just be YOU.

I feel like it’s been an eternity since I’ve written anything, (besides bills and sticky notes), yet the past month has truly flown by. Working full time has been a major adjustment, since all of my life I’ve been a full-time student and part-time everything else. While there are so many things I love about my job (the studio, the people, the industry), I’ve struggled to keep up with daily tasks like laundry and cleaning and getting a meal on the table each night. There have definitely been moments where I’ve thrown my hands up and said, in a less than pleasant tone, “WE’RE WALKING DOWNTOWN TO EAT.”

But overall, we’re doing well.

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One thing I’ve noticed in this transition is my lack of creativity, or at least exhibiting it. While the atmosphere I work in is one full of creatives, I haven’t crafted, decorated, written, or even organized my closet (if some would consider color coding a creative outlet) in quite a while. Brent’s been practicallly begging me to do a craft, or write a blog, or something therepeutic for the sake of both our sanitys. As I begin to list the things I haven’t been doing in exchange for a whole lot of new things I have, I realize more than ever the importance of being true to me,

true to yourself.

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When I was six I knew who I was. I liked the color pink, a lot. I refused to wear practically anything but a Minnie Mouse dress with built in shorts. I collected dolphins, stamps and postcards, and I prayed for braces, glasses and a broken leg (so I could wear a hot pink cast of course). If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d say a ballerina…or an actress..or a singer…

When I was 12 I wondered who I was. My body was changing, my friends were changing, and I found my self confidence in choker necklaces and oversized t-shirts. I liked to read and I loved the Colonial Era. I collected American Girl dolls, and was hopelessly homesick on every adventure I went on (Chicago, NYC, Costa Rica).

When I was 16 I hated who I was. I felt awkward in my own skin, compared myself to everyone around me, and spent my Dutch Wonderland pay checks on anything considered “cool.” I woke up two hours early just to perfect my appearance for school, and believed that winning the yearbook’s “Best Dressed” superlative was the best thing that could ever happen to me.

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I am 22 and I’m remembering who I am. I believe now, more than ever before, that it is crucial to know and be true to who you are, who you were created to be. If I shut down the part of  me that was made to love life, enjoy beauty, be creative and find joy in each day, then I am putting my head down and saying “I just have to get through another day.

Who really wants to live like that?

More importantly, Who really was created to live like that?

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As life evolves there will be seasons: of rest, of craziness, of school and work and marriage and babies and all those beautiful things that may come. Do not lose your identity in any of it. Do not attach yourself to that moment you are in, because the moment may past, and you will be lost.

I am learning that, as much as I am a full-time wife, holding a full-time job, and living out practical responsibilities, the Lord has created me for things that I need to thrive.

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I am 22 and I love where I’m at. I am married to my best friend. I love to bake and cook and shop and decorate. I am relatively neat, but behind closed doors (aka. my closet) you will find a disaster. I cry a little too easily at most everything, brush my teeth like 19 times a day, and in a dream world i’d be in bed at 9 every night. Crafts are my favorite, and writing makes me feel alive. I’m a person of atmosphere (for instance I have music going, candles lit, twinkle lights on and a mug of honey laden tea by my side) and I clean when I’m stressed. I am a coffee drink addict, (but I think I just like holding something).

I was created to truly live and to truly love, and I don’t want to lose that.

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So take it from me, a girl who is finding herself overwhelmingly busy and choosing her hardest not to drown in it. It could be so easy to succumb to life’s craziness. But I have been asking the Lord to remind me who I am, to help me carve out time for the things and people I love, and to do my very best to live above the pressures real life just brings.

I want a fresh perspectiveinspirationa nudge in the direction of joy.

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p.s. A little Hostetter update: We not only have not-so-baby-anymore chickens, we’re growing LETTUCE on our concrete slab of a porch! Who says there’s no such thing as urban farming?

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xoxo LOVE YOU ALL!

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confessions of a control freak.

I have a confession to make.

Lately my life focus has been on one thing, and one thing alone. Getting us out of our little apartment and into our very own home. It has come to the point where Brent offered to pay me five dollars every day that I don’t bring up moving, buying a house, or my discontentment with where we are now. So far I’ve got an empty glass jar sitting on our dresser, but I’m sure that i’ll start bringing in the cash any day now… [since I’ve already ruined my chances by 1PM on a Sunday afternoon…]

If you are wondering why I would ever want to move, what could possible be wrong with my precious little abode, or how I could even wish more for my life, I have one word for you. Discontentment. Actually maybe nine words. The grass is always greener on the other side. 

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I say all this in humor, but seriously, in the process of all this house nonsense, our goals for the year, even for the summer, and me attempting to “pinch pennies” which is truly not me at all, I feel like a specific message has been made very clear.

The good things in my life are not produced by my own control.

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[1.]

My love story is the very most perfect example of this. Picture an 18 year old girl who is heart broken over the fact that her high school sweet heart just ended it for the last time, that her hopes and dreams of marriage and babies and not having to finish college are crushed, and in fact her very future is ruined. Wondering how she could pull herself up off the living room floor, wipe the mascara off her face and live her life like a normal person [have you noticed by this point that I am a drama queen?].

But let me tell you, this girl never thought that same high school sweetheart would walk back into her life two years later, she never planned that he would be her very own one day. 

I tried the whole manipulation thing with Brent, and it was not becoming. In fact it was icky and gross and looked clingy and pathetic. By my own control I could not salvage our relationship, or what I thought we had. It was not until I released my vision for life and said, Ok Lord. Do what you will because I am just a mess.

That was when he brought Brent back.

I laid him on the table, the Lord said pick it back up.

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21st birthdays, [2012]. 

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[2.]

Fast forward four years. Graduating college, something I never really thought I’d do. Searching for jobs in all the wrong places, being ok with time to rest and space to learn and discover. But not really being ok. Every time I sat in front of Lancaster Online job listings or dug through Chamber of Commerce boards I came up not only empty handed, but also very stressed. 

Well maybe I could make that work, maybe I could put up with it depending on the pay.

I don’t know, I could see myself doing that… Being that…Working for them. Anything to fill this void of who I am. I’m no longer a student, I need a job.

But I felt like I was where I needed to be.

It was once I laid down my expectations and took a little break [which in reality is not the end of the world to do after 15 years of some level of schooling], that I walked into the studio at Jeremy Hess Photographers and was offered a job that fit me perfectly. 

Starting this past week I took a position as Studio Coordinator for a business built around creativity, reallness, and a love for people. A position I couldn’t have dreamed up if I tried.

Release control, allow good things to come.

Because who ever really said, Good things come to those who control?

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[work with my favorite photographer and friend].

 

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**To those who are struggling, with relationships, with life decisions, with college and jobs and all that stuff.**

I totally get hurting from break ups, it really is life changing. I also get, in a very fresh-on-my-mind way, trying to figure out what life is supposed to look like. How will I support myself? How will I use my degree? What am I supposed to be doing in life?

There are practicalities to life, stuff you just have to figure out, go to the Lord and the people around you for guidance, and get decisive on. The question is, are you trying to control your life or are you trying to go where the Lord leads, listen for His voice, and are you willing to lay down what you have to, instead of pressuring yourself to make it happen?

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While I am dreaming of houses and backyards and more kitchen counter space, I am trying to choose looking back at my life and the patterns created. It isn’t until I do this that I am able to release the moment, and realize that the main good things in my life were not created by me and my planning, penny pinching or controlling of my circumstances/the people around me. Searching Prudential home listings like it’s my day job will not get me very far if I am not willing to just let it go

let go, 

control never brought good things anyway

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the challenge of sacrifice.

Lent.

I feel like every year it rolls around and I’m googling, going what is that again? [confessions of a true preacher’s kid]. I know about “Fat Tuesday,” Fasnacht Day, and my this-week-recent epiphany that those aren’t just a Lancaster County thing, it’s Pancake Day to the rest of the world. 

But what is lent again?

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I really love the way Ann Voskamp describes it in her own variation of what this day means.

“Okay… Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”

So it’s that time before Easter when we prepare, we think on, we realize the greatness of what once happened that has forever changed us. Meditation on the foundation of Christian belief. 

What is lent to you?

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Somewhere along the line I picked up on this whole giving up stuff for lent trend. I gave up my share of social media sites ranging from the days of Xanga to the more recent, e-mail. I traded in my fav rap music for WJTL, and at one point I completely gave up shopping for anything deemed “unneccesary.” (At that point I was living at home so this ruled out pretty much everything). I was devoted in my choices and diligent in my upkeep, asking friends and family to hold me accountable, and even handing my debit card over to my mother. But there is one lent I will never forget.

Five years ago I gave up desserts for lent, and it led me down a path that I never would have chosen. In my mind I was choosing something that, like my many other pledges, meant something to me and would be difficult to live without. I’m a sucker for chocolate and this seemed like the most appropriate choice to induce due suffering during this time of sacrifice. It didn’t take long for the legalism in me to grow, “Sorry I can’t eat that chewy bar, it’s s’more flavored and that is a dessert.” “The ingredients on this box of oat bran say 5g sugar, I would probably consider this a dessert.” “Yea, um, peanut butter is used in icing and icing is a dessert soooo..no thanks.” 

 

You get the picture. 

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If you’ve read my story before then you can guess where this is going. It was about this time, five years ago, that I allowed myself to fall into a trap of obsession that led me where I never should have gone. I wasn’t choosing lent as a means of intimacy with the Lord, I was choosing it as a means of control, a good kick-in-the-butt to get me where I wanted to go but just hadn’t. 

I would spend too much, then panic, so I’d offer up spending.

I’d like and post and comment too much so I’d freak out and delete the app.

I’d wanna get fit so why not swear off “bad foods?” 

and the list goes on.

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This is not a piece written with the intent to criticize. Whether you celebrate lent with sacrifice or you don’t celebrate at all, you are the one who knows the heart in your decisions.

This is my challenge to you.

Is lent really in the purging and the self-criticism if we break? Is it about how long we can stay away? And God-forbid we succumb, because then the fast is broken.

What is the heart behind your lent, behind your pledge to give of time, of resources, of yourself?

I believe that there is a beauty in the failure, because that is when I am truly saying

 

thank You. I need You. what You did, it’s incomparable.

incomprehensible. 

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“Lent isn’t about forfeiting stuff as much as it’s about spiritual formation.

…To empty the soul to know the filling of God.”

-Ann Voskamp

perspective.

Some days I feel like my head is in a cloud. Not a pretty, fluffy, dreamy cloud. More like a dark, dense, stormy one.

Some nights I tell my husband, Brent- I wish it was just you & me on this earth becuase everyone else stresses me out. And other nights I think, I wish it was just me on this earth, ’cause even Brent stresses me out.

Some days it feel like I’m fighting just to get ahead, to pass myself and my grouchiness, my negative attitude and my complainy heart. I just want to go to bed and wake up with a clean slate, erase these feelings, this day.

perspective.

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These past few weeks have been some of those weeks You know when you respond to “How are you?” with “Oh you know, it’s been one of those days.” ? Well multiply that day by about 12 and you’ve got me lately. Or at least my perspective on the situation.

When I allow my thoughts to spiral in a path of negativity suddenly life is a mess dotted with a few spots of beauty, rather than beauty dotted with a few spots of mess. I’ve recognized that the most dangerous thing with my thoughts is when I lose sight of reality because I’m so bogged down with details that I think I percieve.

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Something I’ve dealt with throughout my life, and now more then ever in my marriage, is perspective.

“Are you sure the teacher was yelling at you, Katie, or was she speaking to the class?”

“Did your sister insult you, or was she just being matter-of-fact?”

“Did I say I hate you? No. I’m simply disappointed.”

and the list goes on…

In my marriage it looks even uglier…something more like…

“I don’t love that color on you.”

He thinks I’m so ugly.

“This isn’t my favorite meal you’ve made.”

He thinks I’m the worst cook that ever walked the earth.

“I wish you would organize your closet.”

He’s wondering what he got himself into, his wife is a messy disaster.

(Ok so, that last one may be true… 🙂 but you get the picture.)

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As I’ve grown, learned to know myself and my tendencies better, there has been a consistent pattern to fight against.

warped perspective.

My natural tendency is not to hear what people are saying as it is, but to interpret what I believe they mean. Not to trust that they are being honest, saying it like it is. It is not to see life as a reality, but to worry about everything I’m doing wrong, everything that could happen.

If you can relate, then you know, this can be paralyzing.

But this is no way to live. In fact, this has got to be one of the worst ways to live. Living in assumption of the untrue, allowing days to pass unaware of the depth of beauty to be found.

perspective’s got the best of me

but what if I flipped it?

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Thank God, perspective is a choice. Just as I allow my mind to fly one direction, I can redirect it to reality, to truth, to blessings and joy and the fullness of life as I live it, not simply as I see it.

1. Be transparent. When you’re living in a big cloud, transparency seems practically opposite your natural tendency, but oh how refreshing it is to share. I experienced this even today, with a much needed phone call from a friend.  Often times a reality check and some encouragement is all I need to let go of stress, anxiety, whatever is weighing me down in the moment. And if you think you’re alone in the journey, you’re wrong. Each of us feels it at some point, whether it’s the struggle for contentment, the fear of people, or the disjointed view of a situation. We all need reality, and journeying together is way more fun then traveling alone.

2. Shut it down. For me, it’s become a conscious decision, sometimes daily, to be positive. To choose joy. To open my day with prayer and allow the Lord in so there’s no room for all the junk I can soak up, even unknowingly. Throughout my day if I’m keeping up communication with Him I feel so much more refreshed then when I stuff my emotions.

3. Readjust your focus. Thankfullness is the best choice you could ever make, I promise! When I start choosing, I find it contagious. Sometimes it means physically listing off the beauty of that day, other times it’s refocusing my thoughts on someone else. Who can I bless today? Who can I help?

I found this verse today and it’s packed full of what I needed to hear, and need to keep hearing.

Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.

This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.

It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.

For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 

1 John 3:18 MSG

4. Treat yourself. As intentional as you are with your thoughts, there is always that moment when you just need a break. Perspective isn’t always warped, sometimes life is just that crazy. Take a break, even if it’s for the tiniest bit. Treat yourself to creamer laden coffee and an episode of something good, or at least sit down for a sec! If you’re like me, when productivity sets in there’s no stopping you, but I’m always amazed at how time multiplies and my image of what’s ahead changes by simply allowing myself to rest.

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Blogging is cheap therapy. Writing helps me process, reminds me of what’s true and good, relays my thoughts when I can’t vocalize in any profound sense. This could be one of those moments,

because I’m feeling refreshed…

And thankful? I’m feeling that too.

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sweet moments of time from this week alone.

[thankful]

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for this morning’s coffee and a microwave on constant reheat

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for the street light that reminds me of summer night moons

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for the snow covered park two blocks from home

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for dusting off the juicer and drinking my vegetables

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for a weekend trip to Philadelphia and my favorite flagship store

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for bagels on bagels on bagels [my favorite guilty pleasure]

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for folding laundry and friendship combined

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for the aftermath of yummy food and sweet memories

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for lavender & honey Yogi tea. experiencing “tension relief” together

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for the one I am privileged to do life with

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for these things, I give thanks.

12 Ways to Warm Up to Winter

Since my husband works in construction, snow is probably his greatest enemy. I, on the other hand, am a secret (but not so secret) snow lover. I get so much joy out of days off and roads closed it’s ridiculous, but I think we can all agree this is definitely a long, harsh winter. I feel like it’s around this time of year that things start to go downhill. You hit Valentine’s Day and then suddenly it feels like nothing is worth looking forward to and there’s an awkward pause before spring. Here are some ways that I am choosing/learning to enjoy this winter, and love where I’m at for all it’s worth.

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1. Crisp & Fresh Decor. I have recently become a fresh flower fanatic. I just love having them anywhere in my home, cause they really do brighten a room. Fresh bouquets can be a little pricey during this season, so I’ve turned to greens as my creative outlet. I love to incorporate jars of them wherever I can, mix them with other flowers, or use them to in centerpieces when I’m entertaining. Another perfect solution I’ve recently discovered is Paperwhites. These bulbs are so low maintenance, I mean it’s almost too good to be true for a girl who wasn’t blessed with gardening skills… I picked up a couple at Central Market for $1.50 each, put them in jars, keep up with the water and they simply grow. I love the touch of spring they bring to my home, i’m so impressed they’ve lived this long.

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2. Find Reasons to Celebrate. I am always up for a holiday, a party, anything that means friends and celebrations. In the winter (and all year round) I thrive off of finding ways to make each day special. Whether it’s celebrating Valentine’s Week rather than day, holding an authentic Irish dinner for St. Patrick’s Day, or dropping little “Have a good day” gifts on people’s doorsteps. When I focus on others I find so much more life than succumbing to the winter blues.

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3. Enjoy the cozy & comfy. It’s easy for me to pull on some sweats and Brent’s hoodie and go into hibernation mode, but you don’t have to dress down to feel comfy and warm. I feel ten times better when I do something, anything to my hair, put on a little make up and even just wear a pair of jeans.

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[some of my cold weather faves. waffle sweater//gap. infinity scarf//h&m. lace band leggings// forever 21. cable knit socks// bath & body. embellished fingerless gloves// target.]

4. Get your fill of fresh. I’ve always had a goal to eat my fruits and vegetables each day. In the winter it feels 10x harder. Recently I’ve been pulling out the blender and making smoothies as a yummy way to get these nutrients. Vegetables seem harder for me to eat throughout the day so throwing kale or spinach in with my frozen fruit is the perfect solution. We love the frozen fruit medley at Costco and a huge bag is only $10.

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5. Workout. I’ve mentioned this before, and as hard as it feels to get up and get going, the best thing I can do to kick that blah feeling is move. If it’s too snowy to make it to the gym I do a combination of great workouts I’ve found online. Cassey is slightly ridiculous sometimes but she keeps me occupied and is great for strength training. Fitness Blender is another great one I’ve recently discovered, and use to get my cardio in.

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6. Winter is the perfect time for easy cooking. I always think of winter as the more complex of the seasons as far as meals go. That was before I discovered a Pinterest, a million delicious soup recipes, and came to the realization that soup is easy. When I have broth for a base, some kind of grain (rice, potatoes, pasta), a variety of vegetables and a source of protein I can usually come up with some savory soup. Another thing I love to make on cold and snowy days is quiche. Again, staples you have in your fridge, a way to use up lots of leftover ingredients, and easy!

Here is a delicious recipe for Bok Choy Chicken soup. It’s light and healthy but feels like warm comfort food on a snowy day.

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7. Love those hot drinks. I don’t think i’ve ever enjoyed a mug of something hot more than I have this winter. During the day I love a cup of hot tea, when a friend comes to chat I pull out the french press and some new creamers, and when we have a snow day or company coming I get creative. Snow days typically mean homemade hot cocoa (2 cups sugar to 1 cup cocoa powder). SO easy and SO irresistable. One evening we had friends over and tried making our own egg nog. Another super delicious and simple recipe that I’ve used multiple times since. 

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8. Cleanse your closet. What better way to spend a day stuck at home than going through all those clothes you never wear. I almost always find something that I forgot existed (so it’s practically like shopping all over again) and a million things I know I’ll never wear. I try and keep in mind the last time I wore an item, envision myself actually wearing it out and if I’m really struggling I’ll text my sisters for a second opinion. My current closet is a little too small for my clothes, so until we have a house where my clothes get their own room (one of my secret dreams :), ) I am cleaning like every month just to organize! My most recent cleanse led to color coordination, which has made picking outfits way more fun.

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9. Tackle a project. If you have a husband he might hate me for this, but I’m always up for a new project. I can’t wait for a bigger house with more rooms to re-do, but in the meantime I’ve found my fair share. The most recent was this dream-come-true chalkboard wall which Brent played a huge part in!

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10. Shop spring. While I’m living winter I’m dreaming of warmer weather, and I believe there’s nothing wrong with shopping for deals to prepare your wardrobe for those sunny days. I am always on the lookout for cute clearance items that I can add to my “spring collection” (A shelf in our bedroom just waiting for me). Even if I find a good deal that I can’t wear now, I try to think “How happy would I be to have this three months from now?” The answer is almost always very happy.

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[shorts//g.h. bass, $2.99 each. tank top//gap, $2.79. scarf//j. crew, $6.50.]

11. Read [Relax]. I used to love reading, I obviously love writing, but I feel like college kind of (in the kindest sense of the phrase) sucked the life out of it. I always had to read, so when I didn’t have to it was the last thing I wanted. Since graduation I’ve slowly picked up some books and gotten back into it. I feel like now is the time, summer will only get crazier, and as difficult as relaxing can be for me, I know it’s good. YOU deserve it!

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[currently reading// bread & wine by shauna niequist.]

12. How about a hobby? Hobbies sound kind of ridiculous to me. I imagine my 10 year-old-self with my postcard collection and want to laugh out loud. But this winter a friend taught me to crochet, and I think I’ve gained a whole new perspective on hobbies. I love the fact that I can “be productive” while watching Friday Night Lights or chatting with a friend, and I’m actually making something I would wear or gift… (Don’t call me for lessons though, I’m a terrible teacher. I hear YouTube has good tutorials… 🙂 )

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So some of you are still not sold on winter, I’m sure of it. But I guarantee you, SPRING IS COMING! And in the meantime, why not enjoy where we’re at?

When the Cookie Crumbles…

It was one of those days. Make that, one of those weekends. I had packed our schedule full as could be cause I just love to say yes and hate to say, “We’re busy.” Brent was OK this time, cause he wasn’t involved in all the plans I had made, and the plans he was involved in included snowboarding, burritos and the Olympics. Food and sports. Enough said. 

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I, on the other hand, was grasping for air. We were having one of those weeks that was full of on again off again irritation. “Why is your hair in the drain?” “Well why is your underwear on the bathroom floor?” “You didn’t pack chips in my lunch on purpose.” “Well you are going to thank me in ten years for limiting your saturated fat intake.” “Why don’t you just watch that show on the TV instead of that tiny screen?” “Why don’t you just stop playing Minion Rush and pay attention to me.” And the list goes on. (I will not disclose who the said Minion Rush player was). 

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Although we were busy, too busy I’ll admit, and we definitely were getting at each other’s nerves, we were ok. We were good. In fact, the more I talked myself into it, we were great. I had everything under control. Act happy toward my husband, smile at everyone, keep calm & carry on, right?

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I was headed out the door for a baby shower. Cookies. I had promised to bring cookies which were currently in a pan on the kitchen counter. I grabbed a knife and began to slice. Let me just tell you, never try a new recipe when you promise to bring something somewhere. Especially to an event with people (which pretty much rules out every event I’d assume). My peanut butter oat bar cookies were more like peanut butter granola. I truly considered the option of running to the grocery store for yogurt, and saying I had changed my mind to parfaits instead, but time would not allow. So I burst into tears. [A much cheaper option I’d say]. 

When the cookie crumbles.

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You’ve heard that phrase, the straw that broke the camels back. I would like to suggest that I am the camel, my peanut butter oat bars are the straw. Everything was going great. Lot’s of snow days, lot’s of memories, lot’s of quality time with Brent. I had girls nights, I had me time, we had a full social calendar. Our little spats? Minor bumps in the road to a perfect life. I had planned to cruise right over them, because when you got it, you got it good. Life is going the way I say it is. Life is good when I’m in control. 

But when those darn cookies crumble. Then suddenly my life is over, suddenly all the success of these weeks, this month, are negated. Because I couldn’t keep the freaking cookies together. 

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How do you measure success? I was measuring mine by keeping up with my jam packed schedule, by getting a perfect dinner on the table, waking up in the morning to go to the gym, to work, to spend time with a friend, get clean sheets on the bed and still spare a moment to paint my toes. My schedule, my lists and plans were all coming to fruition, each day a new check off the to-do list. My annoyances with Brent were nothing because I could just pretend they weren’t there, pretend I was fine, submit and move on. But let me tell you, you can’t lead a life like that forever, you will break. And when you finally do break, it may be over something as silly as your cookies crumbling to bits. 

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I feel like every single day is a new lesson to be learned, and lately I’ve been learning, and re-learning, and re-re-learning an important one. I am learning to deal with my heart, to be real with my heart, to push past the perfect life and work through the stuff of every situation. When I measure success by a job well done, by a schedule well followed, then I am not only limiting myself to a chokehold of my own control, I am also bound to fail. Bound to burst at some point. When I recognize each issue and tackle them as they come, I am much less likely to experience outbursts similar to my little cookie situation.

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 Join me in dealing with the heart stuff, cause shutting down won’t last forever.

 

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23 North Lime

{an ode to the first home sweet home I ever made- inspired by snow and being stuck here}

 

23 North Lime.

My first home away from home. The only big move I ever really made, besides Baltimore to Lancaster…but being 8 at the time those memories are fuzzy. This little apartment, one fourth of a house in downtown Lancaster, seemed fine for me-on my own-with my roommate, but I’d always envisioned a full sized house when I pictured marriage. Then again, I never pictured marriage as a college student…or anywhere near college age. As we dream and save and consider the next step, I think about our space. The place where so many firsts have been, and will be, experienced. The place where we laugh, and cry, and snuggle, a lot. We have created a life in this place, and I truly do love it.

You know that saying,

what I love most about my home is who I share it with~

At the risk of being totally cliche, I’d say I am experiencing this. 

 The beauty of where we live is the people above and beside us. The neighbors up and down the street. The friends we’ve grown closer to as we just share life together. Where else could I move that exchanging a cup of orange juice for a fresh baked cookie is relatively easy and perfectly normal? Or where most of the coffee shops in town have been or once were represented. (I exaggerate. We’re talking Prince Street & Starbucks, but that’s enough for me. 🙂 )

Snow days are my favorite part.

Everything stops. The city is pretty terrible at plowing us out, so we’re stuck. But we’re not stuck alone. Days off mean Settlers tournaments, using each other’s Netflix accounts, bombarding snowball attacks upon exiting the building and the treacherous trek to Prince Street Cafe for that tenth cup of coffee. Opening the door to an empty fridge means gearing up for a two minute walk to Roaring Brook Market, at least for eggs and milk. And baking treats is perfectly acceptable because there is always someone who will eat them. Even in an ice storm the nice old doctor who parks next to me was salting my front step. I think that maybe this is the closest thing I’ll ever feel to living in an old-fashioned small town. (At least I like to pretend it is. Maybe I should start churning my own butter on the cement block I call my porch 🙂 ). The best parts are the evenings, when we all gather what we’ve got and create a meal together. Homemade soft pretzels & cocoa, breakfast for dinner, soup-salad-&-bread.

There’s something so cozy about knowing who you are surrounded by. About loving the people you live with, and about calling the friend upstairs for a cup of coffee during a “blizzard.” 

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On Monday I had an epiphany. I’m really gonna miss this. Someday, when we’re out of the city, when our home stands alone, I will treasure the memories of 23 North Lime. The annoyance of a full dryer outweighed by the joy of a new baby. The frustration of trash forgotten erased by spontaneous tightroping at the park. These are the moments we create, and we will never forget. 

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you inspire me.

A couple months ago I got to do two things I love.

1. Help a friend with a beautiful heart.

2. Spend my Friday in a dreamy vintage kitchen.

When my inspirational, courageous and lovely friend Michelle asked me to be the model in a photoshoot for her business, tons of insecurity welled up in me. I love pictures, but I do not love being in front of the camera. You’re probably thinking, why do you have a trillion and ten engagement/wedding photos? Well. I have a super talented friend and I married a wanna-be J. Crew model. So there is your explanation. (and Brent’s deepest, darkest secret). Luckily, the focus of this shoot (and the beauty of this business) was not on me.

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(Rather than explain the premise of Imagine Goods, I thought I’d share this newsletter I wrote on behalf of the founders not long ago)

Who We Are

We are wives, mothers and friends brought together by our passion for justice. We are Aiyana Ehrman and Michelle Kime. After our first trip to Cambodia in 2006, we decided to take action in the fight for justice, and make a difference in the lives of the people we encountered. This is when Imagine Goods was born. We stayed in contact with a non-government organization, Cambodia Hope (CHO), partnering in any way that we could. We also began taking teams of people on “exposure trips,”  in order to expose the issues of poverty we had encountered. Through those trips, and many generous donations, we helped CHO drill eight different wells and implement three different sanitation projects. We were able to raise funds for the HIV+ projects, School on the Mat, and meet some of CHO’s other financial needs.

During this time we began working with some sewing projects that CHO had already started. We saw this as a beautiful way to provide opportunities for those trained in this art. Five years ago we commissioned 45 bags of two varieties, in hopes that these would sell successfully. The products took off, and we gradually added different patterns and larger quantities to the sewing orders. Our goal was to utilize CHO sewing students as our seamstresses, and to source as many of the supplies as possible directly from Cambodia. At this point we became very familiar with the open markets of Phnom Penh, as we poured over fabric, zippers and buttons on each of our trips.

What began as a non -profit searching for projects has grown into a business.

About a year ago we realized this sewing project was evolving into a business. We felt that this project was the most sustainable of all our endeavors and that it would offer the most stable opportunities for empowerment to our Cambodian partners- to CHO.  This conclusion led us to restructure our non-profit to a business; Imagine Goods! We have shifted from 45 re-usable bags to a full line of products. These products include clothing, home goods and accessories,  all handcrafted by marginalized and vulnerable people, given an opportunity for change. All of our fabrics are sourced from open markets in Cambodia, therefore helping to sustain the local economy.

You might call us accidental entrepreneurs...we never really intended to start a business.  In fact, we do things differently than some businesses. People matter to us way more than the bottom line, and our goal is to stay aware of the entire chain of people involved in the creation of our product. Are they earning a living wage (enough to meet their basic needs)? Are they being empowered? This is why we call ourselves a Sustainable Supply Co.

We believe that, when WE purchase a product, the cost of this item should sustain each person connected to it, with a living wage.

Love, Aiyana & Michelle

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I was thrilled to help show off the sweet products that Imagine Goods has to offer. And am thrilled to call Michelle a friend. She has inspired me in so many ways, helped me to grow my heart toward the impoverished and my fight for justice/against human trafficking. The idea of being able to purchase fair trade items and support these women is amazing to me.

Each item is created by a different seamstress. Each seamstress has a symbol, and attached to that symbol is a story. Match your symbol to the story on ImagineGoods.com and suddenly the piece of clothing or home decor has meaning and purpose. There is beauty in each imperfection, just knowing where it came from.

Educate yourself! Visit the site! Tell your husband you know just what you want for Valentine’s Day 🙂

Shopping is that much better when you know where your money is going.

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p.s. Michelle, you inspire me.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Our Less-Than-Perfect Life

I dedicate this post to the random five months we have been married. (Not six, or a year, but five). 

Today I have a guest writer. Brent Hostetter has agreed to sit down with me and give his input on our lives over the past five months (It’s only fair that, if he thinks i’m embellishing anything which of course I never do, he add his own perspective).

So today, from the hearts of Brent & Katie Hostetter, I give you-

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Our Less-Than-Perfect Life

(*Disclaimer* While these aspects of our lives may fit us as a couple, they don’t describe everyone, and that is perfectly ok (you’re probably better off that way 🙂 )

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Let’s begin with my perspective (As the more experienced writer on this team, I get to go first. And as the girl too.)

1. The difference between 1-ply and 2-ply toilet paper. Because there is one, and it is crucial to some people’s comfort and happiness. 

2. Men don’t like leftovers. Or to make it less of a generalization, a lot of men don’t prefer leftovers. (But we’re getting there. I’ve found that the old saying “Lasagna is always better the next day” really does apply in this situation. Is that an old saying?)

3. A dinner without meat is not an acceptable dinner. Period.

4. When I want to have a calendar meeting, I need to first guarantee that Brent is fully fed and hydrated. And in an excellent mood prior. 

5. Discount gorcery stores are NOT as appealing to men as they are to women… (“You got that where? Is it stale or something?”) Please note***This also applies to Trader Joe’s, which did not impress Brent when I dragged him an hour to grocery shop. 

6. Along the same lines, Brent will buy the first thing he sees. I will search seven stores and ten websites for the best deal before I end up buying the first thing I see. 

7. When there is a good opportunity to buy food, packing lunch is never an option (Think day trip to Philly with a lunch box in my purse.)

8. Talking during a movie, sports game, or anything else projected on a TV screen? Impossible. 

9. Although he IS my best friend, my husband is never going to be the one I curl up in front of chick flicks and drink hot cocoa with. (In other words, I need girls). 

10. When he suggests a trip to the mall, he is picturing Chinese food and the gumball machine. NOT browsing Gap’s latest line.

11. On a more serious note- Marriage means everything in me is exposed. What I feel is what Brent feels. I have the power to set the mood for my house, and for my family. My problems are no longer just mine, he is fully affected by them. It is the best accountability but also the hardest. And Brent has been a major trooper through all of it.

12. In areas that I find sensitive, he values honesty over sugar coating. Think opinions on dinners, birthday gifts and my fashion sense. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just a new thing. I admit I could benefit from more honesty on these subjects. 

13. I’m continually blessed (and shocked) that when my face is invaded by breakouts and my eyes are puffy from tears, Brent still loves me, holds me and says that I’m gorgeous. And I can tell he means it. 

14. Overall, I really do think that marriage is amazing. It’s this perfect balance of intense commitment and closeness, and the joy of living with my very best friend. (Even when that joy includes consistently reminding him to use air freshener in the bathroom).

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And now, a few words from my guest writer (I am super impressed, not only at his writing ability but also at the fact that he mustered up TEN THINGS for me! 🙂 )

1. Girls aren’t as intrigued with poop as guys are.

2. Katie’s idea of a fun day includes day trips and shopping. Mine is relaxing. At our house.

3. I consider a snack to be a piece of cheesecake or a sandwich. Katie considers these to be “dinner spoiling foods” and prefers kale chips.

4. Women are creatures of ambiance and scents. I don’t want to tell you how much we spend on Glade plug-ins. 

5. Events are a way bigger deal to my wife than they are to me. Parties and holidays are somehow the most exciting thing in the world.

6. It has been important for me to learn to love Katie in a way that speaks to HER not ME. Often that includes chocolate and coffee drinks.

7. Along that line- The same things that matter to you aren’t going to matter to her, and the same things that matter to her won’t always matter to you. Take time and listen.

8. Find something you enjoy doing together and do it. We love trying new recipes, entertaining, dreaming about the future, working out, and the occasional day trip.

9. The key to our marraige really is communcation. Sharing our hearts with each other is crucial. It’s easy to exist with your spouse, but that always lead to lifelessness, it seems.

10. Sometimes it’s best to just listen, not fix. 

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Ultimately, it’s the differences between us that make us love each other all the more. It’s the laughing and the fighting over big and little things that create relationships. Easy is definitely not an adjective of marriage, and sometimes “What am I doing?” is the only phrase that comes to mind. But doing life together- being real with one another- is the most pure form of relationship we can imagine.

 

Love, B + K

 

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Brent LET’S TAKE A PICTURE!”

KATIE I’M DRIVING.”

 

ImageI like to call this one the “Hello Husband” selfie.

 

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Not-so-glamorous ending of our first Christmas tree.

 

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Brent accompanies me to the treadmill section of the gym, only to watch ESPN. (Yes this was taken while running. And to his credit, he raced me at a six minute mile and I almost died right there).

 

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In our pajamas. Enough said…

fearLESS.

Chances are, if you’re located somewhere on the East coast, you and I were doing the same thing yesterday morning. It went something like- pulling up the iPhone weather app, staring at that gaping ZERO degrees (or better yet, some big negative sign), and curling up in the smallest ball possible under the largest amount of blankets available.

Can you relate?

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Yesterday was a really cold day. Like the coldest I think i’ve experienced, ever. When I turned on the radio and heard “skin exposed,” “five minutes” and “frostbite” I nearly keeled over. 

BRENT, WHERE IS YOUR COAT? WHERE ARE YOUR GLOVES? WHERE IS YOUR HAT? YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WORK TODAY. YOU ARE NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE TODAY.”

What a 6 AM wake-up call, right? I really do have the whole coolest wife thing down. 

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Well, 30 minute later Brent was out the door, headed to work. (Apparently he felt my threats were empty and my warnings invalid). Luckily, he worked inside, and I was able to make it to my 9AM hair appointment (My justification for braving the cold? A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and, the ever famous, beauty is pain.)

I realized something yesterday. Frostbite. Now this is a fear I have yet to discover. This is something I’ve never freaked out over. Why not start in 2014?

NOT.

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Fear is something that I struggle with, and I’m guessing the feeling hits home with some of you.

When I was nine I was convinced I could not survive life without being kidnapped. Each night for an entire year I would race to my parents with night terrors, and when in bed I couldn’t bear to look at windows or allow any part of my body out from under the covers. When I was in middle school I feared my peers, I longed to be accepted and the worst thing in the world (in my opinion) was embarrassment or repeating my jeans. In high school I wrestled with accepting myself, my greatest fear becoming weight gain. And in college, I feared dating, but also being alone forever. Just last week I freaked out because the porch light bulb blew and I was worried that it would look like we weren’t home and we would get robbed. I kid you not, my brain went there.

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 I was out to coffee with a friend who shared her struggle with fearing germs and sickness- to the point where she became OCD about hand washing, cleaning etc. and wondered how she would ever be a good mom someday. Another confided her fear of losing the most precious thing in the world, her children. 

My point is not to feed your fears, give you new ideas, or be depressing in any sense. I want you to know that you are SO not alone! Fear is a feeling that overwhelms us so easily, yet it’s not ok, on any level.

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The same friends who shared their stories to me over cups of coffee and relaxing afternoons gave me some of the best insight I’ve recieved in a long time. 

 

“I was driving one day and realized that I was believing a lie. This was something I needed to fight for and take steps toward. Being a mom has always been on my heart, and the fear that I struggle with was only blocking me from my dream. I am choosing to believe truth. My fear is irrational.”

 

“I realized I had to let go. When I pictured the future, was I picturing it with God, or without Him? If i’m picturing a future where I’M in control, of course I have something to fear. But if I picture a future where He is at work, I realize that, even when I feel I am in control, I never was. He always is.”

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And what about me?

Well, lucky for all of us I have a husband who is really a great addition to my life.

If I hear, “SPEAK LIFE KATIE” one more time I might slug him, but he’s right. I do need to practice speaking more life into my life, and I know he’s got my best interests at heart. 

This year I am choosing. MORE LIFE, LESS FEAR. I don’t envision this being some epiphany I experience that leads directly to a peaceful, fearless life. I can almost guarantee you that tomorrow, I will wake up, see a pencil lying on the floor and panic over the thought that I could step on it, catapulting it into my eyeball. (THIS IS DRAMATIC AND MEANT TO BE A JOKE). But seriously, stuff is going to happen. I am at the brink of my life, not even fully engulfed in the flow of marriage and work and children, I can’t forsee what happens and I definitely can’t control it. 

So what i’m saying is, i’m not expecting myself to be fearless.

I just wanna, fear LESS. 

 

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