinate! Start packing as soon as you decide to move. Even if you don’t know where you are going yet or when you have to leave. Start with the things you definitely won’t need, family heirlooms, décor items, ect. The longer you wait, the more stressful it will be to rush at the end.
  2. Make Lists!
    I know not everyone loves lists as much as I do, but trust me this is the time to start! Some key lists to have are; Daily needs list, pack last list, two weeks prior list. These lists will help to remind you what NOT to pack so you don’t have to dig through boxes to find things you packed too soon.
  3. Beg For Boxes!
    You can buy boxes at any home improvement store… But should you? If you work in an office talk to the IT department and the person who orders supplies first. You can also ask your local grocery store for boxes. Don’t forget to ask any friends and family members that have moved recently for any discarded boxes they may have lying around. These boxes will just be recycled if you don’t grab ’em up! Most places are happy to give them away so don’t be afraid to ask!
  4. Go Room By Room!
    Most people will tell you to start with the kitchen but I prefer to start with the least used room. I started with the guest room first and moved into our home office next. I packed as much as I reasonably could from each room before moving on to the next. Before you know it half of your house will be packed, with time to spare!
  5. Make A “Do Not Keep” Pile!
    What happens to this pile is entirely up to you but its inevitable that you will find things you don’t want or need as you pack. Don’t transfer clutter from one house to the next. If you had forgotten you had it, and never missed it, get rid of it! Make a pile for these things and donate them to the needy or pack them together in their own boxes to include in a garage sale at your new house!
  6. Label, Label, Label!
    Of course you have to label your boxes but as someone from a family that shares and reuses boxes from household to household, let me tell you writing on the actual box is not the best plan! Eventually it will be impossible to determine which label is the current label… Instead use a post it or any 5X5 note pad paper to write your label and then tape over it with packing tape as you seal your box. Also label inside the box! Label charges, electrical cords, and hardware removed from other items so you can easily figure out what goes where. Also don’t forget to label the sides of the boxes as well as the top! Once boxes are stacked on top of each other that top label won’t be much help…
  7. Don’t Pack It Too Heavy!
    It seems efficient to pack all like things in one box but it’s anti-productive to pack boxes so full of heavy dishes that you can’t lift it. Instead pack a box half full of heavy items and fill the rest with towels, sheets or clothes. Your back will thank you!
  8. Invite Friends and Family!
    This one we learned the hard way… Don’t wait until the week before your moving date to ask people to help you move. If you decide not to hire professional movers be sure to give your friends and family plenty of warning. The typical fee expected for helping you move will be pizza and beer but it can also be a lot more fun to make a party out of moving with people you like than some moving company employees you don’t know…
  9. Give Your Service Providers A Heads Up!
    Of course you will need to call your cable, internet and utility providers to cancel current services and provide your forwarding address. Don’t forget to also forward your mail through the post office and inform all other companies billing you (car payments, credit cards, insurance company, ect). You should also make one last appointment to see your doctor and your dentist. At this appointment inform them of your move and sign a release waiver to have your medical records transferred to your new doctor and dentist. If you haven’t found a new provider yet, ask for any references they may know of in your new area.
  10. Don’t Forget Your Pets!
    Moving is hard and stressful for you but don’t forget that your pets have it even worse. They can sense your stress and they can tell things are changing but they don’t understand what’s happening or why. If possible take your pets to a friends house for a play date on moving day to keep them out of they way and occupied. When you bring them to their new home, give them time and space to adjust without pressuring them to move too quickly.

 

Don’t forget to have fun! You are moving on to your next exciting adventure, start it with a positive attitude! Don’t sweat the small stuff and avoid the big issues with a little planning. My husband and I are so excited to be starting this next chapter of our life and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

 

 

It’s Ok to not be OK

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Over the last several months the universe seems to have been against me. I had to focus on keeping my head above water and just trying to get by. I was dealt more than I thought I could handle and I needed to put myself aside to be the rock for my family despite what I was going through. I had to put this blog on a shelf but the time has come to bring it back! I can see the light through the forest, though life is still very hard right now I truly believe it is starting to turn around. I also realize through all of this that neglecting my own needs doesn’t help anyone.

I am a firm believer in looking on the bright side. It could always be worse, other people have it worse. While I still believe we should try to find the good in any bad situation, I have also come to learn that it’s ok to feel bad for yourself. It’s ok to accept and grieve for the troubles you are going through. Don’t wallow in your self pity but don’t ignore your feelings either.

Self awareness is a valuable skill everyone needs to improve. I have strived for as long as I can remember to a be strong and positive person at all times. This is an unrealistic and unfair expectation. No one can bare the world on their shoulders alone. I pushed through and forced myself to be “ok” until so much built up that the dam broke and for days I could do nothing but cry. My initial reaction to this was embarrassment. My coworkers, my family and friends, strangers, had all seen my breakdown. I felt weak and pitiful for not being able to carry my burden alone. As I apologized for my weakness I learned that I was the only one judging me for my breakdown. I started to realize that trying so hard to be strong and pretending for so long to be “ok” were the stepping stones to my downfall.

It’s Ok to not be Ok! I urge you to learn from my mistake. We all have struggles but mine don’t make yours any less real. The pain of people less fortunate than me don’t make mine any less painful. Sometimes life sucks, that is true for every living soul. Never feel guilty or weak for not being strong enough to carry your burden alone. If you could easily handle it, you wouldn’t learn from it. When someone asks if you are ok, be honest. If you feel like you are drowning, seek help. Don’t wait for your breaking point. Do what you need to do to get through it.

 

I know this post was a bit of a downer but it needed to be said. Now that I’m back, exciting posts are on the horizon! For those of you who love the DYI stuff, stay tuned! Big things are coming!

Have the day you’re going to have, but try to find the rays of sunshine hiding out there!