Create the Life You Want

This morning before work, I took out the trash and noticed that Pedro, the man who maintains our property, had placed two chairs in our veggie garden so he didn't have to mow around them. The move was understandable, as the garden has been completely neglected this year.

As I transferred them back, I noticed the garden had become overrun by weeds. Our mint, which is abundant despite my neglect, was being strangled by weeds that had started on the outside of the garden box and now ruled the inside. I quickly began uprooting the weeds one by one. The more I pulled, the more I discovered. They had grown layers deep - intertwined between the mint and mulch and remnants of tomatoes and basil. 

As I dug deeper, yanking up more twisted, powerful weeds, I realized our 20s can be a lot like this garden if we aren't careful. We start out planting basil, tomatoes, mint and peppers. We're dedicated; we tend to it and care for it.

But, the summer ends and as winter nears we forget about the garden. It freezes over during the coldest months and in the spring it stands forgotten by us, becoming whatever we have left it to be. Years go by and suddenly our once diverse and vibrant garden is simply mint and weeds. 

This isn't to sound negative, but, instead to acknowledge that one of the greatest lessons I've learned in this decade is that we have to be intentional.

If we want a garden full of beautiful vegetables, we can't cross our fingers and hope it falls into place. Creating the life we want takes a lot of work. It takes prayer, practice, discipline and intention. It takes focus, trust and risks. 

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If we want to be a therapist or a doctor or spend a year abroad, we can't simply sit at our desks, hoping someone will give us that dream. If we feel led to start a business, we can't grind on other work, hoping someone will lay that foundation for us. 

If we want a garden full of basil, tomatoes and peppers in the fall, we have to plant it in the spring and tend to it all summer. If we want a life made up of our dreams, hopes and goals we have to get out there and make it happen; we have to hustle and work for it. Before we know it, we just might find ourselves waking up in summer, surrounded by the fruits of our labor. 

My Go-To Etsy Shops for Gifts

Last week, when I shared some of my easy money saving tips, a few of you asked for recommendations on Etsy shops. There are a handful I can't share right now because I'm using them for bridesmaid and family gifts at our wedding. But! For now, I'd love to tell you about some of my other favorites. 

One thing I'd always suggest is to check the shop for reviews. I've been disappointed by a few items I've purchased on Etsy and the shop owners aren't always willing to work with you if expectations aren't met. Reviews are your friend!

Also, I try to always have a stash of gifts from which I can pull when I need a very last minute option. I don't use them for close friends, but if I get invited to a party or have a lunch pop up and feel like I need to bring a gift, it's nice to have a good candle ready to go.

{You can never go wrong with flowers}

{You can never go wrong with flowers}

For the newly engaged girl:

Dear Mushka is my favorite for sentimental jewelry. My newest obsession is her vertical bar necklace. I recently purchased it for a friend when she got engaged with her new last initial stamped on it. Every piece of jewelry is inspired by a bible verse, beautifully wrapped and affordable.  

Also, when we got engaged, two really sweet gifts people gave me were a manicure to a local spa (so thoughtful!) and a sweet ring dish for my nightstand. I've always admired this super affirming one on Etsy, but have yet to purchase.

For the hostess:

For the Host: My sister introduced me to this shop. I love to purchase her beautiful, simple items as hostess gifts. The kitchen utensil set is my go-to. I love that she has so many colors from which you can select, while still keeping the design minimal. 

Dandelion Textiles: I'm a *big* fan of Turkish Towels and have purchased quite a few from various sites. You can pay a lot of money - but you absolutely don't need to do so. Dandelion is technically an Amazon shop, but these are the best, affordable Turkish Towels I've found. They are oversized, come in beautiful colors and get softer with each wash. My sisters purchased them for my bachelorette party gifts and they were a big hit.

{Dandelion Textiles Turkish Towels}

{Dandelion Textiles Turkish Towels}

For the new homeowner:

The Savvy Scribe: I think it's so sweet to give a return address stamp when a friend buys a new home. Haley, a friend from Atlanta, recently opened The Savvy Scribe and has a beautiful calligraphy stamp. I've not yet purchased this item, but we used Haley for a few wedding projects and everything was gorgeous. At one point, I asked her what font she used for something we printed and she said "actually, that's my handwriting." Amazing!

One Craftivist: For a stock the bar, I love to get a Mexican themed gift, such as a bottle of tequila or margarita glasses, then these Holy Guacamole & Let's Salsa spoons

For A Pregnancy Announcement

Oh My Deer Handmades: Last summer, I framed this Hey Babe print for a friend who was having a baby. I love sweet, traditional baby gifts, but sometimes it's fun to get something unexpected.

What are your go-to gifts? I'd love to hear! Happy gifting!

{life lately}

Good morning!

Recently, someone commented that she wanted more little life updates on my blog. I have pulled back on those because sometimes it feels a little cocky to assume you want to know the ins and outs of my life. And, it seems like Insta stole the show there and blogs are just for long form.

But, alas! Ask and you shall receive :) Here's what I've been up to lately (x1000 photos!):

My amazing mom & sisters came to Atlanta to help wedding plan. It was an absolute whirlwind and we got so much done - including sending invitations out. Wahoo!

Off they go! 

Off they go! 

My family + Melly threw me a beautiful wedding shower in Atlanta. I felt so amazingly overwhelmed by their love.

Can you tell who is related here? :) 

Can you tell who is related here? :) 

Their beautiful, simple decor.

Their beautiful, simple decor.

I voted in Georgia's primary. Just a little late to the party on caring about politics - NBD. Power to the peaches, Georgia!

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I rode on a firetruck as part of my LEAD Atlanta program. It was amazing.

Chris and I had friends over to my housing for dining el fresco on a gloriously warm early March day. Hello spring, ILOVEYOU!

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I went home to Indiana for an amazing shower, which my aunts threw. They were so generous and loving. Every detail was so well thought out. These showers really do shower you with love!

My parents threw a great family party, which meant I got to see everyone while I was home ( = the best!). 

I didn't wash my hair for seven days while I was home. Sounds disgusting, right? It wasn't! I swear my hair just stopped producing oil after a few days. (My super cool braid on day seven...)

I drove to Chicago to celebrate my friend, Maggie's, bachelorette weekend. We had dinner at Bar Siena and brunch at Little Goat and laughed and went to Barefoot Power Yoga and were so happy to be together. It was my friend, Jamie's, final weekend living in the West Loop so she showed us, one last time, why it is the best loop. 

I got back to Atlanta and got to cheer on the Hoosiers with my brother, brother-in-law, Ryan, and Chris while eating Yeah! Burger. What more could you want?

The next day, Ryan, who is officiating our wedding, talked us through the ceremony and expectations. Then he took us to get our marriage license

That night, Chris and I went to Leon's to celebrate :) 

Then, last weekend, Sam and his fiance, Abbey, were in town. Naturally this called for dinner at Taqueria + froyo at The Yogurt Tap.

So, that's what has been going on around these parts! I hope your spring is going swimmingly :)!

For When You Feel Jealous

On Tuesday after work, I met an old friend for a walk. The air was warm and the Highlands were dancing - the sidewalks filled with people and strollers and dogs taking long sips of the first of spring. We talked hurriedly - updating one another on the last few weeks; the balmy air filling us with energy. 

She told me about her plans to leave Atlanta; she and her husband are taking their sweet baby and moving north. I asked a million questions about when and where and couldn't have felt more excited for her. They're beginning a new adventure; a brand new chapter for their tiny family. 

But, I detected something in the ugliest part of me that I wish I hadn't felt. I tried to ignore it, but it keep sneaking up.

So, I told her: "I couldn't be more excited for you. But I am a tiny bit jealous."

It's not that I want was she has. In fact, these days what I want is quite the opposite. So what was it?

When we're feeling jealous, it is normally for one of three reasons:

  1. Someone else is getting something you want. You might want it now or in 10 years. But you know you want what they have. 
  2. You're afraid you're getting left behind.
  3. You're afraid there won't be enough for you and that this is an economy of scarcity.

As we finished our walk, she asked me for details on our wedding. I told her how the changing season was making it feel so close. We are in spring and we are getting married in spring! Holy cow!

After a few questions she sighed and said, "Oh, spring makes me feel so nostalgic for our wedding." 

I smiled at her words. Does she want to go back in time? Of course not.

But, just like the future can tempt us with what we don't have, the past can tempt us with what we once had. 

The key is understanding that the playing field is constantly shifting. There will always be someone who has what we want. And we will always have what someone else wants.

By practicing gratitude, we can avoid being overcome with jealousy or nostalgia. 

After we'd parted ways, I ran into another friend. She was on a third date with a guy she likes a lot. They were giddy with the kind of energy you only have in the beginning - when you wonder if he meant to touch your hand and his smile makes your heart flip.

For a brief moment, I thought: Ah, I miss that phase with Chris. And then I laughed at myself. Isn't that the way it goes? From yearning for a baby and a big move to dreaming of the early days of dating, our hearts are constantly seeking and our minds are always racing. We compare and stress and let jealousy make us believe we don't have enough.

I reminded myself that I am grateful for today and that right now is enough. I know and believe that this life is unfolding exactly as it is meant to be. 

Let's Talk About Your 20s!

Last week, I met with a college student who told me she was scared about graduating. She asked me what the hardest part about the transition was and what I wish I'd known. I answered her honestly: for me, the transition wasn't all that hard. 22, 23 and 24 were OK. And then 25 hit and it was a tornado. I wish I'd known that this was not only OK, but also normal

So often, all we really need is for people to normalize where we are. To tell us: this is OK. You are not crazy. You are not alone. This is something that happens to people during this decade.

I'm working on a new project focused on this very topic and would love your help as I begin my research. If you have time for a quick three-question survey (below or via this link if on your phone), I'd love and appreciate your feedback! 

Create your own user feedback survey

Thank you! Happy Monday!

Where Do You Get Your Worth?

It's not something I'm proud to admit, but I used to be a complete tanaholic. I was a triple threat of a sun worshipping disaster: I love nothing more than being outside, I tan quickly and I adored the compliments people gave me about my bronzed skin. 

Circa 2007. I realize now that this isn't the best look. 

Circa 2007. I realize now that this isn't the best look. 

In the interest of full disclosure, the first summer I had a 40-hour per week internship and was stuck inside during prime tanning hours, I'd run to my car on my lunch break, throw on my swimsuit and sneak to a nearby pond. I'd recline on my towel in the grass, next to the locals eating sandwiches on a bench before racing back to my car and changing into my work clothes. In the middle of the city - just blocks from my place of employment. 

It was bad. 

I remember thinking: If I'm not tan in the summer, I'm basically not me in the summer. I have to be tan when I go home to Indiana for weddings.

In retrospect, I see now what I didn't see then: I was getting worth from those compliments about my bronzed skin. I had been praised for being tan for so many years that it had become part of what I thought made me, me.

It was a source of self-worth. 

And that can be the trouble with the things for which we receive abundant praise. They start as compliments, which are flattering remarks from others. But, after hearing them over and over, they become complements, which are things that make a group complete. The compliments begin to complete us. 

They become part of who we are.

Over time, you begin to measure your own self-worth based on these things. It may be that you're funny, smart, good at your job or super efficient that you're proud of. And it's OK to be proud of our achievements. But, when we begin to place so much value on our accomplishments, we begin to believe they give us value. 

As we age, we may not be able to access these things - perhaps you lose your job or, like me, realize you don't want to be super tan anymore. Suddenly, the thing that once gave us worth is gone, and we're left with an imaginary measuring stick to which we can no longer stack up. 

Throughout my 20s, I've spent quite a bit of time and energy on figuring out where my worth comes from. I've wrestled with what makes me who I am versus what are simply facts about me. Yes, I may have skin that naturally tans, but it doesn't make me more or less valuable. Yes, I can rock a to do list like it's nobody's business, but it doesn't give me my worth. 

My weight, accomplishments, abilities, relationships and possessions don't make me who I am. They are just things. My worth is not external or temporary. 

It breaks my heart when I see people carrying their worth around their necks like a weight. It's the workout they have to complete in order to feel worthy, the house they have to clean to feel like they're enough and the relationship they have to find to feel whole. It pains me so because I used to be that person. I used to earn my worth every day with tasks and to do lists, exercise and so many fleeting items. 

I've come to learn that the more we begin to believe our worth is innate, and not something to be earned, the more we find freedom to be who we really are. The more we can become whole, full versions of ourselves and begin to believe that we are more than enough.

We are extraordinary, in fact, because we were intentionally made to be exactly as we are. 

Getting Myself Unstuck

Hello, Wednesday! I'm so excited to share my second Sometimes, Always, Never newsletter. A pep talk for your inbox! I won't always be posting them here, so feel free to subscribe if you're interested in keeping up-to-date.


Lately, I've been making excuses.

I feel stuck. I have too much on my plate. I'm overwhelmed. I don't know where to begin. I don't have enough time. 

I cited all of these reasons, among others, as I talked to my sister about where I am with my business. 

And, the truth is, they're true. I have taken on a bit too much and it's overwhelming me.

However, as I explained them to her, I realized that just because they're true doesn't mean they aren't excuses. They've become my crutch - my reason not to go forward. Once I said them out loud, I realized the only thing holding me back was myself. Isn't that always how it goes? 

I realized I needed to force my own hand - to create accountability. I can't change the circumstances that are overwhelming me, but I can help myself get unstuck by committing to deadlines and milestones. By controlling the elements that are within reach and letting go of those that are not. And by acknowledging what is baked in fear and what is in Truth. 

So that's where I am this week: committing to going forward, ready or not. Committing to focus groups and camp dates. Committing to things that feel scary, but also exciting. 

I hope your 2016 is off to a great start. I hope you feel refreshed and not stuck and that your year is bringing more adventure than you imagined.

PS: Feeling stuck yourself? Check out this great read.