June 25, 2016

I have to say, this is one of the most relaxing summers I have ever had. Last summer I didn't have a pool that I could go to and just relax in. This year, I am ALL about the pool! It feels so good to have sunshine on my face and refreshing water to splash around in.

Since I did a Summer Bucket List last year, I want to do another one this year! #bucketlistaddict

1. Go to the pool as much as possible.
2. Grill out at least once this Summer by the pool.
3. Go on a weekend vacay.
4. Read at least 5 books this Summer. I can't wait to share my list!
5. Exercise at the river walk.
6. Buy fresh vegetables & fruits from a farmstand.
7. Eat an ice cream cone. You can't believe how often I don't do that...
8. Eat healthier most of the time this Summer and lose some weight by September.

What are your summer plans this year?

Happy Weekend, xx!


June 21, 2016

So, for my birthday my awesome boss bought me the Fitbit Alta. She had a Fitbit and she and my roommate were challenging each other to see who could get the most steps in a day, or in a weekend. I wanted to join in the fun, so graciously, she gifted me one! I was so excited to put it on and start keeping track of my steps, exercise, calorie intake, water intake, and more.

When I started using the Fitbit to track my sleep, I realized that I am a terrible sleeper, and I don't get enough hours of adequate sleep a night. I have been trying to do better, go to bed earlier, but I am still restless through the night. I also have a bad habit of checking my phone in the middle of the night to see the time, if I got any texts, etc. Even doing that can keep me up.

I have been trying to move more and exercise more regularly. I have this thing where I do really well for like a week or two and then take a week off, but I want to be more consistent. As most of you may know, I do suffer with anxiety, so when I feel myself getting on edge, I immediately change into workout clothes and go to my gym at my apartment complex. Sometimes, I opt to go for a swim (thank you, Summer). Friday night I worked out at 11:00 P.M. Who does that?! #dedication
Now, does all of this work if I still eat cheeseburgers and Kit Kat bars? No, unfortunately. But, I do have healthy food that I purchased at the grocery store on Sunday, so I am set to go!

I may not have that perfect summer bikini body, but I am working towards becoming healthier.


June 10, 2016

Happy Friday! It's my new favorite post, Links & Loves. These are my favorites from this week.

If you haven't been to Nantucket (don't worry, I haven't either), here is a post that will give you the best of Nantucket in just three days. If you can't go, this post will leave you satisfied as it's basically a day by day (even hour by hour) itinerary of the best Nantucket as to offer.

This jumpsuit by Old Navy screams Summer!

This condo is everything.

A new doormat would be a good addition for Summer. This just speaks my love language.

This perfect nail shade.

This tutorial to get fresh in fifteen. Amen! Yes, Lord!

What are your favorites this week?!


June 8, 2016

I have wanted to get a tattoo for about the last year or so. I never thought I would actually do it, but you can't help when you fall in love, just like you can't help when you want to get a tattoo. I have toyed around with the idea, and even shared the desire with my friends to commemorate my turning 30 with getting a tattoo. Most of the friends I have that have tattoos got them when they turned 18, or when they were in college, or were really drunk. I knew I wanted to get a tattoo, and I felt really good about the fact that I was going to do it sober and at an age that could grasp the finality and permanence of it.

The tattoo above was a present from two of my very good friends, and it's cool to know that overtime I look at it, I will remember the moments that surround me getting the tattoo. I will always remember as a present and I will always remember that I got it the weekend I turned 30. That's pretty cool!
I was semi-tricked into getting the tattoo last Friday night. My friends Caley and Kim were going with me to get some dinner to kick-off my birthday weekend. Suddenly, Caley (who is also my roommate), said she wanted to make a pit-stop before we headed to dinner. Not thinking anything of it she directed me to a parking lot, and there at the end of it was a tattoo parlor. Do people still call them parlors? Tattoo shop? Tattoo giving place? Moving on.

I walked squealing so scared, yet so excited. I felt a bit of relief when they said they had scheduled an appointment for the following day. Thank God, I thought. When they were going over the appointment book, my scheduled artist was actually all booked up. Apparently, Saturday is the day to get a tattoo that takes 5 hours. So, the girl asked if I wanted to go ahead and get it tonight. In the spirit of not being an old lady turning 30, I said Sure!

I can't even describe my excitement. I don't think it had hit me yet until she had the gun in her hand and was about to press ink deep into my skin. The pain is unlike any other. It's self inflicted, but painful none the less. It's kind of like a series of bad flu shots over and over. The kind of shots that make you sore for a couple of days after. Here's a little preview as to what I was dealing with when my artist started...
The needle felt like a razor blade, but it was bearable. Sorry, if you can't grasp the concept. It's like trying to describe child birth. You just have to experience it to know. Not that I have given birth. It's just a similar analogy. Again, moving on.

It was so cool to be surrounded by beautiful artwork, as well as blow-up dolls and blow-up penises. This isn't my usual hang out, okay? The shop was clean, the artists were friendly, and talented. Overall, I had a great experience! Shout out to Black Lotus!

After I was done (which took all of 5 minutes), I immediately wanted a second one. I think I want to get "Choose Joy" either on my other forearm, wrist, or rib cage. I thought my shoulder would be a good place, but I want to be able to reach it when I am healing to clean and moisturize it. If you ask me now, I am SO glad I did it! I love the tattoo, the placement, everything! I honestly see how it can start to be an addiction. I am already planning my second without having had my first for an entire week!

So, the meaning behind it. I can appreciate those who get tattoos simply for the art, or the shock factor. For me, it has to have sentimental value. I struggle with anxiety, as I have mentioned before, and a lot has happened the last year or so. The message "it is well" is a part of one of my favorite hymns, and the phrase reminds me that despite my circumstances or feelings, it is well with my soul. I could have included, "with my soul", but that would have been more money and more pain - Ha! I am happy with just "it is well". I always know when I look at it, it is well my soul, it is well with my Jesus, it is well with my salvation.

It's not super original, and I know plenty of people who have this tattoo. I even have a wooden sign with the phrase on it. It just speaks to me and offers me a sense of peace and calm. "Choose Joy" is similar to me. It reminds me to always choose joy in any situation. The Joy of the Lord is my strength and my salvation. How can you not live life joyfully knowing that?

If I do get another tattoo, trust me, you'll know. As for now, it is well.

Happy Wednesday, xx!


June 7, 2016

I have always been a fan of the Bachelor and Bachelorette shows on ABC. I am such a fan, I have nearly watched every season and started doing so Season 1. I was fascinated by the show and even deep down wanted to be on the show. How cool would it be to be chosen out of 30 women and have a huge rock given to you at your dream proposal? All of the men and women seem to be perfect. They are all beautiful, fit, and successful. In recent seasons some characters have definitely been chosen to be on the show, but from its beginnings, I always believe the show to be "real". Reality TV is a far cry from reality, people.

When Emily Maynard came into the scene on Brad Womack's famed second season, I was so infatuated with her. She was beautiful, poised, and southern, and she had already endured such heartbreak when her fiancé and father of her child passed away tragically in a plane crash. Knowing that she had already endured so much, I hoped that Brad would choose her to be his fiancé, and choose her he did.
Their relationship seemed so genuine, and I was upset when I heard about their relationship ending only after a few months of the show airing. I was so enthused when Emily returned to become the Bachelorette. "Finally!" I thought. "Maybe she would have a real shot at love on this side of the show". I thought maybe since she was calling the shots she would have better luck at choosing the right guy.
I was so over-the-moon excited when she chose "one F Jef". He was cool, laid back, and completely different from Brad. I thought for sure they had a shot, only to be disappointed later when her second televised engagement turned out to be a failure. I thought surely this girl is done with love. A couple of years later I saw Emily appear on Good Morning America talking about her new fiancé. Holy crap! Three engagements, zero marriages. I didn't believe this would last either. It wasn't until I saw her wedding video on Vimeo that I thought, "Now, this guy is for real. Their love is for real. Their marriage is for real". I started reading her blog hoping for more insight on how they met, when they got engaged, etc. It seemed like a fairy tale. When Emily released her book, "I Said Yes", I kept it on my reading list. This past weekend I picked up a copy at Barnes and Noble, and in less than 2 days, I finished the book.

For one, the revelations about how the Bachelor and Bachelorette are filmed are fascinating. I had no idea that there was so much editing and directing. It definitely takes the seemingly spontaneous, outrageous perspective of the show away. There is a lot of waiting, waiting, waiting, and very little time with the actual Bachelor or Bachelorette. If you add all of the time you get to spend with them at the end of the filming, it's mere hours. How can you really be set up for relationship success in such little time? I definitely see how being on that show would have me pulling my hair out. I do commend her for getting through it on very few hours of sleep and very little downtime. If you are the Bachelor or Bachelorette, you are basically filmed 24/7. After all, this is a show that consists of people's real jobs. This is how they make a living, so you can't afford to disappoint anyone, or not put your all into it.
In the beginning of the book, Emily shares little known insight into her upbringing. Although she grew up somewhat privileged, she moved around a lot. She was even sent to a couple of boarding schools, which ultimately led her into a couple of bouts in the psych ward. She was lonely, depressed, and wanting nothing more than to be home with her family. School was a challenge for her, and she never went to college. I for sure thought she was a college graduate, although I am not sure where I got that information. Emily was beautiful (as always), but painfully shy. She definitely endured her fair share of doubts and insecurities. She doesn't talk too much about how she keeps her beautiful figure, by the way. Something I was hoping she'd cover. Maybe she just has good genes?

When she talks about her relationship with Ricky Hendrick, you feel even worse about how his life was cut tragically short. She had such high hopes for the both of them, but when she revealed how she found out about his death, and her pregnancy, it gave me such a crushing feeling. I have no idea how I would have handled that. I won't spoil anything, so if you want to know more, pick up a copy!

A few things I learned from this book were:

1. No matter how beautiful or perfect the world deems you, there are still insecurities and doubts. Nobody is perfect.

2. Not every opportunity that comes your way is from God. You can say, "No".

3. If it doesn't align with God's Word, there is no use in tempting the Spirit for signs. The signs are already written out for you.

4. Studying the Word through and through and prayer are the only ways to maintain a relationship with Christ. Reading about God or talking about God isn't enough.

5. The right man will set himself apart. Knowing the man is the right one takes paying attention to how he lives, not what he says.

6. Sometimes a long and broken road is what it takes to bring you to Christ. All of us have a past. We all have shameful moments and moments of stupidity. Don't define yourself by your mistakes.

7. Feelings of love is different from loving others. It's not always emotional. It's a daily journey and choice.

Overall, this book was an easy read and had some great truth to it. I think Emily is still the beautiful, poised, and southern woman I thought she was, but now I see more into her life. I see now that her life has been far from perfect and it gives me hope that my own bad choices in my life, won't lead me to suffer those consequences forever. I have already been brought through so much by the grace of God. I have hope that I too can have a happy ending, whatever that looks like.

I encourage young women to read this book because it does have a great message. You can get it at almost any book retailer.

Happy Tuesday, xx!


June 5, 2016

Today, I turn 30. I cannot believe it is finally here! I have had the best birthday weekend ever and my friends have absolutely gone above and beyond to show me some birthday love!

I have had a birthday breakfast (complete with mimosas), a tattoo (picture to come), bowling, dinner at a new restaurant, another birthday breakfast and this beautiful birthday layout you see above. Those cupcakes have gold sprinkles on them (!!!). I can't even begin to tell you how blessed I feel!

Here's to 130 more!

Happy Sunday, xx!


June 3, 2016

Lately, I have really been thinking long and hard about the friendships in my life. I am so jealous of those people who have friends they have known since kindergarten, or have stayed close since middle or high school. Truthfully, I am not one of those people. I am selective about my friendships, but I am also not the best about keeping up. I have really been thinking and praying through this. I pray that the Lord teaches me to be a better friend and be better about keeping in touch with those I have lost contact with.

I would say I struggle with being vulnerable and deepening my friendships. I absolutely loathe confrontation, so if I can avoid it at all costs, I will. The truth is, without expressing my feelings or thoughts when I am hurt or angry or frustrated, that person will never know how I truly feel. They won't understand my heart, or know to do what they can to fix or better the situation. Then, I have all of this built up emotion, that honestly, when it gets to be too much causes me to just walk away. Now, some friends I have were always great to me, and honestly, there just weren't any issues. Sometimes we just grew apart. But, there are a few that I let go of because of my own issues. I have to take ownership of that.

Turning 30 this weekend has really made me think about what kind of life I want to have in the next 30 years. Do I want to be someone who feels alienated, with no real connection? Or, do I want to truly be vulnerable, approach conflict when needed, and work through my issues? I honestly want to choose the latter, but it makes my heart pound thinking about it.

I chatted with a friend about this yesterday. I told her my fears and thoughts about our own friendship and how this has led me to want to reconnect with some old friends. If I have learned anything it is that friendship, when nurtured, can be a lifelong commitment. It can be just as meaningful, if not more, than a marriage. Friendships do come and go. That is part of life. I definitely don't want to reconnect with those who have been toxic, or unhealthy, however for those who have treated me well, and distance has grown us apart, I do want to salvage those connections.

In my thirties, I want to be a better friend. I know this will all be new to me. At first, it will feel awkward and maybe even forced. There are some points in life that really just leave you at a crossroads. I could keep going the same direction I am, but I feel as though I will end up empty. Friendships can be a beautiful thing, and I am willing to do what I need to do to make them beautiful.

Any tips? Have you struggled with friendships as you've gotten older?

Happy Friday, xx!


June 1, 2016

How is it June already?!

Guys, it's my birth month, as in this upcoming Sunday I turn 30. It's happening. I cannot believe it!

So, other than entering my thirties, I have also done a pretty good job the last month as far as my May Goals are concerned. Let's recap!

Join the gym and go to two classes per week
Eat healthier
Create a budget for debt reduction goals
Continue reading at least daily
Start utilizing my daily devotional more.
See family to celebrate May/June birthdays 

I was so excited to actually start going to the gym more consistently. I wouldn't say I started this at the every beginning of the month, but I was a little behind on setting my goals anyway. I did go to the gym most days last week and a couple of days the week before. It's becoming more routine, so I am going to go ahead and check this one off. I have been eating healthier, and way less junk. I did create a budget for debt reduction, and even found a way to lower my monthly bills. I have been reading a lot more and trying to stay more up to date with current events. I wouldn't say I am disinterested in current events, I just tend to get caught up in life and forget to read. Now, I do this first thing in the morning. I like The Skimm and CNN news. Those help me to stay informed! I did see my family last weekend to celebrate my niece's birthday, so we call kind of saw each other, even though I will celebrate with my Mom this weekend, or next. 

I didn't tithe and didn't keep up with my devotional. I need to be better about that. Typically, when I implement a new thing, one falls off of the wagon. I will get back to doing my devotional at night since that is the best time for me. 

Finish Rising Strong
Meet up with at least one friend and catch up
Win the weight loss challenge at work for June and smoke all of my co-workers (!!!)
Blog at least once per week
Think of other ideas for 30 or 60 Day Challenges

I hope for this month to be productive, full of grace, overcoming challenges, and just being better as I enter my thirties. Here's to a NEW me!