Wednesday, August 17, 2016

reclaiming this space.

I'm sitting in our studio apartment next to a sleepy dog, box fan shoved into an open window, 6 o'clock and no sign that the sun will go down anytime soon. It's a peaceful scene. I've been working on my intentional breathing, which sounds absolutely bizarre and over-the-top pretentious, but is actually incredibly helpful. My physical therapist described my intentional breathing practice like this: first, check in with all corners of your body (especially the achy ones); try and send your breath to those achy places; inhale deeeeeeply through the nose, and then produce an audible, strong exhale through the mouth. Repeat that as many times as you can muster. For me, that's about 10 times and then I'm bored.

I've tried to write this very blog post so many times. What do you write in a little white box that hasn't been touched in months? How do you unpack what that silence has meant while still keeping the personal parts of that silence to yourself? Well, for one thing, you just start writing and see what comes of it.

In many ways, I haven't known what to do with this space. There was a time when I wanted nothing more than for this little blog to take off and become a career. I posted the beautiful pictures, wrote very few words, and talked about pleasant, unremarkable things. This is what I saw other successful bloggers doing. They all said you couldn't have a "career blog" without pictures. Every post needed pictures. Readers would stop reading if the content wasn't saturated with pictures. Dutifully, I took my camera everywhere -- took close up pictures of random things, blurring out the background. It was fun, until it wasn't.

Truth is, I'm a writer. It's the written word that's always interested me. That's where I feel compelled creatively. That's the part I want to push into and explore. I recently listened to Amy Poehler's book and there were about one million pieces that stuck with me (Side Note: I think every woman should read/hear her chapter about your inner demon. That was completely illuminating to me. Not illuminating because I haven't dealt with an inner demon, but illuminating because I've never had anyone quite so accurately put words to that particular struggle.), but one thing I really latched onto was a part where she spoke about how fortunate she is that her career and passion overlap seamlessly and how that isn't the case for everyone. That potential overlap is a great joy and a stroke of luck, but it isn't always a given. You can love and enjoy and even be passionate about your career, and still your deep, deep creative passion can lay elsewhere. And for me that passion is writing. It's the one thing I've always come back to over and over again. It's the way I can best express myself and share the innermost workings of my brain.

So I'm gonna write. And if no one else reads it, then it will be for me.

I put a lot of pressure on myself for things to be just so. I've got a lot of thoughts and feelings about how my life should look, and if it doesn't look just like that just when I think it should, then I am immediately going into a tailspin. An exhausting way to live, I think. And it's not like I can just will myself to walk away from that way of thinking on a random Tuesday evening, but I can be intentional about trying to really just be happy (and sometimes unhappy [that's okay, too!]) in the way my life looks right now.

What does that mean currently? Well, it means my husband is on the floor trying to clean out our portable air conditioning. It means I'm worrying about our dog and his separation anxiety, which has recently manifested itself as a loud, excessive bark-howl hybrid that disrupts our neighbors. It means I'm thinking about the giant share of CSA veggies we just got and how we'll manage to put ANOTHER summer squash to good use. It also means that I don't have to share every! single! thing! about my life in this space. Ha! What a revelation.

It means that I'm reclaiming this space, and it might look a lot like a rambling essay (such as this one) without much of a common thread because at the end of the day, if I use this space to flex my creative passion then I am using this space for good. And it will be a bright, warm, happy space simply because it's housing thoughts that I felt were worth sharing at some moment in my life. Love, love, love. Be back soon. (Thanks for reading. Mean it. Xoxoxoxo.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

the year of fun.

Jeffrey and I moved to Portland in the dead of summer. I remember standing in my parents' front yard, saying goodbye to my in-laws and my mom (my dad took the cross country trip with us, bless him) in the sweltering Florida heat. I've never minded the heat, although my husband would say otherwise. He says that I've complained about it countless times, and perhaps I have, so I guess you could say that I've generally never minded the heat. When we moved to Portland, the heat was oppressive and there was no escaping it. Our house doesn't have air. I remember laying in bed with little more than a sheet, cursing the fact that I couldn't sleep with the weight of a comforter. The temperature on our thermostat (which we have for heat only), rose up and up and up, and I couldn't believe how hot is was.

2015 was a challenging year for me. Dealing with the difficulty and hardship that comes with a move across the country was unexpected and knocked the wind out of me for several months. There's also the challenge of taking on a new job and trying to fit in with a new place and new people. There's the longing for the school I left behind, the familiarity of the people and the location of simple things like the copy machine. Change isn't bad, it's just different. I lost the physical closeness of friends and family and found it overwhelmingly hard to make new bonds and form new relationships.

I spent a lot of time dwelling in that lost and sad place. It was a cycle of wake up, feel sorry for myself, go to work, feel sorry for myself, repeat. It was a cycle I didn't enjoy, but from which I couldn't break away. It was suffocating and terrible. As someone who has experienced little loss in her life, I was shocked by how deeply I grieved a loss of place.

Eventually, it wasn't hot anymore. In fact, it became unbelievably cold. Both Jeffrey and I remarked over the fact that we didn't experience many "open window" days here. It was really, really hot and then it was really, really cold. The sun started going down at 4 in the afternoon. At first, I found myself in a mess of emotions. Blue ones. About two weeks into the dark and cold winter, the fog in my mind lifted. I have no idea why or how. I'd like to believe that it was because I willed it away. It's probably much more likely that something else (something like divine intervention) shooed it into oblivion. Either way, I was grateful.

All this to say that my word for 2016 is fun. Jeffrey and I explored Portland for our honeymoon almost three years ago. We were enamored by its richness and fullness — the city felt alive and bursting with energy. I remember feeling so much love for this city, even though I had hardly spent any time here. In the midst of moving and dealing with big emotions, I forgot to enjoy this city again. I forgot to love it the way I had when we visited here, newlyweds with stars in our eyes. We're still newlyweds and we still have stars in our eyes. I want to squeeze the joy out of this place, experience my life instead of watching it pass me by. There is a time to be sad, but there is also a time to take back happiness, to feel proud of myself for making leaps and embracing change and reveling in the fact that I can do hard things. So here's to 2016, my year of fun!

(Taking back the fun in my life may or may not include documenting some of that here. Thanks for my small but devoted readership, who continues to visit this space, even when postings are sporadic and wordy and not filled with pictures. You are appreciated! xo)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

on moving across the country.

I moved across the country this summer.

This is something that most people would likely label as uncharacteristic of me.

I was born and raised in Florida, have loved it my entire life, and most of my family still resides there today. I had a great life there — childhood friends, a strong, loving support system, a job I had grown to love, and plenty to do and see all within driving distance.

However, Jeffrey and I have discussed moving across the country for the past several years of our relationship. Something about the fascination with a place and lifestyle different than ours, a window of opportunity in which we are young and relatively carefree, and the desire to stretch ourselves and grow and collect new memories to store away for a lifetime.

I knew it would be hard. In fact, I dreaded how difficult it would be. I imagined myself ripping up my roots that had been planted and harvested and tended with great care. I imagined what it might feel like to live thousands of miles from people who are incredibly important to me. I imagined starting my career over, making new friends, finding new places to frequent on Saturday mornings. I imagined the difficulty of navigating new roads (I am a notoriously terrible navigator). I imagined putting myself out there in ways I had never done before. It was terrifying. And it still is.

The truth is that I am not an adventurous person. For a long time, I masqueraded as someone who was. I loved the idea of being a free spirit. Easy going. Laid back. And in some arenas, I might be. But not in the arena that involves letting go of everything I've ever known in life and trading it in for something completely brand new.

And that's precisely why I had to do this.

If I want to grow and challenge myself and be someone who is brave, then I must do things that terrify me. If I am to stand in front of students I love and care for and tell them to take a giant leap of faith, then I must also take leaps.

If I want to (someday) raise children who take risks and make mistakes and create their own new and unique path, then I must also be willing to do those things. I must also be willing to be bold and to do things that might be a little scary. Might be a little terrifying.

And today when I walked into a teacher orientation filled with a sea of new faces, my heart ached for the comfort of the school I left. When I went shopping and needed a second opinion, I actively missed my mom sitting in the dressing room with me. When I needed to sit with someone and say nothing (but really say everything), I longed for a coffee with my dad. And I will continue to miss these things. I will long for these things forever. And that's how it should be. When someone lives a full, happy life somewhere and decides to leave parts of that life in pursuit of something different, the components of that full, happy life will leave a big impression. I'm better for that impression. Happier for it.

That impression is the only reason I'm able to move across country. That impression is the whisper that tells me I can do this. It's the thing that keeps me moving. It's the confidence to keep going. To take that leap. To be bold and brave and courageous. To step outside my comfortable box and make a new box. To continue a story which deserves to be continued.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

charleston, south carolina.

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walking south of Broad after the entire city was asleep // getting ice cream in the freezing cold // cracking up in way too quiet Black Tap // cookies on the top porch // leon's at 4 in the afternoon for soft serve (with sprinkles) // BBQ in the middle of a crowd // walking the Battery // cupcakes on the side of Sugar // sandwiches on Queen Street sidewalk // window boxes, window boxes, window boxes // chai at St. Alban while it poured // hot biscuits with all the fixins' // sewing shop with all the best, old stuff // endless historical markers and stopping to read all of them // happy, sweet, slow spring break

Saturday, March 7, 2015

kick acne's booty!

Today let's talk about acne! Many people have asked me about my acne-busting remedies. If you've known me for at least four years, then you'll know that I struggled with acne for the majority of my college experience. Adult-onset acne is real and it's a huge bummer, but in my experience, there are certain steps you can take to care for your skin, and also heal your acne without harming the parts of your skin that are perfectly well and blemish-free! It seems as though the majority of acne products on the market are very harsh, astringent, stripping, and irritating. In my opinion, they should be just the opposite. In the midst of a breakout, I want to treat my skin gently and with care, so that it can heal and get back to its normal state as soon as possible!

Before we move on, it should be noted that while I have spent tons (tons!) of time researching natural skincare and kicking acne's booty(!), I am not a medical professional. If you want advice specifically tailored to your needs, I recommend visiting your dermatologist and beginning the appointment by telling him/her that natural skincare is an important part of the process to you.

RULE #1: Be committed to your skincare regimen. Please, please, if you take only one tidbit of information from this post, let it be this rule. Your skin loves consistency. It likes to be fed the same beautiful and loving routine day in and day out. If you truly want your acne gone, commit to the process. That said, if you aren't someone who's willing to devote tons of time to your skincare routine (fair enough!), then only introduce steps that you're truly willing to take on a daily (sometimes twice-daily) basis. Don't go to bed with your makeup on. Your skin will pay for that decision in the morning.

RULE #2: Say goodbye to dairy. I know it sounds painful, and it is. I'm a cheese and ice cream lover if there ever was one, but dairy is a nightmare for acne-prone skin. I went on a 30-day, dairy-free cleanse, and it revolutionized my skin. I slowly started adding dairy products back into my diet, but in much smaller amounts. I found that the cleanse reset my skin and introducing the products back in slowly didn't seem to offend it too much.

RULE #3: Find thoughtfully made products. You might be surprised to learn that regulations for beauty and skincare products are pretty shabby. What that means is that toxic ingredients might be are! more! than! likely! being pumped into your beloved products and you're none the wiser. As a matter of fact, the FDA only requires intended ingredients to be listed on a product's ingredient list! Unfortunately, that means it's our job to find and use brands that care about consumers and champion transparency and honesty as part of their platforms. These are the products I use and recommend (for acne-prone skin or otherwise):
  • Face wash (night time only): This one by Acure is gentle and non-irritating, an acne victim's dream.  A pea-sized amount of this product will do the trick, which means this cleanser is incredibly affordable. Apply the cleanser to dampened skin and rub into skin in a gentle, circular motion. It is important to cleanse your skin for at least 30 seconds before rinsing. Rinse with cool water seven times (or more!) before gently drying your face.
  • Toner (night time only): I promise that good old fashioned witch hazel is the harshest version of toner you want to use (read: it's incredibly gentle). A small amount on a cotton pad or in the palm of your hand spread across the face will remove any remaining traces of dirt and soothe your irritated skin.
  • Moisturizer (morning and night): This moisturizer from Enkido is extremely tailor-made for sensitive, troubled skin and soothing to boot! I like to apply a thin layer all over my skin directly after toning.
  • Facial oils (morning or night): Many people believe that it's counterproductive to apply facial oils to acne-prone skin, but that's simply not the case. Many facial oils provide tons of nutrients and help repair skin quickly. They are such a nourishing way to care for skin! In the winter months, I apply two pumps at night and during warmer months, I apply one pump at night. I'm not afraid to apply about a half-pump in the morning (under makeup) if my skin is particularly dry. Apply after cleansing and toning. This can be mixed in with moisturizer if desired. I like this one, this one, and this one. Facial oils can seem like an investment, but a very small amount is required and they are a sure-fire way to pack a punch when it comes to caring for skin.
  • Makeup remover: I like to cleanse twice more than I like using makeup remover, but if I've worn a particularly heavy eye look, I'll simply use coconut oil to remove it. Do this before cleansing.
  • Face mask: The magic of a face mask cannot be underestimated. I use one once a week depending on the time of year and my skin's particular needs at that time. I recommend really tailoring this to your special, specific needs. I love this one and this one. I've also heard good things about this one. Apply your mask after cleansing and exfoliating (see below), but before toning, moisturizing, and applying oils.
  • Exfoliant: Your skin needs to be exfoliated — not too often and not too abrasively! Help your skin by encouraging cell turnover. In my opinion, the BEST exfoliant is baking soda. DO NOT rub your skin too hard. That will only aggravate those spots. Exfoliation should be a slow and gentle process. Scrub your skin very gently (with a little vigor!) in a circular motion to get the most out of this step. If baking soda isn't your thing, try this product instead. Complete this step after cleansing, directly before applying a face mask. After rinsing the face mask, tone, moisturize, and oil up as usual. Exfoliate once a week and never more than that.
  • Specialty products: I think it's best to leave your zits alone (read: don't zap them with "miracle" products). If you must pop your whiteheads (confession: I do!), use this tool. If you want a spot treatment, put a little bit of this mask on your zits. If you are in desperate need of quick and easy zit disappearing, use this (but only if you must! It does not have the most stellar ingredient list, but I did use it in the weeks leading up to my wedding!). In a pinch, I like a blemish stick like this one.
RULE #4: Care, care, care. The jury's still out on this one, but it's completely obvious to me. Your skin reflects the state of your insides. Drink a bunch of water. Nourish your body with fruits and veggies. Stay away from things like cookies, white flour, sodas, sugary foods and drinks, and highly processed foods. Life is meant for living, so have these items every now and then if you want to, but get in the habit of limiting them.

If you can't already tell by the lengthy essay above, I am really passionate about natural skincare. If you have any questions, it would be my absolute pleasure to chat! Good luck! xo

Friday, February 6, 2015

big sur road trip.

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These are some of the sweetest memories with the sweetest people, and I will keep them and pull them out when I need to remember the absolute beauty of my life.

Now I see the secret of making the best persons; it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. - Walt Whitman 

P.S. Many of these photos were taken by my incredibly talented brother-in-law. Go check out his other work and let his talent blow you away.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

the (fabricated) story of my ring, part iv.

Quite some time ago, I posted a fictional series on my previous blog about the origin of my engagement ring. Truthfully, we found the set in an antique store in Micanopy, a small town outside of our college town. The woman who sold it to us knew very little about the set, other then when it was likely made. I have always been enamored with history, mostly because I love imagining people's lives and the goings-on during different time periods. The series is still one of my favorite things I've ever written, and for that reason I'd like to re-publish it here. It is entirely fictional and has no truth to it whatsoever, although it is fun to imagine otherwise. 

Part 1, here.
Part 2, here.
Part 3, here.

A few days had passed since Nadine had placed her small, handwritten letter on the lobby mailboxes. Her attempt to be mysterious had resulted in the purchase of a pair of bright yellow shoes and a hideous blue hat. She realized almost immediately that mystery could not be purchased. She thought of her dear mother who had never tried to be anything but herself. Nadine sighed.

George had spent minutes, hours deciding what to write back to the woman in the floral skirt. The letter sat on his empty dining room table, as if it needed all the space it was given. He sat down. He stood up. He felt a little ridiculous over the nervousness he felt. He sat back down.

Dear Woman In The Floral Skirt (Nadine),

It is you, right? Your letter was not intrusive. Quite the opposite, actually. I am sorry to report, however, that I have no experience in tools or handywork or anything else like it. I, myself, was trying to repair my typewriter, which now sits broken in the corner of my living room. A shame, really.

George (Apartment 2B)

He looked at the letter. It seemed cold, distant. But he didn't know how else to write it. And then he looked at the way he had signed it. He wondered about Yours. It seemed too intimate. Oh well, he thought. And with that, he walked down to the mailboxes and taped the letter to Apartment 3B's mailbox. Nadine, he thought, what a lovely name. Just then, he realized she was living right above him. He walked back into his apartment and shut the door. He stood in the center of his living room and looked up. Suddenly, he felt less alone as he imagined what Nadine was up to. It was a comfort he had not felt since the day before he had broken his typewriter.

Although Nadine was trying not to care, she had checked her mailbox incessantly over the last few days for any kind of sign that The Man With The Bright Red Socks had been there. On this particular trip to the mailbox, she realized he had been. She read the letter. A brilliant idea crossed her mind.
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