Monday, September 26, 2016


I work at a university library. We're a small school, the kind of place where students are involved with at least 5 extra-curriculars and are taking 19 credits. It's easy for our students to feel overwhelmed, particularly our women. There's a lot of pressure (external and internal) on young women today. That's why my heart was so warmed when I saw this in the women's bathroom at work. Our young women have each other's backs! Check out these affirmations that were left to help lift others up:

You are loved
You look good
Damn girl
You sexy
Get that coffee
Success starts w/ you
You're unique
Be positive
Be confident
I love you
You got this
You're beautiful
You're perfect
You're amazing
You rock
Be you

We all need to remember this sometimes. That we're all these things, and that we've got women who have our backs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Heartbreak in All Its Forms


I wrote this in November 2014 and recently revisited it because the world can be a crazy, heartbreaking place, and sometimes we need a reminder that we can do it, whatever it may be.


Dealing with heartbreak can be a huge obstacle.

When I speak about heartbreak, I’m pretty sure I’m not talking about what probably immediately comes to mind. Life hands us all kinds of surprises--some are wonderful and unexpected and others are devastating, challenging, maddening (and, yes, unexpected). Some are big deals, some are little deals that feel like big deals at the time, and others… Well, they just are, because that’s part of life.

Sometimes we’re heartbroken because we want to change things for the better, but it doesn’t seem to work out. Plans don’t fall into place; minds aren’t open to change; perhaps you’re not in a place to enact change. So what do you do? Every person is different…

Sometimes we’re heartbroken because of a loss. This can be the loss of a loved one, the loss of someone we didn’t necessarily know but was someone we looked up to and felt hope because of their existence. This can be the loss of an imagined outcome, the “if only” situations, the idea of something. All of these describe grief…

Sometimes we’re heartbroken because we’re frustrated. Maybe it’s a lack of control, maybe fear, maybe that we just can’t change circumstances.

Sometimes we’re heartbroken because we’ve closed ourselves off to something that we want (but apparently not enough to change from within to open up).

Sometimes we’re heartbroken by time. It either goes too quickly during a time we want to cherish, or moves too slowly during a time we’d rather forget. Sometimes we don’t know how quickly or slowly we want time to go because of the unknown: how will this illness progress; how will my child develop; how will I handle this big responsibility; what if I screw up; what does the future hold and how am I supposed to prepare for that?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I’ve found sometimes the following things help:
  • Find strength in others (and yourself), talk to a good friend.
  • Look for hope.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Take a break and a breath.
  • Have a good cry.
  • Go for a walk - engage those endorphins.
  • Take time to feel whatever it is you need to feel - give yourself permission.
  • Give yourself permission to move on, too.
  • Step away from a situation if need be.
  • Assess the situation - can you change it? No? Yes? Accept what you can do or change, and accept what you can't.
  • Make it manageable - rather than be overwhelmed, break it down into more manageable pieces.
  • Know that no two people react/feel/grieve the same, and that's ok. 
  • Seek help beyond friends if you need to.

Remember you’re more capable than you think you are. You can handle heartbreak and challenges, and you don’t have to do it alone.

If your feelings are more than you can bear, please seek out professional help immediately. Resources can be found here:

Monday, January 11, 2016

4 Ways I Buy Clothes On a Small Budget

For the last few years, our family has been on a pretty strict budget. My husband and my brother run their own business, and for the first couple of years money was really inconsistent, so we had to be REALLY consistent so we could make it through the lean months on the leftovers of the better months. Now that the business has grown, we can count on a consistent salary each month, but since we're still paying off student loans and just finished paying off our car, we've chosen to keep the budget tight. (As my friend recently said to me, "We're trying to Dave Ramsey the crap out of those loans.") All of which is to lead into the fact that I don't go on many shopping sprees.

Each month, we have a small amount of discretionary money set aside for each member of the family. Eric and I get $50 each, and the girls get $75 together (which covers D's diapers and wipes and then anything else they might need). That covers activities, gifts, splurges, etc. and though I've gotten pretty good at stretching it, it's not a huge amount. Occasionally when a family member has a dire need for something big like shoes or coats, we'll move the budget around, but those emergencies aren't frequent. A sale at my favorite store usually doesn't count as an emergency.

But the fact is, I do like to shop for clothes, and I like having something different to wear. I like buying my girls clothes for special occasions. Which means I pretty much never want to spend $50 on one item, ever, or I'm totally out for the month.

Here are some of the ways I stick to my budget and still manage to feel like I can dress nicely without getting totally bored of my clothes or missing out on the fun of putting my two girls in matching things. This probably won't ever be a fashion blog, but I can enjoy clothes and pay off and save at the same time.
  • I'm not afraid to buy kid's clothes used. Kids grow out of things so fast, it's just never worth it to pay $30+ for their clothes, especially when you never know if they're about to have a growth spurt two seconds after you make a big purchase. Not to mention the fact that for the past year my older daughter has become SO opinionated about her clothes, and most days she spends the majority of the day in a dress up anyway. Kid-to-Kid and Just Between Friends have been my go-to when I've needed to fill in gaps in the hand-me-down stash. A coat here, some warm jammies there, a few pairs of shoes - I've found some great stuff for my kids at consignment stores. Last year at the Just Between Friends sale I found a little girl's dress I had wanted to buy about a year before but had passed up because it was $30. At JBF it still had the tags on it, but I paid $4. Win. D is getting it for Christmas, just before she grows into it.
    I got that Land's End coat at a consignment sale. I think it will last C for a couple of years and I'm guessing it will still be going when D is ready for it.
  • I've embraced the online thrift store. This took me longer because thrift stores are just hard with little kids. However, I recently discovered Thredup when one of my friends posted it on facebook. I got $20 in my account to try it, and every time someone I refer uses it I get an extra $20, so I've gotten about $80 free and then have spent a little of my actual money here and there to get myself a couple of new dresses, shirts, sweaters, etc. They even have kids clothes, and I recently bought my girls some coats and dresses. The prices are higher than a thrift store, but the quality is mostly better, and it's really nice to be able to filter down your search by size, color, and category. (If you want to try thredup, you can use my referral link and get $20 to try it.) 

  • I accept hand me downs for my girls - and myself. I don't think I bought more than about 3 pieces of maternity clothing until halfway through my second pregnancy, thanks to my sister-in-law and some stretchy shirts, and I've hardly bought anything for my oldest daughter thanks to baby showers and hand me downs from her cousin. (Of course, she's so dang tall that she's about to pass up the cousin who was giving the hand me downs, so we'll probably have to rethink that in the future - but it was really nice while it lasted.) The hard thing about this is not letting the hand me downs take over. Now that my second daughter is wearing them I've started going through them and tossing the things I don't love. Babies may be messy, but by the time they're a year old they aren't going through more than 2 outfits a day. 
  • I wait. A few weeks ago I had some Old Navy Cash. I had something I wanted, but it wasn't in stores, and I didn't want to pay for shipping or buy $50 worth of stuff to get free shipping. Then, on the last day of Old Navy cash, when I'd pretty much decided to forget about it, I got a coupon for free shipping on $25, which apparently worked when the item was $25 even if it was much cheaper once the coupons applied. The dress was $12, free shipping. Bam. Plus, by the time I'd waited that long, I knew I really did want the dress. You might miss out on a few things by waiting, but buying on an impulse almost always leads to me spending more and regretting the purchase after, whereas I never regret the item I wanted at full price but for for $3 on the clearance rack a couple of months later. 
My dress: Thredup (free with credits)
D: Hand-me-downs, heed to toe
C: Hand-me-down
E: Sweater bought in the after Christmas sale last year.
How about you? Do you have any tricks for refreshing your wardrobe and keeping your family clothed without breaking the bank? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

When Plans Fall Through: How a Miscommunication Shaped My Adult Life

When I was a senior in high school, I'd been accepted to my university of choice and was figuring out all of the logistics of moving 60 miles away for school. My best friend from Junior High had been living in Las Vegas during our high school years, but she was going to be attending the same school and we planned to live together. We were supposed to sign up for the dorms on a certain day, so we made plans to do so.

For reasons I no longer remember or understand, I thought we were supposed to sign up at the same time from our respective computers. I don't know why we couldn't just write in our request for a roommate whenever we filled out the application, but I do remember calling her house frantically for hours trying to find out when she was going to sign up so we could do it at the same time. I finally got in touch with her several hours later, and she'd already sent in her application without me. I submitted mine, but received a letter saying the dorms were full and I would be put on a wait list but should look for alternate housing.

A girl I knew a little from  my high school choir choir and a few other classes got the same letter, so we decided to look for housing together. We picked an apartment, signed a lease, bought coordinating bedspreads - then got letters saying that if we wanted to stay in the dorms we could. Whoops.

So that began three years of living in an apartment complex that was not really as nice as the model apartment made it look, but one full of wonderful and fulfilling experiences and relationships, many of which I've carried with me ever since. My roommates and other friends who lived across the hall during those years taught me so much. They taught me how to wear makeup. They taught me how to be more spontaneous. They taught me how to flirt with cute boys. They wallowed with me to get over stupid boys. They helped me to have more confidence in myself. They went with me to plays and movies. They told me it was okay to go to plays and movies by myself. They encouraged me to follow my dreams, to apply for that study abroad to England, to submit that grad school application. They helped me realize that I cared about politics, that I loved rock concerts, that chopsticks are not impossible to use, that loving someone like a sister is possible even if you don't have any sisters. They taught me that loving a friend can be so hard you want to quit being friends with anyone ever again, and that remembering why you loved someone can be so beautiful that you want to be friends with everyone you meet.

One of the groups I lived with at the time

At a reunion this summer with those who could make it.

I'm not saying these things wouldn't have happened if I'd ended up living with my dear friend as planned. Many wonderful people would have entered my life either way, I'm sure. But some of the people I met because that plan fell through started this blog with me. Many of them were some of the first people I told when I got into grad school, when I got engaged, when I found out I was pregnant. Those people still have such a huge influence on my life that I can't imagine who I would be without them - and if I hadn't been confused about how to apply for dorms, I probably wouldn't have met any of them.

So whenever something doesn't work out the way I plan, I try to remember that some of the people who had and still have the biggest influence on my life are only in it because of something that started out as a huge disappointment and a communication error, and I try to figure out what amazing things are going to happen because my plans fell through.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How I Threw Out 30 Bags of Stuff and Started Loving My House

So like two years ago I started a post on decluttering that I never finished. Because I never decluttered. This is what I wrote: 

I have a clutter problem.
I think it stems from three main sources.
1) I like shop when I have nothing in particular in mind that I need - just to browse around and look at things and imagine them in my house. Most of the time I'm pretty good at not buying them, but every once in awhile, I buy something even when I have no idea where I will put it. And then it has to go somewhere.
2) I have a problem throwing things out - particularly things that have been given to me by someone - so I hang onto it and it takes up space in the open or takes up storage space in one of the many, many boxes I have stored at my parents' house.
3) When faced with a pile of clutter of any sort, even when that clutter is a pile of mail, I have a paralyzing mental block and I just stare at it and push it aside into a tidier pile instead of, you know, doing something about it.
I have some friends who have the most glorious, clutter-free houses. I have a mom who has a house with lots of knick-knacky stuff in it, but stuff that stays relatively organized so the effect is cozy and inviting rather than stifling. Somehow, I have managed to fail to achieve either of these ends of the spectrum.
This cannot continue.
I thought it was a really good beginning of a post, but alas, because of the above problems, I didn't ever finish it because I had NO IDEA what to do about it.

Then a few weeks ago I saw The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo in a friend's Instagram feed and I really wanted to read it. So naturally I bought it for my husband for Easter. (He is always pushing for less stuff, so he wasn't sad about it - and I think he was excited that I was ready to undergo a major project of this sort.)

The KonMari method has a couple of major points that really worked for me. 1) You have to go through all of your stuff and throw a lot of it away before you reorganize it. If you just keep reorganizing all of your stuff, it's always going to be a mess again soon. 2) You decide whether you want to keep things or not with one simple question, and that question is not, "Have I used this in a year?" or "Does this still work?" That question is, "Does this item bring me joy?"

I don't know why this worked so much better for me than anything else I'd ever tried to do, but I suddenly felt released from all of the stuff that for some reason I felt obligated to keep because it was still good or I might use it sometime or it seemed like a waste to junk it. "Does it give me joy?" made me go, "Nope. Toss it," to a lot of stuff that was filling up my little apartment. So each night we've been choosing a category and going through things and sending garbage bags filled with stuff we just didn't like that much to the donation pile or the garbage.

You guys. Why was I hanging onto some of that junk? I had shoes I hadn't worn in years that had cracked soles. I had stacks of notes from college and text books sitting on my shelf that I haven't looked at in 7 years except to pack them to haul them from one place to the next. I had kitchen appliances that I had used maybe once since we got married taking up huge amounts of space in my pantry. I threw away probably 20 pairs of cheap earrings from Claire's I'd had since Junior High when I got my ears pierced. It. Was. Ridiculous.

Here's the amazing thing about throwing stuff out. Suddenly you realize that it is not your room's fault that you don't like it. It's YOURS for filling it with a comforter you don't terribly love, cheap tv stands standing in as night stands, all the pictures you didn't feel like putting in the living room where people will see them, and two bookcases full of books you don't care about. In one night we donated an entire bookcase full of books, got a headboard with shelf space so we could junk the ugly space-sucking night stands, donated the bedding set that we picked when we got married because my husband was talking about how everything at Bed Bath and Beyond was too girly (I realized after about a year that I didn't love it, but it was a nice compromise until it started pilling) and replaced it with one that we both love, etc. We tossed out two-thirds of the contents of our closet so it became a beautiful and easily organized space, and now it's my favorite room.

This is my new favorite spot. The baby is a nice bonus.

Suddenly I don't just buy stuff because it's cheap and fills the need. I wait a little longer and pay a few dollars more and get something I really love.  I don't need more stuff. A few things that give me joy are so much better for me than a bunch of stuff that makes me feel blah. Because yes, stuff doesn't really bring you joy in the deep spiritual sense, but your things should give you some pleasure - otherwise why have them? A clean, organized space is bringing me SO much more joy than all of that stuff I've thrown out. I don't even remember what half of it was already.