Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Strawberry Sweets

 How cute is it that my ice cream matched my shorts?! The Saturday before Easter my family and I went on a fun outing for some strawberry ice cream.  There is this cute little farm market out in fort mill by Springs Farm.  This farm has pick your own strawberries this time of year but the market sells all sorts of seasonal fruits and veggies as well as baked goods with the fun produce.

They also make their own strawberry ice cream.  It was a hot sunny day.  We mostly spent the weekend roasting on my parents back patio so a fun drive to a farm and some ice cream was definitely in order.  This little market has picnic tables out front so you can sit and enjoy your sweet treats.

That weekend reminded me so much of summer adventures.  Typically fall is my favorite season but there is something about the warm weather, sunshine, and dreams of beach life that has me loving spring so far and looking forward to the lazy fun of summertime.  Cheers to warm days, ice cream, no plans, and seeing where the day takes you.

How do you like to treat yourself? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

How I Meal Plan and Organize My Week

Today is the first day of the bikini series with Tone It Up!  Go beach babes, you got this!! I will be joining you soon :) This week I actually didn't plan or prep anything because I am camping in West Virginia with thirty 4th graders and all of our meals are being provided at the campsite.  I am just going to enjoy the experience and still try to be as healthy as possible with what I have.  

I wanted to share a little of how I typically prep for success for my upcoming week.  It's kind of funny because I used to not be a planner at all.  Then I went to grad school and it all changed.  I had to be super organized - working 2 jobs, taking graduate classes, keeping up with homework, internships, and social obligations - not to mention planning meals for all this running around and trying to fit in workouts. 

Since I am on a budget I started meal planning as well as planning out all my events all together.  I wanted to know what I was doing for the upcoming week so I could plan meals around it or have healthy options to bring with me.  Eating out was never really an option because of the added cost that brings.  

Now I am not in grad school but still living a pretty hectic life I have found peace of mind in being a little prepared for what is coming.  So every week I get out my computer, colored pens, my Passion Planner, and a notepad for lists and get to work.  I check a few things.  1. My school calendar 2. My personal calendar 3. Offline [a fun app that posts events in Charlotte] 4. Tone It Up's weekly schedule for workout 5. My tone it up Nutrition plan.  

First, I put everything into my planner according to the time I want to accomplish things.  I even make sure to write down journal time in there because there is power in writing your goals down and I need that time set aside for prayer and self care! Then I add in workouts from tone it up or classes like bootcamp or yoga that I typically go to with friends during the week.  Lastly I plan out my meals.  I plan out what I am going to eat for every single meal each day of the week.  I try to make it as simple as possible and tone it up has taught me how to reuse ingredients for multiple recipes so nothing goes to waste!  This also helps you be creative with your meals multiple times throughout the week instead of just getting things to make one meal like I used to do [My old roomie / current bestie would be so proud] After the meals are planned I make my grocery list and head out to Trader Joes.  Sometimes I will even prep for the week especially if there is something like muffins I want to eat multiple days but not always.  I pack my lunch for work every night so while I am at it I prep for all my meals for the day ahead. 

I find that I am calmer and more likely to reach my goals when I set aside this time every weekend.  Meal planning and organizing my life with my calendar I feel has made me a bit more successful from week to week.  Of course things always come up but I am not ever far from my planner to check and make adjustments.  Or if I happen to go out to eat I consciously make a healthy choice and then just shifts some meals around. There are so many ways to prepare for the week ahead but I find the most important thing is to think about what you truly want to accomplish.  At the end of the day or the week what will you be proud of yourself for when you look back and plan to do those things!

How do you set yourself up for a successful week?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Recent Reads

I love to read.  Reading, much like writing, inspires me.  I get so engrossed in other peoples stories.  Maybe my love of reading is a reason that I love the theory of narrative therapy so much at work.  Everyone's story is their own and there is such power in sharing our stories.

I often have to consciously not read when life is really busy because I get sucked in and won't do anything else until the story is complete.  I love how reading can take you to other places, people, lands, stories, time periods, etc.  The possibilities are endless in books.  I love stories that evoke feeling and thought.  The ones that leave you in a daze after reading because it's sometimes hard to come back to reality are those that I think about over and over.

One of the reasons I love my breaks from school so much is that I get a chance to read.  Funny aside one beach trip we took as a family - we all literally sat on the beach and read until dark then would walk to the house shower and eat then go back to our books - we counted and among the 5 of us for one beach trip we must have read over 20 books.

Over spring break I got the chance to read two new books that I thought I would share with you all:

The Magnolia Story
by Chip and Joanna Gaines

I mean I am a huge fixer upper fan so this one was a must read on my list.  [Can I just get Joanna to come decorate my apartment/ houses for life?!!?!] I love how real and authentic they are on TV and the book goes so much deeper than that.  They talk about their lives and their journey to fixer upper.  What we see on TV is the glamorous houses they decorate and the empire they have built in Waco but the book goes through the struggles that they experienced to get there.  One of my favorite parts about their story was how, even in the tough times, Joanna trusted in God's will.  Her life is a testimony of surrendering.  Chip is just a genuine caring person, not afraid to work hard, get his hands dirty, and truly serve other people.  No matter what.  This book is a must read for sure.

Two by Two
by Nicholas Sparks

I have read all Nicholas Sparks books and seen all the movies.  Every time a new one comes out I get my hands on it and read it.  I don't care that most of his stuff is super romantic.  I love love and the whimsical way he writes about it.   This book though was very different.  You are not sucked into a super intense romance the way that you are almost all of his other stories.  I will have to admit this one took me a while to read - something that is not my norm as an all in one sitting fast reader.  I was very aggravated by the wife in the story.  Once I got that this novel was not a romance of how the husband and wife met, fell in love, and are rekindling that I actually started to like the story.  The story is really about a dad and his relationship with is young daughter.  I would recommend it if you are a Nicholas Sparks fan and interested in seeing another angle of his stories but be prepared for it not having a love story.

And for a bonus I thought I would list some all time favorites [pictured]:  Jesus Calling / Eat, Pray, Love / Little Women / One Thousand Gifts / LC Celebrate / Safe Haven / Surprised by Joy

Also PS please excuse the dog hair on my pants.  That's the life of black pants with a dog who jumps on the bed! #real

If you have any book recommendations I would love to hear it! I plan on doing more of these book review and round up posts in the future so if you have something to share let me know. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Sunday

Hi sweet friends.  Hope your Easter was absolutely wonderful.  I know Easter is not about me and my dog but I just couldn't help but share our photos.  We had treats to try to get Finn to sit and take a nice Easter picture but instead he was so excited about the treats that the photos are a hot mess.  Love this pup. He always keeps me laughing.

We [me and Finn] celebrated the day with my parents and one of my sisters. It was very low key but Mom made sure to keep to traditions with what we had for Easter dinner.  She incorporated a lot of polish food for the holiday because my Grandma is polish!

Sunday morning was kicked off at church but we had to get there extra early because it's always so crowded! After church we relaxed outside because the weather was gorgeous and mom cooked our dinner.   We ate in the mid afternoon so my sister could head back to Raleigh that evening.

Sometimes Easter is so hard to process and understand.  For one we have all of these secular ways to celebrate the holiday - baskets full of candy and eggs show up in the morning from a bunny.  I mean what?  If you really take a second to think about that, it's quite confusing.   How does that have anything to do with the fact that our Lord and Savior who DIED for our sins just a few days earlier was raised from the dead?  I would really like to know how all of that started.  I am genuinely interested.  I love getting my treat filled basket, don't get me wrong, but this year I started to think about why these are the traditions we seem to hold sacred.

I love days where I get to sit out in the sun, be with family, relax and read good books, and eat delicious food to celebrate an important holiday!

What are some of your Easter traditions? 

Monday, April 17, 2017

When I Miss the Mountains

I am a mountain girl.  I love the beach don't get me wrong.  But there is something about the mountains that brings me an overwhelming feeling of peace.  Maybe it's the fresh air, the outdoor adventure, and the vibrant expression of the seasons through nature.  The mountains were home for 6 years of my life and I loved being able to go hiking at any opportunity.  

Now, I live in the Queen City, which I love, but I don't get to walk out my door and explore a new hiking trail through the mountains.  Sometimes I just miss that.  

The Whitewater Center near Charlotte is full of hiking / mountain biking trails.  I decided to take the plunge and get a parking pass for the year because I was homesick for Boone and outdoor adventure.  I love going over to the USNWC because it just feels like my kind of people.  Everyone is wearing their Chacos, people are hanging their hammocks up from every tree simply spending time outside, there are kayakers constantly in the water, and the trails are definitely something I have been taking advantage of.  

Last week, I was on Spring Break.  I had huge plans of just sitting by my pool and tanning, but then the doors proceeded to be locked and the office told me it won't open until memorial day [what! it's so hot here before then and I am going to need a pool and a tan pronto but I digress] So instead Mike and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go hiking.  

It was a gorgeous spring day.  We decided to do the lake loop this time, it's a 3 mile hike that's pretty easy but takes you around all of the various "lakes" I think it was the best of both worlds being by some sort of body of water and hiking outside. 

I got my mountain fix in and came home feeling more centered and like myself.  Sometimes I really just need to reconnect with my mountain loving self and go for a hike.  

What is your favorite outdoor adventure? 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lenten Reflections | Holy Week

We have now come to Holy Week in the liturgical calendar.  This week is always such a mix of emotions for me.  Today, on Good Friday, we are reminded of what the true purpose of all this lenten preparation is for.  Jesus surrendering his own life for all of ours because of us.

Before I get to that, let's back track a little bit.

We kick off Holy Week with Palm Sunday.  Amazing how in one weeks time everything changes.  Life is like that too.  How something significant can happen in a moment and suddenly last week seems so distant and foreign.  Same thing with Jesus.  He was welcomed into the city.  He rode in on a donkey while people waved palm branches at him. A true ancient Jerusalem celebrity welcome. We read the passion gospel all together at mass.  The church plays the part of the crowd yelling "crucify him" I am always so humbled by those words.  My sin put Jesus on that cross so if I was there would I be yelling crucify him with the crowds?  Always something to think about.  Just another reminder how quickly Jesus week turned.

Yesterday, was Holy Thursday.  This mass is my favorite mass out of the whole year.  We celebrate the passover meal.  The last supper with Jesus.  We are taught to wash others feet just like Jesus did for his disciples that evening.  He gives us one last reminder that our lives on earth should be in service of others therefore we are serving him.  Jesus broke bread with his followers and demonstrated what he wants us to do.  It's really the birth of the eucharist which is the gift that we have the blessing of receiving as a result of Jesus sacrifice. We then walk with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane for a time of adoration and prayer with Jesus.  It is here that Jesus, with agony, begins his surrendering to God's will.

Today, the passion of our Lord.  Jesus is crucified. He died for our sins.  He gave up his life for mine.  The significance of that is sometimes so heavy to process.  Sometimes it's so hard to look at the cross and then look within to truly face the reality.  Today, I challenge you, to look.  Take it all in.  Don't think ahead to Easter and pretty dresses and celebrations.  Sit for a moment in the dark and reflect on what Jesus has done.

How are you spending time with the Lord this Holy Week?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

OMB Yoga On Tap

photo credit: Yoga On Tap

One of my favorite things to do here in Charlotte is attend yoga classes with friends.  Not just any yoga classes, because I am not in a position in my life or my budget to join a studio, free or cheap yoga classes at breweries are my thing.  I talked about the classes I love in this post.

I wanted to delve a little deeper today into OMB's yoga classes.  OMB is a local brewery here in Charlotte that is really paving the way for the local beer movement but more than that they are always looking to give back.  Their yoga classes recently have really brought people in the community together and given me a little more exposure to some non-profits here in Charlotte.

One class I attended all the proceeds went to the local hospital to benefit the heart and vascular unit.  Other classes they do bring local instructors from all over the city to give them exposure.  Then the other week we went to a class benefitting the Metrolina Association for the Blind.

This class was phenomenal in so many ways.  We were completely blindfolded the whole time, which took my yoga practice to a new level.  Suddenly poses that I feel are so typical and easy became a way for me to topple over and lose my balance.  I always feel so strong in my body during yoga but never realized how much I depend on my sight during a full class.

Think about it.  The instructor says something and you might not catch it so you peak over at your neighbor to make sure you are doing the right thing.  You are in a pose and need to make slight adjustments so you glance down at your feet to check the positioning.  When you are in tree pose and the instructor says now close your eyes - forget about it - timber goes the tree.

It took one class of being blindfolded to have me realize how much I take for granted the privilege of sight.  P.S. I wear contacts because my vision is so bad [my glasses don't fully correct my astigmatism] but I have the ability to have my vision corrected so I am privileged. I was uncomfortable with myself, unsure of if I was doing everything correctly, and the blindfold kept falling down my face as an extra nuisance and something to worry about during class.

I am so grateful for OMB Yoga On Tap for bringing these types of classes to the brewery, friends who are willing to take risks by my side, and the chance to truly reflect on how blessed I am.

What have you done lately that reminded you of a simple privilege you have? 

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's Been Two Years

I love reflecting on life.  My favorite past time is taking pictures so I can look back through them and cherish the memories of those moments captured in time.  I have tons of scrapbooks taking up space in my hall closet full of smiles, adventures, and bad hair days haha.

We don't really take photos and craft a cute scrapbook about the tough stuff in life.  Those are the days where the camera is collecting dust on the shelf.  Tears are typically shed.  Prayers are uttered in quiet rooms for some relief.

It's been two years exactly [as of yesterday] that I had a pretty scary situation.  I haven't really shared my story or my thoughts on it besides conversations with close friends, but I felt like it was time to reflect on how that moment changed the course of my life.

On April fools day, two years ago, I woke up with the most intense pain ever.  I ran through all sorts of scary thoughts in my head wondering what the heck was wrong with me.  I called my mom in tears on the bathroom floor hoping for the pain to pass and it never did.  Then I started texting and calling all of my grad school friends - I needed a ride to the ER. asap. Something just wasn't right in my body. After a day in the ER, feeling terrified undergoing tests and ultrasounds but no one really saying anything to me.  I could just read on the doctors and technicians faces that whatever was going on was unusual.  I was so scared because I truly had no idea and neither did they.  I ended up getting discharged with an appointment to see an ob/ gyn the next day.

My doctor was very kind and walked me through everything.  She said I had a dermoid cyst on my uterus that was very large and she wanted to operate as soon as possible.  We scheduled the surgery - me wide eyed - wondering how something so big could just be hanging out inside me with out me knowing.  My parents made arrangements to come stay with me the next week and we got a friend to take care of my dog while I was recovering and then I just waited for the big day.

The day of surgery is a blur.  Anesthesia and pain meds will do that to you.  Apparently, I sent my sister some very flattering snap chat selfies that she took screenshots of.  I guarantee those will make an appearance at a very opportune moment for humiliation purposes.

I do remember my doctor coming in and checking on me. She explained that when they made the cut the doctors realized that I didn't have a dermoid cyst, I had a fibroid tumor that was way larger than originally anticipated.  They had to extend my incision to ensure they could take the whole thing out.  This was only supposed to be an out patient surgery but because of the unexpected fibroid inside of me I had to stay overnight.

The fibroid was benign, praise God, but it still made a huge impact on my life.  I am left with a reminder of the fear, anxiety, and unknown every single day since I have a 5 inch almost c-section like scar on my stomach.  My recovery was hard.  The week before I was in the ER I had just run a race with a bunch of friends.  Now, I was being told not to work out and take it easy.  I could barely walk to classes.  I had to take a month off of work as a server.

Moments like these aren't in the scrapbooks.  They are burned into our brain remembering every feeling, every thought, every moment.  I resolved to always be brave.  To take risks.  To live my life to the fullest. To do things that make my heart happy way more often.  I made a commitment to be even healthier and take care of my body.  The human body is an incredible thing and we only get one of them.  I am proud to say that I was able to recover and run my first half marathon by the end of that summer.  What an incredible emotional experience that was, knowing that months earlier I was in the hospital, but my body was able to run 13.1 miles in the mountains.

Sometimes I am struck by the fear of asking myself - what if it happens again?  Then I remember how blessed I have been in the past 2 years.  All of the things I have accomplished.  The relationships with people I love that have only gotten deeper and stronger as a result.  I am so thankful that God teaches me little lessons every day about how amazing this life truly is.  My tough moment isn't in a scrapbook, it doesn't have to be, I carry the scar with me, but I learn from it every single day.

What has been a pivotal moment in your history? 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lenten Reflections | Week 5

This is the last week of lent.  Next week is holy week.  We have been preparing for this upcoming week for five whole weeks.  Doing this series has made me be a little more intentional in my devotions and streamlined my journaling process as well.  Writing helps me really understand what is going on in my head.  Plus, bloggers have an incredible platform to take risks, be brave, and share our faith.

This week has been an interesting week in the readings.  Jesus is continuing to make waves in his travels and miracles.  One thing I have noticed though is that the people that are against him already have faith.  They have faith in the Jewish tradition.  They are clinging to their truth in the old testament.  Their belief for so long has been that this radical king was coming to save him.  Then when he is right in front of their eyes - they can't see - they don't believe.

The people though whose lives are changed, who believe, who are going out and spreading the word about what they heard and saw; these people had no faith before or believed in something completely different than the Jews.

This got me thinking about the church today.  I have always cried such ugly tears when people share their amazing testimony.  The greatest testimonies and most evangelical believers seem to be those who have gone through the most intense hardship and struggle in their lives.  Their stories are moving, completely 100% life changing, heart stopping, full of love, devotion, transformation, and worship.  Then I pause.  My testimony looks nothing like that.

I am a cradle catholic, raised in the faith from birth by the most incredible, faithful, loving parents.  I grew up memorizing prayers, reading the bible, saying the rosary, lighting advent candles, going to church every Sunday + holy days.  My family in NC is made up of people my parents met through church, since our blood family all reside such great distances away.  Most friends I know who grew up in the church have since drifted away too.  A sad reality in our current world.

I question if Jesus were right in front of me like he was to the Jews would I be willing to surrender all my history to follow him? The people in the bible who dropped everything, those who share their stories and alter their course of their life - they did and do every single day.

Just because I was raised in faith doesn't mean that Jesus hasn't done his fair share of molding and changing me within but thinking about the Pharisees has me thinking.  I want to choose Jesus over everything else. I want to believe when I see him right in front of me.  I want to be willing to surrender it all for His transformation of my life.

How has surrendering altered the course of your life?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Currently | April

April showers are in full swing here in NC.  Seems like we have had rain then gorgeous weather then stormy downpours.  The weather can never make up it's mind this time of year.  I am linking up with Anne and Jess for this months edition of currently.

accomplishing: All of my work done before spring break so that I can have a week full of rest, family, and be ready for the remainder of the school year. 

feeling: Grateful for a family who even though we are now spread apart [working girls and all] we set time to "hangout" all together - thanks google! 

needing: Spring break to get here.  We have one more day with students and a workday standing in the way of my plans to get a big stack of books from the library and read them by the pool. 

practicing: Yoga 2x a week now.  It has been my favorite way of practicing self care lately - I feel so strong and healthy after a yoga session. 

pinning: All the plants and decor items.  Green plants have been my favorite way to give the house a fresh feel.  They are so fun and pretty. 

What are you currently up to? 

Monday, April 3, 2017

10 Happy Things

Happy April, sweet friends.  Reflecting back on March and the month that it has been can be summed up in one word; insane.  The thing about being a school counselor is that most everything that I deal with is confidential.  Which is great until some pretty intense stuff happens that I just can't share.  To be honest, if I did tell, the average lay person would probably not believe that those are the things I encounter on a daily basis.  Each day, I never know what I am going to get, then when you add up every single day together it's kind of mind blowing.

I know that's super vague but I will say that after this month I am trying to find more ways to separate my work life from everything else.  My days are consumed with being "on it" and if I come home and still worry about everything from my day my whole life becomes affected.

One thing that helps is gratitude.  So I decided to make a happy list of all the things I am loving lately.

1. Happy green plants growing by the window in pretty pots.
2. Yoga sessions that get me out of my head and remind me of the strength in my body.
3. Puppy tail wiggles and kisses when I walk through the door.
4. Friend dates with deep conversation and lots of laughter.
5. Sunshine bringing warmth to my skin.
6. Flowy spring dresses and fun sandals to make a cute outfit.
7. Hikes on new trails and witnessing signs of new life in nature.
8. Achieving goals, making plans, and dreaming for the future.
9. Journaling every morning over a fresh cup of coffee to wake up my soul.
10. Spring cleaning and organizing that helps clear out my mind and home of clutter.

What is on your happy list?
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