On Quality Time and the Kitchen Table

There’s no place I’d rather be on a cloudy, dreary day then in a warm and cozy kitchen. Considering this week’s weather pattern, you can imagine how thrilled I was to have a  free evening (scarce words with my scheduling tendencies…) and to actually spend time creating a delicious meal, rather than throwing something together as we head out the door for whatever activity we have that night.

This week I prepared two of my most recent “favorite meals” , both involving my best ingredient, chicken. I am not a huge meat girl, and to be honest raw meat grosses me out a little bit, but I cook a lot of chicken, a lot of quiche, and sprinkled with the occasional ground beef or turkey we get by just fine. 😉

As I was using these two simple, yummy recipes I couldn’t help but think of blogging them. Some things are just too good not to share!

So for those of you in search of your next “go to, super easy and actually tastes good leftover” dinner idea, maybe one of these will help!

(P.S. Although I practically collect cookbooks and have loads of beautiful ones, I tend toward Pinterest for much of my food inspiration. These are both pinned to my done! board (a goal of mine was to organize the pins I’ve actually completed) but below are my own variations/changes.

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BBQ Chicken Taquitos

 (original recipe here)

I love these taquitos for numerous reasons.

1. I think the pineapple/bbq sauce combo is amazing.

2. It’s really hard to screw these up, I promise! In fact I don’t even use exact measurements, I just throw everything together and pop it in the oven!

3. They take a little prep, but on the night you make them they are EASY and QUICK.

4. They taste good leftover. In our home, these meals come few and far between. (we are not too big on leftovers.)

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-This recipe makes approx 6 taquitos

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I found that the parchment paper is super helpful when it comes to cleaning the pan)

Ingredients:

approximately 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (for this I used a whole chicken from Costco, which I had cooked in the crock pot over the weekend. Their rotisserie chickens also work great!)

-1/2 red (or white) onion, caramelized

-1 bag shredded cheddar cheese

-1 can chopped pineapple (fresh is obviously SO good, but canned works too and is easier to have on hand!)

-Cilantro (I used maybe 3 TBSP chopped, it’s kind of up to you how strong you want the flavor to be)

-1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce (our personal fav)

-1 pack flour tortillas (I have used mini and large, either works)

Directions:

The instructions are as simple as this. Mix your chicken, can of pineapple (drained), onion, cilantro, salt & pepper to taste, and as much BBQ sauce as you like together with half the bag of cheese. Fill your tortillas with the mixture and place them side by side in the pan until it is full or your mixture is gone! I then covered the top with a light layer of BBQ sauce and sprinkled the rest of the cheese on top. Since your ingredients are all cooked, the taquitos really only need to be in the oven to warm, so around 20 minutes is fine (depending how hot your oven gets) and then I pop mine under the broiler to crisp the tops a little. The first time I made these I served them with rice which was delicious, but this week I just did a vegetable which was equally good! I read in the comments on the original blog that this recipe freezes well, which I would believe, but have yet to try.

We ate this Monday, and reheated in the oven Tuesday with a little extra sauce for dipping! So delicious!

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Avocado Chicken Parmigiana 

(original recipe here)

This recipe, which I served last night along with an amazing fresh avocado/blueberry salad and some Trader Joe’s pasta, is so simple and really no different from your typical chicken parmesan, but for some reason we just love this variation!

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-The recipe makes two chicken breasts, but again- it’s one of those recipes you can kind of just guess on ratios and make as many as you need!

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

-Spray baking pan with olive oil

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded

-1 egg

-3 TBSP milk

-1/2 cup flour

-1/2 cup breadcrumbs

-1 small can of your favorite tomato sauce (I’ve found that flavor really does matter in this one)

-1 ripe avocado

-1 bag shredded mozeralla

-fresh oregano and/or basil (not necessary, but definitely a great addition)

Directions:

Again, super easy! Whisk your egg and milk together in a small bowl. Mix your bread crumbs (I made mine with the ends of a loaf of bread and our mini food processor) and flour in another small bowl. Dip your chicken in the milk/egg mixture and dredge in the flour and bread crumbs. Fry in a pan with olive oil on medium/high heat to brown both sides (I actually used avocado oil which we found at Costco and just had to try. I figured it was fitting since the recipe uses avocado 🙂 ) When the sides are browned, place in your greased baking pan and cover in tomato sauce. Cover the pan in foil (important to keep the chicken moist) and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees (the baking time is to finish off the chicken, and will vary based on the thickness of the filets). When the chicken is almost completely cooked through uncover and sprinkle fresh herbs and salt and pepper over the sauce. Then place slices of avocado on the chicken breasts, and top off with as much mozzarella as you like. I am a firm believer in lots of cheese on italian food. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until cheese has melted!

This is great over pasta, or just plain, and the avocado really adds something! One beauty of this recipe is that, if you don’t like avocado, the tomato sauce might drown out the flavor and help you incorporate it into your diet. 😉

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The other thing I love about the kitchen is that I truly believe so many memories are made there. (so much that I wrote it on a chalkboard above our little table). Growing up, family dinners wer a regular occurrence in our home, and one that I grew to love. It was such a treat to actually sit down and enjoy a meal with my husband last night- no rushing out the door to the next thing! Later in the evening we had our friends and conveniently neighbors down for the best fresh mint mojitos and strawberry shortcake, but I’ll save those for another post!

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do, and please share some of your favorites! I love new ideas. 🙂

 

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It’s Hard Work Being Yourself

12:30 AM and I am wide awake. Tapping on my sleeping husband’s arm and whispering, “hey Brent, are you awake?” (I totally knew the answer to that one). “I think I’m overstimulated creatively.”

That woke him.

I was met with a groggy, “you are so weird.” And he was out again.

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For those of you who know me, and therefore don’t believe this story, it is true. On Saturday I slept past 9 AM (which led to a major freak out because I never do that and my Saturday was completely wasted) and then I stayed up till 1. Another uncharacteristic move on my part. I spent my day loving the weather, sipping on the yummiest coconut breeze iced latte from cute little Corner Coffee Shop, strolling the grassy aisles of an inspirational craft show and planting flowers in my city garden. On top of that, I started reading an amazing book that encompassed, beauty, home decor, and all things I love.

Who needs caffeine when you’re hyped up on inspiration?

This is no exaggeration- once I finally did close my eyes that Saturday night, I was abruptly disrupted by my own dreams of rearranging the living room furniture, and could hardly stay in bed at 3 AM. Four hours of sleep later, we were up and I was jabbering about all the things I wanted to do. We took every picture off the wall and “re-did” our apartment, and it goes without saying that I totally crashed Sunday night.

I truly was overstimulated creatively.

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I am a creative person, and once my mind gets racing I just can’t stop. I breathe beauty, love life and want to hug everything for joy.

My creativity can make me feel alive and ridiculous all at the same time. While I can be creative, I can also get caught up in the details of things and fall into the trap of perfection. I can become almost paralyzed when I consider what others might think of what I create, write, decorate, wear, anything that speaks to my “style.” Being vulnerable and putting myself out there can be scary. I can feel silly- Like I choose to do things that have no meaning, or waste time with the menial. I can become insecure, that my brain doesn’t work as logically as some, or that I’m just coming across as over the top and ridiculous.

It is hard work being yourself. Especially when you care what others think.

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Just today I was thinking about all this- about life, our weekend, what was on my heart, blogging. I was feeling insecure, lost in the busyness of where we’re at right now and feeling like I have nothing to give or to say. The more I think, the more I spiral, and the more I spiral the worse my thought process gets. But I feel like that is exactly where the devil wants me.

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Do you ever feel like you use your gifts, be who you are, enjoy life (even if it seems “menial” or “silly”) and then have the worst day ever 12 hours later? Or you feel like you’re getting ahead only to fall back into whatever your “blah”-ness is all over again.

I have discovered, more and more, that the Lord totally wants us to

a. be who we are

b. have FUN!

Enjoy life! Creativity isn’t silly, beauty isn’t ridiculous, it is totally a gift. Being excited about life is ok, and not just ok, it is good for you. I just REALLY felt like I needed to write this to encourage whoever you are to BE who you are. It is so easy to fall into the fake-ness and false-self stuff, but nobody really believes or likes that side of you.

Don’t lose yourself to the pressures you feel or perceive.

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Some of the photographers at the studio where I work attended a workshop recently and came back with this quote. I feel like it pretty much sums up my heart in this perfectly-

If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and gave you the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation. Creativity is His gift to you and the ‘raw materials’ to be put together in various ways are His gift to you as well.”

The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life, Edith Schaeffer

❤ Katie

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things [recently]

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{watermelon, feta, & mint. sounds so strange, but seriously the best combo.

oh and Rice & Noodle’s macaroons.. YUM.}

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{this little antique peach pitcher I found at the craft show last Saturday. perfect for planting a succulent…but what isn’t perfect for a succulent?}

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{this watercolor print created by my friend Abbey of In Colour. I love to look at it hanging by my desk.}

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{the adorable craft show I went to last weekend, called The Cottonwood House.}

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{peonies, my recent flower of choice. and the dinner party I got to throw for my dear friend Court (soon-to-be MRS) and fellow dinner club members!}

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{the book I’m reading- which inspired me to take all the decor off my walls and rework my home. and the author’s blogamazing.}

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 {my workspace. I figure since I spend most of my days there it needs to look ‘me-ish’- and let’s not forget my recent favorite iced drink, introduced to me by my sweet friend Brittne. Prince Street coffee with a little chai! }

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Happy 9 Months of Memories

This weekend has been all about love. Brent and I kicked off the wedding season by witnessing our beautiful friends Travis & Kristin say i do on a perfect Saturday evening. All I kept saying was, love this, love this, I love this. On the way home I asked Brent what his favorite part of the wedding was, and follwed with, “Did you know I just love weddings?” I was met with, “Well if I didn’t know before tonight, I definitely do now.”

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Today I celebrated the marriage of our sweet friends, Chad & Kate, through their perfect bridal shower at Commonwealth on Queen. Just more opportunity for me to gush over details and talk about Kitchen Aids and bridal bouquets (two topics that I enjoy a little too much). You can only imagine how close my head will be to exploding when my own sisters start getting engaged.

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Today also marks exactly nine months since Brent & I said we do and chose each other forever. I realized, as I listened to the words shared at last nights wedding, how much that committment meant. As I listened to the promises made, and thought back to our own vows and promises, the reality hit me- marriage is no picnic, those promises are no small feat to accomplish. At the same time, I have adored this almost year of marriage, and am humbled to be Brent’s wife, to love him, and to keep my promises to the best of my ability.

At 5 months Brent & I blogged the things we’d learned so far. Tonight I want to share some of the things I love most about my husband. In honor of 9 months, and remembering how lucky I am.

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-I cherish our evenings, whether watching a favorite “together show” (currently 24) or reading seperately but still together. I love the moments as we’re falling asleep, me talking and talking and talking and talking… unaware that he has been sleeping for an hour.

-I love when I’m crying, sometimes with purpose, sometimes for no reason at all, and Brent fakes a sad face and starts “crying” with me. And then I start to laugh. (or dramatically sigh and pout, which only makes him laugh harder).

-I will admit to the fact that half the times we run together I get mad because he is pushing me to run faster (which is really what I’m begging for) so I try to run ahead- only to result in a sprinting match.

-One of the things I appreciate most about Brent is his humor. He is weird. And I laugh at him all the time. When he’s imitating me he gives me these weird voices that only he can do, when he’s in a super good mood he sings so loud the neighbors hear him, and when he’s working out he likes techno music. He laughs at my (often pathetic) jokes, and takes me very “seriously” at times when I’m being dramatic, only to be followed by a dry comment that brings me back to reality.

-I married a super talented chef, not even kidding. His love Food Network and fresh, quality ingredients makes for fun weekends and delicious meals. He is also oddly talented at cutting fruit (I have his mama to thank for that). I promise, his fruit salads do not disappoint.

-Brent has diligently, throughout our marriage so far, agreed not to encroach on my spaces. By this I mean, he does not open the door to my closet and openly judge me for the disorganized mess he sees. He is super organized. I on the other hand, the primary driver of our car and caretaker of our home, am only organized in places people can see. Do not open drawers, do not look under the bed, do not ask me for a ride, and stay away from my closet.

-Brent loves me well. He is a romantic, and he takes note of what I enjoy. He writes me letters, shares my passion for good food, knows my obsession with fresh flowers, and appreciates (when in the mood) my love for shopping, big cities, new people and frozen yogurt.

-Brent’s got style. He puts up with my clothing drama in part cause he gets it, but also cause he’s just really nice like that. I love his fashion sense, and he has picked some of the cutest stuff I have, for real.

-I love that Brent talks things through. I realize more and more that he isn’t naturally a verbal processer, but when it comes to me needing advice, needing to work something out, or us disagreeing he has grown so much in that. As evidenced by my many tales of drama and imperfection, we have our share of disagreements. I feel blessed with a husband who leads me in working through them, and getting to the root of the issue (as opposed to my potential for emotional blow-ups). Brent is steady, and I love him for it.

-No one knows me like my husband. Not only did we go through some of the worst times in my life together, graduate high school together, and date on numerous occasions in the past five years, he makes an effort to know me. He invests in me, in what I love, he affirms me, he cherishes me.

He challenges me to be myself.

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Nine months seems short and long all at once. Nine months flew, and I have already met challenges I’ve never faced, and felt parts of this journey I never imagined. I guess you could say that this love and wedding centered weekend made me reminiscent.

It made me realize not only how much I love love, but how loved I am.

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let me take a selfie.”

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Told you Brent’s got style.

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Most handsome date I ever had ❤

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No fruit salads today, but he did create this. #YUM

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On Sunshine, Springtime & Learning to Dance in the Rain

Tonight we took a walk. In our house, a walk is not a walk unless it leads to a snack. Brent introduced this concept, when he turns left out of the drive I know we’re headed downtown, therefore we will inevitably stop somewhere and get a little something. So here I sit, eating my sunshine cookie from Cafe18 (the only way to eat cookies guilt free is when the ingredient list includes flax) and thinking how thankful I am for our walks.

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I’ve decided that springtime in our little city is super cute. Our neighbors have this tree that flounces out over the cars in our lot, budding beautiful white blooms, and then fluttering them down onto my front window (although they look a little too much like snow this late in the game.) The sunshine streams into our kitchen at 6 AM, making it 10x easier to get up, work out and go places (or at least, you would think). FLOWERS, fresh FLOWERS blooming all over the place and making my home feel that much homey-er. (Oh and I’m finally keeping some succulents alive!)

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There is something about the sunshine that makes me come alive, makes me feel unexplainably happy and ready to face any day. I swear, the day goes from a 0 to a 10 in .2 seconds when there’s sunshine in the forecast (sorry for all the numbers hurting your head in that sentence 🙂 ). If I could have sunshine every day, I’d take it.

Unfortunately if I’m relying on the sun alone then I practically don’t function on those rainy, cloudy days. If I have the perfect atmosphere, the perfect surroundings and experience then I am amazingly, wonderfully bright and cheery. When a cloud slides over that sun, or drop of rain lands on my windshield…it’s all over.

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Last week Jeremy Hess Photographers had a team picnic. The weather was beautiful, menu planned, decor collected, pretty much a table set for perfection. I woke up with the thought, am I having high expecations? (a major tendency of mine) and answered myself with, nope, can’t see what could go wrong tonight.

Well first, let me tell you that one girl cannot wrangle 22 helium filled balloons into a Jetta all by herself…or, let me rephrase, one girl shouldn’t have to wrangle all those balloons into a Jetta without some help. Guess what, this girl did. So if you ever search “How Many Blondes Does It Take To Get A Balloon In A Car,” the answer is -one but it takes 15 minutes-, and the videos/photos that anyone witnessing this should have taken of me…those could be totally embarrassing.

Due to all of the balloons attracting to my hair like magnets, I had something similar to a loofah sponge attached to my head by the time I arrived at the studio. And the day progressed from there…

By the time we had arrived at Jeremy’s house, set up the lights, decorated the table, and prepared our food, it was raining…nothing this loofah head couldn’t handle, but definitely raining. Drizzling on and off, our party eventually ended up in a soaking mess of craft paper, tulips and red solo cups. The perfect picture of expectations gone awry.

Parties that end like this could easily end in tears, but I look back at that night in amazement.

It was beautiful, messy, kind of overwhelming, muddy, joy-filled, memories, community, family.

We had fun. It was not perfect, there was no sunshine, but we had fun.

As the night drew to a close, my mascara was dripping, my hair was sopping and I was chilly. However, we still had 22 helium filled balloons to get rid of, and the efforts of Katie that would not be in vain.

I think that maybe the best moment of the party was the end. We grabbed the balloons from the trunk (much more smoothly than any previous transfer of location) and ran out to the front of the house.

There, beneath the twinkle lights, amidst the mess, and after the storm, we released them.

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Sunshine is fun, and springtime is beautiful. But you know that cliche, “dance in the rain“?

Yea well, I think I’m learning that too.

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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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