Finding Joy this Holiday Season

Finding Joy this Holiday SeasonThe 2016 holiday season is now in full swing. (I say “now” in full swing so some of you don’t burn me at the stake for “skipping Thanksgiving.” You know who you are.) Now, we can all go full on Christmas mode and not be shamed for maybe or maybe not having our trees up early. Personally, I’m feeling quite ready for the holiday season. 75% of our gifts are in route to my house, my calendar is laid out in pretty colors, and Christmas cards are on their way. And most importantly, I have a certain peace about this season that I haven’t had in a very long time.

I’m not sure if my calmness over the holiday madness comes from the life-changing events of this year or from my age. I wouldn’t say that I’m more prepared than usual, maybe even the direct opposite. However, I’m simply not feeling the anxiety that I’d normally feel as the happiest time of the year approaches. Let’s look at the facts.

Reasons why I should be worried:

  • As of noon last Wednesday, we had 0 gifts purchased.
  • I ordered Christmas cards later than planned and could have throat punched that stupid website.
  • This past weekend was our last weekend without something planned until January. January!
  • We’re testing out some new holiday traditions this year.
  • I’m heavily involved in the success of a plethora of holiday events coming in the next several weeks.
  • We’ll be hosting family in our home a few times and some things still aren’t finished or “ready.”
  • I know, with certainty, that we’re about to be exhausted for the next 30+ days.
  • My decorations aren’t ready.

Reasons why I should NOT be worried:

  • Matthew and I got a heavy dose of perspective on life in 2016. I’m simply not as bothered by things that used to cause me stress.
  • My new home is lovely and I’m happy to host people here!
  • We made a huge dent in holiday shopping (online) over the weekend.
  • We know exactly where we’ll be and when over the holidays. There will be no obsessing over who we’re visiting when and who’s going to be upset if we don’t show. Plans are set and that’s that.
  • I’m transitioning into a better place of making decisions that are best for Matthew and I – without so much emphasis on what others want or expect. This is a GREAT place to be, by the way.
  • We’ve had a fantastic year. We’ve not only survived, we have thrived. And basically, no one or nothing can steal that joy from me right now.

I could likely keep listing reasons for both sides of this argument. I’m just too excited to get bogged down in the minutia this year. Matthew and I have so much to celebrate, and I simply won’t allow the madness or chaos of this busy season distract from that. My #1 intention for this season is to truly enjoy spending time together and with those that we care about. The details might not be perfect and we might be outrageously tired after the first week of events. Nonetheless, I’m not concerned. We will attend each event that we’ve selected and we will enjoy ourselves with those people in that moment. We will have gifts for those we’re buying gifts for and even if they’re not the most perfect gift possible, they’ll have been selected with care and love. I will not live this season in guilt over not doing everything that everyone wants. Instead, we will enjoy this holiday season and celebrate the close of this life-changing year.

My new perspective could come from having faced one of the most trying obstacles we’ve encountered thus far and making it. Last Christmas, we would have never imagined the heartache 2016 would hold for us. I think experiencing something like that is sort of like a near death experience or severe illness – when you’re faced with something of that magnitude, and then get another shot to do better, those tiny details and expectations of others that drain the life right out of you, suddenly seem trivial. You’re forced to take stock of your life and how you’re living it and when you see things you’re not happy with, you make unrestrained adjustments. If this fresh perspective on the holiday season is a result of the flood, this will be another seemingly unrelated area of our lives that has been altered by the events of this past spring. On the surface one would think we simply had to remodel a house, fight insurance battles, buy new stuff (That’s fun right? Not really.), and be homeless for a bit. Quite the contrary. There’s really not an aspect of our lives, our business, or our relationships that wasn’t altered somehow because of this experience. If my take on the holiday season is another one of them, I really wouldn’t be too surprised.

Another possible factor in this newfound peace could be my age. Someone once told me that as you get older, you’ll slowly (and then suddenly) stop caring about what other people think. Whereas at one point you might live and make decisions based on the feedback you’d get from those around you, you suddenly stop doing that and do whatever in the hell you want to. For me, I’ve always lived in the mindset of guilt. I made decisions or did things to avoid the guilt I’d feel if I didn’t do them. What was best for Matthew and I might have been a different plan entirely, and yet we’d go with the flow and oblige so that I didn’t let anyone down. Even people that would let me down in a heartbeat if something was inconvenient for them. Lucky for me (not), guilt has controlled me for much of my life. Therefore, we’d get up, dress the part, and attend every single event possible. We’d show up boasting food or gifts, regardless of whether we wanted to be there or not. Suddenly, I no longer feel the need to do this. And I won’t feel guilty for letting that obligation go. If this is indeed some coming-of-age moment for me, I cannot wait to see what other areas of my life in which I’ll get some relief.

So much of life is about making choices. We choose what we’re going to do and not going to do. And more importantly, we choose what our attitude will be surrounding these experiences. We can be positive or we can be negative. It’s a choice, and I’ll be the first to admit that my anxiety-ridden self was the first to buckle under the pressure of the holidays in the past. I let the minutia of this detail and that one steal my joy. I think my anxiety and exhaustion (and sometimes dread) often stemmed from feeling like I didn’t have a choice in the affairs of the holidays. I sometimes felt like I was one “Merry Christmas” away from losing my mind. However, deciding to choose our schedule for December brought with it a fresh perspective and a sigh of relief. We’ve chosen our plans for the holidays, and I’m choosing to experience them all with joy. It’s a Christmas miracle!

If you find yourself getting drug along by the hustle and bustle, take a little break and remind yourself what this season is truly about for you. Remember that it’s an opportunity to share in a wonderful season with the people that you love. Remember that there are many wonderful things about this season and if we focus on those, it might lift our anxiety and frustration just a bit. And most importantly, remember that no matter what, nothing about this season must be perfect. We don’t have to give the best gifts in the entire world (and we certainly don’t have to go into debt for them). The Christmas treats don’t have to be perfectly made, and our halls don’t have to be perfectly decked. As a matter of fact, if we look with an adjusted mindset, we can probably see beauty in the imperfection. Furthermore, if the season brings with it some sadness over loves ones lost or misfortune of the past year, we can still work to see the best even in the unfortunate situations. Over time, we can condition our minds to find something good in almost every situation, especially if you’re looking for it. Truth be told, you will always find whatever it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for joy, you will eventually find it. And if you’re looking for despair, it’s certainly there.

During this holiday season, and in the upcoming year, I encourage you to choose your perspective. Choose your path and celebrate those decisions you make, even if things don’t go as planned. I wish you the happiest holiday season, no matter your circumstances, and I truly hope you can find joy amidst the seemingly unavoidable chaos. This life, and this season, are what you make of it!

And I Like That About Myself: An Experiment with Self Appreciation

Brene Brown quoteI came across this article and it reference a line in Something’s Gotta Give that I’d never even noticed. As I read through the rest of the post, I agreed silently that women (and men) should know what they like about themselves and be proud to agree and say those things out loud. As a matter of fact, I wanted to go right away and tell everyone I knew to start saying aloud what they loved about themselves. And for those who struggled with identifying those things, I wanted to challenge their thinking. I wanted to help encourage them until they did realized there were things that made them truly amazing and unique that they did like about themselves. And then I realized something; I didn’t want to do the exercise myself. Continue reading

Create More Than You Consume

Walk-In Closet RoomThis phrase has made its way around the internet the last few years. It’s on journals, sketchpads, bags, and tshirts. It’s in Instagram photos galore. “Makers Gonna Make” and other similar phrases have taken hold and passed all around, in theory inspiring makers and creators to spend time working on their crafts. To spend more time actually making something than you do scrolling Pinterest.

I’ve thought about this saying – create more than you consume – multiple times. In my head, I rationalize things to myself by saying that I don’t have time to create. Besides, what is “consuming” anyway? Is listening to a podcast as I walk consuming? Should I be using that time to make  a podcast instead? I’ve toyed with what this really means many times in my head, often justifying to myself that I don’t have a consumption problem and I make plenty.

While sitting on a train heading from Washington back to Oregon, I was listening to a podcast and it provoked thoughts of this very phrase. While staring out at beautiful, lush forests and expansive views of water, I felt compelled to write. Thoughts and stories fluttered though my head, beckoning to be written. I knew that if I didn’t go back to my laptop and get these notes down on “paper,” they’d be gone by the time I tried to write them later. Nonetheless, I just wanted to sit and listen to my podcast aimlessly. That’s the precise moment that I understood this lofty statement – create more than you consume. By continuing to just listen, even when I felt inspired to make, I was consuming instead of creating. Falsely convincing myself that I’d remember these thoughts when the podcast was over, was me enabling myself to keep listening. Here are the facts:

Creating is much, much harder than consuming.

Creating requires effort.

Creating sometimes requires struggle.

Consuming, on the other hand, is easy.

Consuming requires little effort.

And most importantly, consuming can leave us with more inspiration than we know what to do with, resulting in stagnation of ideas and lack of productivity.

Finally, I understood the magnitude of this mantra. We consume more than we create because it’s easier. There’s less risk. And although we don’t have to be churning out 1,000 paintings a day or writing more books than we read, we should make time to be sure that we, too, are putting our work out into the world. When inspiration strikes, we should stop immediately and go explore that spot. Liz Gilbert says ideas are fleeting. They only stay with us a short while and if not put to use, they’ll travel on to someone else.

Finally seeing this saying as more than just something to repin or put on a tshirt, I paused my podcast and wrote those posts. I stopped consuming for a minute in order to create something, even though continuing to listen aimlessly would have been easier.

Most likely we’re all faced with the create vs. consume crossroads more than what we realize. And what if we broadened the spectrum a bit? What if instead of always being the person to receive lovely notes from friends, you were the one to send a note – creating kindness and friendship? What if rather than always being invited to lunch by a coworker, you invited someone to lunch with you – creating relationships? If we broaden the scope of this mantra outside of just the artistic world, we can pretty easily see ways in which we consume more than we create. I wonder what it would be like if we created more in all areas of our lives. What if we created more art? Created more relationships? Created more kindness? More opportunities? More love?

When faced with the opportunity to create or to consume, I think we should remember – consuming in the easy road. Creating is the road less traveled. Which one will you take?

(P.S. Above photo is of my closet/craft room. You can see more on the quick home tour!)

5 Years of Halloween Costumes

I have always loved Halloween and I think working on and wearing some sort of costume is so much fun! Since today is Halloween and this year marks mine and Matthew’s 5th Halloween together, I thought we should all take a quick trip down our memory lane of costumes. Grab yourself a pumpkin spiced latte – or more realistically – some of your kiddos Halloween candy, and enjoy a few pictures of our various shenanigans from the last 5 years!

2016
Matthew was the World’s Strongest Man – including that killer mustache and new tattoo sleeves – and I was the Ringleader.
Earlier this year, I also dressed as a red pepper for a “Boiling Point” themed real estate conference event.
Ringleader and Worlds Strongest Man Halloween CostumeRingleader and Worlds Strongest Man Halloween Costume red pepper costume

 

2015
My tennis partner/friend and I attended our work party shortly after things had gone awry on the court….  Matthew and I wore some pretty fun wigs to the Wiggin’ Out event and dressed up for a friend’s 1920’s themed birthday party!
angry tennis player costumegreen afro and rainbow wig 1920s costume

 

2014
First, Matthew and I were Frankenstein and his Bride. (And sadly, this might be the only photo from that night.) Then, we attended another party as Little Red Riding Hood and the Lumberjack!
Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein costumeLittle Red Riding Hood and the Lumberjack costumes

 

2013
I hope my dates aren’t off here. I blogged about the fun 90s Party we went to in 2014. However, I’m pretty sure the event actually happened in the fall of 2013. Either way – we love the 90s! And look like babies!
90s costume

 

2012
We were pirates! This was our very first Halloween party to host together and I still love these costumes and pictures. I also dressed as Audrey Hepburn for our work party.
couples pirate costumeAudrey Hepburn costume

 

And that rounds out most of the costumes we’ve worn for the last 5 years – both for Halloween and other occasions! I do love to dress up and I’m glad Matthew and our friends enjoy it too.Bert Macklin Janet Snakehole Worlds Strongest Man and Ringleader costumesDo you enjoy dressing up too? What are you planning to be this year??

Bad Days and Deadlines

What to do on a bad daySome days are better than others. Some days turn into weeks, and I’m going to be real with you – some weeks suck. This week is one of those weeks for me. I knew within an hour of waking up on Monday that everything was turning south quickly. By the time I made it to my office, I was ready to drop kick everyone that crossed my path. Lunch with Matthew wasn’t pleasant because my bad mood took hold of the room like a permeating stench, and nothing he could say or do was turning that negativity around. For the record, I did apologize for being in such a foul mood and just asked for some grace until I could get ahold of myself.

So what do you do on days or weeks like this?? Tuesday didn’t seem to start off any better and the rest of the week wasn’t looking so hot either. I’ve wrote before on what to do when you’re having a crappy day, and realistically, I needed to go into hiding and avoid everyone until this dark cloud of a mood could pass. However, what do you do when you have made a commitment with a deadline and you can’t simply withdraw from society for a bit? Unfortunately, when I needed to employ my usual tactics the most, I simply couldn’t.

Here’s what I did. I avoided as many people as possible. There was simply no need in infecting the masses with my mood. Because don’t forget, a bad mood and a bad attitude is just as contagious as a good mood and a positive attitude. If you’re not careful, you’ll have instilled the funk in everyone around you and that’s just not fair. Then, I put my head down and PUSHED through my tasks. I had a specific goal to reach and I buckled down and pushed hard for it so that I could get the hell out of there…for everyone’s sake, not just my own. And then I bought myself prizes

Thankfully, the commitment I made before knowing my mood was going to fail me had a specific deadline. Since I couldn’t set it to the side until I felt more positive and productive, I simply powered through. It’s like seeing the finish line at the end of a long race. You can see the end point and you can push yourself to reach it, even though you’d like to collapse on the ground. (I’m assuming. I don’t run races.) Either way, I can see the endpoint. I seriously buckled down and pushed hard for the goal, knowing that very soon, I’d be able to stop and retreat. As soon as I completed these last few (22 to be exact) tasks, I could give myself a break and do something to help pull myself from the funk.

Not all bad days are accompanied by pressing deadlines. If not, try to employ any of the tactics I mentioned in this post. If you simply do not have the ability to run away at that time, like my situation this week, my next suggestion is to buckle down and get your job done ASAP. Then retreat. Treat it like that last day of work before vacation. We accomplish more on that final day before leaving than we do all year! Don’t drag it out. Just get it done and then move on to something that will hopefully make you feel better. Dragging out your responsibilities will only make it worse, and at a minimum, it sure as hell won’t make it better.

In conclusion, understand that you’re going to have those days and sometimes those weeks. It’s ok. (If you find that you have more of these days than positive ones though, reevaluate your surroundings and make changes to remove the negative stimulus. Or speak to your health care professional.) I’ve been known to beat myself up when I have these bad days, because usually they make me pretty unproductive. And if you saw Monday’s post, you know that productivity and achievement are my vices, which I’m actively working on.

For now, if you’re having the sort of week that I am, get your work done and then go get you a cupcake. Do your best to feel better and if it’s just not happening right now, know that this too shall pass and it’s ok to have a crappy day every now and then.    

An Addiction to Achievement

White Brick FireplaceThey say the first step is admitting you have a problem. And there could be all sorts of problems – addiction, greed, poor eating habits – you name it. Yet those aren’t what I have to share today.

Instead of your most frequently diagnosed “problems,” my problem is with achievement. And I’m willing to admit that it, too, is an addiction. Since I can remember, I’ve been an over-achiever. Type A. Perfectionist. A real go-getter. Work horse. You can call it whatever you’d like. The fact of the matter is, I’ve used hard work to mask my own insecurities and as a marker of my value. I’ve placed my self-worth on how hard I work and what various accomplishments I reach.

Don’t be confused. I am a firm believer in a strong work ethic and setting challenging goals. I love goals. Have all the goals. It’s important to make note of the line in the sand though. Work ethic and goals are one thing, positive things even. Using those things to justify your worth, however, is not.

I’ve talked briefly about the glorification of “busy” before, and since then I’ve focused on removing that word from my vocabulary. I don’t want to be busy. I don’t want to compete for the trophy of being the most tired, ragged, and worn out. Being “busy” isn’t cool anymore. Early on in Present over Perfect, the writer talks about a group of friends who help each other take a simpler approach and focus on self-care. She says, “Instead of competing for who’s busier or who’s more tired, who’s keeping more balls in the air, we’re constantly looking for ways to help each other’s lives get lighter, easier to carry, closer to the heart of what we love, less clogged with expectations and unnecessary tasks.” I want these friends. Honestly, I need these friends. I’m not sure that I know where to start on my own.

I’ve been struggling with the realization that my worth is tied to my work lately, and quite frankly, I’ve been trying to ignore it. No one, not even me as a personal growth junkie wants to dig that deep and challenge their very core. Repress, repress has been the name of my game here. Don’t pay any attention to that little voice telling you to reevaluate things and it won’t become real. As I began to read the first few pages of Present over Perfect, I could not focus over the sound of my own mind screaming, “That’s me! That’s me!” The author talks about feeling exhausted and her dreams involving nights alone in complete silence with nothing to do. And sleep. Ah, the thought of a good night’s sleep and feeling rested…preach it, sister!

As I flipped through the first few pages, I knew I wasn’t hiding from this notion of self-care any longer. It was finally time to take stock and identify a better, more compassionate (to myself) way of living. There is an immediate problem though – even though I penciled in “self-care” as a goal for October, I don’t truly understand the concept. I’ve never practiced this approach and the very ideal makes me feel anxious. My approach with myself has been more like that of a pissed off drill sergeant. “Work harder! Do more! You can’t stop yet! Toughen up!” are the types of things I’d say to myself quietly and sometimes even aloud. “Get your shit together,” has often been my motto.

To begin to think seriously about how I talk to and treat myself scares me. Thinking seriously about self-care feels overwhelming. The concept is so foreign and I hardly know where to begin. I’m tempted to smack myself around a bit and give myself a stern talking to, just for “wasting time” on these thoughts. Nonetheless, my rational mind tells me that I’m deflecting and avoiding emotion and that I need to explore this more. What am I hiding from? What emotions and insecurities or fears am I masking by always working harder? Why when I’m not working do I feel like I should be doing something for someone else? Why do I feel undeserving of rest and personal care? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are yet, and I know it won’t be an easy process to discover them.

“Richard Rohr says the skills that take you through the first half of your life are entirely unhelpful for the second half. To press the point a little bit: those skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half, as I inspect them a little more closely, didn’t actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable and really, really tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further and further from the warm, whimsical person I used to be….and I missed her.” – Shauna Niequist, Present over Perfect

I would never classify myself as “whimsical,” and truthfully not particularly “warm” either. However, I can say with certainty that I can relate to this statement. The skills I’ve mastered thus far have been skills that helped me excel in academics and in my career, and much like the author mentions, they’ve also prevented me from resting and taking care of myself both mentally and physically. While I hope I’m not at the midpoint of my life as she references, I can easily see how the skills I’ve developed thus far are not serving me well either. Coming to this realization before my midlife point doesn’t really surprise me – I’ve always been “mature for my age,” another example of my tendency toward over-achievement. Is it possible to take stock of your life and methods at the young age of 30? I think so. Actually, I know so, because as these words leap from her pages, slapping me in the face with reality, I know that I must begin identifying what skills will serve me going forward and do away with many of the ones I’ve mastered so far.

To (hopefully) be continued….

Trump vs Hillary

Election Year FlagIf you haven’t had your nose rubbed in this enough yet, it’s election year here in America. Every election that I can remember has been a tough one. Our country is always divided. A large portion of the population is afraid. Many become downright mean and disrespectful, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the back and forth banter. This year seems to be all of the above on steroids. This year seems to be the most crude and divisive election thus far in my lifetime. Before we continue, if you think I’m going to take some sort of political stance with this post, I am not. If you think I’m going to condemn or condone a particular candidate, I am not. Instead, I simply want to talk about the manner in which these conversations are had.

As with any other topic in life, we will often disagree. I may firmly see a situation from one end of the spectrum and you could see it from the other end. What I’ve found to be true in most scenarios is that the “truth” actually lies somewhere in the middle of our perceptions. There are seldom black and white solutions and there’s almost always an exception to the rule. Just as an example, you might be “pro-life” and yet support a mother terminating a pregnancy if she’s told that she’ll certainly die if she carries that baby to term. You might want to “close our borders” and yet would not turn away a scared, abused child that needed refuge from a tyrannical country. You might even draw a hard and fast line in the sand on the issues above. However, the majority of the time, I believe rational people will see a variation in what’s true when they’re presented with other side of a story.  A less political example could be a disagreement at home. Harry could have come home early and worked on a project in the backyard. Since he came home early, Sally could have expected him to do the dishes. When Harry didn’t do the dishes, Sally drew the conclusion that Harry doesn’t want to help around the house and that he expects her to do everything. When seeing how frustrated Sally is, Harry then demands that she only complains and that he can’t do anything to please her. Ever. A neutral third party could easily what actually went down and understand that both are a little right and a little wrong. By communicating their individual perspectives, Harry and Sally could come to realize that neither were inherently wrong and the reality of the situation lied somewhere in the middle of their two perspectives.

This post, however, is less about the actual topics at bay in this election and more about how we treat one another. I’ve been rather fired up during this election, and I’ve chosen to stay calm and to keep most of my opinions/frustrations to myself. Well, Matthew has heard them. Repetitively. Other than that, I’ve mostly kept my lips sealed. If I had the chance, though, to stand on the world stage and offer any insight to influence our country it would be the following things:

  1. We should ALWAYS have respect for another’s opinion, even if it’s vastly different than our own. You can be pro-life or pro-choice and still have a RESPECTFUL conversation with someone on the other side of an important issue. As a matter of fact, you could possibly understand the other side a little better or at a minimum have some new information to consider if you truly listened to the other side without judgment. We’ve all heard the saying that a person’s true character is shown in how they treat someone who can’t do anything for them. I think character shows up in how we treat someone that we disagree with. Or in what we post angrily on facebook.
  2. It’s very, very easy to exclaim what’s “right” or what’s “wrong” and how things should be done from our own living rooms. We should keep in mind though, that the information provided to us in our living rooms, is limited. We have a very limited view of the situation as a whole. And as with anything, it’s easy to call the shots and say what you would do, when you’re not actually faced with a situation. For example, I often hear people say that a victim of domestic violence should “just leave.” That’s very easy for someone to say who doesn’t feel that their life is in danger, who doesn’t have children with an abuser to consider, who doesn’t have to determine how they’ll support themselves if they leave, and who isn’t being controlled both physically AND mentally. It’s easy to offer up what you would have said AFTER the fact, and even easier when you weren’t the one faced with a stressful situation to begin with. And with so much abuse being discussed in this election, I think it’s downright disrespectful and appalling to decide from our couches if someone was or wasn’t abused or what they should have done. That’s not our place and we have much too limited information to ever make a judgement of the sort. Furthermore, keep in mind that your comments and discussion on the topic of abuse can be very damaging. Statistically, someone in your circle of friends or your facebook feed has been a victim of abuse. Belittling these situations is a major insult to those people.
  3. In addition to all of the hot-topic issues this election year, I feel as if we should also be considering the moral character of the person we choose to lead our country, keeping in mind that what you deem to be morally correct can be very different than what your neighbor thinks. We can talk about Planned Parenthood, border control, the Second Amendment, and taxes (Although, why aren’t we talking more about education and healthcare??) until we’re blue in the face. However, most of these items aren’t even directly controlled by the President. The President definitely has influence, yet many decisions are actually made by Congress, not the President themselves. Therefore, we should be a little more selective when choosing our Congressmen rather than saving all of our passion and decision-making abilities for the Presidential race. We can talk about “issues” all day long and yet one of the things that I feel to be most important, especially in this election, is the moral character of the candidate that can, and likely will, set the tone for future decisions and justice in our country. Think of it this way – if you had to chose a candidate that was an immediate influence on the character of your own son or daughter, who would it be? Please don’t answer this question aloud. Just ponder it. If you were raising a child who would reflect the morals, the attitudes, and behaviors of one of our Presidential candidates, who would you want to raise up and present to the world? Who’s behavior would you endorse and be proud of?
  4. There are more than two candidates in this race. I’ve heard soooo many times that we’re choosing the “lesser of two evils” in this election. First of all, you voting (or not voting) in the primaries is what brought these candidates to the national stage. Secondly, there are other candidates available! We do not have to vote simply Republican or Democrat. Do your research and see if there’s another candidate that might align more with your values. There could be another candidate on the ballot that’s a better fit to lead our country. I saw someone say recently that if every person who used the “lesser of two evils” speech voted third party, there’s a high change that the third party would be the majority winner. Don’t simply vote Trump or Hillary because they’re the two you see on TV most. At least do your due diligence and research all candidates before using your little thumb to choose the leader of our country. You owe it both to yourself and your country to be informed.
  5. Do NOT take everything you read or see on the news as truth, especially if you’re getting your information from biased parties! Do your own research! Check the facts. Step out of your echo chamber and learn for yourself what the truth is. Even the facts thrown around by the candidates themselves aren’t 100% true! (And sometimes they’re completely false.) I firmly believe that if you’re not going to do your own research, look for what’s true, and consider ALL of the information at hand, you should not vote. Making a decision on the leader and representative of our country based on bogus articles shared on facebook or information from biased news sources, is irresponsible. Be informed before making this or any other large decision. Please!

Again, this post is not condemning or condoning any particular candidate. Furthermore, I’m not looking to incite opinions on who’s right and who’s wrong. I am especially not inviting anyone to voice their opinions without respecting the opinions of others. Instead, I’m simply suggesting that we not set our human decency to the side, just because it’s an election year and we have different opinions on the subject matter than our peers. We’ve seen enough of this behavior lately. Whose lives matter most, for example? I’ve seen more insults and inconsiderate comments made on this sensitive subject than I’d care to admit. Common decency insists that we respect others, even when we disagree. Now, when we have tiny computers with us at all times, we sometimes feel the need to vomit our opinions for the entire world to see BEFORE we consider the consequences, before we consider the whole story, or before we consider our audience.

I am a huge proponent of free speech and the ability to make our own choices. However, I cannot stand for “free speech” as an excuse to say things at the expense of others. “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all,” said Thumper on Bambi. He was right. We thankfully have the ability to say whatever we chose to be correct. That doesn’t mean that we have the right to insult others, to not consider all of the facts before speaking, or to be disrespectful. It is alright to be passionate. I’m probably one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to something I believe in. However, passion is not an excuse to be reckless. Your words live on in the minds of others forever. By not choosing them carefully, you could be doing more harm than good.

This election year, I encourage everyone to be informed and to be considerate. We can disagree or see different sides of any particular issue without insulting one another. If you don’t feel like you can, consider keeping your hurtful and accusatory comments out of the global conversation. If we truly want to contribute something to the conversation, we can be more effective by doing so with grace and understanding. The “other side” likely isn’t comprised of a bunch of outlandish monsters. Instead, it’s made up of your neighbors and likely a lot of your friends. Before you rip them to shreds or position them as the “devil, the anti-Christ, ridiculous, dumb, and stupid as hell” (all words I’ve seen posted by people that I actually know on social media), consider first what you look like by being so aggressive and inconsiderate. I maintain that our first duty to society is to be respectful and considerate of others. If you’re not able to do that when choosing your words, consider remaining silent until you can. Everyone will appreciate your restraint.

Beautiful photo by: Ashlee Matthews

Firecracker – The Store

Firecracker - The Store logohandmade candleholders at Firecracker - The StoreI spent last night in the arms of a girl in Louisiana. Not really. Once I started that line, I just couldn’t stop. (See Garth Brooks’ Callin’ Baton Rouge, if you don’t get that one.) In reality, I spent last night setting up a booth of curated finds in the wonderful Southern Style Antiques. Matthew, Ashlee, and I worked hard and late and it reminded me of some of my fondest memories from the old Salt & Pepper.

It’s time to tell some secrets. For over a year now, I’ve been cooking up ideas for an online store. A part of me deeply misses the hunt for beautiful things and I needed an outlet for that. This love-child online store of mine was to be called Firecracker – The Store and would offer curated goodness (both new and old) that I sourced from all over the world. We’ve worked on this idea and nurtured it for over a year and planned to launch late last year, then early spring, then possibly in this fall. Needless to say, life happened and that sweet little idea kept getting pushed to the side.

vintage belts at Firecracker - The StoreThen, a booth came available in one of my favorite antique stores on The Alley and I knew this was the right way to launch this idea for the time being. It’d be tough to pull a booth together with my schedule at the time but I needed to do this. So, on a Friday night, April 29, my dream team and I ordered Johnny’s pizza and worked our fingers to the bone getting what we had ready.

The truth is, I’d been collecting pieces for almost a year, a good bit of which was ruined in the flood. Of course that’s when a booth would become available – after the great flood of 2016! We searched high and low and fast to pull together enough fun stuff to open and prepped to be ready by the Spring Open House. Let me be clear though – if you make a visit right now, I want you to be warned that it’s not my best work. If you’re familiar with my previous retail escapades, you won’t see displays of that same grandeur. Yet. This is what we’re calling a “soft open.” A time where we “make it work” for just a bit until things level out some. It’s a period of getting back into the grove and buying myself some time until I can replace all that was lost recently. Nonetheless, I am THRILLED to be back in the game.

antique mirrors at Firecracker - The StoreIf you’d like to go by and check on Phase One of the Firecracker story, feel free to. The booth is located in Southern Style Antiques at 215 Trenton Street, West Monroe, La. You can also follow @firecrackerthestore on Instagram. There is one thing I know for certain, even as we’re just dipping our toes into the water, it feels like home. Having this project to think about and dream about gives me an outlet for my creative energy and a break from what has been my crazy reality. It feels like we’ve awakened a sleeping bear…and I’m back!

Why I Avoided Pinterest During our Remodel

Black House ExteriorLet’s face the facts. We all love Pinterest. And if you don’t, I basically don’t understand you at all. So. Many. Cool. Ideas.

I’m a firm believer in taking time to get inspired and Pinterest is pretty much the best place to find inspiration, whether it be for your home, wardrobe, hobbies, or work. The ideas are endless and you’re bound to come across something lovely and fascinating. Many projects and ideas of my own have been sparked by something I saw on Pinterest.

That being said, I pretty much stayed off Pinterest entirely during this last remodel. One would think that this would have been the perfect time to be glued to the mesmerizing service, and yet I stayed far, far away from it. Why? Because it was too much.

I am known for becoming overwhelmed by too many options and during a time when I had to make decisions FAST, I simply wouldn’t have been able to process all of the options. I did look through things I’d already pinned to remember ideas I’d had in the past. However, I firmly limited my exposure to new information and options.

Furthermore, I wanted to make decisions considering what was best for our particular home and how we intend to use it. I didn’t want to be persuaded in different directions because of a gorgeous photo I saw online. Instead, I wanted to stand in the remains of our home and determine what felt right. How have we always imagined this place looking? What would make it more usable to us and be conducive to our everyday routines? I knew that if I saturated my mind with all of the ideas and options, I would not only be overwhelmed, I might also make decisions that weren’t best for us here in this home.

I once stumbled upon an article about why someone doesn’t watch Fixxer Upper and my initial thought was – how lame! I thought this person must be a jealous, unimaginative person if they couldn’t separate their reality from that of the show. How could you not still be comfortable with what you had just because you watched a design show?? How could you not use those ideas as little doses of inspiration for your own home? I just didn’t get it. And while our situations are very different, I suddenly felt the need to limit my own exposure to the beautiful homes of the world.

Rather than scrolling endlessly and trying to employ every single cute idea on the internet, I used Pinterest as a tool for accomplish specific tasks. When I decided I wanted blue cabinets, I searched specifically for blue cabinets in hopes that I’d stumble upon a color I loved. (No such luck, by the way.) As I mentioned above, I did look through my previous pins and I had a pretty legit bathroom board going. I pulled my favorites from there and we rolled with it. When I struggling with how to fancy up the fireplace, I searched specifically for flat fireplace walls and pulled only the items that made sense in my home. I used Pinterest for the amazing tool that it is and yet still limited my exposure because I had to.

As a result of my Pinterest strategy, I avoided some of the overwhelm. (Let’s get real. Doing all that we did in the time that we did it was still overwhelming.) However, I know with certainty that I would have blown my own mind if I’d have allowed myself down that rabbit hole. As things come together here, I allow myself back into the wild a little more each day. And I go use Pinterest for its intended purpose – to see pretty things and save ideas for later.

If you’d like to see my inspiration board for the remodel, go right ahead! I just made it public and there’s some pretty awesome stuff in there. Go ahead. Go spend an hour with Pinterest. Just kidding. We all know you’ll be there longer than an hour if you open that app. Happy pinning, friends! Feel free to follow me if you see things you like there.

Photo Source: Sarah Sherman Samuel

#mapfirsthouse – After

Shiplap Fireplace Living RoomShiplap Fireplace Living RoomNavy Kitchen CabinetsAntique Pie SafeLast Sunday we opened up our “new” home for those who’ve watched the flood recovery process to come and see the finished product. We worked insanely hard to tie up what felt like a thousand loose ends to be ready to have people over. For example, when I announced the get together, we didn’t even have a hall bathroom sink. Or master bathroom door. Among a handful of larger items, there were 1,000 small things that still needed to be done. Hence the reason we decided to have the party in two weeks…a hard deadline makes things happen magically fast. We pushed hard to get a lot done in a short amount of time and now we can rest for a bit. There’s still a few larger and smaller things that we want to complete, and those can wait for a bit.Navy Brick HouseNavy Kitchen CabinetsNavy Kitchen CabinetsMid Century Modern Dining RoomGold Fixtures & Barn DoorsI’ll go through all of the changes in each room with you eventually, and here’s a few snapshots of the finished product to hold you over for now. If you want to take your own before and after tour, you can look back on the before photos and a tour from one year after we moved in.Emerald Green Hall BathSinger Sewing Machine Table as a VanityWalk-In Closet RoomWalk-In Closet RoomI can’t wait to break down all the before and after details because this house has come SO. FAR. And as with most things, I feel like the beauty is in the details. We worked very, very hard to add as much of our personality to this home as possible and just thinking back on what it once was…at all of the different stages…is quite mind-blowing for me. Navy Master BedroomMarble Master BathroomThere are a ton of things that I LOVE about the new remodel. I’m thrilled to come home every day and I want to host all the parties. I made a few bold moves with remodel decisions and after seeing the finished product, I’m so glad that I did. What do you think so far??

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