Great and Hidden Things

Right behind our house (barely) stands an old shed.

It’s entirely too close for comfort, in my humble opinion. In fact, it’s so close to the house that I could probably spit and hit it broadside while rinsing dishes, if I was tall enough to open the kitchen window without straining myself and also blessed with the gift of aim.

This historic landmark is iconic, let me tell you. It’s musty from decades of weathering and dry rot, drafty from missing all the doors and windows, and plastered with ivy vines that have crept their way so far up the mossy cinder blocks that they are now fused to the few barn wood boards that still remain intact. The tin roof is warped and creaks horribly when the wind hits it just right, which just adds to the overall drama of the place.

You have to have extreme agility skills to safely navigate around all the piles of junk stacked wall to wall, floor to ceiling and you certainly don’t want to be left second guessing whether or not you are up to date on your last tetanus shot when you enter, with all the rusty nails and misplaced sheet metal jutting out everywhere. Also, I’m definitely no wildlife expert, but I’m fairly certain undiscovered species of “critters” call it home, which is why I dare to only venture out there during winter months with some heavy duty gloves and a shovel or shotgun for safe measures.

Though I may have just painted the picture that this is the VERY place to go when you want to get chased down by an ax-murderer or something, make no mistake. It’s grown to become one of my favorite places on the whole farm. Because if you can get past the dust and mildew and severe lack of TLC, there is some real potential and beauty to behold.

Like most people upon first impressions, however, I didn’t always look at this shed in the same light as I do now. In fact, when we first moved here and were preparing to remodel and clean up the place after the auction, I thought it was the biggest eyesore on the entire property. I wanted it GONE. I begged my husband multiple times to doze it down, in hopes that we could one day in its place build a fully functional and beautiful garden shed with a chicken coop off the back side – all to match the house once we finished remodeling the exterior. I longed for the moment he would hand me a sledgehammer and say, “Have at it, babe,” and I’d go running buck-wild like a banshee, arms slinging and hands blistering until there was nothing left standing but a pile of rubble and my dignity. I wanted this so much in fact that I already began designing my backyard dream to the extreme.

On a steno pad.

With a Sharpie.

Because, you know, the more permanent the better.

I had this entire project envisioned so vividly, it seemed like it was already real. It was going to be absolutely stunning – a true farm-wife sanctuary of all things homemade, holistic and homegrown – just like you’d see in the Magnolia Journal or Better Homes & Garden magazine. I would have raised beds full of blue-ribbon worthy vegetables and luscious strawberry vines.

There would be walnut stained shutters and window planter boxes full of all my favorite wildflowers and herbs. I would have trellises adorned with clematis and english ivy as a backdrop for it all, and some hydrangea and rose bushes planted on the north side for when I needed fresh cut flowers for an elegant farmhouse table centerpiece. Zaylee and I would go out every day to collect eggs, pull weeds, and put our matching galvanized watering cans to good use while making memories, earning sunburns, and getting dirt caked under our nails. And every summer evening possible, we would gather as a family on the back porch to grill steaks and sip sweet tea while watching the chickens free-range until the fireflies came out.

Of course my husband, The Realist, snapped me out of my Martha Stewart/Suzy Homemaker trance and assured me that the existing shed could easily be repurposed into the same paradise for probably a fraction of the cost of building a new one. We just had to have faith, give it time, and finish the house remodel project first.

Sigh.

I always hated that answer, partly because deep down I knew he was right but mostly because I knew my next-summer-fantasy would now be more of a maybe-in-a-couple-years kind of deal.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, patience is sort of a foreign concept to me, and I live for spontaneity. My Type 7 Enneagram roots run deep, y’all.

I figured if I had to stare at the ugly shed outside my kitchen window every day, I might as well at least try to clean it up until we had the time and funds to overhaul it so it didn’t look as bad. If nothing else, it wouldn’t have to be the laughing stock of jokes during our backyard cookouts with friends and family anymore. Nothing a little deep power washing, some heavy duty contractor bags, and a few Pinterest organization tricks couldn’t fix, right?

One afternoon I got overly-ambitious as per usual and decided to take a peek and get a glimpse of what we were getting ourselves into. Every inch of my being cringed as I stepped inside that shack of shambles. I tried my best to dodge all the mouse droppings like a ninja, all while lunging over the massive junk piles and picking cobwebs out of my hair that had probably been hanging around since the early 70’s.

At first glance, it really was just as horrifying as I imagined it would be. But then when I really got to looking closer – past all the moldy feed sacks and broken glass bottles and fallen shelves that caused several coffee cans full of rusty bolts to cascade to the earth below in an impressive waterfall fashion – I realized that there were actually some really neat things buried in there.

I was in complete disbelief and stood there all giddy, like a flea market addict high on espresso and chalk paint fumes. Vintage crocks and oil cans, unique pallets and crates, antique tables and hutches, old books and recipes, wooden wagon wheels and rustic hand tools – it was truly a smorgasbord of all things paint-chipped, rusty, and distressed.

Whoa, Betsy. She has done it. She has just discovered the world’s greatest secret, and it is all hers to pursue. Eureka.

Needless to say I became a changed woman that day, kind of like when T-Swift went pop or when the Tin Man finally got a heart. Okay, okay. Maybe it wasn’t that extreme, but I did begin to look at that old rinky-dink shack with different eyes from that moment on.

Now, when I want to embrace my inner Joanna Gaines and fill the void of a bare wall or empty shelf in our house with a unique and rare antique find, the old shed is where I go to fuel my inspiration because I know what glory it beholds. It truly never disappoints. Every time I go inside it’s an adventure, as I discover something new I once overlooked.

And I’m becoming more and more okay with the idea of keeping it around a little longer until we re-purpose it into something else that is just as equally amazing.

I’m not really for sure why I am still so drawn to it and all its marvel – or lack thereof, depending on who you ask – but I think it’s because in some very odd and far off ways it reminds me a bit of myself when I was in my darkest times. Not that I’m smelly or creepy or a potential health hazard or anything like that, but because I know what it’s like to feel like everything about you is an unsolved mystery. To believe that people look right past you – and feel abandoned, forsaken, and forgotten because of it. To try to stand tall and profound in a world where others just want to tear you down. To question your potential and value in this world, because you are no longer as new and strong and confidently built as you used to be in your glory days before time and experience took its toll on you.

To convince yourself you are only the remnants of what’s been weathered and tattered and beaten down in the elements, and to not appreciate the beautiful story you have to offer this world that tells all that you have become and overcome because of the hard seasons you have faced. To slap a temporary band-aid on what you know requires a much deeper repair and maintenance, but not have the energy or faith to see it through. To rip the doors off the hinges and open yourself to the chance to feel needed and purposeful, but instead find that after all this time you have become this giant bottomless vessel as one unwanted thing after another was hurled inside and forgotten about by the one who cast it away. To let it all pile up until you lose yourself in all the chaos that’s burying you alive, to the point that no one knows what’s beneath the surface anymore.

To board up the windows of your heart in desperate attempts to guard your deepest secrets, waiting for the right person to come along who will push past all the clutter and filth and brokenness and find the diamond in the rough that so badly wants to shine but isn’t sure how. To ultimately lose sight of the One who carefully and purposefully hand built you into the very masterpiece you were designed to be.

Oh, friends. I know the feeling all too well. And I’m guessing a few of you are familiar with it too.

But here’s the thing…I also know that nothing about it is really true.

In fact, it’s all one giant twisted lie the devil himself has meticulously stitched and woven together, just to shove it in our face and tell us it’s our story. And we let him, almost always. We wrap ourselves up so tight in the head trash and negativity and temptation he has crafted – to the point it’s almost suffocating and we can’t wriggle our way out on our own anymore.

For some odd reason, when I think of the old shed and all it’s hidden wonder I am also reminded of the story of Jeremiah.

I know, I’m random.

If you really want to dive deep into a bittersweet roller coaster ride of a faithful prophet’s life as he persevered through extremely dangerous and depressing situations to fulfill God’s calling, Jeremiah is your kind of guy.

Long story short – and trust me, it’s really long  – he was given the very daunting task of prophesying throughout the reign of several kings that the city of Judah would eventually fall to the Babylonians, if they didn’t turn away from their sinful ways. He spent a lifetime enduring obstacles while faithfully doing everything the Lord asked him to do – all while rarely seeing the fruits of his labor. In fact, most of the good that came from his diligent work wasn’t seen until after his lifetime was over.

Just like any good Nicholas Sparks novel, there seems to always be some tragic ending or plot twist to Bible stories that makes you want to throw the book across the room and shake your fist at the Man Upstairs for ripping your heart right out of your chest and playing with it like a stress ball. Jeremiah is certainly no exception to the rule, as he eventually found himself imprisoned and persecuted by King Zedekiah for going against the grain and doing what God convicted him to do. Oh, and he was tortured, mocked, and eventually exiled to Egypt, so there’s that to add on top of his already impressive resume`.  If I were Jeremiah, this is probably the point where I’d throw in the towel and say, “Sorry, God. I’m out.”

But if you keep reading, you find the bittersweet ending that makes it all seem to have purpose and meaning again. It’s the boomerang effect that keeps you coming back for more and reminds you of how brilliant the writer of the story really is. (And let’s be real. No matter how ticked off you get at ole Nick, you’re still gonna read his next release that ends up topping the New York Times #1 Bestseller charts. It’s just that good of a story.)

Rest assured, the author of Jeremiah’s story pulls through in a very similar fashion, delivering the goodness we know He promises for those who keep fighting for His namesake. It was there – in desolate bondage and captivity in the prison court – that the Lord gave him yet another message that is so jarring to me, it still gives me goosebumps every time I read and reread it.

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and I will shew thee great and hidden things, which thou knowest not.” – Jeremiah 33:3

It’s absolutely incredible. Poetic. Profound. Talk about a best-seller story!

After all the sin and brokenness, after multiple second chances and opportunities to repent with no avail, after all the years of destruction and exile and judgment that followed suit – God fulfilled His promise of restoration to the people of Judah and used Jeremiah’s story as a testament of true faith that we still talk about in Sunday morning sermons today. Even greater than that, He vowed to pardon the Judeans of all their iniquities. And He doesn’t just cover their sins, He completely wipes them away! He extended His love and grace on a magnitude so grand, that no one could even begin to wrap their minds around it. All they had to do was trust and obey, and in all due time it would come to fruition – like when Moses led the Israelites for 40 years through the wilderness before getting a glimpse of the Promised Land. It’s such a foreshadowing of the love that Jesus would illustrate on the cross many years later, which paved the way even more great and hidden things I believe you and I will get to experience someday on the other side.

This encourages me so much in my spiritual walk, because despite how damaged and flawed I may feel at times – kind of like that old back yard relic behind the house – I believe He is drawing up the blueprints for this amazing story of healing and restoration for my life. I believe He will redesign and repurpose me into something even greater than I ever thought I could be, if I just give Him my heart and meet Him halfway. No ultimatums, no demanding answers, no putting a deadline on the whole process. Just trusting…and maybe willing to endure a few setbacks along the way. I believe He will do the same for you, too.

As much as I wish that I could take His vision goggles and put them on my own face to gaze far into my future and gain some clarity, I know that it’s not my place to ask questions. I’m sure Jeremiah felt the same way at times. But to understand the outcome of my life before walking through the journey in total blind faith would be like what I am reluctant to admit I did when I read Dear John – skipping to the last paragraph to know the ending and miss the entire beautiful story in-between. It would be a huge disservice to the Creator, and would devalue all the hard work He put in to make it such a heartfelt story.

It’s my place to trust that He will make it all come full circle in the end. I can definitely put my hope in that. I have to put my hope in that. After all, He is the only one who can look past all the “junk” built up in our crazy, messy lives and somehow sift out the gold we never even knew was there. It’s like He already sees the goodness in us, when we can’t see it for ourselves.

It’s love.

And someday, whenever it’s finally time to roll up our sleeves and rehab that old shed out back into something pretty spectacular, I’ll have a beautiful reminder right outside my kitchen window of that perfect kind of love that was extended to me through great and hidden things…things that I could have never envisioned on my own with just a steno pad and a Sharpie.

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PPSSSSTTT! Hey, you! Yes, YOU!

Since you so graciously took the time to read these words in their entirety and made it to the end, I thought I’d let you in on a little secret! (After all, the theme is great and hidden things, here….ba-dum-dumm *tsss!*)

Basically I have been working in sworn secrecy (not really…) on a new project, which consists of me FINALLY starting that book I always dreamed of writing ever since I was little! That’s right! Ya girl is going to be an AUTHOR! Like, a legit one that hangs out in coffee shops with glasses and messy buns and oversized cardigans and does book signings in Barnes and Noble.

Well, I hope. Publishing is a long and drawn out process outside of writing the darned book itself, and rejection is real. So, I’ll let you know how it goes.

And no, I don’t have a title yet or know when it will be finished, but stay tuned.

Title and Time TBA. Noted.

Pray for me.

In all seriousness, this book sincerely means so much to me, as it represents me finally having the courage and audacity to DREAM BIG again, like I did in the days when I sang into a hairbrush and swore I would be the next Shania Twain. (Still waiting on that one to pan out.) To DARE to do something many people don’t get the chance to do, or never even take the chance to try. To BELIEVE that it’s possible, even when I don’t always see it happening.

As many of you already know, I’ve been on a journey to self-growth and personal discovery for quite some time now. After lots of frustrations and growing pains from pushing my comfort zone boundaries a little farther and father every day, I feel like I am finally at a place where I can offer a few tidbits of wisdom from life lessons I’ve learned along the way. Lessons of going through emotional childhood trauma, being a recovering perfectionist, battling suicidal depression, surviving college, starting and leaving jobs I loved (and sometimes hated), moving SO. MANY. TIMES. It’s unreal, becoming a wife and mother, and through it all still trying to stay sane and show up well for myself and others while following whatever arrow the Lord is pointing for me next. This book will be about “all of the things”, and how my faith has transformed throughout the entire process of becoming who I am today.

Whether I succeed or whether it’s a flop, I figure I’ve got to at least put myself out there and give it all I’ve got! I’m already counting it as a WIN, because, you know, I’m actually doing the thing.

And fun fact! This blog post you just read just happens to be the first full chapter I’ve actually completed to feature somewhere in this new endeavor I am embarking on! In fact several pieces from former posts on here will be added in there as well!

It is definitely not edited yet and the vast majority of it was written in between interruptions of the phone ringing, the baby crying, or some other third-world emergency I had to respond to, but hey. It’s WRITTEN. I broke the ice and the book of my dreams is finally underway!

> insert fist bump here <

2,000ish words down, about 80,000 more to go…no pressure, or anything. I basically just have to write a chapter like I just did about 20+ more times, then I’ll finally have a book.

And if it ever makes it out into the world? Maybe you’ll love it and talk about it with friends over lattes and Wednesday night devotion groups, maybe you’ll throw it in some old shed out back and never think about it twice. (HA!)

Either way, it’s happening. And it’s gonna take a whole lotta faith and coffee and support to make it go down.

So if you can, show me some likes and hearts, give me (KIND.) feedback or suggestions if you see anything that needs re-configured or re-worded, leave me some words of encouragement FREQUENTLY throughout this process that is sure to be long and difficult at times, and send up some prayers that this book says all that it needs to say and lands in the hands of all who need to read it and weep.

(And friend, I will so totally ugly cry with you.)

So, yayyyy! Now you know the thing!! And I’m so happy to bring you along this journey with me!

But SHHH! It’s a secret reserved only for the baddies who take the time to read this! Because after all, YOU are the ones who will help make this thing totally possible! 😉

XOXO,

Caitlin

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Decide, Change, Fight.

I loveeeeee October.

 

Not only is it my birthday month, the holy grail of Mother Nature’s magic and beauty, and the time of year where I feel convicted to wear fifteen layers of vests, scarves, and plaid while inhaling all things pumpkin spice, it’s also a month that advocates awareness for one of the leading mental illnesses that impacts millions of people all around the world every single day. One that claims the lives of many who see no way out of it. One that I have personally experienced first hand to the point that it almost consumed me entirely. One that I think is so crucial to talk about, because there are many suffering in silence when I believe they don’t have to be.

 

Depression.

 

There are many types of depression ranging from post-partum to clinical to bipolar disorder and anything in between, and I would never want to discount the severity of one type over another or lump them under one general category because I know each type is so very different for anyone having gone through it. I have personally only ever been a victim of clinical depression, so I can only speak to that, but I do have a passion for sharing my struggles with anyone going through any version of this disorder, because I don’t want anyone to ever have to face it alone or embarrassed as I did for years.

 

So, in honor of National Depression Awareness month, I want to – in the most non-cheesy, non-judgmental, non-preachy way – share some tangible tips that I truly believe helped me overcome my personal battle this ugly beast. And I list these in this very specific chronological order because reflecting on my personal journey, I realize that every little thing I did to jumpstart my recovery led immediately into the next in this exact pattern.

 

Please please please….hear me out when I say that I am in NO way making any major medical claims here that everyone can relate to, and this is NOT intended to be a roadmap for everyone to follow verbatim. So, heed my disclaimer to take this blog for whatever worth it is to you at your own discretion. Also understand that this is a VERY vulnerable and raw and real side of myself that is not easy for me to share, but I am using my story as a platform to reach others and to also give myself more liberation and strength in doing so.

 

This is my comeback story.

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#1 – I didn’t take my life…but I did decide to take it back.

 

Last June I hit an all time low with my depression and decided I was done with life.

 

That is seriously THE. HARDEST.  thing I’ve ever written, and I honestly feel a twinge of guilt and fear in exposing that reality for the whole world to see — especially to the ones who don’t understand what I felt in that moment because it’s not a war they’ve ever had to fight for themselves. But I feel like it’s so important to acknowledge what happened because it is such a crucial part to my story of how I got to where I am today and where I am going. It’s important, because though I am definitely not proud of that particular moment, I am proud of how far I have came with every moment since then. And while I know not everyone suffering with depression is suicidal, I know for a fact I the number of people who do succeed with it is a growing statistic I lose sleep over, because I feel compelled to use my story to do something about it. And while there’s no magical cure for just ‘’opening up about my feelings” on the situation, I do think there’s a safe place of understanding and encouragement here for those who can relate.

 

So, there. I said it.

 

I’ll spare the specifics of that night and the ugly truths from my past that haunted me for years leading up to that point, because it’s honestly not the most important part of the story here, but I will share the major turning point that changed it all for me.

 

I CHOSE not to go through with it.

 

Now, hear me out. I know depression itself is NOT a choice. It’s an illness and in many cases a chemical imbalance that everyone going through feels different levels and degrees of. I know for a fact that it does not matter how successful or blessed or well off or “happy” you appear on the outside because you only feel what’s diminished and broken on the inside and often have no idea WHY you even feel that way.

 

I don’t believe anyone ever chooses depression, but when it comes to whether or not we survive it, I truly believe — I have to believe — that we do have a choice to make. And we are in full control of that choice, though I COMPLETELY empathize that it can be a highly complex and overwhelming one to make when our judgment is hindered by the thoughts and lies that this illness fires our way.

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Everybody has different reasons for the path they choose when they arrive at the crossroads of ending it quickly or managing it over time, and I can only speak from my own journey as I chose the latter, but I believe one of the hardest things about my personal warfare was deciding to show up to the battleground in the first place. Because once I decided, it was a constant decision EVERY. DAY.  from that point forward to put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing pull myself out of it. And I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.

 

That’s what made it even harder.

 

Because admitting that I needed help to someone I loved and also someone I didn’t know very well when I consulted with my doctor? Well, that was a beast of fear and shame and tough choices all over again in itself.

 

Nevertheless, I CHOSE to take control of what I could. I CHOSE to get professional and medical help for what I couldn’t. And I CHOSE to take my life back, one day at a time.

 

And, as I would soon learn, that in itself was already half of the victory won.

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#2 – I got help.

 

There very well may be people out there in this world who thoroughly enjoy digging up bones from their past and spewing out their feelings on a cold leather couch in some stranger’s office with a psychology degree hanging on their wall and a notepad in their hand. I cannot denounce that those people might truly exist, but I can promise you this.

 

I am most definitely not one of them.

 

However, I knew that my battle was one in which its complexity and deep roots were too much for me to bear on my own. I needed help. So, the first person I told was my husband — who was probably the only person in the world who knew how bad my symptoms were getting because he came home to my emotional roller coaster every night and rode it front row.

 

I want to get to my point here because y’all are running a marathon here to read my story (as per usual because I always have a tendency to ramble…) and I am SO grateful for your persistence, buttttttt I do want to take a quick couple paragraph detour here to give credit where credit is due, because my husband was absolutely my rock during this unstable season of my life. If you have ever been with someone who is deeply depressed but can’t relate because it’s not a war you’ve ever had to fight, you know this can be such a hard place because you often have no clue what to say or how to help. On the flip side, if you are the person drowning in an illness you can’t explain to your partner who doesn’t resonate with your struggle, you have so many feelings of frustration, guilt, hopelessness, loneliness, and even bitterness.

 

Looking back now, there are distinct moments in my mind where I know deep down I did not deserve the grace and patience and love he was trying to give despite a situation he couldn’t understand or control, because I was most certainly not giving it back to him in return. But just like the vows we spoke the day we became one and committed to the long haul, he clung to me through the “for worse” and “in sickness” part of our story anyway.

 

I thank God daily that walking AWAY FROM me was not an option in his book. Only walking FORWARD WITH me every step of the way to my recovery.

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To get back on track here, we both sat down on the edge of our bed one night and decided that it was time to seek guidance from someone on the outside, because we were both clueless and overwhelmed. The very next day we went to the doctor together and she prescribed some medications and referred me to a therapist right away.

 

Now, I have always considered myself a social butterfly, but when it comes to exposing the tender spots of my heart to talk about my feelings to someone I barely know, I’d rather just keep to myself and pretend it’s all good in the neighborhood. Because the truth is, I am so incredibly afraid of judgment, rejection, and disappointment.

 

So, if no one else will say it, I will.

 

Therapy sucks. Hardcore.

 

While I literally hated every routine follow up and depression screening and “tell me how you feel about that” interrogation, looking back now I know that it was absolutely necessary for me to be able to get over myself and the fears I had in coming clean about my problem. This was essentially the bump-set-spike for the next chapter in my story, where I learned the beauty of opening up about my depression through the very platform you’re reading these words from right now.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself here…that one deserves its own special section in this blog.

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#3 – I opened up.

 

Hey! Remember that one time I told you how much therapy sucks?? Yeah, my opinion still hasn’t changed since we last talked. But I must confess that therapy was indeed the catalyst that taught me how to channel my feelings and document my journey in a way that fostered my creativity and fully embraced one of my greatest God-given passions — writing.

 

At first it felt silly and I thought my therapist was crazy when she suggested I journal my progress daily or even write a letter to my family about my struggles, but over time it really became my release. I don’t know the science behind it, but there was something about putting the pen to that paper or typing it all out that allowed me to really organize my feelings into patterns and connect the dots for myself as to what triggered my feelings. Although it wasn’t a requirement, I somehow rallied up every ounce of confidence and courage to turn a series of my journal entries into a blog post to open up about my depression, because for some reason it was easier to confess what I was going through safely on the other side of a computer screen than say it face to face to my friends and family who honestly had NO IDEA I was even experiencing all of this.

 

You can find that blog here, and can I just say how TERRIFIED I was to actually hit that “submit” button. Because once it was out there? Y’all, it was out there. My words and secrets were officially exposed to the world for all to see and judge and yes, reply to.

 

I NEVER expected to get all the positive feedback and support that I did from publishing that one single post. It was to my surprise….liberating. Comforting. Humbling. It was also heartbreaking getting hundreds of anonymous and public responses from others brave enough to raise their hands and say “Hey, girl. Me, too.” That was a major turning point for me — because once I realized there was nothing to be ashamed of because I wasn’t alone on the battleground — it almost gave me permission to forgive myself, love myself, and really focus on my fresh start of moving forward with my recovery, arms locked with the new tribe I had officially found to encourage me every step of the way.

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#4 – I changed my diet.

 

Y’all, I have a VERY low tolerance to medications.

 

In fact, I believe there is still embarrassing footage floating around somewhere out there of me when I woke up from anesthetics after getting my wisdom teeth removed, flirting with some other sorry sucker in the recovery room who was just as whacked out on hydrocodones as I was. Ohhh, yes. He was most definitely a sight for sore eyes (or, should I say sore gums) and we were a match made in heaven, both sporting chipmunk cheeks, glazed eyes, and a cotton-mouth full of bloody gauze that kept falling out with every slurred pick up line and helium-induced-sounding laugh we exchanged.

 

I can’t tell you his name, what he looked like, or even what his phone number was that he illegibly scribbled on the napkin I was using to wipe the drool off my chin, but I can tell you this — ever since then I have had a serious complex with ever wanting to take prescription drugs again.

 

That’s why getting on antidepressants to relieve my issues was such a personal struggle for me at first. I had been on and off things like Citalopram and Xanax for years to help manage my symptoms, but hated the way they made me feel — or should I say, how they didn’t make me feel. While they helped me to not be so anxious and upset all the time, they mellowed me out almost to the point where I just didn’t feel anything at all. I was just…empty. Foggy. Numb. Like I was just floating through my life on a rain cloud, but it was somehow all okay now and keep running on autopilot. And while I would of course never ever shame anyone for getting help this way because at least they are getting help, I knew deep down it wasn’t something I personally wanted to continue forever.

 

This was such a hard place for me because I really wanted to feel emotions, but I knew I had to learn to manage the intensity of them better. And the only way I knew to manage the intensity of them better was to use something that physically changed the chemistry of my body and the way it functioned. I mean, after all, depression is largely a chemical imbalance, right???

 

So, I took the gosh darned pills.

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I continued this vicious cycle until about a year ago, when a friend introduced a nutritional detox program that forever changed the game for me and allowed me to toss those pill bottles in the trash for good. Which, by the way, coincidentally came at perfect timing since I just so happened to find out I was pregnant shortly after. The shocking yet exciting news of our little nugget was the final nail in the coffin to my journey with antidepressants because I personally opted to not be on them during my pregnancy and essentially quit them cold turkey. Which is probably frowned upon and annoying to every medical professional ever – as I was reassured over and over by my highly qualified OB that there are little to no proven risks for expectant moms using certain medications – but I didn’t care because hey…I have a five minute degree in Web MD and Google, thank you very much.

 

So, yeah. Peed on a stick….check. Quit pills…check. Drastically changed my eating habits….checkkkk.

 

Do all the big stressful life changes at once, right?

 

Now, before you roll your eyes as to WHY I possibly thought it was a good idea take part in something like this I just want to point out that our digestive tract is home to over 80% of our immune system. Also, over 90% of our serotonin — which is our body’s natural neurotransmitter that is responsible for our overall well-being and happiness — is produced there. For those of you who are scientifically and medically challenged like me, I’ll save you the time of Googling all this terminology and tell you that it just means we often tend to feel how we eat and treat our gut.

 

To summarize here, better food = better mood.

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Not everyone’s cup of tea, I get it, but for me this concept made perfect sense and aligned with my personal health goals of wanting a more holistic approach to getting to the root of my depression problem. It focused on getting me healthier from the inside out by resetting my gut, balancing my blood sugars, eliminating toxic buildup, improving metabolic functions, and **ehemmm** changing my body’s chemistry —–> which ultimately boosted my serotonin levels over time. Not to mention, it was easy to adapt and safe for baby!

 

So I did the gosh darned thing and took part in this “cellular cleansing” sorcery and became the girl who suddenly valued good nutrition and water intake instead. Don’t panic…I didn’t starve, and I most definitely wasn’t confined to the bathroom for a month, as many people might assume when they hear the word “cleanse.”  I was still able to wear white pants and maintain a social life and go about my day as a very busy and very, very pregnant middle school teacher.

 

And before anyone hates on me… I’ll have you know that my tiny human grew to be a perfectly on time and healthy 7 pound 10 oz meatball and I did not jeopardize her health or my health in any way. K, thanks, byeee.

 

I won’t lie. I was kind of a skeptic initially, as most people naturally are when it comes to these kinds of things, but wouldn’t you know it…this silly little detox plan actually helped me self-diagnose and identify certain food triggers that set off a lot of my depression symptoms –like chronic fatigue, migraines, debilitating digestion issues, and lack of energy/apathy. After over a year of learning what does and doesn’t serve my body through practicing the skill of moderation, my levels have now stabilized and my symptoms have subsided and I am officially — wait for it — DEPRESSION MED FREE FOR LIFEEEE. And I rarely ever take any other kind of meds, for that matter!

 

That’s right…no more loopy love fests with random strangers in recovery rooms for this girl.

 

#5 – I focused on filling my vase.

 

Okay. I know I probably sound crazy with this analogy, but stay with me, here.

 

First, let’s have a mini intervention. There’s something you should know…

 

Hi, my name is Caitlin and I have a slight addiction and obsession with all things Rachel Hollis.

 

If you have no freaking clue who this woman is or have never subscribed to her podcasts, followed her Instagram feed, or especially read her latest book Girl, Wash Your Face, you are seriously missing out. I don’t say this lightly when I say this book CHANGED. MY. LIFE. and my outlook on my recovery journey.

 

I won’t give any spoiler alerts and won’t judge if you have to secretly Wikipedia her, but for the sake of the point I’m trying to make here just know that she is the bees knees when it comes to practical life advice about how to handle all of your messy life issues.

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One of the greatest takeaways I glean from listening to her wisdom is this one analogy she always makes about comparing herself to a vase standing under a continuous flow of things like happiness, gratitude over blessings, health, self-care and hygeine, personal time, rest, nutrition, adequate hydration, exercise, and  energy — basically all essentials needed to truly thrive in life. She talks about how often times as women especially we are so worried about filling up everyone else around us that we are constantly tipping this way and that way to sprinkle good things on our babies and spouses and friends and family — but we do it in such a way that we eventually tip over so far to get any last little drop out that we fall. Break. Shatter. When if we would just stand tall and strong and let all these little blessings pour into us and fill us up, eventually they would naturally overflow to those around us without us having to try so hard to keep it all together.

 

Friends.

 

This is SO real. How in the world can we expect to keep up with all the hats we wear in this life if we are constantly pouring from a vessel that is never really satisfied or full to begin with? No wonder so many of us are barely keeping our head above the raging waves that depression and stress and anxiety try to drown us in!

 

So… how exactly do we “fill our vases” when there’s only so much time we have in a day that doesn’t involve punching a clock, paying bills, wiping butts, folding laundry, juggling ball games and parent teacher conferences and Pajama Day Fridays, or rolling through Mickey D’s drive thru for the fourth time in a week to feed your hooligans because you haven’t been grocery shopping in like four hundred years and you’re THAT level of exhausted?

 

I’ve got two words for you.

 

Personal. Growth.

 

(I know, I know…don’t all roll your eyes at once…)

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I must confess that I truly SUCKED at this in the beginning. I thought it was so cheesy and cliche, as I was never much of a “love yourself” kind of person and tore myself apart daily with self-degrading talk and head trash that I wasn’t worthy of true happiness or that quite frankly, I just didn’t have the time to make myself a priority. In fact, my philosophy used to consist of making myself so busy doing everything for everyone else, that it would somehow distract me from what was really going on beneath the surface.

 

Y’all, this homegirl needed some WORKKKK to get over her “too stressed to be blessed” mentality.

 

My self-help journey was something I had to REALLY open my mind to and discipline myself to take it seriously until became a habit. I learned it didn’t have to be elaborate or fancy or excessively time consuming, just intentional focused tidbits here and there in the nooks and crannies of my day to make a huge impact over time.

 

At first I started small…then it snowballed into bigger changes that I STILL work on today. Each morning I tried to start my day off with a five minute devotion or quick meditation/prayer before my feet even hit the floor. I learned to speak affirmations to myself while getting ready, even though it felt SUPER awkward at first to refer to myself as “a life-breathing, vision-speaking , truth-seeking world changer” while simultaneously popping a zit, plucking my eyebrows, or sitting on the toilet. I listened to different music that motivated me and gave me an extra pep in my step. Sometimes it was Mandisa, sometimes it was Shania Twain, annndddd sometimes it was Nelly. I plugged in to podcasts and soundcloud calls in my car on my way to and from work. I listened to audiobooks while folding laundry or washing dishes if I couldn’t find the time to sit and physically read a book. I changed my closest circle of people with ones who filled me up with positivity and ambition to reach for the next best thing instead of ones who emotionally drained me with negativity and drama. I looked for new opportunities that gave me joy and fulfillment in life and learned to say ‘’no” and let go of some commitments that really weren’t worth the stress or headache anymore. I learned the power of schedules and routines and strategies instead of running 12,197 miles an hour like the energizer bunny trying to do all the things with caffeine courage and both arms swingin’. I set aside intentional ME time each day to decompress in a healthy way, whether it was hitting the gym or doing a DIY facial or organizing kitchen cabinets because somehow color coordinated tupperware arranged by sizes and shapes from left to right gives me a sense of serenity unlike any other. And before I hit the bed every night I journaled or silently reflected on 3-4 things from the day that I was genuinely grateful for…even if it was the crummiest day ever and I just wanted to sulk in self-pity and binge eat an entire sleeve of Oreos while watching Grey’s Anatomy on Nexflix to relieve my sorrows instead.

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Though it may sound crazy  – and though I’ve certainly not arrived anywhere yet by any means as I’m on a constant journey to growth – I know I am a heck of a lot farther down the road to recovery than I ever was before I learned to crack open a book or pep talk myself in the mirror. I truly believe that when you learn to change your habits and mindset, it changes the way you think and speak and do everything else in your life.

 

But here’s the thing…as my girl Rach would say. Personal growth has to be personal. It has to stretch and challenge and change YOU, before it can change any situation you are working through.

 

And when YOU change and show up in the world as the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, the strangest thing happens.

 

It changes everyone and everything else around you, too.

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When I look back on these action steps I took to get to where I am today, I realize how seriously 99.999% of it came with an open mindset of wanting to get better and being unapologetic throughout the whole process. I had to really start looking at myself as not needing to be fixed because there was something wrong with me, but more like needing to be restored because there was massive potential within me.

 

This whole process has been exactly that — a restoration still in the making, and one that will likely always be because nothing worth having or becoming happens overnight. It’s like reaching into the depths of my broken heart, tearing it down to the frame to find the source of what isn’t working anymore, and reassembling the nuts and bolts of the person I want to become one by one over a lifetime until it somehow becomes something beautiful and whole and functioning again.

 

I believe they call this building your legacy.

 

There’s no specific blueprints or diagram to follow. Just the vision I hold in my mind, the hope I hold in my heart, and the tools I now hold in my hands to get the job done in God’s perfect time.

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So…if this resonates at all with you…if you have ever been in that dark, scary, suffocating space of constantly questioning your worth and potential in this fierce world that feels like it’s spinning off its axis into the deep end most days, I just want to point out something remarkable to you.

 

You are still here.

 

YOU are STILL here.

 

And I am here with you, too.
I am so deeply glad to my core that we are in this place of healing together.

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Life Unplugged.

So, I did a thing.

Two Sundays ago I had just got back home from a late night Wal-Mart run, where I blasted about three episodes from Rachel Hollis’s RISE podcast and chowed down on a 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell like it was the greatest indulgence known to mankind.

BY. MYSELF.

Rocking yoga pants, a college tee fragranced with Similac Alimentum flavored spit-up, a messy top knot, and what was left of my mascara from the day before.

Why yes, this is what freedom looks like when you’re a mom.

I had just pulled into our driveway after picking up the baby from my mother in-law’s, catching the tail end of the podcast and squeezing the last bit of mild sauce onto the last bite of heaven in a tortilla and my mind started to go there.

You know, THERE.

The place where you finally feel refreshed after some very much needed alone time away from dirty dishes, grocery lists, doctor appointments, insurance explanations of benefits (let’s be real…you might as well be deciphering hieroglyphics), teething infants, post office runs, client messages, phone calls with people you can’t understand to diagnose why the baby monitor quit working, clogged shower drains from The Postpartum Hair Loss from Hell, and all kinds of other shenanigans you deal with as a hustling stay at home mom.

Or, as I like to call myself because it sounds way cooler, a Mother Hustler. (Which, by the way sounds like a real cool thing to have on a v-neck or a coffee mug or Tervis tumbler or something…)

The place where you suddenly have this huge life altering epiphany as to why you just might be feeling off your A-game the past couple weeks, because every time you go to do something semi-productive, you remember something else and essentially “squirrel” from one thing to the next, getting sucked into a rabbit hole of other distractions faster than Alice in Wonderland. The place where you crash at the end of the day and ugly cry into your pillow because you realize that even though you have been running five thousand miles an hour starting all these little tasks, you have essentially accomplished NOTHING at all. The place where “this obviously isn’t working” and “something’s gotta give” and “I can no longer bury my frustrations in chocolate ice cream or Arbor Mist” all intersect at a place called Get Yo’ Self Together, Woman.

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Yeah, buddy. Sometimes I really hate going THERE.

Since I am a relatively introspective soul by nature — I believe my college educational psychology classes always referred to this as being a “reflective practitioner” — I’m always thinking about how I can make small, simple improvements that can drastically change the big things in my life. I am also a little impulsive, so when I get a great idea that pops into my mind I am quick to put it to action right away before I can change my mind and talk myself out of it. (Not sure if this is a good thing or not, but judging by my recent PayPal activity and order history on Amazon Prime, I’d say this could be a valid issue to address…but that’s a blog for another time.)

Sooo, that’s why I did a thing.

I deleted every social media app off my phone completely and banned myself from any of them, unless it was business related.

For a solid week.

And, I didn’t cheat.

And can I just say….it was AMAZING.

For some of you following this right now, you may be thinking this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever read and you can’t believe you just wasted five minutes of your life to get this far into my blog because you actually have amazing self-control and know when it’s time to put the phone down so you can actually get crap done. If social media isn’t a supermassive black hole of time-wasting for you, congratulations!!! I seriously commend you for your valiant efforts and want to be just like you when I grow up. No sarcasm implied. For others, you’re sitting there thinking….”Wait, what? I haven’t even noticed you’ve been MIA on my newsfeed.” You may not even care, and fair enough, that’s cool too. Buttttt, I’m betting there’s a few of you on here secretly blushing because you know you’re just as guilty of this complex, and you’ve got the nervous sweats and heart palpitations just even THINKING about pushing that little grey “X” to delete that app. Because if you’re being honest, you’d rather give your left arm than go seven days without political tweets, Instagram story highlights, YouTube smokey eye tutorials, boutique bargain and yard sale groups, the latest Snapchat filter, or booty blasting workouts from Pinterest.

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Did I leave anyone out, here??

I don’t want to be a person who generalizes or stereotypes, but my guess is I’m not the only one who could seriously benefit from a little time unplugged from the rest of the world. So, I figured what better way to encourage this little experimental social media detox than sharing my biggest takeaways with my readers?

So get some popcorn, a glass of wine, or your favorite fuzzy socks and oversized hoodie and snuggle up. This is gonna be a good one.

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#1 – Making a presence is not the same as actually being present.

Let me say that again, because I feel that this is so very, incredibly important, and I don’t want you to miss it like I sometimes do. And I want you to imagine I am standing right in front of you with my hands on your shoulders, [lovingly] shaking you and staring straight into your soul as I say this s l o w l y. Preferably in an Australian accent, because why not… it’s fun.

Making a presence is NOT the same as actually being present.

Y’all.

I’m no mathematician, but if I were to tally up how many times this week I caught myself starting to reach for my phone to scroll my Instagram feed or check my Facebook notifications when I was in a moment where I should have been giving my full attention to who and what was RIGHT THERE in front of me, I’d run out of fingers and toes to count on and would have to probably borrow all of yours as well.

How many moments I have missed out on because I couldn’t look up over the tip of my phone to truly be engaged in what was happening, even though I was physically there? A conversation with my husband. A visit from a friend or family member I don’t get to see very often anyways. An opportunity to introduce myself to a random stranger while having lunch by myself in the mall food court. That stupid clearance clothing rack I knocked over in Walmart one time because I was too busy looking up a recipe I wasn’t even going to cook anyways. (…sucker came outta nowhere, that’s all I’m saying…) The pot of boiling spaghetti noodles overflowing and making a mess all over the stovetop and floor I SERIOUSLY. JUST. MOPPED. The buzzer going off on the dryer yet again because I got side tracked watching music videos on Vevo while trying to find a ”Motivational Housework Playlist” and then saw an ad for a one-day online only sale at Target and got sucked into that half hour click bait detour because, well, that store is LIFE and who doesn’t love 40% off housewares and free shipping on $35 orders?? Then I have to update my Snapchat story to tell all my Target-loving friends about it and pretty soon half the morning is already just as gone as the money in my bank account and I now have to re-fluff the same load of jeans for the eleventh time in a row.

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Don’t pretend you’re innocent…

I really don’t know why I continue to self-sabotage myself out of being fully productive or intentionally devoted to the little moments of my everyday life because something else always seems more important on the other side of that screen. But I can tell you this, that’s one habit that I vow to kick to the curb for good.

Because I’d rather fully embrace all life’s little blessings and make the most out of every second I’m given than hold all the world’s distractions in my fingertips and miss out on it all.

#2 –  Sometimes the most beautiful memories are the ones that not everyone else knows about.

While I do love you all and want to share the important pieces of my life with you if you can’t be here in person to experience it with me, it has recently come to my attention that I probably spend way more time trying to document these moments on my camera roll than I do just actually soaking in the moment and witnessing it real-time.

Actually scratch that. There’s no “probably”…it’s definitely.

Then, I get so focused on cropping, adjusting, collaging and adding the perfect filter or creative hashtag that I almost forget what that moment looked like or felt like in it’s raw, original form before I tainted it to make it seem more visually appealing for my followers.

Not that I’m ever going to fully give up my mad photography and editing skills for good or permanently cut you all out cold-turkey from seeing our vacation adventures or date nights or my cute kid doing some pretty adorable stuff — because lets be real, she is kinda cute and we love to show her off sometimes — but after a week of just trying to soak in these priceless Kodak moments of my life for MYSELF instead of getting caught up with capturing them for the rest of the world I have learned to be more mindful of how much and how often I will share in the future. These memories and milestones I’ve got to witness firsthand from this week alone have accrued even more value because they are forever documented and engraved and filed away safely in a special place of my heart that nobody else gets to experience but me. And what a blessing it is that I got to fully plug into them because I unplugged from the rest of the world long enough to enjoy them LIVE.

That crooked, adorable smile from my baby as she figured out how to take a couple steps with Daddy holding her hands….the way her little fingers clasp mine when I snuggle and rock her in my arms and stare into her little eyes until they flutter off into a dream…a lunch/shopping date with a good friend I haven’t seen in a while…the cat curled up with the dog on the front porch for a lazy Sunday afternoon nap…a family BBQ for Labor Day beneath the September sunset…my grandmother in-law blowing out the candles on her 86th birthday cake with a lap full of her great grandbabies…running my first mile post-partum and celebrating the fact that I DIDN’T die…

Sure, I could go on and on and post about how amazing these moments were…but honestly there’s so much truth in the statement of “You just had to be there.”

And y’all…I’m so glad that this week I was. I really, really was.

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#3 – Always needing instant gratification or someone else’s approval is a giant waste of time and a constant destroyer of joy.

Anyone else wanna confess that immediately after you post something, you secretly refresh your notifications about every 11.5 seconds to see who commented or shared or put one of those cutesy little heart icons on there?

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Oh, friends. Have we got a serious epidemic on our hands when it comes to social acceptance and people pleasing. Many of us are probably doing this unintentionally, and a lot of us probably without even realizing it. And you know what the even crazier thing about it is? Half of these people we waste so much time trying to impress are likely just random strangers we haven’t actually met in person or mere acquaintances we will likely never see again — yet feel the need to accept their friend request anyways because we are from the same hometown or are third cousins twice removed or have an entire twelve mutual friends.

So….why the heck do we care so much about seeking their approval or notifying them about our political views, religious affiliations, parenting styles, Facebook quiz results, the roses we got for Valentine’s Day, all the things we crossed off our to-do list (as if folding an entire basket of laundry on the first “fluff” is some sort of major accomplishment…okay, it kinda is…), or that casserole we baked for dinner three nights ago? Or get offended when someone lashes back at us for having a difference in opinion? Or get our panties in a wad if someone doesn’t re-tweet our totally clever punchlines, save our uber creative fall craft and farmhouse decor pins to their Pinterest boards, or share our utterly hilarious memes we worked so hard to scrounge up on Google images? (HA.)

Okay, some of us aren’t THAT dramatic, I’ll give you that. But the point is…we sometimes spend wayyyy more time and energy trying to get people to understand our views, sympathize with our struggles, recognize our accomplishments, and value our existence than we do just simply BEING US and LIVING OUR BEST LIFE. And take it from the girl who spent most of her life thinking she had to prove her creativity or brilliance or even self-worth to the rest of the world — it’s EXHAUSTING. Mentally, emotionally, physically exhausting. And quite honestly? It’s not even worth the time of day, nor the notification update. Not everyone is going to accept us for who we are or agree with how we feel — which hopefully most of you have already learned that truth and are A-OK with it, unlike generally-self-conscious-and-constantly-doubtful me who is usually ten steps behind game.

I think I already knew this fact before conducting this little experimental break, but it was nice to be reminded of it anyways. If there was anything refreshing about this past week, it was the fact that I didn’t have to please anyone or prove that I am living my best, happy, successful life that I can be.

I just…lived it.

Not for likes, comments, or shares, but for my overall happiness and well-being.

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#3 – The habit of comparison always overshadows the power of blessings and inspiration.

If I’m not careful, I can sometimes catch myself getting a twinge of envy and bitterness and discontentment when I scroll through my newsfeed. Not because I’m not genuinely happy for my friends and loved ones, because I totally am, but because I often compare myself to others so severely that it makes me feel insignificant or “less than”. And as much as it pains me to say that out loud — or in this case, write about it — it’s one of my worst habits. Which is so ridiculous when I look around at all the blessings the Lord has graced my own life with and think about those who are much less fortunate that I am. But, I do it sometimes. And I’m definitely not proud of it.

I’ll be notified on someone’s new car purchase or elegant dream wedding or job promotion and let it somehow diminish my own exciting “adulting” milestones of marrying my high school sweetheart, getting my college degree loan-free due to scholarships and a lot of hard freaking work, landing my first teaching job, becoming a mother to a beautiful and healthy baby girl, and remodeling a beautiful farmhouse.  I’ll see pictures of someone’s incredible weight loss journey and how fit and toned and tan they are and lose sight of the fact that I’ve came a long ways myself in just four months after giving birth. I’ll scroll upon someone’s stunning profile picture and let it downplay the strong and confident and beautiful-in-her-own-way girl I {should} see when I look in the mirror, even though she may have a few gray hairs and baggy, sleep-deprived eyes. I’ll look at someone’s post about shattering the same goal I have had for months in a matter of days, and not fully realize how hard they worked behind the scenes to get there or understand that my journey is my own. I’ll watch someone’s story about their ritzy getaway to the Carribeans or how they spent a month backpacking in Europe, and forget that aside from the fact that I’ve stood on the Great Wall of China while on a college study-abroad trip, my husband and have visited over half the states and seen some pretty incredible things ourselves in just four short years of marriage.

Or on the flip side, I’ll do something even more shameful and destructive and be so angry and frustrated about something bad happening in my own life, that I forget to count my blessings and take a good hard look at all the posts I see about friends struggling financial burdens or finding jobs. Losing their home to a fire. Living in the NICU with their baby that’s fighting for his/her life. Burying a loved one. Getting diagnosed with a terminal illness. Suffering from infertility or a miscarriage. Some of them are even dealing with more than one of the above scenarios…yet I find the need to vent about the jerk who cut me off in traffic, complain about catching the flu, or rant about how I can never get my hair to tease or my eyebrows to be “fleeky” like those heifers on YouTube.

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I may be the only one who owns up to it right now, but I know I’m not the only one who gets so caught up in looking around at what everyone else is doing or has instead of just staying in my own lane and focusing on all I’ve accomplished or been given.

Jumping off the Platform of Comparison and learning to flourish and thrive in my own personal strengths instead of drowning in my insecurities this past week was such a beautiful reminder that we don’t have to one-up or even measure up to anyone around us.  What a testimony that the only people we need to compare ourselves to are the ones we were yesterday. How liberating it is to know that when we tear down those walls of insecurity and comparison that are clouding our judgment or hindering us from realizing our full potential, we can finally see the true beauty of all the inspirations and blessings around us.

And this comes naturally by simply having an attitude of gratitude, embracing who we are, and learning to truly be happy for others.

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#4 – That spice drawer ain’t gonna organize itself, sister.

Okay, I might lose a few of you with this analogy, but stay with me here.

If you’re anything like me, you find all these creative ways to simplify and de-clutter and organize on platforms such as Pinterest, or my personal fav, Joanna Gaines’s blog. You get real ambitious and motivated and decide that TODAY is THE DAY you finally get your life together. You dive right in, and for about an entire five minutes you’re on a roll and checking stuff off that to-do list one by one while rocking out to some 90’s throwbacks on Spotify and dancing around like a fool with no bra or pants shouting “I AM WOMAN!!!” Maybe you even play a little air-guitar with the broom.

Butttttt then life as we know it happens and the phone rings or the baby throws a hellacious fit or the washing machine backs up or you accidentally suck up a sock in the vacuum hose or the UPS guy delivers your Amazon package or you see another one of them darn Target ads and suddenly the Momentum Train has already come and long gone and derailed somewhere in the great unknown.

Well, that was fun while it lasted…

I can’t say I was always on the ball this week when it came to getting stuff done, but I will tell you this. By removing the biggest distraction I could physically control, I came pretty stinking close.

I honestly can’t remember all the crap I got done because it’s like 3 A.M and I just got the baby back to sleep a few minutes ago, but to name a few….I got a gym membership. Even used it to work out a few times, though I almost died. Read a book. Listened to no lie, probably every Rachel Hollis podcast in existence. Dug out the fall decor. Replaced the random faces in all our picture frames with actual photos of us. Thoroughly cleaned. (Like seriously…I used a swiffer duster and everything.) Killed some VERY. NASTY. spiders that I’m still cringing about. Organized the tupperware. Went through my closet for my next yard sale. Met several friends for lunch and clearance shopping and furniture painting dates. Visited my grandma for a much needed scrabble date. Went on many walks with my baby. Painted my nails. Started a couple blogs, finished the one you’re reading now. Maybe add “polished off a couple bottles of wine” to that list while we’re at it.

Oh, yeah….and I FINALLY got that spice drawer under control. Holla!

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Never underestimate a woman with a label maker and a Nelly playlist…

In retrospect, I think the big win for me here is the fact that I stopped wasting time looking online for ideas and ways to get the things done that I always say I’m gonna do or need to do and I just buckled down and DID THEM. And and and….I even found the time to carve out for just myself! How cool is that?!?! I really DO have the time to take care of me and the other things on my plate as a momma and a wifey. As awesome as social media can be for things like this, I realize I don’t need tutorials or checklists or motivational quotes to make me productive. Turns out, all that creativity and drive and innovation has been bottled up inside me all along.

I just had to get the distractions out of the way to unleash it.

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Well, now that I’ve taken up so much of your time and a lot of my total word count allowance re-hashing these takeaways with you all, I guess I should probably wrap this puppy up and try to think of the next real world problem I’m going to solve. I’m thinking maybe my online shopping addiction should be my next focus, followed by immigration control…

Kidding!

I know this post was definitely a doozy, but what can I say. I’m just a girl with a blog who loves sharing her heart and all the crazy adventures she encounters with the ones who care enough to read about them until the very last line. So…just know that if you’ve stuck it out and made it this far, you da’ real MVP.

Now…get off your phone and get busy, would ya? 😉

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Six Things I Learned From Da’ Hood

Betcha weren’t expecting a title like that for my latest blog, were you??

Admit it….you totally clicked on here just to see if I was just being crazy or I indeed converted to the thug life just for thrills.

Relax, I’m not that ghetto, although I can rap a 90’s Vanilla Ice song like nobody’s business — granted it’s in the most awkward and southwest Missouri hick twang ever as I’m driving down the road by myself. No, my booty still ain’t “bootylicious”. And my dance moves are still as basic white girl status as they’ve ever been, so don’t worry. I’m still me. #KeepinItReal

I chose this title partly because I couldn’t really think of anything else clever, but mostly because five weeks ago I officially entered the Mom Club, which I refer to as Da’ Hood — that is, motherhood. (Not really sure where I got this from, but hey…we’ll go with it.)

And no, to my amazement they didn’t give me a cool T-shirt or gold chain or stunner shades or a fancy VIP card or anything like that. They just slapped a precious 7 pound 10 ounce baby girl on my chest and sent us out the doors with a newborn in our backseat two days later and that was that.

No instruction manual. No “in case of emergency, push” button. No test or extensive interrogations to make sure we weren’t psychos and were indeed qualified to be parents. We were just homebound with a tiny human we were now solely responsible for and literally had NO CLUE what we were doing or what to expect next.

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Zaylee Grace Brown, born May 16, 2018 @ 11:20 AM 7 lb 10 oz, 21 in.

Those first few days that soon rolled into weeks that quickly turned into a month already gone by have been quite the adventure, to say the least! I have learned. I have loved. I have laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed.

And I have loved every second of it, even when it’s sometimes really hard to.

Throughout my entire pregnancy and now postpartum experience, there are many realizations I have come to know that either mothers I highly respect and look up to have passed down to me or that I have had to figure out for myself (or yes, I’ll confess…look up on Google and WhatToExpect.com in the wee hours of the night when I’m absolutely positive something is wrong with my child or I’m not “momming” good enough.)

One of the most beautiful things, in my opinion, about becoming a mom is realizing you’re now a part of a tribe of amazing, creative, and strong women out there who have been where you are and can lift you up when it gets overwhelming and celebrate alongside you when it’s exciting. To offer tips and tricks to help you transition and get through the hard times. To pop a top and enjoy a glass of wine with from time to time and blow off some steam, so you are more refreshed and energized when you return to your babies. How sad and lonely and overwhelming would it be if we kept all our tricks up our sleeves to ourselves and didn’t share with other mommas out there who are joining our club for the very first time, completely clueless and scared and excited to the newness of it all? Afterall, they say sharing is caring!

So here it is! A compilation of the greatest advice I was ever given as a first time mommy-to-be, that I can now pay forward to someone else about to experience this crazy and beautiful journey through Da’ Hood!
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#1 – Your experience is YOURS.

I listed this first…because I think of all the realizations I’ve had so far as a mom, this one really hits the nail on the head. Verbatum.

Here’s the deal.

Some mothers have a healthy, energetic, and altogether glowing pregnancy. Others can outsleep a cat, look like they just crawled out of a dumpster half the time, and may not be able to get more than a five foot radius away from the toilet until about Week 22 (**ehemmm….me!!!). Some maybe not even then! Some will gain 40-50 pounds, while others will look only five months along the day they are considered full term. Some mothers opt for in home or even all natural births, while some DEMAND that epidural or choose a cesarean. Many moms may not even get a choice at all. You’ll hear about moms who had a quick, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy labor, and you’ll hear about those who endured 36 or more hours of the worst pain imaginable until their little ones finally came into this world. Some exceed their due dates by a week or more, and some live in the NICU for several weeks until they get to finally come home. Some will breastfeed, make their own baby food, and use cloth diapers. Others prop a bottle, buy Gerber’s lil’ snackies, and think Luvs or Huggies will suffice. Gender reveals and maternity sessions may be the greatest thing since the invention of the Tupperware to some moms, while others may not really see the point. And let’s uneven the playing field a little more about whether some moms find it necessary to broadcast weekly baby bump pictures on Facebook or to have a birth photographer bedside to document the Big Day.

The point is…I have never heard two moms have the exact same experience about pregnancy, birthing, or parenting in general. So don’t believe for a second that your story will be written like someone else’s. You just do YOU and always trust that this is the way things are meant to be and you are doing what is best for you and your baby.

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#2 – Be thankful.

Week 5….the week I will never forget.

I was driving in my car alone in Springfield when I felt it. A sudden warm gush. I looked down and tried to feel what was going on.

Blood.

I was frantic. For days I hadn’t really felt well and had some spotting off and on, but never this heavy. Something was definitely not right. I immediately pulled into the nearest gas station and raced to the bathroom, tears already streaming down my face. This couldn’t be happening. Not to me. Not to us.

I freaked out even more when I felt a sharp pain and passed what I just knew was our baby. Our little precious miracle we prayed for. Right there in a lonely bathroom stall at the Kum and Go on Sunshine street. I called my husband who was over an hour away – completely hysterical – telling him I was going to the ER and he needed to leave right now and come get me, because I didn’t think I could face what would happen next on my own. He dropped everything and flew there as fast as he could.

It felt like eternity – the time it took me to drag myself out of my car and walk across the parking lot through those sliding doors to await my fate. Every step grew heavier and the lump in my chest grew larger the closer I got to the check-in desk. “Please, God.” I begged over and over as they took my insurance information and escorted me to be admitted.

Everything else from there was a blur, but a very long one. The nurse’s questions were just muffled mumbles I couldn’t understand as she checked my vitals, put my wristband on, and ushered me to the waiting room until Kurtis arrived. Nearly two hours passed before they finally called us back for even more hours of blood work, urine tests, IV fluids that ended up busting my veins, and the most painful internal ultrasound I have ever had to date. When the moment of truth finally came, the ultrasound tech told us over and over as she was getting ready to examine me that we should definitely prepare ourselves, but also that other mothers have had similar symptoms and things surprisingly turned out to be okay.

I held my breath and almost couldn’t look at the screen when she finally pointed and said “right there.”

The whole world stopped. A teeny spec. Our miracle baby. Right there on the screen, when I was CERTAIN I had already lost it. While there was definitely a newfound sense of hope that I at least still had a baby inside, there was still this deep unsettling fear that there was no movement – no little heart “flutter” – to confirm whether or not our little one was actually alive. We were sent home and told we wouldn’t have answers for at least three more days until they could recheck my blood levels, as I was not yet far enough along to detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound.

Let me tell you. That afternoon was definitely long, but it didn’t hold a candle to the next three days I was on bed rest before my follow-up appointment, praying and pleading that we would get the news we longed for more than anything else.

Fast forward three LONNNNGGGGGG days later, and I got the phone call from my doctor that my blood levels were stable and increasing! A week later they were able to actually detect a heartbeat on the ultrasound, and I never cried so hard in my life seeing that flutter on the screen and hearing that little throbbing noise coming through the speakers. We were congratulated, comforted, and reassured that I indeed had a perfectly healthy, viable fetus growing strong inside.

I still thank God every day for that very moment.

As for what caused all those crazy symptoms and the scariest moment of my life so far? We may never know. Some told us it was just implantation pain and bleeding. Some told us we very easily could have miscarried a twin. We don’t waste time wondering what might have been. All I know is I am forever GRATEFUL for this chance I have now, to embrace a beautiful, healthy baby in my arms that God didn’t have to spare us that day. I am THANKFUL, because many of my loved ones and friends have suffered infertility. True miscarriage. Sudden loss of a child. I am BLESSED that our story had a happy ending, when that is not the case for so many others out there.

So I will take the morning sickness, excessive tiredness, stretch marks, swelling, contractions, nipple chafing, and fussy sleepless nights any day over the outcome that was almost our worst reality.

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#3 – Most people mean well…..Most.

You guys.

People can be cruel.

Like, REALLY cruel.

When you are a new momma, it often seems like everyone and their other brother wants to give you their unsolicited “advice” about how you should grow your tiny human, bring it into the world, and especially raise it. I’ve been scoffed at for ordering a small Starbucks drink at the mall or getting a 32-ounce cherry coke at the gas station. I’ve had my hands slapped for trying to lift a medium sized box that I could seriously lift with my pinky. I’ve been reprimanded for ordering a subway sandwich by a random stranger, who didn’t realize that I literally had been vomiting everything else and a ham sandwich was literally all that sounded good to me that day and at least I was feeding myself SOMETHING. I’ve been told that I wasn’t a “real woman” if I opted for an epidural. I’ve frantically checked over my shoulder at get-togethers to see if anyone noticed me licking the spoon after mixing cookie dough or sneaking an teeny-tiny sip of red wine. People have literally FLIPPED OUT on me when I posted any photos of our home renovation progress and I had a paintbrush in my hand, was on my hands and knees helping lay flooring, or was standing anywhere remotely close to a ladder. (As if taking on a DIY on top of working very demanding full time jobs, skimping on a tight budget, and trying to get it all done in time before I pop isn’t stressful enough as is…) And let’s not forget to mention the hateful remarks about either being a stay at home or working mom or debating whether or not breastfeeding or exclusively pumping or bottle feeding is what is most practical for our busy lifestyle.

Then they look at you like you’re more irrational than the number pi and want to blame it on your raging hormones when you finally have heard enough of it all and snap and put them in their place.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, am I right???

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is sometimes you just have to take it all with a grain of salt and assume everyone’s best intentions, even if it is super annoying or hurtful. Even if its your best friend or a family member degrading your choices because “that’s not how they did it”. Even if you’ve SERIOUSLY heard it all a million and three times before. Because, yes, it’s true. Some people really are just jerks and don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. But most people are just concerned and want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Trust me…you’ll go absolutely bonkers if you don’t occasionally bite your tongue, take a deep breath, laugh it off, and just let it roll.

#4 – Let people help.

There’s nothing I hate more than admitting I can’t keep it all together on my own.

Afterall, I am Woman, right?? Aren’t I supposed to be able to save the world and wear a superhero cape?? I mean, back in the old days mothers were birthing new babies with a toddler on their hip and had five other little ones running around while simultaneously milking cows and planting gardens in the 90 degree summer heat and putting dinner on the table by 5pm sharp every night. They survived motherhood like a champ — without all the fancy rock n’ plays and bottle warmers and Freemie cups for hands-free pumping and probably not Moscato wine, either. It’s 2018. I live in modern-day America, y’all, where we have crock pots and robot vacuums and Google and Amazon Prime 2-day shipping. I have perfectly functioning central heat and air, all the bells and whistles in terms of baby gear and equipment, no other children running around at my heels, and am pretty sure I can’t tell you the last time I ever had to pull a weed or pick a tomato. So why is my sink always overflowing with dishes and I never have clean underwear because I can’t keep up with the laundry like I used to? I can’t even tell you the last time I seriously dusted or scrubbed the shower. We desperately need groceries and I haven’t shaved my legs in going on two weeks. There’s bills and mail piled up under the TV stand that I haven’t sorted through yet and boxes and boxes to unpack. And how many more times can we possibly eat frozen pizza or hamburger helper because I am too exhausted to prepare a meal that requires more than ten minutes of prep work on my end?

Mommy and wife guilt is a very real and serious thing, my friends. During my entire pregnancy, our life was the absolute CRAZIEST and busiest it had ever been, and I rarely ever cut myself some slack when I fell short. When I wanted to have a pity party and beat myself down over and over for all the things I didn’t accomplish for the day, I had to always stop and remind myself that I was leading a very busy lifestyle that required a lot of my time and energy, so it was perfectly acceptable that I came home completely and utterly EXHAUSTED each night and passed out on the couch, pretty much up until the day I gave birth.

Not to mention that we were also in the middle of a major home renovation that we came home to every night to work on ourselves any chance we could so we could be moved in before Baby Brown’s arrival. Every weekend it seemed we were tied down with another birthday party, graduation, family get-together, church dinner, baby shower, or last-minute late night trip to Lowes. When we didn’t have anything going on, we were so wiped that we literally lounged all day.  My husband also works a full-time engineering job and comes home to a 280 acre farm with over 60 head of cattle, where there’s always feeding to do, fences to fix, tractors to repair, and new baby calves hitting the ground that need tended to. At the time, I was wrangling middle schoolers for 8 hours a day then had lessons to plan and papers to grade as soon as I got home before I could play Housewife. Then we woke up to do it all again the next day.

Oh, yeah. And I was growing a human on top of it all, too. So there’s that…

And now that our sweet baby is here? Pshhh. I like maybe get one box unpacked from our move and one picture frame hung on the wall a month. Maybe every two weeks if I’m real ambitious. There are days I literally never leave my bed because she is super fussy and wants cuddled or I’m just too exhausted to function. Anndddd my legs are still hairy, the shower still needs a good scrubbing, and we still have DiGiorno’s pizza once or twice weekly. And somehow, it’s okay!

I’ll never forget the best advice I ever got as an expecting mother.

Ask. For. Help.

Seriously. Do ittttt.

Don’t ever shame yourself for feeling tired and overwhelmed all the time, whether pregnant or postpartum or ten years down the road with three kids and a dog. Busy is the new norm for all of us mommas, and we all need a little leg up sometimes to get us through. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to pick up the phone and ask my mother in-law to ride with me to get groceries, text my sister in-laws for mommy advice to calm my nerves, recruit my best friends to help me paint kitchen cabinets in the new house, and let my mom provide dinner for us so I didn’t have to cook. Find yourself a good support system, whether it be your mom, mother in-law, a sister, your spouse, best friends, or whoever you have in your life. Ask them to fold a basket of laundry, run the vacuum, or to grab a few things you need at Wally World. Book a babysitter so you can enjoy a bubble bath or a date night or just a short un-interrupted nap for once. Let the ladies from church bring you a casserole when you first get home from the hospital.

And don’t feel guilty about it for a second! Most of them are seriously more than happy to help because they have been where you are and they want to feel needed and appreciated. Let them, so you can breathe a little!

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#5 – Less is really more.

I can laugh about it now, but I remember having a mental breakdown one night after going through all the things we received from one of our baby showers. While I was completely grateful and overwhelmed with love at all the wonderful gifts our friends and family provided us, I was also in complete shock at how expensive everything was and how many things one tiny person needed to survive. I was seriously hyperventilating when I realized we still had a lot of major things we hadn’t purchased yet — like a changing table and a crib and bottles and a car seat and ALL the clothes, as we didn’t find out the gender of our little one until the big day — and my due date was only a few weeks away.

How were we possibly going to afford it all or get all we needed in time? The mountains of diapers and wipes we received were no doubt a godsend, but I knew we would blow through them extremely fast. Not to mention all the hospital expenses we were about to get slapped in the face with. (We joked that I was either gonna have to hook it or donate a kidney to keep up with it all!)

And when it came time to pack my hospital bag, I swore I needed this and that and everything under the sun to bring my precious baby into the world the right way. He or she had to have the most perfect coming home outfit and I needed my entire makeup drawer and straightener and the comfiest birthing gowns and cutest slippers ever for myself.

Guess what?

My sweet baby came along just fine, not caring whether or not I looked “photo worthy” or if I had everything I thought I needed. And half the crap I stressed so much about having when we got home I didn’t even use or need right away — like a high chair. I’m serious! I was so bent out of shape that I didn’t have something my kid wouldn’t even use until about 4 months old.

What I really learned is that less is truly more. When it finally comes down to Show Time and you’re in hardcore labor, you won’t want to lug your entire house up to the 4th floor of the hospital, and neither will your partner. You most likely won’t need a gigantic camera with five different lenses and attachments to document each moment, because it all happens so fast and it’s so much more practical to snap a photo on a cell phone. Or hire a birth photographer to do all the dirty work for you, if that floats your boat. You will be lucky if you get to “fix yourself” up with anything more than a fresh hospital gown, some dry shampoo, and a stick of gum to brush your teeth before visitors are barging through the door to ooooooh and awwww at your precious little bundle. Trust me, — and I am a relatively vain person by nature who hardly leaves the house without eyeliner and a little concealer — no one cares about your zits showing, the bags under your eyes, and the fact that you haven’t showered in two days when they hold that sweet baby. The focus will not even be on you at all, so leave the salon at home!

You also won’t use hardly anything in a diaper bag you bring from home, because the hospital gives you diapers, formula, and basically anything else you could possibly need during your stay — and often times you get loaded with a goodie bag to take home to get you and your little one by your first few weeks! (And God bless Dermoplast numbing spray, oversized pads, mesh undies, and that nifty little squirt bottle they give you to “service” yourself!!!) I also learned my baby could care less if she was wearing the cutest outfit ever I found on Etsy, a plain white onesie from the clearance aisle at Walmart, or just chilling half naked in diaper and a swaddle blanket.

Moral of the story? As cool as diaper genies, wipe warmers, and battery operated aspirators are, you really just need the basics starting out! As long as your baby is well fed, clean, warm, healthy, and has a safe place to sleep and be transported from here to there, you are set up for success!

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#6 – You really CAN do it.

There seriously was a moment when it was finally go time and I was pushing and bringing our daughter into this world after nine LONGGGG but amazing months of varying emotions, horomones, morning sickness, Braxton Hicks, stretch marks, and emergency late night Taco Bell runs where I panicked and thought to myself, there’s no freaking way. I can’t do this!!!! Shove it back up there and I’ll cross my legs real tight! This can’t happen! Not today, Jose’!

There was also a moment where my doctor reminded me she was already halfway out, and I literally didn’t have a choice, so I knew I had to just buck up buttercup and give it my all until it was done.

Y’all, the woman body is INCREDIBLE and should definitely be dignified more for all the things it can endure and bounce back from. I’m serious. They don’t prepare you for what happens after the pain meds wear off or your adrenaline slows down and they take your catheter out and you have to pee on your own and you take a first glimpse “down there” after birth and scream Oh, my God! It’s wrecked forever!!! I have a freaking UDDER!!!

Then you get home and literally EVERYTHING is so sore and you walk funny and have to sit sideways on an ice pack like a hen on eggs for three weeks straight until you finally recover while being the most sleep deprived and exhausted you’ve ever been in your entire life, but you know you will probably never “sleep” again because you still have to take care of your precious little one (hey, at least she’s adorable!!!) and life still goes on anyway, when you swear you could fall over dead at any second.

If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me about myself, it would be that I’m fairly certain there is nothing I can’t handle or make it through now. Even when the nights are long and she’s screaming her head off for no apparent reason for a solid two hours straight and I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted and I feel like I am going to explode, I survive and live long enough to blog about it! Mommas, we are TOUGH. God made us to handle the unimaginable and multitask on a level unlike any other, because He knew we were capable of just throwing our hair up in a messy bun, chugging an oversized mug of coffee, cranking some gangster rap from time to time, and just handling it! (You’re welcome, by the way, for getting Ice Ice Baby stuck in your head!)

Just when you think you’re at your wits end, you find a way to hold and feed your baby with one hand while pumping, folding a basket of laundry, and crying to your momma on the phone for advice with the other. Somehow, we make it! Even those of us who, while all of this chaos is going on, are also sitting helplessly on the couch watching their toddlers and other kids throw fits, terrorize each other, and tear up the house faster than a tornado in upstate Kansas. (Haven’t ventured into that journey myself quite yet since I have one child, but I can only imagine it’s stressful for those of you who live this out every day! I pray for patience and strength and good wine for you!)

It absolutely gets really hard sometimes, especially when the baby blues and for some, postpartum depression sets in after the newness and excitement of a newborn wears off and no one comes to visit or help you anymore and you’re stuck in an empty and messy house until your loved one gets home or someone comes over to relieve you for half an hour so you can at least take a shower long enough where you don’t have to make the impulse decision of whether or not you’re going to finish shampooing your hair or shave your legs because the baby is screaming and all Hell is breaking loose on the other side of that shower curtain.

Hard times are inevitable. But friends, in these times let’s give ourselves some grace, realize that the hard days might be LONGGGG but the years are oh so short with our sweet babies, embrace the good moments for all they’re worth, and just breathe until we find a way to ride out the storm until it passes.

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To say that motherhood has been a whirlwind so far is definitely an understatement! I can honestly say that in my 24 years of life, nothing has ever wore me out more yet made me happier and so full of overwhelming love. As I sit here watching our sweet baby girl sleep and am reminiscing about the past five weeks since we brought her home, I cannot believe literally how fast the times are already flying and all the fun memories we’ve had so far.

My friends, we are so incredibly blessed with this gift of motherhood, every single one of us.

I know that these tidbits of wisdom someone shared with me that I am now passing on to you  (that literally took me every bit of the past five weeks to blog in between naps and feedings and pumping sessions, of course) will be closely tucked away in my Mommy Toolbox whenever I need them to remind me to simply soak it all in and ENJOY it.

Every single exhausting and stressful and scary and fun and altogether amazing bit of it.

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Simplify.

To Be More….With Less.

It’s no secret, you guys.

I’m kind of a perfectionist.

The longer I trek through my twenty-somethings I am becoming well aware of how this has impacted all areas of my life — some in good ways and some, well…let’s just say it’s not pretty.

It seems like every time January 1st rolls around each year, I go to Walmart or Mardel’s and get this fancy journal with an inspirational Bible verse on the front cover and matching gel pens and I make this long, ridiculous, detailed, color-coded, alphabetized and highlighted list with cute-sy swirls and hearts and what-have-you’s about things I am going to do to “make myself a better person”. (See? Told ya I was a perfectionist!)

I start out jotting down one or two fairly simple and realistic goals but the problem is a new one pops in my head and I get on such a roll that I literally just. Can’t. Stopppp.

I’m going to make my bed every day. Do 100 sit-ups and go for a mile walk every day, rain or shine. Learn to highlight and contour my face and do more with my hair than just throwing it in a boring braid or messy bun and rolling out the door. Make a Dave Ramsey budget spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel and religiously document every single penny we spend. Clean out the closet and thoroughly clean at least once every new season. Alphabetize the DVD’s in the TV stand. Make five new friends. Create a scrapbook of our wedding photos from four years ago that I STILL have never printed off. Practice piano for twenty minutes a day. Get all the dishes and laundry done and house picked before I go to bed. Have the most stellar and detailed lesson plans known to man-kind and teacherhood. Make 2-3 crock pot meals on average per week. Quit drinking soda and eating junk food cold turkey. Read the entire Bible in a year (but secretly betting myself I can do it in about two or three months if I read several chapters a day!!!! Pin a rose on my nose!)

And on and on and on…..

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I get all hyped up about it and am real committed….for about the first week. I cross off Goal #1 almost immediately. #2 and #3 are usually quick to follow. By about Goal #4 the Momentum Train is starting to slow down, but hey! At least it’s still a rollin’!!

But then…I slowly crawl to Goal #5. I look down at the list I scribbled — or more like calligraphed –in my fancy notebook with an inspirational Bible verse on the front cover with my matching gel pens and all the cute-sy swirls and hearts and what-have-you’s and realized I’ve filled about FIFTY lines and several pages out of endless to-do’s that are staring back at me, burning into the inner depths of my soul. (**Insert heart palpitations and cold sweats here**)

Then I look at my calendar and realize it’s only January 7 and I am literally already so EXHAUSTED with Project Get My Life Together: 2017 Editionand I’m not even maybe a sixteenth of the way through my goals. I also realize I forgot to wash a plate from last night’s dinner and oh, yeah! Guess who didn’t make her bed this morning??? I mean, no one else knows or cares I already broke the rules, but I know. I TOTALLY KNOW. Then I get overwhelmed and ugly cry in the shower because I realize maybe I am NOT really a better person after all and have severe commitment issues.

Then I have to console myself with a cookie…which, by the way, totally breaks Goal #23.

And I do this to myself.

Every. Stinking. Year.

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Needless to say…you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to calculate how THAT one has worked out for me…

So, this year is going to be different. No seriously, I mean it this time. Because I am going to take the same concept of bettering myself a little each day but apply it in a much more realistic approach with a support system who is doing the same thing alongside me. I choose to believe that life doesn’t have to be SO. HARD. anymore.

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One of the missions some of my sideline sisters in my Arbonne business and I have recently challenged each other to do this year as part of our personal growth and development is to each pick and commit to just one word — yes, ONE word….not 50 bullet points in a journal — that we are going to focus all our energy and attention towards every day in 2018 until it becomes a habit. The idea is that every day you reflect on your word and what you are personally going to do during that day to put it into action. Once we spend 365 days mastering this word by applying small things to our daily lives, they eventually grow to yield big results. Then, we will pick a new word and move on to the next year. Simply wash, rinse, and repeat!

And you guys….it’s totally MANAGEABLE. We just write our word down on something as simple as a sticky note where we can look at it every day and remind ourselves how we are going to make it happen.

A sticky note??? Are you kidding me?? This is GOLD! I mean, I didn’t even have to buy a fancy journal or a single gel pen or anything! This, my friends, is what you call do-able.

Disclaimer** This obviously is definitely not our own original idea, but we are borrowing it from this increasingly popular social experiment that’s been going around called My One Word. If you have never heard of it, you should definitely check it out here! It’s good stuff! http://myoneword.org/

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The really amazing thing that I’ve loved about this challenge so far is that we all have chosen different words that serve us, and it is so inspiring to hear everyone’s journeys and what they are doing to live out their words daily. We are all on the same ultimate mission — not necessarily to Be The Best, but to simply Do Our Best — however we all have our own spiritual and personal journeys we are taking until we get there. I don’t know that anyone ever necessarily “arrives” at their final destination of being the very best that they can be, because after all isn’t the idea that you always have something else you can do more effectively or intentionally? I know I certainly haven’t arrived. But in all honestly…I really don’t ever want to arrive.

Because that ultimately means I have stopped learning and growing and my journey is over. And I can’t settle with that.

If there’s one thing I have really come to know about myself, it is that I am one that seems to be always seeking something. It may seem obsessive, but I don’t ever want my wanderlust thirst to become more than I am right now to ever be fully quenched! I WANT to be inspired. I LONG to feel accomplished. I DESIRE to leave my fingerprints on this world long after I’m gone. However, unlike in years past, I realize that what I NEED is to make goal setting more realistic and less stressful if I want anything good to come out of it.

So the word I have chosen for 2018 is simplify. (And no, it’s not because I teach middle school math, although that ironically does relate…)

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It’s because it’s time to learn how to be content. To be intentional. To be happier. To give more of myself to the Lord, my students, my clients, my friends, and my family. To actually have a nice “flow” to my life — rather than constantly flying by the seat of my pants.

To be more…with less.

So essentially I start out my mornings asking myself what I am going to do to “simplify” my life today. Then I do it because I say I’ll do it. And life is slowly improving all the way around already.

For example, yesterday to make my day go smoother I decided to get up half an hour early. I hit my Bible and got my daily devotion and prayer in first thing before my feet hit the floor. I ate a good breakfast, packed my lunch, and got to work earlier. I greeted my students with a smile at the door and spent the first part of each hour letting them each have their time to share what the highlights of their Christmas Break were before jumping into what I needed them to do right away — which made them more efficient and me less grumpy! I had some unexpected extra plan time that allowed me to get ahead on lesson plans and grading so now I won’t be behind for next week. When I got home I put away two baskets of laundry as soon as they came out of the dryer instead of letting it set until the weekend when I would have three more on top of that to deal with. I devoted an entire hour towards solely working my Arbonne business instead of waiting until month-end closing week to finally “get with it”. I got my clothes set out for school the next day so I wouldn’t be so rushed getting ready the next morning. I enjoyed some meaningful pillow talk with my husband before kissing him goodnight and got some quality reading time in after he fell asleep instead of scrolling through my Facebook news feed until the wee hours of the morning.

And it was a great day!

Now, granted I didn’t get my bed made and the dishes are definitely NOT done but it didn’t ruin my entire day or make me feel like a failure like it would have last year! And the even better news? Because I managed my time better yesterday, today went smoother and I actually have more time and energy to take care of other things now!

Like doing those dishes and writing this blog… =)

And tomorrow will be even easier because of what I did to “simplify” my life today. I can only imagine what my life will look and feel like after 365 days of this!

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And yeah, yeah, yeah…..I realize it’s literally only the fourth day of the new year and I’m normally a creature of habit that gives it up after the newness wears off and reality sets in, but I can feel a totally different shift with this particular challenge than any of the New Year challenges I had ever set before. I can tell that this is a plan I CAN stick to. It works because it’s simple! No cold sweats and heart palpitations for this girl!!! #WinWin

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So as we have officially launched into 2018, I want to challenge my readers to also pick One Word to focus on. Write it down on a sticky note, old receipt in your wallet, napkin in your glove box, your bathroom mirror, or whatever you have available. Commit to doing small tasks every day that lead you to master and live out that word. Remember that what you didn’t have time to get to today is merely a great starting point for a task to conquer tomorrow, so there is no need to stress about it. Have a friend or co-worker or loved one do this challenge with you, too!

Then sit back and watch the beauty of it all unfold. #2018vibes #itsagoodyeartohaveagoodyear

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Becoming More.

So this past weekend I attended the trip of a lifetime.

And mind you, I get around. (Hey now! Shame on you…I was talking about traveling!)

I’ve watched the sun set over the Rocky Mountains and have stood in awe on the edge of the Grand Canyon just trying to take it all in. I have hiked the Great Wall of China and have scaled a waterfall by a hot air balloon in upstate New York. I’ve white water rafted in the Smoky Mountains and have touched the Florida sky from the comfort of a fairly tattered parasail harness.

While these adventures have undeniably engraved their way into my fondest memories of my life so far, there was just something so different about this trip that set it apart from all the others.

It was here — at a simple two day leadership training retreat in small town Oklahoma amidst 45 other powerful women in a perfect stranger’s living room (who were all hyped up on gluten-free oreo truffles and chocolate covered strawberries and maybe a little tipsy on champagne) — that I learned to become more.

I will be completely transparent here. When I first learned I had earned this trip along with some of my dearest friends for our success in our recent small business through an amazing health and wellness company called Arbonne, I was ecstatic of course because I had heard other consultants raving about how life-changing this weekend would be, but I was also a wee bit nervous. To be enclosed in a small space with 45 women who I didn’t know very well all talking about our feelings and struggles we have faced in not only our businesses but also our personal lives??

Holy toledo. That’s A LOTTTTTTT of estrogen. I mean, are there even enough Kleenexes in the world for this?

I knew I was definitely packing a bag and jumping in the car and going, but I really didn’t know what to expect beyond that.

When we first arrived after a long 3 ½ hour commute, I opened the door to National Vice President Miranda Burcham’s house and my jaw immediately hit the floor. Aside from the fact that her home looked worthy enough to be showcased in some HGTV magazine and that I was pretty certain my little house could fit in her dining room alone, all I could really focus on is that there were people EVERYWHERE, which made my anxiety plummet through her vaulted ceiling roof.

How nice. I don’t know anyone here…and I’m definitely underdressed…

Oh look! Someone I recognize! I’ve seen her at trainings before….her name is, wait…is it Karen? Beth? Louise? Crap!…she’s walking over to me and I can’t remember her name…

Okay, so we established two things in the entire five seconds I’ve been here….her name is definitely Pam and I’m an idiot…

Okay, so now I find my name tag and put it on? I don’t see my name…did they forget about me? I did earn this trip, right? What if I’m not supposed to be here? Oh God, did I accidentally crash a high class retreat?

Whew! There’s my name tag. I’m not crazy. Now to find a seat because we’re starting in five minutes…except there are no more seats. It’s fine, I will sit on the floor.

In front of everyone which is sort of awkward…

Wait….icebreakers? Go around the room and introduce yourself and tell something interesting??? These people are talking about being arrested for something hilarious and how they have fed the homeless in Haiti and all I can think about is that I have a one-eared cat named Albert…which is super weird. I can’t do this…

Ooohhh…I spy a platter of chocolate covered strawberries…now, I can definitely do THAT…

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So to summarize here, I’m basically a professional when it comes to anxiety and social awkwardness. But once the first session started, I immediately started to feel a shift I had never felt before.

Now, please note that if I were to write about every little thing I experienced in those two days, you would not be reading a simple little blog in the spare five or ten minutes you have set aside right now. Truthfully, I would have to write a book for you to read — no, more like a series of novels — to get it all out.

And let’s be real. Neither one of us probably have the time for that.

But what I will do is share some of my biggest takeaways that went from being simple tips and tricks to kickstart my Arbonne business to evolving into much deeper life lessons and convictions.

I’m no psychic, but my guess is like me some of you probably struggle with similar battles in your careers, relationships, friendships, spiritual life, or maybe even in your heart and mind and could also use these tidbits of wisdom to help you overcome them.

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1 – There is power in the comeback.

I can’t even begin to explain the impact of all the stories that were shared, right there in Miranda’s living room. Stories about unimaginable loss of loved ones. Stories about promoting to a certain level in the company and then losing it all and having to restart from square one. Stories about people who have been hurt by the people who should have cared for them the most. Stories about spouses leaving spouses to be single parents in the worst possible time when everything else came crashing down.

Stories about comebacks.

Listening to these women pour their hearts out to a complete stranger like me about how they were forced to rise above when life got hard was such a wake up call that reminded me of my own story, and I began to think about it even deeper.

So many people know that I have just recently launched my Arbonne business on the side of teaching and photography. They know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE every second of it and probably even think I’ve gone a little crazy with it, because I literally live and breathe it in my everyday life and it’s become almost all I talk about anymore. But what most people don’t know is why I started this business in the first place.

About four months ago I was the lowest of lows I had ever been and was seriously ready to end it all. I felt like crap all the time. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating…and when I did it was the worst possible food that obviously wasn’t serving my body the way I needed it to in order to survive a busy hectic day. I was solely running on strong coffee and gas station energy drinks. I couldn’t even wrap my head around having kids because I was so overstimulated with everything else around me going on. I wasn’t happy in my career. I was a grouch to my students then came home even more unpleasant. I shut people out…especially my husband who was my biggest supporter through it all. I was bitter towards the people who hurt me severely in my past and let it over-consume me. And I felt guilty about all of it. I remember laying in bed at night praying to God for some opportunity to come my way that would help me understand my purpose in this world. “God, what am I supposed to do? I am NOT happy and there has to be more than being a punching bag to my own life. What do YOU want from me?”

Two days later my friend Erika messaged me about Arbonne, explaining how she had a life changing opportunity she wanted to share with me because she knew I would be amazing at it.

And I am thoroughly convinced if she never did, I don’t know that I would be writing these words you’re reading right now.

Erika had NO idea how desperate I was for any opportunity at all to get out of the rut I felt I was sinking in. She had no idea I desperately needed this business — not for the delicious protein shakes or the amazing mascara — but for survival.

I came face to face with the reality that if I wanted something in my life to change, I would have to be the one to move and change it myself. Even if it wasn’t easy. Even if I had always had bad experiences with direct sales and vowed I would never become one of those people. I was definitely scared to try it, but was even more terrified of what would happen if I never even took the chance. So, with every fear and hesitation and millionth excuse anyone could possibly think of for reasons NOT TO DO the business, I chose to TO DO it for one reason.

I had to make a comeback.

So here I am, four months later, re-writing my story through an incredible business that I almost said no to. And boy, am I so glad I put faith over fear! Believe me when I say my life is changing because of the positive people I am constantly surrounded by, the focus I have to set and conquer goals, and the vision I now have to do more and trust God’s calling on my life. I am not 100% out of the darkness and there are days when the devil tries to sneak in and claim victory over my weakness. But I am on the right path to a new, better me inside and out and know where I am going.

And that, my friends, is liberating.

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2 – Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?

If you ever want someone to call you out on your crap, tell you there are no excuses, and order you put your big girl panties on and basically “suck it up buttercup”, I highly recommend listening to Linda Parker who is an executive national vice president in the company. (Which, by the way, you can access her calls on YouTube or soundcloud!)

Whoa, buddy….talk about a powerhouse leader!

I sat at her feet for two straight hours just taking everything she said in and didn’t even care that my buttcheeks were so numb and I had to pee half an hour ago…because she was just THAT. GOOD.

The biggest statement I remember most from her coaching was “Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?”

Holy crap, Batman. That’s deep.

How many of us play it safe in our life because it’s easier? How many of us talk ourselves out of overachieving just to do the bare minimum because, well, that’s good enough? How many of us whine and rant to our friends and family and make excuses for when something is too hard instead of taking a step back, figuring out what going wrong, and finding a solution? How many of us get to a certain goal and then decide we’ve gone as far as we can, so we stop setting bigger, more complex goals that really require us to get out of our comfort zone?

Well, I’ll raise my hand if no one else will….

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What a call to action to knock it off, pick ourselves up when we stumble, and press on to greater heights! The truth is this world can’t afford for us to play small. To put this into personal perspective, if Erika had never reached out to me — basically a stranger she knew very little about — who knows where would be?

Or if I would even still be here at all.

Dramatic? Maybe. But true? Absolutely. So how dare I sit on the side lines and play small when there are so many more people out there who need this incredible opportunity that I have at my fingertips, just like I so desperately needed it four months ago without even realizing it.

It’s time to stop making excuses and start making an impact.

3 – Make up a story that serves YOU.

One of the exercises we were coached to do is write down three facts or things that have happened in our lives. We then had to write down the stories that we have told ourselves based on those facts.

It wasn’t pretty.

For example:

Fact – My real dad left me when I was 3 years old.

Story – There must be something wrong with me. I’m wasn’t good enough to make him stay.

Fact – I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team in high school.

Story – I suck at sports.I should have never tried out. What a humiliation!

Fact – I didn’t reach the goals I had set last month in my business.

Story – I’m bad at being a consultant and don’t know if I have what it takes to do this.

Whoa. Talk about Negative Nancy, right???

Funny how after you write the things you constantly think about and tell yourself down on paper and read them aloud how they make you stop and think about how personal you’ve been taking everything your whole life. I realized how I have been playing the victim instead of the victor all along in every situation where life threw me a curveball. No wonder I am generally not a confident person! How can I be when all I tell myself is how much I’m unworthy?

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So after this epiphany, we then had a major heart to heart about how these stories were obviously not fixing anything and not serving us the way that they should. Bad things happen. Annoying things happen. That’s life. We can’t change that.

But what we can change is the stories we come up with when these things do happen.

Sooo….time for a divine intervention! We then took our old stories and rewrote them into positive stories that actually served us. The results were crazy eye opening!

Fact – My real dad left me when I was 3 years old.

NEW Story – I will be a better parent because of this. I can also be a testimony to my students who have had a parent who walked out in their life. I could even open my heart and home to adoption or fostering someday and be the loving, involved parent that my real dad never was to a child in need.

Fact – I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team in high school.

Story – Sports may not be my thing, but at least I can say I tried! Time to find something else I’m good at.

Fact – I didn’t reach the goals I had set last month in my business.

Story – Every business builder has struggles, and I’m not the only one! November is a new month. I know what didn’t work last month and how I can fix it to be more successful this month. Time to get to work!

Better, right? What an easy way to change your perspective. ** See ya, Negative Nancy!

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4 – Don’t be a dreamer, be a vision caster.

One of the things my team’s national vice president Lisa Dooley challenged us to do in our businesses and lives is to not just have a dream for what could happen, but cast a vision of exactly what that moment would look like when we reach the goals we have set our hearts on.

Because if you really think about it, a dream is just a wish or fantasy, but a vision is more of a reality.

I got to thinking how this applies to my business. One of my biggest goals is to become a regional vice president by the time I am 25 years old. Before last weekend, this was really only a figment of my imagination. I could only dream of getting a paycheck that would not only replace my income but also my husband’s income and allow us more choice to start blessing others in bigger ways we can’t do with our current paychecks — but I wasn’t actually envisioning it getting deposited into our checking account. I could only dream of driving that white Mercedes Benz that the company rewards you with when you promote to a vice president — but I wasn’t actually “smelling the leather”. I could only dream about having the finances, time freedom, and conviction to travel the world and sponsor missions trips or build homes in third world countries — but I wasn’t actually visualizing myself standing on the beaches of Haiti with a team of soul-on-fire consultants working alongside me because I led them there.

I always thought it would be freaking awesome, but in my heart it didn’t really seem like a possibility because I was only thinking about these things occasionally when I would drift off into La La Land. I wasn’t actually painting the picture of what that moment would look like. Feel like. Smell like. Even taste like. And if I wasn’t painting the picture, I definitely wasn’t painting myself in it. No wonder it seemed so surreal and not possible!

So again, my goal is to become a regional vice president. But it’s no longer just a dream. It’s a vision. My vision.

It is October 1, 2018 and I am a REGIONAL vice president!! Life is good today. It smells and tastes like pancakes and bacon, because I am actually HOME with my family making breakfast before Kurtis goes off to work. We have just finished remodeling our dream home and I just unpacked the LAST box — and there a white Mercedes parked in the garage. Over breakfast, we are talking about our new goals and are even considering sponsoring money to our church for a missions trip to Australia. My birthday is in 18 more days and I will be blowing out my candles in Jamaica with my husband and our 5 month old baby with other families in the business on the Arbonne Incentive Trip. I have also recently promoted 4 new district managers and 2 new area managers. One is in qualification for region! Next comes nation!

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So, yeah. Wasn’t kidding when I said last weekend was the trip of a lifetime!

It’s so crazy to think of how much my perspectives have changed since joining this business and how it’s impacting so many other areas in my life. I mean, I almost have to laugh.

I used to think direct sales people were annoying. Thank goodness not all of them are like that and some actually have a vision to change their lives….and then this world.

I used to think that to be successful in this business you had to know a lot of people and be a good talker. Thank goodness you just have to be is passionate about helping others and willing to build new relationships!

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I used to think you had to win every challenge, incentive trip, and promotion out there to make it to the top. Thank goodness all you have to do is have grit and determination to stick around when it gets hard!

I used to think you had to know everything about everything in order to have credibility. Thank goodness all you have to know is how to ask or where to go for help until you figure it out!

I used to think that stress was just a normal part of being an adult and that would never really change. Thank goodness it doesn’t have to be that way, if you are willing to get up and change it yourself!

And to think all this came from a simple two day conference in Oklahoma with 45 women I didn’t know, which really all stemmed from a decision four months ago to take a chance on something I was completely terrified to do.

I will tell you all a million times over that the reason I do this business is not about being part of some pyramid get-rich-quick scheme and conning others into jumping on my bandwagon. It’s not about having my skin looking flawless and my nutrition on point. It’s not about my stats on my dashboard website or the number of sign-ups I got last month. It’s not about making bookoos of money and having my name and face in the latest Arbonne catalog. It’s honestly not even really about me at all.

It’s about paying it forward and becoming more for this world that is desperately waiting for me to change it.

And I can’t wait to see who all will rise up to the challenge and join me in this life-changing endeavor.

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What I Never Knew I Always Wanted

There they were, clear as day. Two pink lines.


There I sat – propped up on the bathroom vanity amidst all the makeup brushes and nail polish and bobby pins and my curling iron all strewn across the counter – staring at a little plastic stick that in that very moment sealed my fate, answered my deepest prayers, and forever changed my life.

Sweet Jesus, this was really happening.

We were officially going to be parents.

I can’t really describe that feeling in simple terms, because if I’m being completely transparent here, it was anything and everything but simple. It was a multitude of thoughts and emotions that came flooding in. First I felt complete and utter shock and couldn’t breathe– like when you free fall off that first big drop on a roller coaster and you swear that your stomach is going to wiggle its way right up your throat and lunge out of your mouth. Or when you suddenly wake up and realize you overslept thirty minutes past your alarm and blast off like a rocket out of bed without hardly letting your feet hit the ground.

Or when you discover that yes, indeed, you have been walking around for a solid fifteen minutes with the back of your dress tucked in to your leggings after using the restroom on your plan hour…until a 7th grader kindly points it out to you in front of the entire class.

Yeah, thanks for the letdown, LuLaRoe….

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Next came the “warm fuzzies.” The tingling in my chest. The tears in my eyes. The butterflies in my tummy. The warmth of God’s touch on my face, as this sudden fullness and contentment in my life was something I had long prayed for. The ridiculous sort-of-hipster-sort-of-disco happy dance I did right there in the bathroom before realizing I still had to break the news to Kurtis. The way I completely melted when I ran outside to the shop to tell him and saw that shocked yet  priceless look on his face when he realized he was going to be a daddy for the first time.

But it was also bittersweet too. For the first time in our nearly ten year relationship together, it was no longer going to be about us. Our life of being spontaneous and taking off for a random weekend trip cross-country or running to town for a late night Dairy Queen ice cream run would soon be changing to sleepless nights of diaper changes, warm bottles, and lullabies. I won’t lie, that scared me a little. How much was this going to change our married life? Would we still be us? Would I still be…. me? Would I still get to do the things I’ve always dreamed of doing – like skydiving and traveling the world? Would I miss out on some much needed girl’s nights with my best friends since I was now officially the only married momma in the group?

Would I seriously have to say goodbye to those favorite pair of maroon skinny jeans from Charlotte Russe? (I mean, I am basically a Kardashian in those suckers…and you’re talking about a girl who generally speaking has “pancakes” flapping around back there, no how many squats or wall sits or Pinterest Booty Blaster workouts she does…)

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Also came sorrow for wanting to share our exciting news with our loved ones, but knowing so many people in our life are struggling and desperately yearning for the blessing we were so graciously given without having to deal with infertility treatments or adoption complications or even loss of a child.

And when we did have a miscarriage scare at 5 weeks that to our surprise turned out to be okay, there came extreme relief yet slight guilt of being one of the lucky ones who God spared while so many other deserving couples on the sidelines were not so lucky and had to hear the heart shattering words “I’m so sorry for your loss” in the coldness and emptiness of a doctor’s office.

I definitely can’t leave out the feelings of fear and anger that overcame me nearly every time I turned the TV or radio on and learned of another protest, homicide, mass shooting, drug bust, inappropriate student/teacher contact, terrorist threat, and natural disaster that raged on all around the world, realizing I can’t protect this precious God-given gift from it all no matter how bad I want to.

And of course, eventually came the insatiable need to binge eat an entire sleeve of Oreos or a jar of Vlasic pickles in one sitting. Laughing hysterically at memes on Google images — and then literally sobbing two seconds later because I just realized the chinese place in Buffalo closed an hour ago and all I wanted out of life was some damn cashew chicken. Then the food aversions. Oh, the food aversions! I went from eating everything in sight to only eating saltine crackers and applesauce and, well basically being a vegetarian (and I am married to a beef farmer, mind you…) And we can’t forget the sudden talent of being able to sleep anywhere — literally, ANYWHERE — to the point I swear I’m metamorphasizing into a cat or soreness so intolerable that someone could literally bring me to my knees if they accidentally bumped me in the boobs even slightly. Oh yeah. There is definitely no “glow.” And can I just say that I never knew a human could PEE. SO. MUCH.

And as for clinging to the toilet like a starstruck tween girl on Nick Jonas to projectile vomit because I caught a whiff of the husband frying sausage and eggs for breakfast??

Well, I’ll just let you envision that one for yourselves…

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So, yeah. Quite the wild journey it has been so far for only ten weeks in! I would say that to my surprise I have had the GREATEST sleep of my life but I don’t currently have a piece of wood to knock on and I definitely don’t want to jinx myself, so I think I’ll just quit while I’m ahead…  

Because let’s be real. That perk is gonna go away realllllll fast when I swell up like a balloon in the Macy’s Day Parade and become an internal punching bag at 2 AM for this kid.

People ask me all the time if pregnancy is everything I imagined it would be, I never really know what to tell them because to be honest,  it’s something completely unimaginable until you experience it firsthand. I mean, sure. I always pictured what I would look like with a baby bump in the mirror and have most definitely designed the most immaculate dream preggo wardrobe board on Pinterest. I always dreamed of how many kids we would have running around in the front yard (yes, I’ll admit I’ve done the pencil test or M.A.S.H game from time to time back in my day…) and have even occasionally scribbled a cute baby name I heard while out and about on a napkin in my glovebox so I wouldn’t forget it later on. But now that it’s actually a reality, it’s a completely different shift. Like when I saw that flutter on the screen at my first ultrasound and heard that tiny heartbeat after two LONG days of bed rest waiting to either confirm or deny whether or not we lost our baby. When I realized that I will get to celebrate the next Mother’s Day for the very first time and see Christmas morning through different eyes in a couple years. Or how much fun it will be to pick out the most adorable teeny outfits and nursery paint colors and completely buy out Carter’s and Babies’R’Us just because I just can’t contain myself.  Or what it will feel like to see my husband – my very best friend of ten years who I have been through everything with – holding our baby for the very first time in his arms. To love him on a level unlike any other, not just as my husband but as a father to the greatest thing in our life. To see that look on his face when he stares into the eyes of something so perfect and little, vowing to love and protect him/her until his last breath. To feel the butterflies from within as this bump beneath my T-shirt grows more and more each day — even though I may have to sacrifice my bootylicious jeans and gain a few stretch marks in the process. To feel that first kick or hear that first cry after a long, painful labor I thought I’d never survive. To wonder if he or she will have my nose and daddy’s eyes and who they will grow up to be someday. To come home from the hospital with a newborn in the backseat — and literally have NO CLUE what to do next.

Also, I kind of can’t wait to watch Kurtis gag at his first dirty diaper change. That really gets my soul singing.

It truly is an experience like none other. From going from someone’s daughter, granddaughter, wife, aunt, sister, friend, and teacher to someone’s mom is a feeling that there are simply not enough words to blog about. And If I really want to open up here, I will confess that I am becoming a newer, stronger version of myself and slowly climbing up out of the ruts that years of struggling with depression had left engraved on my heart, because I am finally realizing that being a mother is what I never knew I always wanted and needed all along. Those scars and voids are being mended the more this bump grows because I know this blessing came just at the right time, when God knew I needed it most to make sense out of this crazy, beautiful life.

This is my purpose. This is my WHY. And it feels so good to finally know what that is.

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Oh, how different our little world is going to be here just in seven short months! Sure, there are lots of “unpleasant” truths about pregnancy I could complain about. I mean, I won’t lie. I have so many fears about this whole process ranging anywhere from being a good enough mom to taking someone else’s unwanted parenting “advice” calmly to how my body can possibly take all that stretching and trauma to accidentally defecating on the delivery table.

Yeah, buddy. I lose sleep over that one…

And I have since learned NOT to Google pregnancy/birthing stories because, well, that one never turns out pleasant.

But to be honest most days I can’t really focus on the negative because there are just too many things about it all to celebrate.

So I choose to focus on the celebrating part.

And also on thanking God daily for blessing me with exactly what I needed at this stage in my life.


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Closing Time

Because moving on is part of moving forward.

Today was quite the day, you guys.


It was my last official day as an agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor for Niangua R-V High School. {And before you say anything like “shouldn’t you already be off for the summer and toes-deep in the sand on some beach somewhere sippin’ a pina colada?” please note that ag teachers are on a 12 month contract from July to June, which basically means we are running on auto-pilot 24/7, 365 days a year. We also drink our coffee very very very very black, eat drive-thru’s on the daily, and have mastered the art of sleeping with our eyes open. True story. }

So June is already here and gone. This morning I took my last hour-long drive through all those hills, curves, and miles of countryside that I’ve come to know by heart – as they have carried me in their arms this entire year, pumping me up for my mornings and winding me down at the end of another long day. I threw away the last poster from my wall, peeled sticky tack off my bulletin boards, and cleaned the rest of my highlighters and sticky notes and bobby pins and scented Germ-X out of my desk. I loaded boxes and boxes of all my lesson plans, family pictures, Hobby Lobby decorations, plaques, and my old FFA jacket in the back of my car. I unplugged my coffee pot and emptied the mini fridge that hid my jug of sweet tea when I needed an afternoon caffeine boost and all my chocolate for when I needed that little sugar rush while staying late grading papers. I hugged some co-workers goodbye…and may have also left sappy notes in their mailboxes.

{ Yeah buddy, I’m THAT girl. }

I watered the greenhouse and swept my shop floor one final time. I turned in my keys for the new teacher coming along and took my name tag off my door. And I sat one more time in my squeaky chair and stared at all those empty desks that not too long ago were full of the students that became “my kids” this past year.

Right here in this little room that was home for so many of us who desperately needed it.

We did a lot of learning and growing in this tiny classroom. We lived, we loved, and we laughed.

Also, we killed LOTSSSS of spiders.

We had heart-to-hearts before the morning tardy bell sounded and deep life discussions before the last bell of the day rang. A lot of “your mom” jokes were fired {okay, so I’m not the most “politically correct” teacher there ever was…} and many General’s Orders for saying cuss words out loud were written. In this room I prayed in desperation, cursed in frustration, cried in defeat, smiled in proudness, and celebrated in triumph. In this room I sat in this very chair one year ago as a first year teacher – so fragile, like a paper airplane in a hurricane – thinking there was no way I’d survive it all.

But, here I am, still soaring.

Last year’s beginning is already today’s end…and I really can’t believe it.

And I won’t lie…I’m a little unsteady about what’s coming next for me as my identity will soon completely change from a high school ag teacher to a middle school math and science teacher.

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However, as this bittersweet conclusion to a beautiful journey I’ve experienced this past year has officially drawn to an end, I know it’s now the start of a new and exciting chapter in my life story. And for that, I am happy.

I am really, genuinely happy.

In a month I will hang different posters in my new classroom and decorate new bulletin boards. My pictures and plaques and little personal touches will be unboxed again, a million new nail holes will plaster the walls, and new students will soon come rushing through my door. My Pinterest Lesson Plan board will slowly evolve from “parts of a cow” and “welding tips” to all things osmosis, phases of the moon, solving inequalities, and the Pythagorean Theorem. I will exchange all those red staff polos and Cardinal’s T-Shirts in the back of my closet with purple and gold ones that say “Hermitage Hornets” on them. I will make new memories, befriend new co-workers, experience new challenges, and achieve new and greater heights.

And above all I will keep learning and growing and loving all those kiddos on my new class roster, even if I do roast them with a “your mom” joke from time to time.

{Don’t worry, I DO know when there’s a time and place for it…** insert eye roll here**}

I know good things are ahead for this girl, although some amazing memories and that old weathered “Welcome to Niangua” sign will soon be in my rear-view for good. 

It’s hard, but it’s time.

It’s time to roll the windows down, crank those speakers, and let my hair fly in the breeze as I press on down this new road, because after all; moving on is part of moving forward.

And what a coincidence that the song jamming on my playlist this very moment by one of my all-time favorite 90’s bands just happens to be the perfect summary for it all.

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So, what more is there really left to say?

Except…

On to the next adventure.

 

Oh yeah, and I also need gas…

 

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Fess Up, Get Up.


So it’s time I fess up.


I’ve not been {completely} honest with you all.

You read my blogs. You compliment my latest engagement or wedding session on my photography page. You see my pictures on Instagram and follow my life on Facebook nearly every day from the other side of the computer screen. You shake my hand at church every Sunday morning and sing along as I play the piano for the congregation. You laugh at all my stupid jokes when we go out for dinner and drinks on a girls night out. You hear me reply “I’m good” when I check out at your register at Wal-Mart and you ask me about my day. You see me smile back at you in the McDonald’s drive thru when I stop for my morning coffee. You heard my valedictorian speech when I graduated high school and watched me walk stage when I earned that four-year degree. You pass me the salt and pepper at family dinners from across the table and ask about my future plans – and you think I have it all figured out. You see the smiles, sunshine, accomplishments, and happiness that I choose to show the world. That’s how you see me because that’s all I’ve ever let you know about me.

But what you don’t know is there’s more…so much more.

What you don’t know is that this morning I was late to work because it was such a chore to get out of bed and face another hard day.

What you don’t know is on my days off I am really spending about 13-15 hours a day in bed in my dark room alone while my husband is out making a living for us and being The Responsible One…until finally I scramble to get a load of laundry folded, wash the dishes from last night’s dinner, and grab a quick shower before he comes home so he doesn’t have to see me this way yet again.

What you don’t know is that while to you I often look like a chicken running around with my head cut off doing anything for everyone and trying to keep up with my busy schedule, I like it that way because it distracts me from feeling worthless.

What you don’t know is I love teaching because it gives me purpose.

What you don’t know is I love photography for the sole reason that it lets me capture the very small things in life that are rare and beautiful and often unnoticed and forces me to reflect on these tidbits of joy when I am at my weakest.


What you don’t know is the reason I have to constantly have music blaring no matter what I’m doing is because it helps drown out the silence and loneliness I often feel. And I don’t really care that it annoys you when you’re around me, because sometimes it’s all I have to get me through.

What you don’t know is that every time you stop and ask me how long I’ve been married and inform me that it’s about time to start cranking out kids because my biological clock is ticking I cringe and want to cry…because this darkness I am struggling through is completely diminishing the beautiful and exciting and fun image I once had of motherhood.

What you don’t know is that before I sat down to write these words you’re reading right now I called my doctor to schedule another appointment and renew another prescription. I’m not sure if it’s going to work, but I did it anyways.

What you don’t know is several weeks ago I had to gather any ounce of hope and strength I had left to really talk myself into choosing to live when I was at the end of my rope and suddenly didn’t want to anymore. 

And I did this alone, because you didn’t know. Because I didn’t tell you.

I never told you that I struggle with this battle.

Every. Single. Day.

I’m guessing if you’ve made it this far it’s safe to say this is definitely not what you were expecting to read from the girl who always seems to have something positive to say or a story to laugh about. You came here for inspiration or a good chuckle, not a re-enactment of a Cymbalta commercial, right?

But…as uncomfortable as it may be to read these words…it’s the truth – my truth. And the truth isn’t always pretty or easy to confess, which is why you’ve never heard any of this until now. I just wasn’t ready. And quite honestly I didn’t think you cared, because afterall my problems probably don’t hold a candle to what some of you face daily.

But they say the first step to a better tomorrow is recognizing you have a problem and asking for help today.

So, here I am.

Besides. I figure it’s much better for you all to read this than my obituary, right?

I will say that I do have strong moments, which I try to share with you all any chance I get. There are good days where I manage to find joy in the little things and genuinely feel happy…for example, yesterday, when my parents came over with my sisters and I was babysitting my niece. Dad cooked dinner for us on the grill and we spent the entire evening riding around the farm on four-wheelers, watching the cows graze and swim in the pond, chasing lightning bugs beneath the June sunset, and just, well, being together.


Yesterday was such a good day…then today was hard again for no reason at all. It ebbs and flows, I guess. And I swear if one more person tells me that “happiness is a choice” and that I should “count my blessings”, I am going to smack them in the face with my journal and chuck my pills at them.

Because if they knew anything at all about depression they would understand that nothing about it is a choice. I don’t recall pulling a twenty out of my wallet and saying “Sure! I’ll take it!” when the Devil came knocking on my door soliciting this emptiness and darkness that has been overtaking me for several years now. 

I don’t get it. I can’t really tell you when it all began and how it got to this point so fast. I mean, sure I’ve had my fair share of heartbreaks. I’ve lost ones I loved so soon and so tragically. I’ve experienced family drama and have lived through the destruction of divorce. Twice. I’ve dealt with the aftermath of my biological father abandoning me at four years old. Some of my closest friends have come and gone forever. I’ve been rejected and told no from some amazing opportunities I thought I had in the bag. I’ve came in second place against some people who wrongfully took first. I’ve had to say goodbye to my comfort zone and jump head first into major life changes I wasn’t prepared for. I’ve watched horrible people get away with horrible, unspeakable things and have let all the wrong people push me around in all the wrong ways. Nothing I’ve went through is too traumatic compared to what others have to go through every day, but it still all adds up, ya know?

But on the other hand I have a lot of great people in my life. I am smart, talented, and successful. I have salvation…though I’ve not been the most stellar Christian lately and can’t tell you the last time I knelt in serious prayer. I have a job, even if it isn’t the one I necessarily had in mind. I love my husband and my husband loves me. We have fun together and have a beautiful life. I just can’t seem to fully enjoy it like I want to because the good times seem to only be temporary. I don’t understand this pain and can’t give you a textbook answer for why I have it. All I can tell you is that it’s just here – living in the inner depths of my soul and heart and mind – and I want it to pack its bags and get the heck out so I can enjoy my life again like I used to.


Yeah, I struggle.

But despite how crummy I felt this morning as my familiar friends Stress, Anxiety, Guilt, and Shame came barging in at 7 a.m. to ruin my day, the important lesson I’m taking from today is that eventually I did get up.

I took a shower. Got dressed.  Ate some breakfast – which I never do. I went to work. Texted a good friend to invite her over to see our new house and eat dinner – after she cuts these split-ends off that I’ve been neglecting for a good year and a half now. I made that appointment….and this time I promise I will go and won’t make another excuse or tell myself to suck it up or spend another day like this. I wrote this journal entry and shared it with you just in case you needed to know that you’re not alone and this girl you look at as Little Miss Sunshine has her fair share of cloudy days, too, just like anyone else.

It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone, like I sometimes feel. And if you’ve been where I am or are there now, I hope you realize that, too.

And I know it’s hard. It’s SO. HARD. Getting out of bed and going to work when you’re already physically, emotionally, and mentally drained is hard. Going to therapy is hard. Taking meds is hard. Telling someone you love that you’re struggling is hard. Admitting it to yourself that you have a problem when you know there are so many beautiful blessings surrounding you is hard. And trust me when I say that writing about it and exposing it to the rest of the world full of your friends, family, and complete strangers is even harder – especially when some of them just don’t get it because it’s not a war they’ve ever had to fight.

But, it’s also absolutely necessary if we want to be one of the Lucky Ones. You know, the Survivors. The reality of this horrible illness is not easy to take in. For every person who gets their life back after depression, there are many others on the sidelines who do not. This has to change…starting with me and you.

We’ll get there.

I know I’m nowhere close to where I want to be…but I am making baby steps in the right direction. 

Day by day, right? 


That’s what matters. Not where I came from or even necessarily where I’m at right now, but where I’m going. Just the fact that I am still here today writing this and for once finding beauty in the rain coming down outside is proof that there is still hope out there for me.

The happiness is temporary, but that also means that so is the pain. And today, I’m going to focus my attention on that…and maybe even dance in the rain because right now I feel strong enough to do so…and there’s a damn good John Mellencamp song playing on my iPod.

So if you’re reading this and can relate at all – whether miles apart, down the street,  or in the very next room – please know that although you and I have our separate battles and I don’t have much energy left to get myself through most days, we’re not alone in this. My heart holds your hands through your toughest days and darkest hours.

And I can’t thank you nearly enough for holding mine at such a fragile and vulnerable time in my life as I am striving to get back up from the heavy waves that have held me down long enough.


A Brown Renovation Story

So the Hubby and I recently decided to tackle our first DIY project together in our married life.

 

Don’t worry…we haven’t killed each other and no one has had to attend therapy yet. (Stay tuned, just in case…)

 
Long story short, after some BIG career switches, we are now living on his family farm that has been in the family for nearly 70 years. On this property stand two houses – the main farmhouse that we are going to completely overhaul in about a year after we get our life and finances in a little better order and this little bitty studio home that we have been fixing up and are currently living in for the time being.

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For about the past month we have been {attempting} channeling our inner Chip and Joanna Gaines by trying to flip this place into something we can call home temporarily while we remodel our dream house, so we don’t have to live in the middle of a disaster zone.

 
Because let’s be real…ain’t nobody got time for not being able to use the shower or toilet for a week, scraping popcorn ceilings all over their nice furniture, or wiping sheetrock dust off the kitchen counter just so they can make a flipping peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

 
Although I’m pretty sure we could star in an episode of “Tiny House, Big Living” this place has so far worked out amazing, considering all it really needed was some paint, new flooring and trim, a couple new windows, and some MAJOR cleaning.

 
It has been quite the learning experience thus far, from tearing out linoleum to hanging ceiling fans to trying to find any place at all to put the coffee pot and all the Tupperware. (Never underestimate a woman with decorative baskets and cabinet organizers from Bed Bath and Beyond!) But after several exhausting weeks, we are FINALLY moved in and it’s starting to feel like home sweet home!

 
Now, before I get too far into this, let me just clarify some things so we’re all on the same page here. If you came here for a professional design blog with very detailed DIY instructions of how to flip a shack into an immaculate HGTV worthy mansion by two highly skilled and reno-savvy people, you’re DEFINITELY in the wrong place (although we would feel pretty honored). However, if you came here to watch the hilarious but totally honest journey of two completely inexperienced homeowners with a tight budget who had their fair share of struggles, epic fails, and head scratching moments while taking on this crazy adventure, then welcome aboard the hot mess express! We’re your kind of people!

 
Se here it is, the Reality of Home Renovations, as told by The Browns.

 

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PART 1: The Overhaul, A.K.A Mission Impossible

Someone once told me I could make even a port-a-potty look cute, which I about died laughing because this place was definitely not much of a step above that when we first began. I remember when we first got the idea of fixing this little house to live in for the year until we could remodel the big house…and then basically crying when we walked through the front door.

 
This place sat vacant for years, after my husband’s great aunt passed away. Now please understand that NONE of her clothes, furniture, dishes, or even food in the cabinets had been cleaned out for all this time, not to mention the fact that several windows were busted, screens were torn, mice had defecated all over the kitchen countertops and carpet, and spiders and flies plastered about every square inch of the floors – some dead, some alive.

 
Why smell four years of abandonment when you can practically taste it?


It was rough, yo. I remember standing there thinking, we’re nuts! There’s no freaking way. It was 450 square feet of filth and pure horror. I mean, you practically needed a tetanus shot just to even turn the light switch on! I swore there wasn’t enough bleach, Febreze, Scentsy cubes, or pinesol in the world to fix this mess, let alone make it livable.

 
But my ever-so-calm and always reassuring husband convinced me that we really could do this, with a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of elbow grease.

 
And so, it began!

 
First task was to empty the place one Hefty trash bag and truck load at a time, then tear out the disgusting carpet and linoleum. That alone made the place smell A LOT better – and made for a hellacious bonfire!

Part 2: The Make-Over

Next all the trim and outlet/light switch covers were removed and the walls were scrubbed so we could begin painting! I knew from the get-go that this place was going to be a farmhouse-style cottage when I got done with it, so picking just the right colors for the walls and cabinets that would complement all my furniture and décor and not make this tiny space feel even more closterphobic was critical to the end result.

The cabinets were definitely the most exciting part of the entire project – not to mention WAYYYYY easier than I expected! And trust me when I say that I am definitely no Picasso and have absolutely ZERO experience when it comes to painting and distressing things. I just picked up the paintbrush and taught myself, and it was definitely do-able! I changed my mind a couple times once I actually began painting and didn’t like the color, but in the end decided to paint the bathroom vanity with Indigo chalk paint from Market 116 in Buffalo (really looks more like a charcoal gray, not blue – thank goodness because that’s what I was going for!) This paint is ahhh-mazing! It’s no sanding, no priming, and advertises as only needing one coat, but I did two to be safe! 😉 There are so many colors and they also have tons of cheap sample sizes you can try out before you commit to a full sized can, which costs $35 but is TOTALLY worth it and goes really far!


I let the paint COMPLETELY dry then I brought out the detail and grain with this alsphaltum antiquing gel (SUPER easy to apply and also available from Market 116 in sample and full-can sizes for around the same price as the paint!) Basically you brush it ALL over the paint then use cheese cloth or something that doesn’t shed fibers (like old T-shirt rags or those soft blue shop paper towels) and wipe off what you don’t want to keep to create a distressed look to your liking! The key I learned with distressing with the gel is to move WITH the grain and wipe as straight as possible. What I love is that it is very forgiving in that if you apply to much, you can easily wipe it off or if you want to add more you can easily brush more on until you get the desired results. And if you mess up? Who cares! Just paint over it, let it dry, and start again! 😉

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Originally I had picked out a creamy tan for all of my kitchen cabinets, but I ended up loving the dreamy charcoal look so much on my bathroom vanity that I decided to go two-tones with my kitchen cabinets, using the Indigo chalk paint on the bottom and the Gray Taupe for the uppers. I LOVED the end result and the two colors really matched my ugly laminate countertop and made it look so much better! After distressing everything and adding some new hardware, I had new kitchen cabinets and a bathroom vanity that looked like a million bucks – for less than $150 altogether!!! #BargainStatus

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So basically I am now addicted to chalk paint and have since also redone ALL of our dressers, the bed, and TV stand…and believe me when I say there’s plenty more where that came from!IMG_5202

For the walls, I ended up going with Valspar Blue Twilight for our bedroom and Stone Mason Gray for the rest of the house (From Lowes, which I’m pretty sure we kept in business during this entire adventure!) I was very pleased with the results against the white trim and new cabinets!


Next challenge was the flooring, which we also purchased from Lowes. We ended up going with these vinyl click together planks that look like real barnwood by Shaw – which any farmhouse-look addict can definitely appreciate! We loved that they are durable, waterproof, beautiful, and not to mention – affordable! We did the entire house for about $800. DISCLAIMER** we are definitely NOT pros, and my hubby had to tear it all out a couple times and restart, but he did such a fabulous job! And we are thoroughly convinced that God created knee pads just for this job and trim to hide all the imperfections of accidentally cutting the pieces too short! 😉


Now, let’s backtrack a little so we don’t lose the effect here….
Before……

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And after! What an AMAZING difference paint, floors, trim, and cleaning can make!

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Part 3: The Staging and Decorating

One of my FAVORITE things to do after moving in is finding the perfect places to put all of my flea market finds and Hobby Lobby treasures. It’s so amazing watching a room completely come to life with hanging a picture here, adding some greenery there, and throwing in a fun rug and some accent pillows. In this case, these finishing touches were exactly what we needed to make this tiny place cute, quaint, country, and cozy! **Side note, this is usually a matter of arranging and re-arranging about ten times and adding about a hundred new nail holes until I am completely satisfied!

Part 4: The Deleted Scenes and Bloopers

I saved the best part for last with this blog, lemme tell ya! As with about any catastrophe in life, I always try to find the humor or lesson learned in each situation to make the most of it – because after all there is no such thing as perfect, there’s only reality!! So as for the things HGTV doesn’t show you about the truths of renos….you’re welcome!

 
1- When patching holes that go COMPLETELY through the drywall and even expose to the world outside, duct taping the mesh patch on the wall without correctly puttying and sanding over it is NOT how you do it….

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2- When your husband is laying the floors, do NOT point out that he cut off too much and that even though it is in the back of the closet behind all the shoe racks and hampers and closed doors and no one will ever see it, you will still always know in your heart the flaw is there. Yeah, that one doesn’t end too well!

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3- When touching up paint after the new floors and trim are installed, you might want to check and make sure you are indeed using the correct shade of paint…or your wife will yell for having to redo it herself…and DON’T tell her just to cover it up with a dresser, because she will totally bring up the messed up floor in the closet…

 

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He’s been told he’s color blind, but he doesn’t seem to think he is…
4- Painter’s Tape – the biggest lie ever.

 

 

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NOTHING about this is straight….
5- Understand that clothes WILL get ruined forever and you’ll be scraping paint off your hands in the shower for weeks.

 


6- Cleaning up first requires making even bigger messes.

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7- Never underestimate the power of using a level when hanging things.

 

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Fail.
8- Believe it or not, cabinet and furniture hardware doesn’t always come in standard 3-inch sizes, so measure first.

 

 

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Well, crap….
9- Sometimes your weatherproof tarp sticks out from your siding and you’re too frustrated to fix it. Thus the Lord invented the X-acto knife.

 

 

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I don’t know what’s funnier…the fact that we did this or the fact that we tried to paint over it to hide it better.
10- When installing a stove in a place that is too small, be prepared that your husband will probably just cut the trim off {noticeably too short} to force it to fit…

 

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11- When revamping a dresser into an adorable TV stand with convenient DVD storage because your old entertainment center won’t fit in your new house, you might want to first double check that your TV isn’t too big and will just hang off the edges.

 

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Just flipping fabulous….looks like we’re buying a mount!
12- Measure twice, cut once. Enough said. 

 

 

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Why use a ruler when you can “eyeball” it….
13- What happens to the stuff that doesn’t fit in your tiny house? It gets crammed in your husband’s shop.

 

 

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Don’t worry, he’ll have this spotless in no time so his truck can fit in here!
14- If you are lazy like us and don’t wash the brushes and rollers out to re-use, you might want to get ahead of the game and buy plenty upfront.

 

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15- No matter how much you beg and bribe your husband to hang up the new ceiling fan, it will probably sit in the shop and collect dust for weeks because he has other “priorities.”

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16- Face it. It’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE {despite your valiant efforts} to cover all the eyesores in your house and land the perfect lighting to capture perfect shots of the finished project that you would feel confident enough submitting in a magazine. So, ya might as well embrace it!

See if you can spot all the eyesores in my little I Spy game here…

 

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For example, toilet paper rolls and toothbrushes…
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Freaking flies…
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Trash cans, air conditioners, outlets/cords, and dirty dishes…
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The unpacked amazon box I tried to hide from the photos, but made it in one anyways…
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Annnndddd of course, the hubby’s hat.
 

 

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So here we are, about two weeks in to living in our new home, which we’ve nicknamed as the Little House on the Prairie. (And our new motto is, as Alan Jackson would say, it’s alright to be little bitty!) While we have to take three minute showers because our hot water heater is small enough to be a footstool and we have to walk up to the main house to do laundry and eat off TV trays because we can’t fit our washer and dryer or kitchen table in here, this place is becoming home sweet home and we are LOVING it!

 
When I reflect back through all these photos it’s almost impossible to believe we can now confidently sleep at night, cut vegetables on the countertops, or even walk around barefoot in here. It’s been a wild ride, but through it all we have definitely changed out outlook on what it means to work hard as a team and have a vision for what could be.

 
Of course, pictures are never the same as the real deal so come on over sometime, have a cup of sweet tea, chat with us about our experience, and see it for yourself! Our door is always open to friends and family! {Except those crazy mother in-laws….kidding!}

 

Chances are I’ll be sitting right here with my feet kicked up watching competitive tennis on my too-big- TV  because we don’t have Dish and our X-Box isn’t hooked up yet to play movies and stream Netflix. It will probably be this way for a while because, you know, my hubby has “other priorities.” 😉

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