Day Two- Nassau and Ship Day

 

When I first booked our cruise I booked us into an Ocean View room with a porthole but after months of debating I decided to upgrade us into a room with a veranda… waking up to this view every morning made it worth every single cent.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person, it takes a lot to get me out of the bed in the morning, on any morning. But after seeing that view from the bed, I could not wait to get up and out onto the veranda to watch the sun come up.

Another aspect I loved about the veranda was getting to watch as we pulled into each port. On the second day of our cruise, we pulled into Nassau, Bahamas.

 

Since this was our first cruise and I wasn’t really sure how excursions worked and we didn’t really have them worked into our budget, we decided to stay on the ship.

After getting up and getting ready we headed up to Cabanas for a delicious breakfast with gorgeous views of the island and Atlantis resort.

We spent our day aboard the ship relaxing by the adult pool, playing mini golf, taking pictures of the beautiful views, eating all.of.the. soft serve ice cream and exploring the ship.

Our second dinner was at the Royal Palace but apparently, it was so good that I forgot to get pictures of the actual food.

After watching DCL’s amazing production of Beauty and the Beast it was time for Pirate Night.

 

I knew that watching fireworks on the ocean would be cool. But, I was not prepared for how spectacular they were. Fireworks are always beautiful against the backdrop of Cinderella Castle or over World Showcase Lagoon in EPCOT but there’s just something about seeing those fireworks against the black drop of the night sky and ocean. This was one of my favorite experiences of the whole cruise.

 

 

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TTC Update- Fertility Clinic and Testing

In the last few months, I have discussed different aspects of the TTC Journey but I have not done an update on our specific journey so that is what I will be doing in this post.

The last time that I spoke specifically about our situation was nearly a year ago in July of 2018. For the majority of that time, there were no new developments, it was not until February 2019 that we truly stepped back into this full time.

At the beginning of 2019, Nick and I began talking about getting further testing done, going to a new OBGYN and the possibility of going straight to a fertility doctor. Life happened, some other health things occurred and I ended up seeing my primary care doctor in April; the details of that are in my post linked below.

Check that out here: https://thegrazianolife.wordpress.com/2019/04/10/trying-to-conceive-is-a-full-time-job/

After that experience with my primary care doctor, she recommended that we visit a fertility doctor because they would be more knowledgeable and be able to do more extensive tests than she could.

On April 12th Nick and I took the day off from work and met with our new doctor at a fertility center here in town. During that first visit we sat with the doctor for nearly an hour, she listened to our story, briefly went over Nick’s medical history with his kidney transplants, answered our questions and in the span of an hour had us feeling better and more hopeful then we had in months.

During that visit, Dr. Kaye explained to us her process, what tests she likes done and mapped out an initial plan for us. She made everything crystal clear and broke down each step for us.

 

Since that first visit, the last month has been a whirlwind and things have gotten done so quickly. I have to say that this fertility clinic is amazing; they have test results exactly when they say they will, they call you back when they say they will, and have called my insurance company to fight on my behalf several times in the last three weeks.

 

It is now a little more than a month later and all of the afore mentioned tests have been completed. I have had 5 tests done in the span of 3 weeks and let me tell you they have not been fun. I have kept my mind set on the prize and tried to remember why I am doing this, and what we stand to gain.

 

May 8: Initial labs

May 8: Physical and pelvic exam

May 10: Labs on 3rd day of period

May 10: Ultrasound while on 3rd day of period- Checks to see how many follicles are present within the two ovaries.

May 16: Sonohysterogram-  Catheter is inserted into Uterus, salt water is pushed into catheter, and an ultrasound is then done to ensure that there is nothing in the Uterus that could potential cause a miscarriage.

May 17: HSG- Catheter is inserted, dye is inserted and pushed through tubes, and an x-ray is then to make sure there are no blocks in the Fallopian tubes.

 

Now that all of these initial (so fun) exams have been done we are now scheduled to meet with Dr. Kaye again on June 5th to review all of the results of my tests so that we can set up our game plan moving forward.

 

Next update after June 5th.

 

 

 

 

Read This: The Women (Spoiler Free)

The Women by S.E. Lynes- Image result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold star

“You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening.” 

Good Reads Synopsis: 

The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…

Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls.

Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication.

But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her.

And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger?

You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.

 

Spoiler/ No Spoilers?:  Spoiler free

 

Characters:

Samantha: In the first scene of this story you get such a clear picture of Sam as a strong-willed, take no shit woman. But, as the story shifts back in time you see Sam at a younger age when she is anything but those things.

Honestly. I did not like “younger” Sam at all. I remember going through the story thinking how stupid she was and how naive her decisions were. She makes so many rash thoughtless decisions. That for me really just didn’t mesh well with a woman who is also intelligent and well educated.

Peter: From the first scene I did not like this character. I went in pretty wary and suspicious of him which definitely played into my view of the rest of the story.

Lottie: While I understand why this character was necessary, I don’t believe that the plot line of Lottie “imagining” her dead child was necessary.

Plot:

As stated above I did not like the fact that this intelligent woman was making these horrible, naive decisions. But, the truth of the matter is that unfortunately this the truth of so many women’s stories. So many smart, strong-willed, educated, loving women fall prey to men who hunt them, exploit their weaknesses, and abuse them. I may not like and I may have been able to see what was coming in this story but so many real life every day women don’t and they become victims of these types of men.

 

My opinion:

Despite my dislike of certain plot lines, I did enjoy the story. It was thought-provoking, cautionary, insightful, filled with humor and cynicism.

 

Would I recommend?:

I would definitely recommend this book.

April 2019 Favorites

It has been quite a bit of time since I have done one of these but here we go.

Disclaimer before we begin:  There are partner codes within this post. If you click the link and sign up for any of these products or programs I may receive a free product or promotions in return.

 

Food and Drink

Caramel Cloud Macchiato- 

By now we all know how much of a coffee lover I am. So, it should come as no surprise to find a Starbucks drink on this list. My husband and I have a tradition of getting a Dirty Chai to share once a weekend (usually for while we are at church). But, this month I discovered a new drink. The Caramel Cloud Macchiato has caramel (obvs.), espresso and a whole ton of foam. It’s sweet from the caramel but slightly bitter from the espresso. And I don’t know what it is but I just love foam/steamed milk.

 

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Lindt Chocolate Bars

I love chocolate…period. But, I usually prefer dark chocolate. So I was surprised by how much I enjoy these. The chocolate is smooth and creamy and just so good.

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Homemade Lunches-

This isn’t necessarily a product that you yourself can purchase but it is an idea that you can take away. I have been doing my best to eat a healthy lunch as many days a week as I can. So in the last couple of weeks, I have begun meal prepping on Sundays and I have been taking a combination of shrimp, steak, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and green beans. It is so good!

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Makeup and Beauty

Bare Minerals Bare Pro Concealer- I have been using Bare Mineral products for more than a decade and I love them. This concealer is great, it comes in a “stick” and is super easy to apply.

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Deep Sleep Spray- I received this spray in a samples kit that we received at work and let me tell you it works so great. It is lavender scented and I just spray it onto my pillow when I am having a hard time falling asleep and it works so well.

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Bath and Body Aromatherapy Soaps- We have built up a collection of these recently and we really like them. I mainly use the sleep as I have a hard time getting a good nights sleep and my husband likes to use the Stress Relief when he has had a stressful day at work and they work really well for both of us.

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Lush- Thanks to the Lush Queen Melany from Meltotheany Booktube channel, Lush is now one of my favorite things. Their bath bombs are unlike any other and I love their facial scrubs and masks also.

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Colour Pop- I discovered Colour Pop through another Youtube channel and as soon as I saw these Disney villains inspired products I had to have them. They are just gorgeous.

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Home Décor and Products

Grove Collaborative (Tangelo Palm Frond)-

Can you tell I love this scent?! I found out about this company and this scent from Blair Blogs over on her Youtube channel. These spray’s smell just like Disney’s toiletry products.

If you sign up for Grove Collaborative using this code you will get an entire set of Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and I get a $10 credit. https://www.grove.co/referrer/41685636/

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Entertainment (TV, Music, Books, Internet)

Booktubers-

I recently started my own Booktube channel. But have been watching these lovelies for several months and years.

  1. Blair Lamb- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqpa1RS3XNdHlVX3UfyG-ag/featured
  2. A Court of Crown and Quills- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRquBPdPeJCZKaX13lIKRDQ
  3. Meltotheany- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4RbHEg_fH6CewJrh_0xJ9g
  4. Carrie Hope Fletcher- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhNxkjmpQcTJDrabiyzHUw
  5. Adam Hattan- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSi1tI9v5Z-GUlU58oDn3jg
  6. Gary C- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_4syT17DvSSc8wGpxc2b1w
  7. Rachel McGlothlin- https://www.youtube.com/user/rachelsrendition
  8. The Stauffer Life- https://www.youtube.com/user/TheStaufferLife
  9. That Goninan Life- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtjvQ2ZjUKoSA0k1hIbOAfg
  10. Amy Landino- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR9gMSj0UUxGvgfpNhhF3Jw

Avengers: Endgame- This. Movie. Was. Everything

I started crying about 30 seconds in, cried through the whole 3 hours, and by the last 15 minutes was sobbing.

Owlcrate- I discovered Owlcrate through the Booktube channels listed above and I am pretty sure this is my favorite new thing of the whole year. Each month I receive a new themed box and within each box is a novel with an Owlcrate exclusive cover that is also signed by the author as well as a box full of bookish goodies. I look forward to this box every month. https://www.owlcrate.com/refer/Jessi-MPLKCSAI

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Ambient World- Like I mentioned above, I have a hard time falling asleep sometimes and one of my favorite authors Catherine Locke mentioned in an Insta Story that she loved this Youtube channel that plays like soft background music from different “worlds” and I have been in love ever since.

Clothing and Accessories

I don’t really have anything in this section this month.

 

Priceless

While its not the full result we want, we did get a lot of answers about our fertility journey this month. Fertility Update coming in a separate post soon.

 

// That’s what I’ve been loving lately! What about you?

Read This: Circe- Madeline Miller (Minor spoilers)

Circe by Madeline Miller- Image result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold star

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.” 

Good Reads Synopsis: 

In the house of Helios, the god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

 

Spoiler/ No Spoilers?:  Light Spoilers

 

Characters:

I loved this version of Circe or more accurately this perspective of her life. She begins the story as a child who is bullied by her family members and who just doesn’t fit in within her world but throughout the story she comes into her own and becomes a powerful witch. But what I  love the most about her is how relatable she is. She may be a powerful sorceress but she still has flaws and weaknesses. We get to see this huge arc of growth and I loved that part of her character.

I also love how the book brings in other well-known characters within Greek Mythology for short snippets of time.

“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”

 

Plot:

Circe lives for thousands of years and this book just such a great job of binding everything together in a cohesive way.

Other Greek myths play out in the background – that of the Minotaur, and of Icarus, as well as many others – but it is Circe’s personal tale that hits the hardest.

 

My opinion:

Honestly, this book was so beautifully and lyrically written. I listened to it in audiobook and it just beautiful. It’s so lyrical that the words just flow and it is so easy to imagine and fall into this world.

I would highly recommend the audiobook of this story. BUT! You also need to purchase a hard copy because the cover of this book is just absolutely gorgeous.

“When I was born, the word for what I was did not exist.” 

Would I recommend?:

I would recommend this book 110%

Day One- Aboard the Disney Dream

The name of this ship says it all…this cruise was truly a Dream; from the moment we stepped onto the ship to when we stepped back off, every moment was perfect.

The very first thing you see upon boarding the ship is the GORGEOUS atrium. It.is.beautiful.

It’s a three-story lobby, with beautiful elevators, railings adorned with garland, a huge beautiful Christmas tree, a statue of Captain Donald and a breathtaking chandelier.

 

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After taking a little tour of the atrium we headed to deck seven and to our stateroom.

I had heard that sometimes on the shorter cruises it is more difficult to navigate the ship because you don’t have enough time to learn your way around but I didn’t find this to be true at all. We were easily able to find our way around and quickly made it to our stateroom.

The hallways are narrow but clean and beautifully decorated.

 

I had seen photos and videos ahead of time of the staterooms but it was even better than I ever expected.

 

 

By far the best part of the stateroom… the verandah.

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Within minutes our Stateroom Attendant had introduced himself and brought us our luggage. He did everything we asked of him throughout our cruise and was very friendly and knowledgeable.

After sorting out our stateroom and luggage we headed up to Cabana’s (the buffet on board) for lunch.

I had heard that Cabana’s gets incredibly busy on embarkation day and that it can be difficult to find a table.  But, we were lucky enough to find a table right by the big windows looking out over the ocean.

The food was plentiful and varied. I was very pleased with the number of choices and options; especially when I saw the crab legs.

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After lunch, we headed out onto Deck 11 to explore.

 

 

 

We headed to Muster at 4pm before going back up to Deck 11 for the Sail Away Party.

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We then went back to our room to relax for a little while before getting ready and heading to our first main dining room for dinner. We used this time to unpack and relax on our verandah.

Our first dinner on the Dream was at the Enchanted Garden.

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The Enchanted Garden is inspired by the garden of Versailles. The restaurant is decked out in custom-glass flower lights, white trellises, ornamental posts and—at the center of the room—a 7-foot tall fountain.

 

One of my favorite parts of the Enchanted Garden is watching the sweeping ceiling change from a brilliant blue daytime color into the golden red of a setting sun, transforming into a captivating nighttime show of twinkling stars.

Ask anyone what their favorite part of a Disney Cruise is and they will almost always say that it is the food.

And I now have to say that I would wholeheartedly agree.

I went in a little nervous because upon researching the menus I had seen that the menu options were very “gourmet”, “fancy”.  My husband can be a bit picky so I was pleasantly surprised when we both loved everything we eat throughout the cruise.

I plan on doing a separate post about the food offered on Disney Cruise Line so I won’t be going into more detail here.

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After dinner, we attended the Tree Lighting Ceremony before heading to the Walt Disney Theater for our first show of the trip; the Golden Mickeys.

I will be doing a separate review on the entertainment offered aboard the ship but let me tell you these shows were ah.may.zing!

 

 

After the show, we headed back to our stateroom to enjoy the verandah and order some late night room service.

 

 

May- To Be Read

April was a decent month in regards to the number of books I read. But it was a great month in regards to the quality of books I read. I completed one of my new favorite series in April and May is already shaping up to be just as good.

This month I have several goals that I would like to complete.

I. The first book from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas

II. Listen to 3 of the audiobooks from the Harry Potter series

III. Read one-two of the books that I received from my Book of the Month subscription

IV. Read one-two of the books from my Owlcrate subscription

V. Read and review a couple of arcs that I have been approved for

VI.  Read two audiobooks

VII. Book Club book

 

Here are all of the books that I plan on reading this month:

 

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas

 

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I LOVED Sarah’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series. So I am hoping that this one will be just as good.

 

Harry Potter series

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I have read and reread the Harry Potter series countless time but I have never listended to the audiobooks so this is a nice change up.

 

Book of The Month

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

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I am on a huge Historical Fiction kick right now so I am super excited for this one.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I have heard such great things about this book!

 

Owlcrate

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

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Wicked Saints by Emily A Duncan

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ARCS

The Women by S.E. Lynes

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The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad

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Little Girls Sleeping by Jennifer Chase

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Audiobooks

Homecoming by Kaas Morgan

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Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Book Club choice

Vicious by VE Schwab

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If I am able to make it through all of these this month that would be 14 books read this month which would make for an exceptional month.

 

Happy Reading!!!

 

April Reading Wrap Up

April was a decent reading month for me. I finished up an amazing series and am currently on track to hit my goal of 60 books read in 2019.

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So let’s get into it:

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas- Image result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold star

“There’s no such thing as a High Lady,” one of Lucien’s brothers spat. A faint smile played on my mouth. “There is now.” And it was time for the world to know it.”

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“The great joy and honor of my life has been to know you. To call you my family. And I am grateful – more than I can possibly say – that I was given this time with you all.”

 

This was my favorite book in the series. It was such a roller coaster ride of emotions; joyous and triumphant one moment and destructive and gut-wrenching the next.

 

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas-  Image result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold star

“I think my heart knew you were mine long before I ever realized it.”

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“To the stars who listen, Feyre. To the dreams that are answered, Rhys.”

The perfect conclusion to this beautiful series. 

The 100 by Kass Morgan-Image result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold star

“That was the thing about secrets-you had to carry them with you forever, no matter what the cost.”

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Since I watched the television series first it is strange to read the slight differences in the written version of this story. But, I still thoroughly enjoyed the first of this series. 

Day 21 by Kass Morgan-Image result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold starImage result for gold star

“She would figure out how to get what she wanted, what she needed, even when her long lashes failed to convince when her body was no longer young and beautiful. She’d be more than pretty, She’d be strong.”

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I Hate Fairyland Volume 2 by Scottie Young-Image result for gold starImage result for gold star

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Honestly, for some reason, I just did not enjoy volume two of this graphic novel. I don’t think that I will continue with it. 

 

 

Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle-Image result for gold starImage result for gold star

         (Book provided by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

“We can’t know the future. We can only do our best in the moment.”

The synopsis for this book was so misleading. The “attempted murder” happens within the first 20 pages and is never mentioned again. The synopsis makes it seem as though this is going to play a huge part in the story and it does not. It wasn’t really relevant and because it was brushed off so quickly, it was unnecessary.

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Four Dead Queens byAstrid Scholte-

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“I like how art captures not only the exterior but also the feeling and the mood of the artist. Like a memory.”

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I have never read a book with better world building and character development. 

On Our Fourth Wedding Anniversary

Four years ago on this day, I said I do to my husband, to be his lawfully wedded wife through thick and thin.

At that point, we had already been together for more than eight years. We had already experienced so much together; ups and downs, seasons of happiness and seasons of difficulty and the feeling of hopelessness.  We found our faith and our church family in those years. We continued to push through everything we endured in order to grow closer together and make it to that wedding day.

On May 07, 2015, we got married.

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We did many things over the year of our engagement to prepare for our marriage. Aside from the typical wedding planning and engagement pictures we also spent the year attending premarital counseling, joining and leading a couples group and attending relationship seminars at our church.

We prepared our hearts to make this commitment to each other in front of our friends and family. Symbolically, our wedding day marked the end of our separate lives and the beginning of OUR life. One of the biggest things we learned in our premarital counseling was that this would be the end of our individual lives and the beginning of our lives as ONE. There are three of us in this relationship, him and I and God. Not our families, not our friends, not our coworkers or even our Pastors… just us three. Everything else is secondary, on the periphery.

Even with all the preparations and planning no one truly know what their marriage will entail or what future awaits them. Our lives change so quickly sometimes slowly over weeks, months and years and sometimes quickly in an instant; you work towards a goal together or one of you is suddenly laid off or a family member suddenly passes.

No one can go in knowing exactly what to expect. Marriage, like everything else in life, cannot be taught or understood before it is lived. It needs to be felt and breathed. Sometimes it feels joyous, sometimes it hurts. There are good days and bad days and outside forces can creep in and take over.

If we look at social media all we tend to see are married couples who are still madly in love, who never fight, who never go through hard times and who manage to live a perfectly balanced and harmonious life.

“The key question is this: Will we approach marriage from a God-centered view or a man-centered view? In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts, desires, and expectations are met. In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.”
― Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

I can tell you that on some days our marriage is less-than-perfect and it took me a long time to realize that it was never meant to be perfect.  Today, I can’t help but think that perhaps the longest lasting marriages, the ones that last forever until death, look more like ours than those “perfect” ones on social media. Why?

Because we’re used to swimming through turbulent waters. We survived things that most people will never go through or may not have to face until they are much older. Despite those hardships and less-than-perfect days, we swim frantically and rise above the surface.  We work to remember that neither of is perfect individually so we certainly won’t be as a whole. We remind ourselves to forgive and compromise and sacrifice. We learn and grow together and take each new day as it comes.

It’s certainly not the prettiest picture of marriage but perhaps the most realistic, the one that helps marriages last a lifetime.

So today, I know that marriage is not a fairytale all of the time, but we strive every single day to reach our happily ever after. And in the end, isn’t that, the greatest fairytale of all?

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Four years ago today, I married my best friend. Despite it being a blustery, windy day, God blessed our wedding day with plenty of sunshine and a beautiful sunset.

I remember the happiness in his eyes, the bliss in the air, and the waves of emotions that I never knew I could feel in a single day.

On that day, I married the man of my dreams.

Four years later, is he still the man of my dreams? Yes and no.

He isn’t perfect, but I know he is perfect for me. He is perfect for me because he has seen me in my darkest moments and has never given up on me. He has seen me at my worst, yet held my hand again the next day. He supports my dreams and goals, even when he may not fully understand them.

“The truth is, we want to be known; we truly do. But we’re afraid. If you see the real me, will you run away? Am I even worth being known? Will the real me bore you? Scare you? Repulse you? And so we hide.”
― Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?

He makes me smile when I’m feeling down and manages to make me laugh out loud even as I’m mad.

And despite all the ups and downs of marriage, I know he loves me inside and out, for who I am, not for who I appear to be.

Our marriage has gone through seasons of hopelessness, countless ups and downs, and enough explosive fights to blow most people’s fights out of the water. We love hard and fight even harder.  We fight hard to keep from losing each other in this reality called marriage. At times we feel hurt or betrayed by the stranger who seems to have replaced the other.

Over the years we have learned that love is not an emotion, it is a choice. It is a choice we make each and every day no matter how mad the other may have made us feel the day before. It is a choice we make on the good days and on the bad.

As Gary Thomas says in his book Sacred Marriage “A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.”

Image may contain: 1 person   No photo description available.

We choose to make a good, Holy marriage every day despite the sudden storms. Sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s me and sometimes it’s both of us. But one thing remains certain. Even though we may sometime forget it for the briefest of moments we now have a mutual understanding, a silent contract, a promise that binds our two souls. No matter how hard it seems, we don’t give up on each other.

Sometimes the storm is caused by an isolated incident, sometimes it’s the result of months of repressed emotions and words. Sometimes it’s caused by stress from work, by frustrations and doubt in our fertility journey, by one’s amplified emotions, or differences in our personalities and ways of thinking.

“Just when we are most eager to make ourselves understood, we must strive to understand. Just when we seek to air our grievances, we must labor to comprehend another’s hurt. Just when we want to point out the fallacies and abusive behavior of someone else, we must ruthlessly evaluate our own offensive attitudes and behaviors.”
― Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

What we’ve had to learn is that living together, paying bills together, sharing chores together, growing up together– such realities of marriage bring out the best, and sometimes the worst in each of us.

Society tells us that we need to look out for our own wants and needs, we need to be selfish and not lose our sense of self. But, we know that marriage required us to give up everything that begins with MY and replace them with everything that begins with OUR. We must each learn to sacrifice. As I exited my life and entered our life, I learned about people, things and circumstances that matter more than myself.

How humbling, self-defeating, yet so beautiful and transcendental.

This is, what love after marriage looks like.

Disney Dream- Embarkation

After reading all of the trip reports and watching every YouTube video that I could find I knew that in order to start our trip off easily and worry free it would be best for us to arrive in Orlando the day before our cruise began.

So on Thursday, November 15, 2018, Nick and I flew from Las Vegas to Dallas and then onto Orlando. We spent that first night in Disney World (of course) at the All-Star Music resort before heading to the port on Friday morning.

I had read varying reports stating that some enjoyed Disney’s transportation to Port Canaveral and others did not like how late they got you to the port and subsequently onto the ship. But, having to take an Uber, taxi or some other type of third-party transportation just seemed like a hassle to me so, in the end, I decided to stick with Disney.

The shuttle to and from the port was just like any other experience that we had with the Magical Express, simple and to the point.

The shuttle picked us up around 8:30am and we were at the port just before 10 (both much earlier then I had been expecting).

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I had heard that the terminal would be busy and chaotic and that we would more than likely have to wait in several long lines before being able to board the ship.

Luckily, our experience was pretty much the opposite of that. After getting off the shuttle bus and heading into the bottom level of the terminal we waited in a 5-10 minute line to get through security and then headed upstairs for check-in and boarding.

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Checking in was a breeze and before we knew it, it was time to walk through the ears, over the gangway, and onto the Disney Dream.

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Read This: Dreaming Anastasia Review (Spoilers Included)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead—– Do not read if you do not want spoilers

 

Dreaming Anastasia- Joy Preble   Image result for starsImage result for starsImage result for stars

 

Good Reads Synopsis:

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn’t. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn’t know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good collegeuntil the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

 

Characters:

This story has so many characters that it is hard to keep track of them all. The perspective if constantly changing and the story moves from past to present for many of these characters and it all just becomes too much.

 

Plot:

The twist on the story of Anastasia being trapped by Baba Yaga and not having actually died was quite interesting. As well as the notion of Czar Nikolas having a child that no one knew about outside of his marriage. But, neither of these plot lines was really fully developed. I think if the story had followed either of these threads entirely rather then what it did this would change everything.

I also really did not like the ending. Anastasia insisting on dying at the end just made the whole thing seem pointless. All of these characters went through all of this for no reason.  

Also, I don’t understand how this became a trilogy. I don’t think it was necessary at all.

 

Your opinion:

The part that I enjoyed most about this story was the tie ins to Russian folklore. That is not a topic that I had read about before.

But, I did not enjoy the faux-teenager writing/voice.

The author tried to put a twist on Anastasia’s story while also making it into a fantasy/contemporary and it just felt like there was too much going on. As I said if she had stuck to one plotline then it could have worked.

 

Would I recommend?: 

If you are a fan of the Anastasia story then I would go ahead and read this just for the sake of a new take on the story. But, I would not go in with too high of expectations.

 

 

 

 

A Trip Decades In The Making- Our Trip On The Disney Dream

I still remember the first time that I heard about Disney Cruise Line. I was 10 or 11 standing aboard a Carnival cruise ship.

The cruise my family had planned for my cousins fifteenth birthday had just been canceled because of some mechanical problem with the ship and my aunt was now speaking to a representative for DCL to see how much it would be for all of us to board a Disney ship instead.

By now you know my love for Disney so it should come as no surprise that I wanted to go on that Disney cruise more than anything. Unfortunately, we did not end up doing that Disney Cruise. But the idea of it never left me after that.

I remember seeing commercials for DCL and how badly I wanted to experience Animators Palette. Those dreams of a Disney Cruise remained with me for nearly two decades before finally coming to fruition last November.

Early last year my family began to plan a reunion in Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving and in the midst of planning and trying to figure out costs my husband suggested taking a Disney Cruise while already in Florida… and I, of course, leaped at the chance.

Our trip on the Disney Dream was everything that I imagined it would be and so much more.

Stay tuned over the several weeks for ALL of the Disney cruise content; you can look forward to everything from daily trip reports, to detailed descriptions of specific experiences, dining reviews, a stateroom tour and of course tons of pictures.

 

Have you ever been on a Disney Cruise? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

Faith Like Fireworks

It is so funny how your perception of things shift and change as you get older. When  I was a kid, I hated fireworks. The loud noise and the thought of one coming down and burning someone terrified me. But somewhere along the way that perception changed and I love a good fireworks display now.

If you’ve ever watched fireworks, then you know how mesmerizing they can be. Each of these tiny artificial light makes its way into the vast darkness of the sky, and these two perfectly-timed fuses combine to create a beautiful luminous masterpiece.

Over the years fireworks have been combined and displayed by companies to create beautiful displays and to tell a story. But, if they didn’t do this and those fireworks just sat in a covered box, protected from anything that might ignite them, then the beauty that they contain would never be displayed and we would miss out on this masterpiece.

I was listening to Katy Perry’s song Firework and it got me thinking what would it mean to have faith like fireworks?

So many believers choose to keep their faith hidden away in that box of their heart instead of lighting the fuse and allowing it to be displayed in a beautiful masterpiece. We each have the choice of how we display our faith, therefore, we get to choose how that firework is displayed. But sometimes expressing our faith in Christ and lighting that firework is challenging.

I’ve had times when I’ve struggled with how to be a witness for Christ, and I’m guessing you have too. We all have that fear of what other’s will think of us and putting our faith first, out on display can potentially rub others the wrong way.

Also, for me, I have always felt that it is important for me to be cognizant and respectful of others. I never want to be ignorant or disrespectful of someone else’s religion or beliefs. In my opinion, no religion is better than another and everyone else has the right to express their faith in their way, just like I do. 

 Yet, God’s Word reveals that we are called to be a light in the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 CSB reminds us: “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

While it can be tempting to keep our “shells in the box” and avoid revealing the light of Christ inside our hearts, living our faith out loud shouldn’t be an option if we truly love the Lord. 

So how can we do this?

Just like the perfectly-timed fuses contained within the shells of fireworks, we can shine our own light in perfectly-timed ways. I highly believe that there is a time for everything and I have seen first hand how these things can play out. If we pray for the Holy Spirit to be within us and to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to opportunities to share His Good News then that is exactly what will happen. 

We can watch for opportunities to share your own faith story in open situations. We can be on the lookout for friends, family members, coworkers and sometimes even strangers who may be going through a hard time who may need prayer. We can share our favorite scriptures and our own experiences.

I try to always be ready to talk about the hope of God. I pray for these opportunities and then I pray for God to give me the right words to say, to help me say exactly what that person needs to hear at that moment. 

I pray for me to be cognizant and open to the needs of others. Sometimes being that light means being open to taking action by serving others and meeting their needs, both physical and spiritual.

When we do these things we can create our own fireworks display and depict a display of God’s light each and every day. 

 

 

Read This: Then She Was Gone Review- Spoilers Included

Warning: Spoilers Ahead—– Do not read if you do not want spoilers

 

 

 

 

Then She Was Gone –  Lisa Jewell    Image result for starsImage result for starsImage result for stars

“When I read a book it feels like real life and when I put the book down it’s like I go back into the dream.”

 

Good Reads Synopsis: 

THEN

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

NOW 
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.

And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.

Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine-year-old daughter.

Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away. 

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. 

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go? 

Who still has secrets to hide?

Characters: 

Laurel – I have this kind of devil’s advocate view of Laurel. On the one hand, I understand her grief and can’t imagine losing a child and not knowing what happened to them. But, I also don’t feel like that warrants her treatment of her husband and other children, especially the other kids.

I enjoyed Laurel’s relationship with her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. In all other aspects of her life Laurel has become withdrawn and a shell of her former self. But, with her mother, she is loving and craves her attention. She is almost like a child again.

 

Plot: 

I personally don’t like when the synopsis of the book gives away big plot points or twists. For example, I would have preferred they leave out the fact that Poppy looked like Ellie. But, since it did include this information I went in assuming that there was something strange going on with Poppy and Floyd.

It took away a lot of the mystery of the book for me, which I didn’t enjoy.

 

“A man who can’t love but desperately needs to be loved is a dangerous thing indeed.”

 

Opinion: 

It only took me five days to read this book which because of my work schedule is pretty quick for me. This book is fairly fast-paced and goes down smoothly. BUT! I found much of it to be predictable.

The biggest surprise to me was to find out that Floyd was in a relationship with Ellie’s abductor which led to this whole thing. It just seemed like a stretch of the imagination for this all to have happened.  

While the story was well written, I personally prefer a mystery/thriller where the reader is left in the dark for most of the book. As opposed to the reader knowing the answer and reading along as the main character discovers it.

 

Would I recommend? 

I would recommend this book. It wasn’t bad; just certain plot lines were predictable. But, there are portions that are witty and dark which still make a good read in my opinion.

 

 

 

 

March Reading Wrap Up

Hey, loves! I read 14 books in February and was hoping to continue that great tide into March. While that did not happen I did read a fair number of books and more importantly, I found my new favorite series.

What I read in March…

March books

 

The Titanic Disaster- Adam Stone  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one I think is pretty self-explanatory. This middle-grade graphic novel was short sweet and to the point. I chose this more for the art style than the content of the story.

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The Tea Dragon Society- Katie O’Neill ⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Memories don’t just live inside you, Minette. They live in all the people and objects you share your life with.”

What a wonderfully diverse and gentle little graphic novel. I am relatively new to the world of graphic novels but I absolutely love the art style.

This story is broken down into five parts; one for each season and then an epilogue. Tea Dragons are basically just mini dragons that grow different herbs alongside their horns! And all the names of the dragons are based on the herb that they grow.

This story is truly about friendship, and how important it is to find a place in the world that will surround you with unconditional love. This is also a story about appreciating people for their differences and embracing all people.

You- Caroline Kepnes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Some people on this earth receive love, get married, and honeymoon in Cabo. Others do not. Some people read alone on the sofa and some people read together, in bed. That’s life.”

What a psychological thriller! This book was just creepy.
“You” is a fucked up tale told from the point of view of a stalker who obsesses over a young woman who comes into his bookstore.  Said stalked becomes increasingly obsessed and gradually implants himself into her life, orchestrating elaborate rouses in order to seek a relationship with her.
In recounting his tale, Joe truly believes that he and Beck are meant to be. His narration is completely insane, horrifying and – at times – beautiful.
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The Tattooist Of Auschwitz- Heather Morris ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Nations can threaten other nations. They have power, they have militaries. How can a race that is spread out across multiple countries be considered a threat? For as long as he lives, be it short or long, he knows he will never comprehend this.”

This is a beautifully written historical fiction novel based on a true story. Lale Sokolov became the main tattooist of Auschwitz by pure chance and luck. During his 3 years at the German’s most notorious concentration camp, Lale meets and falls in love with fellow prisoner Gita. 
This beautiful story illustrates how love and hope are everlasting and how the strength of the human spirit can endure even in the darkest cruelest of times.
                                                       tattoisofauschqitz

The Poet X- Elizabeth Acevedo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Burn it! Burn it. This where the poems are,” I say, thumping a fist against my chest. “Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too?”

 

Even with all of the rave reviews about The Poet X, I still went in with minimal expectations. Although I have written poetry in the past, I have never particularly enjoyed reading it. So this book was a surprising delight; so beautifully written in verse and prose. Acevedo’s main character Xiomara was relatable and although I was not raised in such a strict and religious household, I am Hispanic and could relate in that way to Xiomara and her family.
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I Hate Fairyland Volume #1- Skottie Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This graphic novel is like a cross between Alice and Wonderland and Deadpool. In this story, we meet six-year-old Gert who has been stuck in the magical world of Fairyland for thirty years and has developed such a hatred for the land that she is willing to hack, slash and kill her way out. What I love most about this graphic novel is the vibrant, full of gore art style.
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A Court of Roses and Thorns- Sarah J Maas ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.” 

When my coworker lent me these books, I was excited to dive into a new YA Fantasy series. I didn’t know anything able these books going in so I had no expectations.
If you are a lover of retellings then this book is for you.  To be honest, it took me a fair amount of time to realize that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But, this was unlike any versions of Beauty and the Beast the I haven’t ever read.
This story contains elements of romance,  danger, and fantasy.  The character development and world building within these books is urgently structured and timed. This was the perfect first book to begin Feyre’s story.
                                                     thorns and roses

A Court of Mist and Fury- Sarah J Maas ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I needed not to be dead when I agreed.”
“You needed not to be alone.”
 

A Court of Mist and Fury is every emotion rolled into one book; heart-wrenching and sorrowful one page and joyous and freeing the next.

I have never read a Fantasy book that delves into such realistic, everyday themes; from abuse to PTSD, and grief. This book is a story about life and love and every shade of gray in between.

“But then she snapped your neck.”
Tears rolled down his face.
“And I felt you die,” he whispered.
Tears were sliding down my own cheeks.
 

The first book gave us our background information and built Feyre’s world. This book takes Feyre through the aftermath and shows her dive into a fearful, traumatized broken soul and how she eventually finds her way back into herself.
                                          mist and fury

 

I read some great books in March and rediscovered my love for Fantasy novels. Book 5 of the COTR series is set to come out in the next few years and I cannot wait.
What books have you been loving?

Trying To Conceive Is A Full-Time Job

Trying to conceive is a full time, often heartbreaking, job. It is one that no one applies for, one that no one wants on their resume.

Unfortunately, my husband and I have found ourselves on this journey for the last year and a half.

This job is one that comes with a stressful and demanding schedule. This schedule is chock-full of timelines, deadlines, windows, statistics, and cycles.

When you are living and working this TTC journey, your life falls into four-week increments. Each month is broken down into days past; days past ovulation, days past implantation, days passed your period due date.

Each day you pray that you won’t have to move into the next four-week increment and slowly those days of prayer become weeks and months. Each month when mother nature comes to visit, your heart breaks just a little bit more.

Every month that you work this job you wonder what you did wrong; did you not pray hard enough, take enough vitamins, not track properly.

Nick and I have been following this journey together for the last year and a half. And while it has brought us closer and allowed us to have open communication this is not a job that either of us ever wanted.

It seems like in the past few weeks we have been surrounded by people who are announcing pregnancies or who have brought babies into the world and while we are thrilled for them, we can’t help but feel that draw on our spirits and our desire for a child.

I’ll admit that the last couple of weeks have been filled with more tears than joy and more excitement that has turned to heartache.

Up until this past Saturday, the 6th of April Nick and I were pretty sure that our miracle had finally come and we were pregnant.

We had done the deed, put in our two weeks notice and were ready to move on into the next chapter.

My period was due on March 27th and when it didn’t come on time we thought nothing of it. I’ve been a couple of days late in the past and sometimes the apps used to track aren’t completely accurate so we continued to wait.

And each day that my period didn’t come my heart became a little lighter and my excitement a little higher (despite my attempts to keep it under wraps).

Finally after 7 days and a 36 day cycle (which I have never had before) Nick and I decided we couldn’t wait any longer and so I tested and when that negative sign showed on the test I let myself believe that it was because it was simply too early, there wasn’t enough HCG built up in my system for the test to detect and I just needed to wait a few more days to test again.

Then on day 8 at a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment we explained what was going on and being that my cycle is typically regular she was excited for me to take another test…which was negative.

She advised that it could possibly still be early and wrote me an order for lab work to be drawn if I still didn’t get my period in a few days.

On day 10 and cycle day 40 I had lab work done in the morning and by 4pm that day the bleeding began and our hopes were dashed once more.

I have had my period every single month for nearly nineteen years and have never to my recollection missed a period or had a forty-day cycle.

So, in those two weeks, we allowed ourselves to begin to fantasize about how we would tell our mothers, our families. In those two weeks, we began to talk about names and coming doctors appointments. Began thanking God for this blessing. I pushed myself into wishful thinking and convinced myself that I was having symptoms that weren’t really there.

I try to remind myself that everything happens for a reason, that it will happen when it is meant to but sometimes the pain and anger take over. This seems like some cruel joke, like a terribly late April Fools Joke.

I am so very thankful for the friends who I reached out to who guided me and walked me through these two weeks, who allowed me to vent and share my hopes. Who checked in and prayed alongside us.

I am thankful for a husband who has held my hand through every exam and blood draw and who has pushed me to not lose hope. And for a God who hasn’t failed me yet (even though I may have to occasionally remind myself of that).

Having Hobbies When Life Gets In The Way

I like to tell myself that I am too busy to have hobbies but that just couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’m busy sure…but not too busy.
I have to remind myself that if I have the time to sit and binge watch 4-5 episodes of Grey ‘s Anatomy a night then I have the time for hobbies.
I envy people who say things like “I never watch TV, I can’t sit still long enough” or “I have to have a specific goal or purpose for my day” or “sitting and watching TV for long periods of time just isn’t me.”
I have never had that problem. I would gladly spend an entire weekend on my couch being as unproductive as possible.
But the problem is that the rational side of me says that there are things to be done and tries to talk the other side of me into action.
I’ve come to realize that hobbies are my friend. They allow me to be productive and be creative in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. 
I also think that it’s very important to do things that are solely for yourself, solely because you enjoy it.
So here are some of my favorite things to do in my free time. 
1. Reading 
Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy reading. There is nothing that is more relaxing to me after a long day at work then coming home and relaxing on the couch with a good book and a cup of coffee or tea.
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2. Journaling
Whether it is Bible Journaling, Junk Journaling, Bullet Journaling or any other kind of journaling, I love it. I love keeping track of my thoughts, memories and special events happening in my life so that I can look back on them.
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3. Blog Writing
Although I don’t publish posts on here as often as I would like, I do write them fairly frequently. I currently have over 60 posts already written waiting to be published. I find writing about my life and different subjects therapeutic.
I think hobbies are important for everyone but especially if you’re a busy person, who is constantly giving time away to everyone but yourself. Everyone needs a little bit of “me time” and I personally feel so much better when I’ve devoted some time to the things that help me relax and bring me joy.
Let me know what your hobbies are and why they’re so important to you!

Fueled By Negativity

Let me be honest for a second…
It has been nearly two months since I have posted anything to this blog and I feel horrible about that. There is a myriad of reasons why I could chalk it up to busyness and the chaos of life. But that just isn’t the full truth.
The truth is that I just haven’t felt like I’ve had anything to say. I don’t want to post just for the sake of posting, I don’t want to bring content just out of the hope of gaining a new reader.
I want to write because I actually have something to say or something of meaning to bring to you.
And lately, I have found that I feel the most fired up and inspired to write when I am being fuelled by negativity.
Much like my “Inappropriate Questions” post, I find myself wanting to write when someone does or says something that pisses me off.
I hate to admit that but right now it is my reality. I have just not been able to find the motivation to write. I have over 60 saved drafts of potential posts but I just can’t be bothered to put in the effort to finish any of them.
Part of me thinks that I should take this new found information and use it, use that negativity to drive me and put out new posts. But, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that person.
Our country, our world already have so much negativity (especially on the internet and social media) and I don’t want to be just another person adding to that.
I know that people usually only pay attention to the negative, they enjoy drama. These are typically the blogs and Youtube channels that gain the biggest following but do I want to be a contributor to this type of content?
I look at my list of lovely, positive, inspirational ideas and don’t feel the motivation to write them.  I feel like people would pay far less attention to the good than if I posted the bad. Is that the world we live in? Or am I being majorly cynical?
So I have decided to take a stand against myself and I am going to fight against my own urges.
I have heard in the past that the best way to fight against writer’s block is to just continue writing, push yourself to continue. So that is what I am going to do. I am not going to let the negativity win. I am going to push myself until that spark comes back.
And if people read my content and enjoy what I have to say then great and if not then that’s ok too.

Scriptures That I Pray Over My Marriage

My husband Nick and I recently attended a couples group at a nearby church lead by the pastor who officiated our wedding.

One of the topics discussed was the value that we place on unimportant things in life; our homes, our fast cars, our long lists of successes and accomplishments.

And, while these things are valuable to a degree, God calls us to more than just these earthly things, he wants us to treasure our relationships above all else.

The first step is to focus on our relationship with Him. And, then on our relationship with our spouse.

This is why this year I am making the intentional choice on a daily basis not to take my spouse or my marriage for granted.

I am doing this by continually praying specifically for my husband and our marriage and focusing on specific scripture.

These scriptures can show us how to have a marriage centered and rooted in Christ, they can also show us how to prioritize these relationships—and create a true love story of our own.

Here are a few Bible verses about relationships that I have been studying:


Grant Forgiveness

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

If I am being completely honest, this one is difficult for me on most days. My biggest love language is words of affirmation which makes me very sensitive to negative or hurtful remarks. This makes it very easy for my feelings to be hurt. When this happens, instead of talking to my husband about it or praying over it and then letting it go, I find myself holding onto that hurt and allowing it to create anger.

This is something that I am continually working on. I know that I need to find it in my heart to forgive because He forgave for all that we’ve done.

 

Find and Keep Joy

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 (NIV)

We have been married for almost four years but have been together for more than eleven. During that time we have had to face many trials but through those hard times, we have learned that joy can be found even during the difficult times if you search for it.

 

Rely on One Another 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

My husband is my best friend. Even on our bad days, I find myself wanting to tell him all about my day and what is going on in my life when he is not around. He’s the first one I turn to when I need advice or encouragement.

 

Pray and Trust Together

Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)

Sharing my pain points and failures with my husband allow him to encourage me. When we share our inadequacies with our spouse, they can lift us up in prayer.

 

Pursuing God’s will and timing in our marriage has been a journey and continues to be. And, although I don’t always make the right decisions and have difficult days, studying His Word has certainly helped me base my marriage on a solid foundation.

Where are you in your journey? Do you find it hard to forgive your spouse?

What Scriptures do you enjoy reading and praying over your marriage and spouse? 

When Jesus Said “It is Finished,” He Was Talking About You

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. John 19:30 CSB

I read this Scripture in John 19 earlier this week— these were the last words that Jesus spoke on the day He was crucified. In this scripture Jesus is there on the cross, and He simply says, “It is finished,” closed His eyes, and died.

When studying scripture I like to read different translations and Bible studies.

One such study challenged the reader to really consider those words. In that moment, Jesus was not simply stating the obvious—that His earthly life was over. He was declaring that our sins were forgiven once and for all, their price paid by His blood, His sacrifice.

But do we realize that when He said, ‘It is finished,’ He was talking about us. Can we write those words in a journal and mean them? Can we look into a mirror and speak them?

So often we think that our mistakes are too great for His forgiveness. It is humbling to read this study and realize the truth in Jesus’ statement, the truth that in that moment and by His death, Christ paid the price for EVERY  sin no matter how great—even for mine. Every wrong I have ever or will ever commit was forgiven; thousands of years before I was born, thousands of years before I would ever make those mistakes, my debt for them was paid in full.

EVERY mistake or sin you have ever committed was forgiven before you ever drew your first breath. And all you have to do is accept that truth.

Because God loves YOU so much, he gave his one and only son so that if you would believe in him you would have everlasting life and never perish.

Since I read that study I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the fact that when He said, “It is finished,” He was talking about me.

The next day I spent some time writing in my prayer journal and bible journaling about  John 19:30 and I found that with each moment that I lingered there, those words became further etched onto my heart.

It’s fascinating how we can spend years knowing something without fully accepting it.

So today, as you consider the events from the day Jesus was crucified, try speaking those words aloud: When He said, ‘It is finished,’ He was talking about me.

January To-Be-Read List

I still remember when I first learned to read, I was in Kindergarten and I am pretty sure that I have not stopped since.

I have always loved how the written word can transport you out of your life and into someone else’s, how you can travel to places that you may never otherwise see and times that have long come and gone. But, my favorite part is the friends you make along the way. I am fortunate enough to be of the right age to have grown up as the Harry Potter books were released, these books were my birthday present every single year for nearly a decade; I grew up right alongside Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

I did not read nearly as many books in 2018 as I would have liked so this year I am being more intentional about my reading and setting some goals for my self.

This year I plan to read more consistently; I want to branch out into more genres and read books from new authors.

I have been doing a combination of audiobooks, ebooks, and physical, hard-copy books and this seems to be working for me so far.

In December I joined a book club in December and we are currently on our second book. I am absolutely loving this; being in this book club has given me the chance to read some books that I otherwise may not have and to make a new group of friends who share my love of reading.

Here are the books that are on my January to-be-read list:

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Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

 

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In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

 

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“Helen Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of the doomed grand duchesses.” —People magazine”The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters’ thoughtfulness and intelligence.”

 

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Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

 

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Traces the story of the Russian Revolution, the lives of the Romanov family, and the story of their tragic deaths, in an account that draws on primary source materials and includes period photography

 

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In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

 

That’s it for my January TBR. Let me know in the comments what books you’re planning to read. Or if you’ve read any of these, what did you think of them?

My Goals and Word for 2019

Over the last several years I have become obsessed with all things time-management and planning. Like anything else in life, it comes in waves and there are seasons where I “plan” more than I actually “do”.

But, I have become a self-proclaimed planning freak. That love translates into other things as well; I have developed a love of setting goals, making lists, time blocking, journaling and I absolutely love to keep planners!

I could seriously drool over a fresh, brand new, unmarked planner!

This brings me to today’s topic..goals. Or as people call them at this time of year, resolutions.

Over the years resolutions have gotten a bad rap and they have become somewhat of a cliche. And while I do tend to agree that there is no need to wait for the first of the year to set new goals, I do think that it is important to stop at the beginning of the year, reflect on what did or did not go well the previous year and figure out how you are going to fix those areas or continue to grow in them.

I tend to use switch around between different planners; sometimes I use a bullet journal and sometimes I like to use a traditional journal. In 2018 I discovered junk journals, which I love!
So far this year I am using a planner, journal for daily to-do lists, and a junk journal as a sort of “scrapbook” for the year.
Over the years I have tried out many different systems and picked out different aspects of each and kind of combined them all into an amalgamation that works for me. It seems like a lot but so far it is really working for me.
I like using the different methods because each one works best with different aspects of my life.
-The planner allows me to keep track of upcoming events such as my husband’s doctors appointments and my brother’s wedding.
-The journal allows me to time block and plan out what I need to get done each day.
-The junk journal allows me to be creative and keep memories from throughout the year while also allowing me to keep track of things like blog post ideas and monthly TBR’s.

 

MY WORD OF THE YEAR

Choosing a word of the year has always been an intriguing idea to me and I love reading other blogs or watching Youtube videos where people give updates throughout the year about how they are incorporating their word into their life.

And while I have chosen a word myself over the last couple of years, I always end up forgetting about it after a few weeks or months and don’t think about it again until the year is over and it’s time to chose a new word.

So this year I plan to be much more intentional and figure out what my word means in each aspect of my life. I will do regular reviews or assessments to evaluate where I am with my goals for the year and how I am incorporating my word into those goals.

 

So my word of the year is CONTENTMENT. Please don’t mistake the meaning of this, I have mentioned my word to people I work with and they mistake this for “happiness”, thinking that I am unhappy in my life. This is not the case.

Being happy and being content are two different things.

I have found that over the last couple of years I have been so focused on either what my life could have been or what it still could be, that I forget to focus on anything else. In other words, I either focus on my past and the things that have happened and the paths and choices that I could have taken or I focus on the future and where my life could be going and I make myself dissatisfied with where my life currently is and I find myself envious of others.

That is not how I want to live my life! God has blessed me immeasurably, and I don’t want to be so focused on the past or on what other’s have that I miss those blessings entirely.

So this year it is my goal to focus on the blessings I already have, on the promises that God has for my future, and on being more content with what I have and where I am.

When thinking about my word for the year, I knew that contentment isn’t something that just magically happens; it is an attitude, a choice, and a goal that I need to work towards.

 

There are two things I’m loving right now that pertain to reaching goals and feeling good about 2019:

  • Gretchen Wilson’s Happier podcast

Oh my gosh! I’m obsessed. I have been listening to this podcast off and on since the summer and I always come away feeling so excited and creatively charged. Gretchen’s podcast is all about practical ways to bring more joy, happiness, and CONTENTMENT in life.

  • From Gretchen’s podcast, I was turned onto Chris Guillebeau and his “Annual Review”.

This is such an awesome way to review what I did well in 2018 (what made me feel content) and what I can do better in 2019 (to increase that contentment).

 

My 2018 Review and a Few 2019 Goals

I used Chris’s format to create my 2018 review and create my goals for 2019:

The first step is to just spend a few days reflecting back on the previous years and make a rough list of thing that did not go well or could have gone better and then spend time looking to the future and how you want to correct those things in the coming year.

Once you have this, you will take this information and “plug it in” to the excel format that Chris uses.

With this format, you come up with several goals that you want to focus on for the year, summarize the action required to reach that goal and then give yourself a rough deadline.

The first thing I did was break it down into areas that I want to work on, improve and find contentment in. These were:

  • Marriage
  • Current Life
  • School
  • Faith
  • Social Life
  • Family
  • Self
  • Work
  • Health
  • Blogs

 

After coming up with these 10 areas that I would like to focus on, I then brainstormed on what about these areas I would like to improve and tangible ways that I can work on doing so.

For example: For my marriage, I can focus more on my husband’s love languages, for my faith I can spend time reading my Bible and in prayer, for my blogs I can create specific posting schedules.

As far as the deadlines go, many of m goals and things I want to work on are ongoing and don’t have specific deadlines. But, I did set reminders for myself to reassess and review where I am with my goals every couple of months.

One of my biggest goals for 2019 is reducing my time on my phone and more specifically on social media; doing so will allow me to focus more on my husband, on my family and present and in the moment.

I believe that all of these things will allow me to focus more on my word of the year and increase my contentment.

 

Do you create a word or theme for the year? Do you set New Year’s resolutions?

 

 

 

Our First Home- The Tour

Welcome to our humble abode!! Nick and I are so excited to finally be homeowners. After Nick’s kidney transplant in 2012, we packed up and moved out and spent the last several years living in apartments.

As you have read in previous posts we have been on the home buying journey for a while now and are SO incredibly thankful to finally have ended the journey and be first-time homeowners.

After scouring real estate apps like Trulia and Zillow and looking at countless houses with our amazing realtor we fell in love with this house. It had only been on the market for a couple of weeks so we didn’t waste any time and put in an offer. Shortly after we were overjoyed to hear that it was accepted! We thank God every day for this blessing!

For the last two months, my mind has been swimming with all things home decor! My Pinterest boards are bursting at the seams and I still have so many ideas on how to decorate.

I took pictures of each area in our home and wanted to share them with our friends and family members who may not get to see the house in person.

So without further ado, let’s start the tour! (Please keep in mind we are still unpacking and cleaning so it is a little bit of a mess.)

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I don’t have a picture of our backyard but it is long and narrow and the perfect size for our two fur babies to play and do their business in.

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Upon entering through the front door, you walk into the living room with the stairs directly to your left. What I love about this room are the high vaulted ceilings and the balcony view of the loft on the second floor.

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Once we are settled and have purchased our necessities, we will then focus on decor which will include a collage of our wedding pictures on that wall on the landing of the staircase.

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The view from the living room into the kitchen and dining room; also, to the right there is a coat closet and a hallway that leads to the garage and half bath.

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One of the things that we immediately loved about this house was that the kitchen was already updated.

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For some reason, the paint in the downstairs bathroom shows up grey in this picture but the walls are actually a dark turquoise color that I love.

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The loft, which we are working on turning into an office, has become my favorite room in the house.

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The view from the loft down into the living room.

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The guestroom. (Apparently Lily thinks this is her own personal bed) haha

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The guest bathroom

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Our bedroom is about twice the size of our bedroom in the apartment and I absolutely love our new furniture!

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There isn’t any major work that needs to be done to the house. All we have left to do is finish unpacking and then work on getting some pictures and other decor up.

We are so excited to continue adding our personal touch and making this house into our home. Thank you for following along on this journey with us!

 

Tips For Getting More Reading Done

Reading is something that I have loved to do for as long as I can remember. Reading allows me to travel to places that I otherwise never would, or possibly never could, it allows me to become someone else, it allows me to learn about new things and new people and it gives me an escape from reality.

Not only do I love to read but it is something that I genuinely excel at. I am a very fast reader and I have this beautiful ability to block out everything else around me while I read. I have also always had great reading comprehension… and retention.

If you were to tell me the title of a book I read 10 years ago, I could still tell you what the book was about and name many of the characters.

But reading takes time, and there are many days (and years) when don’t read nearly as much as I’d like.

So, going into 2019 I am making it my goal to start reading again and go back to doing something that I genuinely love.

Here are some of the habits that I am adopting in order to help me accomplish this goal.

1. Quit reading.

For some reason, I have always had this sense that I have to finish each and every book that I begin. I don’t know if it is a pride thing or a guilt thing or if I picked it up from a teacher or family member somewhere along the way. But recently, I have realized that this isn’t necessary. If I don’t like a book or I am not connecting with it then I don’t have to finish it. As Gretchen Rubin says “No more. Life is short. There are too many wonderful books to read.”

2. Read books you enjoy.

If I’m reading a book I love or that is about a topic that interests me—for example, I’m now reading a series of books by Philipa Gregory about the English monarchs — I’ll be much more likely to find more time to read. Which is another reason to stop reading a book I don’t enjoy.

3. Join A Book Club

I recently joined a book club on Facebook and will begin reading my first book with them in December. The month has even started and I am already excited to begin reading this book because I know that I will have other people to discuss it with.

4. Skim.

This is a habit that I’ve recently adopted. I don’t do this all of the time but there are times when it is helpful. For example, I recently began reading a biography on Fred Rogers (from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood) and there was an entire chapter of the book that spoke only about the town that Rogers grew up in from the time it was settled to the time that he was born. I felt like this more in-depth information then I needed so I skipped it. Not only does this allow me to keep to the parts of the story that actually interest me but it also allows me to finish the book faster.

5. Get calm.

Like I said I am pretty good at blocking out outside distractions. But, shutting my own mind up long enough for me to read can sometimes be very difficult. I have learned that when this happens I need to close my eyes for a few minutes take a few deep breaths and remind myself about what I am reading and why.

6. Don’t fight my inclinations.

Sometimes I feel like I should be reading one book when I actually feel like reading something entirely different. Now I let myself read what I want because otherwise, I end up reading much less.

7. Always have something to read.

I always have a couple of e-books downloaded on my phone. What I love about this is that it means that I never go anywhere empty-handed. I always have something to read so if I am sitting and waiting somewhere I am able to do some reading.

8. Maintain a big list.

I find that I read much more when I have a big list of books waiting for me. I have a huge list in my journal and plan on slowly ticking them off as I read them throughout 2019.

 

 

Tips For An Immediate Happiness Boost

I have mentioned before that I love listening to the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin and earlier this month Gretchen posted a blog post with her “Top 30 Tips To Make Yourself Happier, Right Now.”

I am a firm believer in the notion that our mood, our attitude is our choice. Yes, there are outside factors that can influence our mood or attitude but ultimately we are the ones who decide how we will react to those factors and subsequently choose our resulting mood.

Essentially Gretchen says the same. When we find ourselves in a sour or depressed mood we can take intentional and deliberate steps to change this, maybe not completely, but to make ourselves at least a little happier.

Obviously, this list is going to look different for everyone. What makes me happier, or puts a smile on my face may not necessarily do the same for you. But, still, there are many that I’m sure could work for almost anyone.

So here is my list of Tips for an Immediate Happiness Boost:

  • Do ten jumping jacks.
  • Go outside and look at the sky.
  • Pet my dogs. Then…
  • Text a photo of dogs to my family.
  • Re-read a few chapters of a children’s or YA book in a series I love: Graceling, Harry Potter, Narnia etc.
  • Enjoy a beautiful smell.
  • Read my Bible
  • Listen one of my worship teams albums
  • Do a small good deed for someone else.
  • Clear some clutter (I can always find some).
  • Text a friend or family members.
  • Take a minute to be grateful for some basic aspect of my life
  • Clean off my desk.
  • Copy some quotations into my giant trove of quotations.
  • Re-copy my to-do list, so it’s fresh and clean.
  • Go to the library.
  • Watch my favorite episode of Supernatural.
  • Make myself a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Listen to music or watch a Youtube video
  • Listen to a short music loop from a Disney park on Youtube
  • Make a plan for some future fun: plan an outing or add a book to my library list.
  • Tackle some small, nagging task that’s been weighing on my mind.
  • Plan to go to bed early. I always feel better in the morning.
  • Hug a member of my family (whoever’s available).
  • Allow myself to do some quick research on a subject that has been fascinating to me, but is unrelated to my work.  Such as the Titanic, the Holocaust, WWII, the Romanovs etc.
  • Listen to JT Can’t Stop The Feeling or Pharrell Happy

What It Means To Be Thankful

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my word for 2018 is surrender. What I have learned over the past year is that for me surrendering and thankfulness go hand in hand. It is much easier for me to surrender something to God when I remind myself to be thankful for what He has already blessed me with.

Over the last couple of weeks I have felt God speaking this into my heart over and over again, about various different aspects of my life.

I have not spent as much time in my Bible in 2018 as I would have liked. So this past week I decided that that was going to change.

I like to use the She Reads Truth devotionals online and decided to jump into their current one… which just so happened to be about thankfulness.

The first days devotional was about HOW we give thanks and asked the question, “How long do I go without pausing to thank God?”

I found myself thinking about this question over and over again throughout the day and I have made it my goal to intentionally stop throughout each day to thank Him for everything He has done.

I loved what the author of this days devotional said “A grateful heart isn’t a response to our circumstances or possessions. It is a form of worship, a response to what He has already done and continues to do. Turn your heart to the past and present of your great God.”

The second days devotional was about WHY we give thanks.

“Even when we don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to celebrate the sunrise, let alone say, “Do it again!” in those dark morning hours, God’s love for us and for his creation is unbounded. He loves us again, and again, and again, and again. In the face of this kind of love, our hearts will warm with thanksgiving.”

 

I have had to surrender many things over the past couple of years; our fertility journey, the health and wellness of family members and friends, educational and career decisions, unrest and indecision, and so much more.

But over and over again I have felt God reminding me, telling me to just trust Him, to remember all that He has already done and that all I can really do is just let go because ultimately I am not the one in control.

 

Just yesterday I stumbled upon a quote that said it all perfectly.

“God loves us too much to answer our prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way.”- Lysa Turkheurst

Then this morning this card fell out of my Bible and it’s verse brought it all home.

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“The spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

 

He is telling me over and over again to surrender it all to him and to be thankful in all circumstances.

Our Dream Home

In late September Nick and I found our dream home.

From the moment we walked in through the front door we knew that this house was meant to be ours.

It has pretty much everything that we have been looking for and just immediately felt like home; within 24 hours we had put our full-price offer in.

As I said in my previous post, through out this whole process it has been my intention to hold everything with an open hand and to surrender it all. I have prayed that we would know which house was ours because God would lead the way and open the doors. That is exactly what has happened.

There were a couple days when we weren’t so sure about the process, when we were worried about closing costs and down payments and when our human thoughts took over and we lowered our eyes to earthly worries and emotions.

But through each of those times God has leaned in and reminded us that he is right here in the middle of it with us and has proceeded to bless us abundantly.

It is now Mid-November and we are in escrow, our down payment has been taken care of, the closing costs are currently sitting in our savings account, documents have been sent in and signed, inspection has been done, appraisal has been done and closing date is set for December 14th.

And… earlier today we received this email from our lender!

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As of today we are approved and ready for closing!

God is good all of the time!

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Our Home Buying Journey-Part 2

Our current lease is up in January 2019 so we knew that our house hunting would need to begin again in the fall of 2018.

Going into it this time I made the intentional decision to go in with an open mind and to not hold onto anything (or any house) too tightly. Whatever was meant to happen would happen.

Through out the entire process I have prayed the same prayer over and over again “Show us the way God, guide us in this process. Help us to discern what you have meant for us and what you don’t. If we come upon a house that isn’t meant to be ours then let us move on from it and when we find the one that is, make that abundantly clear. Make the process easy and without complication. Let us surrender this to you.”

And that is exactly what we have done. Surrendered it.

At the beginning of September we thought that we were being led to a brand-new, to-be-built town home in a beautiful neighborhood. But this new build meant that we would be on a three month waiting list and then go through a nine month build… essentially another year in an apartment.

But, the price was great, the model was gorgeous, the timing worked out and we were approved for more then enough of a mortgage loan.

But even after getting on the list, deep down we knew that God had something different for us.

Neither of us expected to find a house right away but by the end of September we had looked at dozens of houses, in person and online. In that time we realized that just because we were approved for a specific amount didn’t mean that we had to choose a house that cost that much, we came to a hard truth about how much of a mortgage payment we could really afford and how much we really wanted to pay.

We began looking at houses that cost a little less, we re-evaluated the areas of town that we were looking at.

And after sooo many houses, some close calls and a lot of discussion… we found the one for us.

It’s funny because I had seen the pictures of this house online and thought it was nice but hadn’t really paid it all that much attention.

But from the moment we stepped through the front door, I knew we were meant to live in this house.

Stay tuned to Part 3 for more on our perfect house.

 

August 2018 Favorites

This one is a little bit late but today I am going to be talking about my August favorites!

Disclaimer before we begin:  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program. Therefore, any Amazon links I share are affiliate links. That means that if you choose to purchase one of these items, the price of the item won’t change for you, but I will receive a small commission for the sale. 

Food and Drink

Rubio’s Bowls-

I have always loved the food at Rubio’s but in August I discovered these bowls…and they are AMAZING. The shrimp is grilled so that it has a little bit of a char on it and the guacamole is always super fresh and smooth. Then once you add in the salsa it just takes it to a whole other level. I could eat this a few times a week and be happy.

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Holy Kombucha-

I have tried several different Kombucha brands over the last few months and these are by far the best. I bought them on a whim from Sprouts because they were two for $5 and instantly loved them. If you are a Kombucha drinker,  I definitely suggest these.

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Kodiak Cakes-

We have been using these for a few years now but I have never shared them before. I love using this to make protein pancakes. I substitue this in for regular flour and we love them. It is the perfect way to get in some extra protein and these are super filling. I have only ever been able to find this brand at Tartget and Costco. But, there are multplie flavors available at Target. These are regular buttermilk but they also have peanut butter and dark chocolate. Both of which I plan on trying.

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Salads-

This one isn’t a specific product. Creating our own salads at home for dinner is something that I have really been enjoying doing lately. It’s just super simple and I  love how customizable it is. If there are certain things that I like that Nick doesn’t then it is easy for me to leave those things off of his salad and vice versa.

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Brandless Cookies-

We recently put our first order in with Brandless. (If yu don’t know what that is, stay tuned for a review). In that order we got these Chocolate Chip Cookie Thins and let me tell you they are so good! They are thin little, crunchy cookies and they remind me of the small cookies you can get from Mrs. Field’s in the mall.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte- 

Call me Basic, tell me it’s too early… I don’t care. I love me a PSL and I look forward to it each and every year.

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Makeup and Beauty

I don’t have very much in the Makeup and Beauty section this month.

Dollar Shave Club- 

Nick and I decided to give Dollar Shave Club a chance this month. Nick decided that he didn’t like their razors. But, I have actually really enjoyed their products. I have been using their razor and shave butter and definitely plan on ordering again when I run out.

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Brandless Face and Body Products-

Again I will be doing a full review on Brandless soon but they’re products have seriously impressed me. I have been using each of these every day for the last month and love them all. But, by far my favorite is the Green Apple scented Facial Toner. It smells so good and refreshing and it just makes my face feel amazing.

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Home Décor and Products

Packing Cubes-

I ordered these packing cubes off of Amazon and while I haven’t been able to actually use them yet, I am already in love with them. The ones I ordered are super cute and girly. I was so excited when I received them I hurried up and “practiced” packing just so that I could try them out.

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Entertainment (TV, Music, Books, Internet)

Carrie Hope Fletcher-

Carrie is an English stage actress and author. I enjoy watching her videos because I love her honesty, bubbly personality. I also love getting the inside look of what it’s like to be backstage for those shows.

Clothing and Accessories

Amy’s Small World Bags-

Stay tuned for a review on these beauties.

Priceless

This month my priceless moment was getting to spend a day at Cowabunga Bay with my coworker and friend Tina. It was exactly what I needed to get out of work for a little while and reset. We relaxed in the wave pool and splashed down on some awesome water slides. Field trips like these don’t happen often but when they do they are definitely something to remember.

 

// That’s what I’ve been loving lately! What about you?

What are you putting out? {Guest Post}

Your Energy Speaks Volumes

Have you ever met someone and known you would probably never want to interact with them again? It could have been the conversation, or maybe the interaction was quite short. I would say your energies didn’t align. There is this invisible vibration you release everywhere you go. You can release negative or positive energy.

As they say “Your vibe attracts your tribe”, look around you and you will see a little of yourself in everyone around you. If you don’t like what you see that means you are going through a transition and may have to release some of these negative friends. If you are happy with what you see, this means you’ve aligned yourself with the people that will bring you up when you are down. These people are your tribe and they have your back.

If you’re like me, you have tried to have a few close friends but it’s never worked out. I wish I could tell you why you may not align with anyone but try to just consider yourself a fairy that is trying to gain their wings.

Fairies are still trying to figure out who they are and what they can give to the world. They are learning and observing the world around them. People watch them from afar and may think they’re interesting but don’t get close because they still don’t quite get them. For the fairy, it can be lonely at times, but eventually, you understand it’s just the process to gain your wings. Try to keep the faith that you’ll find other fairies or in my case a husband that is attracted to fairies.

There will be moments you want to crank up the positive energy, such as an interview, on a date, meeting new friends, or on a business deal. This can be done by increasing your positive thinking and letting your inner light shine. There will also be a moment where you will want to dim your light, grocery shopping, the gym, and when you see someone you don’t want to talk to. These are all the moments I really don’t want to attract attention, but you may have others. Think of your energy or light whatever you choose to call it, as the little gem in a Troll. You can let it shine or you can allow it to dim. You may not have control of this light, but you can learn in time.

There are several ways you can brighten your inner light such as; meditation, reiki, chakra clearing, healing stones, yoga, mantras, and just by being a good person. These may be familiar or I may be speaking another language. If I’m speaking another language and you’re interested I suggest you start your research. As you’re researching your mind will feel as if you are entering this whole new world of endless possibilities. This feeling is overwhelming and exciting at the same time. Good luck on your journey of finding yourself and your inner light.

Stay Light, My Friends!

By: Vanessa Duckworth

Our Home Buying Journey- Part 1

Our journey to our first home began about a year and a half ago. We somehow ended up at an open house and ended up trading info with a realtor. But, we never actually expected to be contacting her; the open house had been for fun and not because we were seriously looking.

That is until we stumbled upon this gorgeous house that we fell in love with (and I don’t even remember how we found it). We immediately contacted said realtor so that we could try to get in to see it. Unfortunately, because of the beautiful house, the neighborhood and very reasonable price, it went quickly, within 24 hours it was gone.

 

 

It came and went so quickly that we never even really had the chance to fully get our hopes up. So the loss of that particular house wasn’t too bad.

But, finding this house set off a chain reaction and next thing we knew we were in full on house hunting mode.

We spent the next couple of months looking at house after house and all though we did find a few that we loved, there were none quite like that first one.

Then after some long conversations between Nick and I, a decision was made to cut ties with that realtor and that we weren’t quite ready to move forward yet. We decided that we would sign another lease and stay in an apartment for another year.

This is what we have done, we have spent nine months in our current apartment and are on the cusp of beginning our house hunting once more.

 

Stay tuned to my next post for the latest episode in our home buying saga.

 

Inappropriate Questions…

Today I am going to be talking about one of my biggest pet peeves. Something that bugs the crap out of me each and every time it happens… and unfortunately it happens to me pretty often.

I think that one of the rudest and inappropriate things that anyone can ask a woman is if she pregnant.

Unless you KNOW for certain, without a doubt. This type of comment or question should NEVER be made because you just don’t know what someone is going through or how that comment or question could hurt the said person.

 

My weight is something that I have been struggling with for several years. It is something that I deal with each and every day. I don’t need to be reminded of it by complete strangers.

I carry most of my weight in my stomach. That is just how I am built, it is the type of body that God blessed me with. And yes, I will admit that with a certain type of dress or top on, it can look like I have a pregnant belly. I’m not refuting that… but it should never be commented on especially by someone who doesn’t even know me.

I work in Human Resources in a rather large casino and I speak to people all day, every day. I can’t say that this question is asked of me, every day but it does happen fairly often.

Most recently, I was walking out of the restroom and through the dressing area when a Team Member looked at me, gave an audible gasp and said: “Are you pregnant?”

“No”, I said, “I think it’s just the dress.”

These types of questions can be so hurtful, for multiple reasons.

Being asked if you are pregnant (when you are not) can completely strip someone of their confidence, can place shame or guilt into their heart and mind and can completely undo all of the positive that they have been working on.

It can make them feel that their body is this problem that needs to be solved and like everyone has noticed it.

But what is sad is that women of all shapes and sizes get asked this question, women, with smaller bodies and women with larger ones—and everywhere in between.

 

Also what people don’t realize is that it’s not just about the physicality of it. It’s not just about the weight. It is so much more than that.

That woman doesn’t realize that she has asked me if I am pregnant when I have been trying to get pregnant for the last year and a half. So having to say “No, I am not pregnant” is just a reminder that I am not. It is just another small stab in the heart.

That woman doesn’t know if asking this question to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage or to a woman who is pregnant and has just found out that her baby is ill in some way.

You don’t know. So don’t ask. Unless I voluntarily provide the information and open the door for the conversation don’t ask; especially to a complete stranger.

Don’t ask because it can be shaming. It can have a potentially harmful impact.

Don’t ask because pregnancy status is not public knowledge until we decide it is. People’s bodies and health status are not public domain. And you never know what someone is experiencing or going through.

 

 

 

I hope this post made sense and that I haven’t rambled on too much. I wrote this soon after said encounter and am still a little peeved.

How I Combat Anxiety

Anxiety is something that I have just started dealing with in the last several years. In all honesty, it is not something that occurs on a regular basis but on the occasion that it does happen it can be pretty bad.

I know that anxiety and panic attacks can present themselves differently for everyone and not everyone is going to experience or feel the same exact things.

Typically for me, I begin to feel panicky and a bit flustered. I can feel my heart rate pick up and I get a feeling, almost like that butterfly in the stomach feeling, but not in a good way. I begin to feel nervous, but I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that I am nervous about.

I have found that I usually begin to feel this way when I am behind at work and my office looks like a bomb went off inside of it, when I haven’t slept well or when I have a lot of events coming up, or have a lot of things on my mind vying for my attention.

Some seasons are better than others and I can go for months without feeling this way and other times it happens more often. So I have, in the past, made an effort to find out what I can do to help combat this anxiety when it does creep up.

I. Drink a cup of tea or coffee

I know that for most people consuming caffeine is the last thing that they want to be doing when they are already stressed or anxious.

But for me, there is nothing that I find more relaxing than sitting down with a warm cup of tea or coffee. I love the feeling of the warm cup in my hand and just sitting and slowly inhaling the scent coming out of my mug. I also have a thing for coffee mugs so using one of my favorite mugs is also a small way to bring a little bit of cheeriness to an otherwise stressful time.

II. Yoga

Yoga is something that I have been doing on and off for years that I have a kind of love-hate relationship with. I enjoy doing yoga itself and have found that it really helps to relax me. But, I also find myself striving for perfection and wanting, to do these intricate, advanced poses which can sometimes stress me out even more.

But, I have found that if I am able to clear my mind and get rid of any expectations, it really helps me to calm down and relax.

III. Quiet Time

Something else I have noticed is that when I have not been spending time in my Bible or in prayer I begin to feel more stressed and anxious. I know that it is because I am holding onto earthly things too tightly and  I am trying to be in control, instead of letting Him be in control.

So whenever I begin to have anxiety attacks I know that I have slacked off on my quiet time with God.

IV. Journal

I don’t currently keep a journal in the traditional “Dear Diary” type way. I have a prayer journal that I use to keep track of what I am praying about and what I am currently working on and through and this serves as my “journal”.

V. Get Outside

This one is relatively new to me. The apartments that we are currently living in have a beautiful outdoor/pool area and lately, I have loved laying out there and just relaxing after work. Sometimes I will lay out by the pool, other times I will lay in one of the hammocks and read and sometimes I will go to the rooftop deck and do yoga. Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine really helps me to relax, decompress and sort of reset myself.

I especially cannot wait to continue this as the summer winds down and we move into fall when the temperatures begin to drop.

 

 

 

 

 

How I Bible Journal

I received my journaling Bible for Christmas in 2017 and immediately began filling the  blank pages with doodles and notes. Now, I by no means consider myself  ‘artistic.’ But, I kept pushing through, watched all of the Youtube videos and have managed to pull off some pretty decent looking pages.

Here are the 7 ways that I began Bible journaling and some pictures of some of my pages.

1 – Spend time with God

I try to take inspiration from as many places as I can. I try to find different ways of spending time with God and waiting to see what he lays on my heart whether that is through a devotional, specific verse or even worship music. I really like taking inspiration from scripture because it then allows me to process and think through that piece of scripture when I create an entry around it.

 2 – Pray about it

I pray before I begin; pray for God’s direction, and listen. He knows what I need to hear, and He will call me toward the verse or lyric that will most benefit me at the time. Reflect upon what He is telling me. Spend some time meditating on His Word.

 3 – Write it down

I contemplate what is God telling me? I jot down any heartfelt words of praise that come to me and think about what the verse means to me, and how can I apply it?

4 – Draw it

I then pull those truths into the margins. Whether that is through notes, a simple doodle, or a full on art spread. I try not to worry about the end result, but me mindful and purposeful about what I am learning and what God is trying to tell me in the moment.

5 – Date It

I didn’t do this at first but then I realized that this is a way for me to document what I am reading and what I am learning. This Bible is my way of documenting my journey with Him and my spiritual walk.I love going back over the pages and seeing how far I have come and how much  I have learned. I also love the idea of the Bible becoming a keepsake—maybe one that I could even pass on to my children some day. So, now when I finish my entry, I add the date.

6 – Tab it

I also mark my entries to keep track of themes throughout my Bible. Adding a tab to each entry creates a gorgeous index of your study of His Word.

7 – Forget the rules

It isn’t always easy but I try not to focus on perfection. I try not to worry about my Bible looking like someone elses. This is my personal journey in the Word.

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How I Am Working To Be A Godly Wife

Going into our marriage Nick and I knew that one of our biggest goals as husband and wife was to keep God at the center. We have now been married just over three years, have we always succeeded with this goal? Absolutely not. We fall short, all the time but the most important thing is that the intention is there and that we always bring ourselves right back.

So, in doing my part in this relationship. I strive to do my best and do everything I can to be a Godly wife. These are some of the ways that I strive towards this:

  1. I try to do everything I can to allow God to transform my heart, mind, and life. My word for 2018 is Surrender and that word has come into play in a huge way in my life (and Nick’s) as we navigate this TTC journey. I have to allow God to transform my heart when I am feeling impatient or angry. I have to allow Him to transform my mind when I am having negative thoughts. And I have to surrender to Him in order to allow Him to (hopefully) transform my life and give me (us) the blessing of a child.

2. I strive to be patient and show grace in every situation that I can. This one is difficult for me sometimes. I tend to have a somewhat unforgiving nature and I take things very personally. So, I am learning that I need to reign in my emotions and not jump to conclusions. I have learned that holding my tongue, keeping quiet rather than responding in anger, and showing grace and offering forgiveness (just as I would want) are all ways to grow towards being a more Godly wife.

3. Being respectful is a huge deal. I remember several years ago during a relationship series at church my Pastor saying “Women want to be loved, and men want to be respected.” Those words have stayed with me over the years and I try to make it a point to always show respect to my husband.

4. Keep the focus on my own heart, sin, and obedience to the Lord. This one is always the hardest for me. I tend to point fingers and want to blame everyone else rather than taking a look at myself and my own heart and actions.

What I am learning is that in order to be a Godly wife I need to remember that at the end of the day, my walk with Christ is a private one. I need to focus on repenting my OWN sin, not my view of someone else’s. Another statement that my Pastor has made that has stuck with me is “the only person you can change is you.” I need to pray for God to change ME, I need to focus on me, myself, and I.

5. I need to focus on the positive rather than the negative.  I always strive to be a “glass half full” type person but sometimes it’s a struggle. So this year I am really making an effort to focus on the positive. Every day I thank God for my husband and the good things about him and the good things that he does.

6. I need to understand that if my husband does change it is not because of something that I said or did or even prayed about. It is because God saw fit for Him to change and He is changing Nick into the man that he calls him to be.

7. Even if I don’t pray for my husband to change, I should (and do) pray for him to be blessed.

8. My spiritual well-being and growth is no one’s responsibility but my own.

9. It is important for me to let him SEE and experience what God is doing in my heart by a change in my attitude, countenance, respect, kindness, patience, peace, joy, etc…

10. Learning what my husbands Love Language is and speaking that language. This is something that I have really been trying to focus on lately. Nick is definitely more of a Type-A, clean, organized, OCD type person then I am and I would definitely say that his top love language is Acts of Service. This is one reason why I have been striving towards greater time management and organization. I also know that having a clean organized home is important to Nick (and if I have to admit it, it does make me feel better as well) so this is something that I work on in some capacity every day.

11. I need to find all of my happiness, security, peace, and identity in Jesus alone, not in what your husband does or does not do. A couple of years ago I read the book Sacred Marriage and it completely changed my outlook. What if the point of marriage isn’t to make you happy, but to make you holy? This book really drove home the point of having God as the center of our marriage. Let’s face it no one is going to make you happy, every second of every single day. Not even especially not your spouse. There are going to be times when we aren’t going to be very happy with one another and while of course, we will always love each other, there may be times when we don’t necessarily like each other. While Nick does, of course, make me happy, he is not my sole source of happiness. I need to find my happiness and ultimate joy in Christ, not in Nick.

12. If I want to be a Godly wife then I need to spend as much time as possible with the Lord in order to be filled up with Him. I cannot pour from an empty cup.

Here is a prayer that I have been praying for us and myself lately.

Lord,
Please give us the light we need on each step of this journey. May we surrender ourselves fully to all that You desire to do in our hearts and minds and in our lives separately and as a couple. Help us to embrace Your wisdom and Your Spirit. I pray that we would hear Your voice clearly and follow You wholeheartedly. Please make me into the godly woman You call me to be.  Amen!

How I Make The Most Of My Quiet Time With God

My Bible reading and prayer life have taken many twists and turns. When I first became a Christian and I began feeling the need to continually pray and to read my Bible I thought that praying before bed and reading my Bible for 15 minutes a day was enough. (And for some of you, it may be).

But for me, over the years I have realized that I need more than that. I have realized that it is very easy for me to get caught up in the minutia of life, in the details and forget what is important.

Spending enough time in the Word and in prayer is still something that I struggle with. I don’t do it every day as I set out to, and I can’t always force myself up and out of bed to spend half an hour in my Bible or scribbling out my prayers.

But, I know myself well enough now to know that when I am feeling stressed or angry or like my emotions are out of wack, it is because I am spending too much time on earthly things and not enough time with my Heavenly Father.

So, a few years ago I set out to find what worked best for me and what would help me the most. I experimented and tried many different ways of praying and studying my Bible.

Here is what I found and how I have learned to make the most of my quiet time:

Writing my prayers down

I am a visual person. I write everything down, I learned long ago that if I don’t write it down, I will forget it. This act of writing my prayers down was a game changer for me. This wasn’t a concept that I was really familiar with until I stumbled upon these two Youtube videos.

 

 

 

 

“I love binders, paper, school supplies… this is perfect me! Why have I not heard of this before?!” My exact thoughts after watching these videos. I immediately created my own.

 

 

 

 

 

It has been several years since I first saw these videos and created my own Prayer Notebook and over the years my method of doing this has evolved. After several months of using my Prayer Notebook, I found that I much preferred having something smaller that I could carry with me if I wanted to so I transferred into a Prayer Journal and this is the method that I have been using ever since.

Watch the Youtube video below for a flip through of the Prayer Journal that I have been using for the last two years.

 

 

 

In this journal I thank God for his blessings, I pray about my feeling and the things that are making my heart sink. I write down what I am hoping for, what I am asking God for, and what I need. I have a section where I write down my confessions; confessions of selfishness, unforgiveness,  and about my own mess. I pray for my husband, my parents, my in-laws, our siblings, and nephews and niece. I write down the names of all of the people in our lives who I am praying for. I write down my greatest joys and painful heartbreaks.

One of the aspects that I love the most about having a Prayer Journal is that it helps me to remember. It is a visual reminder of what I have prayed for and what prayers God has answered. It helps me to remember the things that I am waiting patiently for. It helps me to remember the things that I have prayed for that God has said no to so that I do not forget that ultimately He is in control and everything is in His hands.

I also love how seeing what I have already been blessed with gives me the hope to pray even bigger prayers. In the video above you will see that I have a section for Answered Prayers; this is my favorite part of my Prayer Journal. I am only human and once those prayers are answered I tend to forget all about them and move on to the next thing to pray about. Having this section allows me to remember what I prayed for, what I waited for, and what was answered.

This journal also serves as a sort of keepsake, it allows me to see what my desires were, what was stressing me out or causing worry, what I felt called to pray about and what direction my life was going in at any particular time. I look through and stumble upon so many prayers, written in the early morning before my coffee kicked in, that I don’t even remember writing.

It gives me the gift of hindsight, reminding me of how big of a mountain I saw in front of me at the time and how now I see how tiny and insignificant it actually was.

Some days my prayers are a scribbled list of names, or of things I am grateful for and some days, it’s flowing paragraphs. Somedays what I am praying for doesn’t even make it down onto the paper and instead, the words just fall out of my mouth.

What I have learned most is that no matter how I choose to pray God hears my heart’s prayers. He doesn’t care how I do it; the journal, the paper, the pretty colors… those are for me. All He cares about is that I come to Him openly and honestly with my deepest fears and desires.

So get a journal, get a pen. Get a sticky pad and a marker. It doesn’t matter what it is; just get something. Write your prayers down and I promise you that your relationship with our Lord and your prayer life will be changed forever.

 

Supplies I use:

 

July 2018 Favorites

Today I am going to be kicking off a new round of posts, my Monthly Favorites. I love hearing about products that other people are enjoying. I have found so many great products through the types of posts; products that I never would have otherwise known about or tried.

So, every month I will write a post discussing what products I have used and loved. These products will usually fall within the following categories: Food and Drink, Makeup and Beauty, Home Décor and Products, Entertainment, Clothing and Accessories, and Priceless.

I got the Priceless idea from Blair Lamb and I think that it is the perfect way to keep my focus on being grateful for things that are not material or tangible.  If you have not seen Blair’s Youtube videos, you need to check out her channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqpa1RS3XNdHlVX3UfyG-ag/featured

Disclaimer before we begin:  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program. Therefore, any Amazon links I share are affiliate links. That means that if you choose to purchase one of these items, the price of the item won’t change for you, but I will receive a small commission for the sale. 

Food and Drink

  • Cotton Candy Grapes- Oh my word! You guys these are soo good! Or, at least I think they are, Nick thought that they were just okay. But, I love them. You can find them at most grocery stores I believe. I have heard that you can find them at Costco and Sam’s Club, I have looked for them at both and could not find them. But, I have seen them pretty consistently at Sprouts. But! beware because they can be a little pricey.
  • La Croix Sparkling Water Cran-Raspberry Flavor- Nick and I stopped keeping soda in our house years ago and for a long time, I was drinking fruit juices instead. But, lately I have been trying to be more conscientious of how much sugar I take in and I am trying to be more intentional about how much water I drink. Therefore, lately, I have been drinking a lot more sparkling water. I can’t tell you how many flavors of La Croix I have tried but I can tell you that this by far is my favorite.
  • Bai Antioxidant Drinks- I have been seeing this everywhere lately. I finally decided to get one and try it. I believe that the flavor we got was the pomegranate and it is so good. Nick even tried it and he actually liked it which is awesome since the drink is full of antioxidants (hence the name). We will definitely be ordering more of these.
  • Walmart Grocery Pick Up- We have been using this service through Walmart for the last two months and we absolutely love it. I am typically in charge of creating our meal plan for the week and creating the grocery shopping list. In the past, I was notorious for creating our meal plan at the last minute and just throwing things on the grocery list and I was always forgetting things so we would end up going to the grocery store multiple times and going over budget. But, with Walmart Grocery Pickup, the app is right there on my phone so as I see that we have run out of something or if I decide there is something that I want to try I can just open the app up right then and there and add it on. We typically go grocery shopping over the weekend when we are both off and using this method has opened up so much more time for us because we don’t have to make time to physically go grocery shopping. We don’t have to spend 15 minutes trying to find a parking spot and another hour fighting the crowds inside Walmart. Usually, on Friday night we will sit down for a few minutes and decide what we want for dinner the following week and I will throw the ingredients we meed in the shopping cart, we make sure that it is within budget and then we pick a time to pick it up. That’s it!

If you would like to try Walmart Grocery Pick Up you can use the link below to get $10 off your first $50 order and we will get $10 off as well. Thanks!

http://r.wmt.co/jl728

Makeup and Beauty

  • bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream- I have been using bareMinerals for over 10 years and I love their products. I recently purchased this tinted cream from them and I am really enjoying it.

You can find this product on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2AsML6r

  • Acrylic Makeup Organizer- You will see in one of my “In The Life” posts that I recently purchased an acrylic organizer to hold my makeup from Target. I absolutely love it. For the last several years I didn’t really use makeup all that often but in the last couple of months I have been putting more effort into getting ready for work and looking more put together so I love how neat and organized this keeps all of my makeup and it is also very easy to use and sits perfectly on my side of the counter.

You can find this product on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2OwhbHS

Home Décor and Products

  • I don’t have any items in this section for this month.

Entertainment (TV, Music, Books, Internet)

  • She Reads Truth– I have been using the She Reads Truth app off and on for about three years and I really enjoy it. Basically, every few weeks to a month a new Bible reading plan is issued broken down by different topics or chapters in the Bible.  The plans are beautifully designed and well-planned, and I really love the commentary/personal stories that accompany each one.
  • Youtube Channels- I have really gotten into several different Youtube channels over the past couple of months. I have found a variety of channels on a few different topics and I am really loving them. Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. The Stauffer Life- This channel follows the Stauffer Family who consists of Dad-James, Mom-Myka, and 4 of the cutest littles you will ever see!  This family is #goals for me. It just makes me so happy to see the love between Myka and James, their abundant love for their children, and their amazing relationships altogether.
  2. Myka Stauffer- This is Myka Stauffer’s private channel. I love how she covers a variety of topics; she does Days in the Life, cleaning, organization, home-schooling, etc.
  3. Adam Hattan- Adam’s channel covers all things Disney and I just love it! Adam has the most fun and bubbly personality and I just feel like we would be best friends if we ever met in person.
  4. Rachel McGlothlin- On her channel Rachel talks does vlogs, talks about their TTC journey, their road to living a debt-free life, and more.
  5. Blair Lamb- I am pretty much obsessed with Blair’s channel. She does weekly vlogs and tons of other videos and I look forward to each one.
  6. The latest channel that I have found is Amy TV. I love Amy’s personality and how inspired and motivated I feel after watching her videos.

Clothing and Accessories

  • Old Navy- I have recently rediscovered my love of Old Navy. My mom used to buy our clothes from Old Navy when we were kids but I hadn’t really shopped there very often as an adult. But at the end of June (after seeing one of Blair’s videos) I decided to check it out… and guys my wallet has taken a hit. They are constantly having some kind of sale and I have found tons of cute clothing items.

Priceless

  • 4th of July- Typically for the 4th Nick and I will head out to Boulder City to hang out and watch their amazing fireworks show. But since 4th of July fell on a Wednesday this year and we worked the next day we didn’t want to have to fight the traffic out of BC and be home too late. So, we decided to stay in our neck of the woods. We ended up at my parents country club gym, outside at their amazing pool. We got to swim in the cool water, enjoy a couple of drinks, spend time with my parents, and watch the fireworks at the casino next door. It ended up being such a great, relaxed night and we absolutely want to do it again next year.

// That’s what I’ve been loving lately! What about you?

How I Survive The Dreaded Two Week Wait

The journey to a baby is filled with a lot of waiting.  There is waiting in doctor’s offices,  waiting for your next cycle, waiting to see what symptoms you will have each month.  But by far, in my opinion, the two-week wait is the worst.

Going through this process has made me see how impatient I can be. As much as I try to tell myself that everything will be ok and that everything happens in its time waiting each month to see if I am pregnant drives me crazy.

It seems as if these two weeks takes forever. Even though I try to fill these days with work and other obligations, it’s hard to keep my mind from wondering and worrying about whether or not I am pregnant.

I have found that distraction is the best way to combat this and make the time past faster.

Here are some of the things that I try to do to keep myself distracted:

  • Work on my bullet journal or daily journaling.
  • Start a new Bible Study
  • Set some new goals and write out how to achieve them
  • Organize living spaces
  • Pamper myself with long bubble baths and bath bombs
  • Spend time outside in nature
  • Watch a movie I have never seen before
  • Clean out the refrigerator
  • Do yoga
  • Date nights with my husband
  • Read a new book
  • Give my dogs baths
  • Reorganize my closet and give some things away to charity

 

What is something you do to keep yourself occupied during the two-week wait?

 

Graziano Life Week #4

This week was pretty much a nightmare. I arrived to work on Monday to find out that Corporate had arranged for a huge audit to be done and I had to pull a ridiculous number of files and audit them; this project took me the entire week and caused an endless amount of stress.

Luckily, outside of work life at home moved on as normal and my hubby did his best to make me feel better and help bring down my level of stress.

This post will cover Monday, July 16, 2018, to Sunday, July 22, 2018

Monday, July 16, 2018

After a stressful day at work, I didn’t have the energy to make anything too time-consuming for dinner so we had protein pancakes and scrambled eggs.

dinner

At my work, we have a Team Member Dining Room where food is supplied to us for our meals while on the clock. But, the food served is not always the most appaling or healthiest so lately, I have been trying to make my own lunches to take to work. This week I made a Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup, which literally only took about five ingredients and only needed to cook for four hours.

enchilada chili

After work in order to relax after work, I did some reading in my First 5 app.

god

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I had that delicious Tortilla Soup for lunch; it turned out so good! I will definitely be making this again.

chili lunch

For dinner, on this day we had grilled chicken, asparagus, and sweet potatoes

dinner

After dinner, I did some yoga while watching America’s Got Talent

 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

As I said this week was very stressful and so in an attempt to help myself to calm down I drank some peppermint tea.

tea

For dinner today we had Enchilada Bowls which turned out deliciously.

enchilada bowl dinner

Bosty could tell that I was stressed out and barely left my side throughout the week

boston

Thursday, July 19, 2018

This is pretty much what my office looked like for the entirety of this week; pretty much like a bomb had gone off inside of it.

audit

One of our awesome managers saw how stressed out I was and was kind enough to buy me Starbucks as a pick me up.

starbucks

I believe that I have mentioned this before but if you are a Disney fan you must go check out Lou Mongello’s podcast WDW Radio; listening to it last week while I audited those files was the biggest thing that got me through.

WDW radio

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Trying to stay positive and get through the last day of the work week

selfie

After work in an attempt to cheer me up Nick took me on an impromptu trip to Hobby Lobby.

I love Christmas and am half tempted to begin listening to Christmas music now but even I think putting out Christmas trees in July is a little too soon.

hobby lobby

Now that I am working on my Bujo again I decided that I needed some new supplies; these are my goodies from our trip to Hobby Lobby and I have not stopped using them since.

hobby lobby haul

 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It was so windy and dusty in Vegas on Saturday that I ended up pulling out my secondary inhaler just in case. (Thank God I ended up not needing it)

ashtma

Selfie for the day

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I stumbled upon these two quotes which I loved

 

We were originally supposed to have dinner with my mom and nephew on Sunday night but those plans fell through so we decided to check out the new Golden Corral on our side of town.

golden corral

Sunday, July 22, 2018

We started Sunday with a great lunch at Rubio’s, I had a delicious California Chicken Bowl.

rubios

This week for lunch I am making an Enchilada Chili; so easy and yummy!

enchildada chili

I pre-made our lunches for the week, fruit bowls, and hardboiled eggs.

 

Shark Week started today which we are super excited about.

shark week begins

Boston was ready for bed early tonight and is under the impression that my pillow is his to lay on.

boston

 

 

Graziano Life Week #3

Hi everybody! I hope you are having a great summer so far and find the time to take it slow and relax.

After the busyness of the holiday, it is nice to get back onto a schedule and into the routine of things.

 

So here is our next week: July 9, 2018, to July 15, 2018

Monday, July 9, 2018

This week starts off with my mom’s birthday!

mom bday

We weren’t able to see her on her actual birthday but we went out to dinner with her later on in the week to celebrate.

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Boston was not having anything to do with this Monday

to do list

My to-do list for the day

prayer journal

Started my day off in my prayer journal

innbox

Coming into work to a completely full inbox is never fun

blog

I am continuing to work on my blog and hopefully continue to reach more people. To those of you reading this, thank you so much! If you would be so kind as to share, like, and follow the blog I would appreciate it so much!

moday hair

Using Snapchat to get through the day 🙂

I have always loved doing yoga and am slowly starting to get back into it. If you have any interest in yoga or fitness and you are not following Jessica Olie on Instagram you should be! You can check her out here @letsstartyoga and her Lets Start Yoga ebook is amazing!

 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Tuesday started out pretty good this week; I was having a good hair and looking pretty cute…until this went downhill quick.

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I work for Station Casinos and the property that I work at was the very first property to open, back in 1976. This means that our building is very old and sometimes she shows her age…like on the few days a year when it rains.

Everytime that it rains our roof floods and our ceiling tiles fall and we lose power. This is what I walked into on Tuesday; a messed up roof, soaked carpet, and no electricity. I sat in relative darkness for the first two hours of my workday wishing that I could go back home and crawl back into my bed. But, luckily we have an amazing Engineering team who got everything fixed and up and running fairly quickly.

For dinner, on this night we had delicious semi-homemade enchiladas.

dinner 07-10

If you know me personally you probably know that I love anything to do with planners and journals. I am constantly writing in something and making lists and keeping track of one thing or another. So I absolutely love having a Bullet Journal. I don’t know what it is about the process of creating and putting together a Bullet Journal but I find it so relaxing and the perfect creative outlet for me at night after 8 hours at work. I also like the fact that it allows me to sit and watch a couple episodes of my favorite shows while still being somewhat productive and getting some spreads done in my Bujo.

In all honesty, I had given up on Bujo-ing about a year ago and decided to stick to a traditional planner. (I think in reality most of the time it is more fun for me to create the Bullet Journal then it is for me to actually USE the Bullet Journal.)

But, I have accumulated so many friends on Facebook and Instagram and am part of so many groups that talk about Bujo’s and planners and all of these things that I was constantly getting this overflow of information and inspiration that I just felt the draw to get back into it.

So! I have now, in mid-July begun to put together my 2018 Bullet Journal.

bujo2

 

My parent’s love to use essential oils and over the years that slowly gotten us kids addicted to them. Peppermint oil has been a life saver for my husband who suffers from migraines and Melaleuca has been a great, natural way for both of us to deal with acne, and I love using lavender when I feel an anxiety attack coming on.

I have heard so many great things about this company Young Living. They sell not only essential oils but all natural cleaning supplies and other products. Nick and I are contemplating becoming members and ordering their Premium Starter Kit.

young living

 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Queen of Scotts movie

I saw this preview for the upcoming movie Mary Queen of Scots and it looks sooo good! When it comes to reading and movies I love historical themes, both fiction and non-fiction so this type of movie is very appealing to me.

But, what I really love is that watching this preview sparked my interest in English royalty and I have found a bunch of books on the subject that I am really looking forward to reading.

Right after watching this preview I found this series of books and I am very excited to dive into them. This particular book The Lady of the Rivers is a historical novel by Philippa Gregory. The story is narrated by Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who was the mother of Elizabeth Woodville and covers the reign of the Lancastrian King Henry VI.

reading

 

Friday, July 13, 2018

One new thing that I have been doing lately is taking these online courses through Skillshare. If you sign up for their free trial you can get two months worth of free classes and they have courses on everything from cooking to photography and even human resources and business classes.

You can find them here: https://skl.sh/2LvZlpQ

So since I have been working on my bullet journal again and have also been using it as a sort of art journal as well I decided to take a doodling course as my first class.

Below is one of the doodles that I created.

 

doodling class

Today we took my mom out to her favorite restaurant (and mine) for her birthday dinner. I have loved Cracker Barrel for as long as I can remember and I was so happy when they finally opened one here in Vegas. I would happily eat here every week but Nick (while he does like it) is not quite so obsessed so we typically come about once a month. And I always order the exact same thing; grilled chicken tenderloin, mac & cheese, and dumplings. Hmmm!

cracker barrel

 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

We started Saturday off with lunch at Corner Bakery where I got a delicious chopped salad.

corner bakery

We then headed over to Target where I purchased an acrylic organizer for my makeup and some other goodies. And we also made a pitstop at Panera because I am obsessed with their green tea.

green tea

If you have never tried Kodiak Cakes, you need to right away! We use them to make protein pancakes and they are sooo good and full of protein! We also found out that they now have oatmeal so we grabbed one of those to try.

 

We then headed to church for an AMAZING sermon from Carlos Whittaker the author of the book Kill the Spider.

Central

 

We then browsed around Barnes and Noble where I spent way to much time looking through ALL of the books.

 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

We had lunch at Farmer Boys and I enjoyed another amazing salad.  I pretty much killed it with meals on this particular weekend!

farmer boys

We also went to Ulta so that I could do a return and bought this awesome Makeup Kit instead.

 

Meal Prep Life {Guest Post}

How do you start your Sunday?

I start it out by taking out a blank sheet of paper and planning out all my meals for the week. I’ve attached a picture of how I organize my meals and create a grocery list at the same time.

Meal Plan list

This list doesn’t need to be pretty or perfect; just list out what you need for each meal

 

It usually takes me about 30 minutes to find recipes online or on my favorite app Pinterest. Many people meal prep to stay on track with their weight loss goals, save money, or just stay organized. We’ve been meal prepping for a couple of years now but became serious about it 7 months ago when my husband and I became serious about shedding some pounds.

In December 2017 my husband was told he had high cholesterol, and I knew a change was in order. We were enjoying fast food way too much, and most of our debit card charges were from eating out.

Meal prep is an adjustment, but I promise it will bring more positive results than negative. In these last 7 months, we have evolved in so many positive ways.

Crazy right?! How meal prep can bring positive changes. I’m not going to lie, we have slipped but that’s ok, we start back on the right track the next day or maybe the next week. What’s important is that you get back on the wagon.

In our experience, we have lost weight, stayed on budget, and gained more energy from meal prepping and planning. My husband also received an A+ on his yearly checkup. His cholesterol is normal, and his doctor was very pleased. We have also learned that we actually have the willpower to not eat all the things that are tasty.

Our mindset before was pretty much eating whatever we wanted and to not worry about the outcome. Unfortunately, my husband and I clearly do not have fast metabolisms and we did not inherit the skinny gene. What does that mean? That means we look at a cupcake and gain weight. Haha!

Here’s the thing, I refuse to consider meal prep as a diet. I have decided that it is a way for us to eat healthily and eat smaller portions. If you’re interested in the process then keep reading and if you’re not, chalk this up as an interesting read but not a change you’re willing to make.

 

Sunday (Day 1):

  • Build your menu for the rest of the week. Include; Breakfast, Snacks, Lunch, and 5 to 7 days of Dinners. We eat the same breakfast and lunch Mon-Thurs and have a free day on Friday.
  • Go grocery shopping, most of my items are organic but that would be your preference.
  • Meal prep all your breakfast, snack, and lunch for the week. I place everything in one bag and take it to work for the whole week. Taking our meals once a day gave us the room to forget them.
  • If you decide to make all your dinners for the week, you can freeze some and refrigerate others. (I make dinner fresh every day, and I’m not a fan of microwaving food.)

 

Monday- Thursday:

  • Don’t think at all about what you’re going to eat, enjoy the pre-made healthy choices you have already prepared.
  • Prepare or microwave your dinners.

 

Friday:

  • It’s our free day at work

 

Saturday:

  • You can make some cool meals with anything extra you have in your pantry. Get creative, and have a little fun!

Sunday:

  • Rinse and Repeat

 

Here are some pictures from my own meal prep:

oatmeal

pizza    toppings

 

Good Luck, and feel free to email me with any questions Vduckworth13@gmail.com.

Stay Light, My Friends!

By: Vanessa Duckworth

 

 

California- June 2018

At the beginning of June Nick and I took a weekend trip out to California for our nieces first birthday party.

Here is a photo recap of our trip:

Out trip started out with a trip to the airport with my favorite baby, my nephew Severus.

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Beautiful view from our Alaskan Airlines plane

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On Saturday we headed from the Buena Park area over to the Chino Hills area where my brother in law lives for our niece Ivy’s 1st birthday party.

 

After the the party on Saturday we headed to Downtown Disney for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe and to wonder around… and of course I had to do some shopping!

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On Sunday we grabbed some breakfast and headed to LAX for our flight.

What I’ve Learned So Far…

As I mentioned in my TTC Journey post, my husband and I are just starting to get back into the habits and routines of this journey.

As we begin again I have been contemplating what I learned from our last experience, what can I do differently this time?

The last time I went to the OBGYN the nurse made it clear that one of the biggest aspects of TTC is keeping track of everything; my period, my ovulation, basal temps etc. She said that these things would be the first thing that an infertility doctor would ask for.
In hindsight, I think that her throwing out the “I word” and being referred to an infertility doctor after just three months of trying may have been the catalyst for my loss of hope and giving up for a while.
Going into that appointment I had felt optimistic about finding a reason as to why I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. But that optimism was short-lived.
I went in expecting one of two results. I expected to either be told that it was still early and that we should get serious about our tracking everything and keep trying and then to come back in six months to a year or that I would have been sent for bloodwork and glucose testing and Nick would have been sent for a Semen Analysis.
But, none of those things happened. The doctor and nurse stated that they didnt want to begin running tests because those labs could be pricey once your insurance  company finds out that you are doing testing for infertility. They didn’t send Nick for any tests either and simply gave us the names to some infertility doctors in town.
Now that we are starting to get back into the swing of things I believe that our best course of action is to begin looking into a new OB and to continue trying to conceive on our own for a few more months and if we aren’t pregnant by the end of this year, then we can discuss next steps.

It has taken me a little while for me to process everything. But as I said over the last several weeks I have begun to reflect and look at everything from a new perspective.

Here are a few things that I have learned throughout this journey so far:

1. It’s important that I have as much information for my doctor as possible, whether that’s a new OB or an infertility doctor in the future.

I do currently use the Ovia app to track my cycles but I know that I am a visual person and work much better with things on paper. So, I will be starting a Journey to Baby binder or notebook. I know myself and I love binders and journals and this will guarantee that I use it and keep everything up to date.

2. I have to keep open communication with my husband. We’re in this together—it’s not my burden to carry alone.

I already knew how frustrating it was for Nick each month so I hesitated to increase that with my feelings of defeat.

But I have realized that we need to be able to share our feeling with each other and be honest with each other. We are in this together.

3. Along the same lines as number two, I can’t keep my feelings bottled up. I need to acknowledge them and allow myself to feel them and process them. Especially the intertwined messy emotions of envy and happiness and anger when others get pregnant. I need to remember that I don’t know what else is going on in their lives or what they have struggled with.

4. I can’t try to do this on my own and keep everything to myself. I’m typically a pretty private, introverted person so I didn’t share very much with anyone those first few months and each unsuccessful cycle just ate away at my hope.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to start this blog. This is a way for me to express those emotions and keep everyone updated in a way that I feel comfortable with .

This time I want to surround myself with the support of our family and friends. And I have found a great community of other bloggers and Youtubers who are experiencing the same things.

5. I have to stop denying the struggle. Getting pregnant is not easy for everyone and actively trying to conceive is hard.

6. It’s okay to track everything, even if it seem silly. You never know what piece of information will be important until it is.

7. It is our decision how much of this journey we share with others, even if that varies at any given time. Today I may feel forthcoming with how it’s been going, but next week I may prefer to talk about anything else.

8. Struggling to conceive, whether it’s your first or third and whether it’s been 3 months or 3 years is deeply personal and emotional.

9. I HATE how early pregnancy and pre-period symptoms are extremely similar.

I don’t know what the future will hold for us, but I do know that whatever does happen is part of God’s plan.

 

Graziano Life Week #2

So… after re-reading last weeks “In The Life” post I realized that I cut the post off on Friday and totally left out Saturday and Sunday. Oops!

So this week’s post will include a couple of extra days; Saturday, June 30 through Sunday, July 8.

Saturday June 30, 2018

I started off Saturday by heading to the pool.

 

On Saturday I had my hair trimmed and colored for the first time in over a year. I’m still kind of on the fence about how it turned out but for the most part I do like it.

 

We ended the night with the premier of our favorite tv show.

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Sunday July 1, 2018

We started off Sunday with a breakfast date at Denny’s and then spent the rest of the day running errands.

Yes, I have an obsession with Snapchat filters

 

Monday July 2, 2018

Knowing that we had Wednesday off made the week go by much faster.

This week was a payroll week (meaning we get paid on Friday) so I need to make sure that I have everything in the system that needs to be and all paperwork sent to Payroll.

D8B1D47C-CA5B-49D8-BF4A-CD6CB682756A.jpeg

I’ve started having yogurt and fruit for breakfast. Yum!

 

Tuesday July 3, 2018

On Tuesday our new buffet opened at work and I was able to have lunch there with my coworkers. It is great! We also got to take a sneak peak at one of the new restaurants opening up soon.

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After work I gave the dogs bathes and finished up my to-do list knowing that I wouldn’t be getting much done on Wednesday.

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Wednesday July 4, 2018

We had a great day on 4th of July!

We joined my parents at their gym that is across the street from one of the casinos that shoots off fireworks so we were able to hang out in the water, relax by the pool, and get front row seats to the show.

 

Thursday July 5, 2018

july 5

I did not want to go back to work on Thursday morning!

lily july 5

Lily was pooped from those fireworks keeping her up!

 

Friday July 6, 2018

On Friday after work I stopped at Target to pick up dog food but you can’t go to Target and not browse right?

I’ve had my current wallet for 3-4 years and it is starting to come apart and I loved this little polka dotted wristlet. I am also looking for a bag/purse to take on our cruise in November that will be good pool and beach side.

target july 6 (5)

Isn’t this the cutest little bathing suit for a little girl?! (I can’t help it)

 

We usually try to eat dinner at home Sunday-Thursday and eat out Friday night for dinner, Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sunday for lunch. We typically spend about $80 a week on eating out but we are trying to cut that down by sharing more often.

Another way we are trying to cut down is by using coupons and such more often. So, on this day we went to Macaroni Grill (which we hadn’t been to in about  four years) because we had a coupon for BOGO Build-Your-Own Pasta Bowls.

dinner july 6

This way my bowl which had angel hair pasta, roasted red peppers, spinach, chicken and mushrooms.

 

Saturday July 7, 2018

bostom july 6                                                                               Bosty did not want to wake up on Saturday morning!

church july7

We spent Saturday running errands and then headed to church. Above is a video from this service that I recorded… please check it out!

After dinner we headed over to Purple Penguin for the best Snow Cones in town; Banana and Tigers Blood with cream…hmmm!

 

And that pretty much sums up our week! How was your 4th of July?

 

Also, do you enjoy these posts? I love reading about people’s day-to-day lives but I don’t know if other people do. Haha

Is it just me? Let me know in the comments below.

Get Ready With Me – June 2018

For the last several months I had been going through a lazy phase where I was sleeping in as late as possible and not really bothering to get fully ready for work. I would throw my hair into a ponytail or bun and keep going. With my work schedule being as full as it is it just didn’t seem worth it.

But over the last month and a half, I have been waking up earlier and wanting to be ready to take on the day. I have been trying to really put in the effort and do my hair and makeup, which has involved buying some new products and tools.

I am not all that comfortable in front of the camera so I didn’t do a full on speaking video where I explain the products. But, I will be doing a post in the future that talks about what products I use.

I tend to switch between products depending on whether it’s a work day or a weekend. Like on weekend days when I know I don’t have to be too dressed up I will use a lighter foundation and go easy on the eye products.

I love watching these types of videos and thought that it would be fun to do one myself. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Praising God Through The Difficult Seasons

Many times over the last 8 months my thoughts have turned to prayer, a response that I am working to make automatic.

There are many times when I cannot find the words in the moment but I know that even when I don’t know what to say the Lord knows my heart and still hears those words that fail me.

I feel grateful for the times when I have seen the small blessings that He pours down on us as if to say “Don’t forget that even in the midst of your waiting, I am here.” So I have made it a habit to look for moments when I can be still and listen for Him.

In these moments I remind myself that my prayers should begin with praise.

But, how do I find the words to praise God when I am waiting for the one thing that I have wanted for as long as I can remember?

I start by reminding myself that the Lord loves me and he is not surprised by what is happening in my life. He knew how my life would play out from the moment he knit me together, He knows exactly what will happen and when and I have to try and rest in that knowledge.

I have learned over the years that praise is the most powerful tool we have in our prayer arsenal. The subject of praise is mentioned over and over again in the Bible.

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Just because we accept Christ into our hearts doesn’t mean that we will always have a complete understanding of the work He is doing in our lives. But, it does mean that we should know in our hearts that our God is faithful, loving, unchanging, and ever-present.

So, there may be times when we can’t find praise in our hearts because we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives but even in these seasons we can always praise God for Who He is and for the blessings that He has said Yes to.

Week #1 The Graziano Life

I have been debating whether or not I should do these “Week in the Life” type posts for a while now. I continue to have mixed emotions and wonder if our daily life is interesting enough for this, will anyone read it, and who actually cares what we do on the weekends, what we ate for dinner and what I wore to work.

But, when I was contemplating beginning this blog what kept pushing me was the constant reminder that I love these kinds of blogs. I enjoy seeing and reading about other peoples lives and what their day to day routines are. So, if I enjoy those types of posts then maybe others will too.

Also, a lot of our family members live out of state. So I think that this will be a good way to give those who don’t see us often a glimpse into our lives.

So here it is, real everyday life. You’re going to get a first hand look at all of the things and you’ll see that I’m not that organized, we’re not always that put together, and we sometimes have bad days. But you’ll also see that even though we forget it sometimes, we are happy. Even in the midst of this messy, crazy life.

Fair warning: This will be a lengthy post but keep in mind that it will cover the whole week from Monday June 25, 2018 to Sunday July 1, 2018.

 

Monday June 25, 2018

As you will have read in my post about becoming an early bird, I have been doing pretty well lately with getting up early. But, I have to admit that I am still not getting up as early as I could be and I still hit the snooze button most mornings.

On this Monday morning, I actually wasn’t particularly looking forward to going to work. The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy in our HR office and it has caused all six of us in the office to butt heads a little bit and be on edge. Also, because of said busyness I had fallen behind on some of my own tasks which just served to increase my dread.

So, I wasn’t at all surprised to walk into my office on Monday morning to this:

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By lunch time I needed a little break so I spent some time scrolling through Instagram and came upon this adorable nursery idea:

toy story nursery

And I also spent some time editing and posting new content on my Disney blog:

packing

 

At 4pm I got in my car and headed home. Once there I cleaned our bathroom and wiped down the counters in our kitchen.

(This is one trick that I have learned recently that really works for me, I clean one part of the house each day. Typically the schedule is Mondays- toilet and counters in the bathroom and kitchen, Tuesdays- floors and vacuum in bedroom, Wednesdays- dust the living room, Thursdays- dust the bedroom, Fridays- clean the bathtub, on Thursdays Nick does the laundry and on Sundays we change the sheets on our bed.)

While I am cleaning I let the dogs eat their dinner and allow whatever I am making for dinner to begin to cook.

Nick usually gets home from work between 5:20 and 5:30pm. I try to have dinner pretty much ready by the time he gets home and finish it up while he is changing and settling in.

We always eat dinner together while we are catching up on our shows; right now we are going back and forth between Sons of Anarchy, Supernatural, and Grey’s Anatomy. On this particular night we had Western Bacon Cheeseburgers and watched SOA.

Typically after dinner we will do the dishes and clean up the kitchen and then Nick takes the trash out.

Once dinner is over then what we do really just depends on the day and how we’re feeling.

On Monday I was still feeling stressed about work so all I wanted to do was relax on the couch. So we spent the rest of the night watching the Avengers before showering and going to bed.

 

Tuesday June 26, 2018

Tuesday was still a day for catching up on things at work but I felt much more productive and like I got a lot more accomplished then on Monday.

I am going to be getting my hair trimmed and colored on Saturday so I took this picture as a way to document my look now before the change and also because I am really loving the way my current color has grown out.

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For dinner on Tuesday night we had a Caesar salad with garlic bread and watched Avengers: Age of Ultron and America’s Got Talent.

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While relaxing on the couch watching said TV programs I also made the final decision to start this blog and began working on my first couple of posts.

 

Wednesday June 27, 2018

I started this morning with a little prayer time as my mom was going in for a procedure on her heart.

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I then styled my hair, dressed and did my makeup while also working on a couple of future posts for this blog.

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Yes, I take too many Snapchat pictures

 

Today was a much better day at work; everyone is still a little tense but I was able to get a lot done.

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My work to-do list (please ignore my horrible handwriting)

 

I was even able to take some pictures of my office to share with you all.

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I tend to suffer from the occasional panic attack if I get too stressed out or anxious so I have found that my days are easier if I find ways to relax myself while I’m at work. I do this in several ways such as keeping my to-do list,  listening to my church’s worship songs or Disney music, and drinking tea. But, one of the best ways to ground myself that I have found is listening to podcasts. I usually listen to my friend Lou Mongello on WDW Radio. But, lately I have LOVED listening to the Happier podcast.

If you are looking for tips and tricks for being happier, more content, and more organized in your life then this is the podcast for you. I started listening from the first episode and am currently on episode eight and I absolutely love it.

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Over the last few weeks I have developed the habit of going to the pool a few times a week after we eat dinner; some nights I swim laps, sometimes I walk laps in the pool, and some nights I just sit and write in my journal. I have found it to be a great addition to my routine as it gives a chance to be outside in nature and to allow the stress of the work day to fall away.

But in order to get to the pool I have to walk across a four lane street to get to the main building area and in order to do so I have to walk through this crosswalk where there is a button to press so that lights will flash and the oncoming cars will know to stop. But, every single time I hit the button, the light flashes, and the cars DON’T stop. And it makes me ridiculously mad! If I wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t aware of my surroundings I surely would have been hit by now.

 

There is no better way to relax at the end of the day then with an amazing soundtrack, my journal, the cool water of the pool and the beautiful sunset.

 

Thursday June 28, 2018

I have been working in Human Resources for my current company for a little more than four years and while some days weeks months  are stressful, I really do enjoy it.

I started off with the company in the hourly HR Representative position and worked in that position from April 2014 – August 2016. In that role I did a variety of tasks including greeting and assisting Team Members as they came into the office, sending New Hires out for drug tests and background checks, and conducting New Hire Processing.

In August 2017 I was promoted to the salaried Benefits Specialist position at a smaller property and then in November 2017 was promoted once more to the Benefits position at a larger property with a much  larger Team Member base and a lot higher volume coming through the office.

Since I started with the company I adopted not only my To-Do List (which you saw above) but I have also adopted a set routine which I have stuck to for the majority of the last four years.

Every morning the first thing I do is check my emails (I typically have anywhere from 20-60 new emails each morning).

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Then I will check the voicemails on my direct line and on my FMLA call-out line (typically 10-50 voicemails).

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A big portion of my job is sending out correspondence to Team Member’s regarding a variety of subjects.

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Since the office has been so busy lately I don’t get an actual lunch most days but I have also been trying to focus on eating healthier. Therefore, lately I have been trying to have either a salad or a smoothie for lunch.

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Friday June 29, 2018

Today was another day for catching up on work; it seems like no matter how much I take off this pile it just continues to grow.

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I have a great boss; this is the second property that I have worked at with her. She has spent the last 4 years teaching me, mentoring me and helping me grow; I have gotten both promotions partly because she has recommended me and vouched for me.

One of the things I love about her is that she doesn’t hesitate to show appreciation to her team. Over the years we have developed the sort of “tradition “ of her leaving her bank card on my desk with a note for all of us to order lunch. I’ll never forgot how crazy I thought she was the first time she handed me a $10 and told me to go to the movie theater in the building and get us all popcorn or when she would randomly came into the office closed the door and told everyone to stop what they were doing because she was taking us to the movies.

Today I came into my office to find her bank card and a note of what she wanted from In and Out.

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After work I went and got my nails done before meeting Nick for dinner at Red Robin.

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After dinner we walked around the mall and got BOGO Frappuccino’s for dessert.

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I just can’t help looking through the baby section inside Kohl’s.

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OOTD

 

Then we headed home and made our grocery list for the week and ordered them online.

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We have been using Walmart Pickup for the last month and a half and we absolutely love it. We buy our fruits and veggies from Sprouts but most everything else we get from Walmart. We have always shopped at Walmart but hated going inside and dealing with the chaos. This way is so much easier, we are able to still get everything we need, and we don’t have to go into the store because our groceries are brought right out to our car.

If you live near a Walmart that offers pickup and would be willing to give it a try, we both HIGHLY recommend it. In fact we love it so much that we have a referral code that will allow you to get $10 off your first purchase, all you have to do is click the link below.

https://refer.walmart.com/welcome.html?utm_campaign=Android&adid=1500000000000039627430&utm_source=Friendbuy&fbuy_ref_code=jl728&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=personal_url&veh=raf

 

 

The Beginning Of Our TTC Journey

This is one journey that I never expected to be on. Before my husband and I decided to really start trying to conceive, it didn’t really dawn on me that we would actually have to “try”. I knew and understood that it doesn’t always just happen at the drop of a hat, that everyone is different and that sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get pregnant. But, the full scope of what that entails never fully entered my mind. You don’t know, until it’s you.

In all honesty, we are still just beginning this journey and we are not dropping the “I word” just yet, I just feel like it is too early for that. Honestly, while we have been “trying” we haven’t been giving it our full attention and effort. Most of this is on my part, as I’ve mentioned before I am a procrastinator by nature and that tends to effect all aspects of my life (it’s who I am, I have accepted it. But, I am working on it).

So while we have been trying to conceive for about eight months without success, I have also not been fully tracking my cycle, using ovulation kits etc. for portions of those eight months.  Lately, I’ve come to realize that when we began trying I expected to have a new little bundle of joy on the way fairly quickly and I dove right in. I purchased the What to Expect Before Your Expecting book and a basal thermometer and ovulation kits and all of the things that the Pinterest posts and YouTuber’s said I should.

And each month for three months, my period was late and I was convinced that I was pregnant. And each month I took a pregnancy test and got a Big Fat Negative.

It was hard going through the two week wait each month. It was hard taking those pregnancy tests and thinking of all the ways that I would tell Nick that we were pregnant. It was hard talking to Nick about how we would tell our mom’s and then not needing to.

For those first three months I became obsessed. I downloaded several apps and joined groups and communities online and was constantly reading articles and looking up pregnancy symptoms that I thought I had.

And then after that third month, I became discouraged and I all but gave up. I stopped taking the prenatal’s my doctor gave me, stopped tracking my cycle, we didn’t purchase anymore ovulation kits, and the excitement was gone.  I just didn’t think that I could keep going through that every month. The hope and desire have remained over these last several months but I just didn’t feel like I could continue to put in the effort.

But, slowly over the last month I have begun praying for our TTC journey again, praying for both Nick and I individually and as a couple and have felt that desire to really try again. I know that it probably won’t be easy, in fact it may get harder, but I am learning to remind myself that everything happens for a reason and that everything happens on God’s time.

What really brought it home for me and helped me to begin to process everything again was this piece of scripture:

TTC Jounrey

All we have to do is continue to ask and God will provide in whatever way he sees fit.

 

Thanks for coming along on this journey with us and if you have experienced or are currently going through something similar I would love to hear from you.

 

 

On the Road to Becoming an Early Bird

Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?

Honestly, I can’t say that I fall into either of these categories.

99.9% of the time I despise getting up early and I can’t say that I much like staying up too late either. Most nights I am in bed by ten and asleep before eleven.

For years, I have tried (and failed) to become a morning person. There are times when I succeed in getting up early for months and then next thing I know I’m going through a season where I’m hitting the snooze button three or four times each morning.

I chalk this up to the ebb and flow of life, to stressful times and times of peace. If I’m relaxed and in a good place, I sleep well and can drag myself out of bed at a decent time. But, if I’m stressed or feeling anxious then a fire could be raging around me and I wouldn’t want to get out of bed any earlier then necessary.

Every year one of my goals is always the same…to become a morning person.

I strive to wake up early enough to have sufficient time to pray, spend time in the Word, journal and make myself presentable for work. And like I said, sometimes I succeed…but not always; it has not become an ingrained habit.

Instagram and YouTube are full of women who can jump right out of bed, begin their days with a healthy breakfast, get in a killer workout, and get things accomplished all before leaving for work or beginning their day.

I would love to be that kind of woman and sometimes I am (or at least my version of that woman).

But, I would love to make this a sustainable, permanent reality.

I’m on a mission to become a morning person.

For me the most difficult part is the physical act of getting out of bed. Most mornings I am warm and cuddled up to my husband and/or one or both of our pups so the last thing I want to do is get out of bed.

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                                          He doesn’t like to get out of bed either 

 

But once I’m awake and out of bed, I actually really enjoy being up early. I love the still silence around me when everyone else is still sleeping. I love making myself a cup of coffee or tea and reading my Bible or writing in my prayer journal.

But there is something about the act of actually pulling the covers back, putting my feet on the floor, and stumbling into the next room that stops me in my tracks.

However!

I am happy to say that right now I am well on my way to catching that worm.

For the last several weeks, I have managed to get up and out of bed with enough time to go through my daily to-do list, style my hair and put my makeup on.

And here’s how I have done it:

I started off by reading other blogs and watching YouTube videos to see what others had found helpful and I did my research and read a few articles. With this information I put together a plan, a list of practical steps that I could take to help me get up earlier in the morning and after a few weeks of trial and error I was able to build a plan that works for me (most days, no one is perfect).

1. Have a nighttime routine. This step, as well as step 2, has been a game changer for me. I’ve noticed that I work best in repetition, if I allow something to become habit or set routine.

So every night I have been showering, washing and blow drying my hair if necessary, putting out my makeup bag and all of the products I will use the following morning, and picking out my outfit for work the next day.

2. Have a morning routine. I am a major procrastinator by nature; it is one of my biggest flaws. But, I have found that having a daily to do list, both at home and at work, helps me combat those procrastinating tendencies.

So each day I start by going through my daily to do list and familiarizing myself with what needs to be done that day. I then get in the bathroom brush my teeth, style my hair, get dressed, put my makeup on and let the dogs out.

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         Daily To-Do List

 

3. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Again, repetition and consistency work best for me. These times differ on the weekend but during the week our routine is pretty set. My husband is a creature of habit so once we fell into this routine it pretty much stuck. But, actually it has worked out pretty well for me and fits both our needs.

4. Stop pressing the snooze button. This one is still a battle that I fight each and every morning. But, I know that if I can fully master this step then the rest will come naturally.

 

Okay, so there you have it; the steps that I have taken on my road to becoming an Early Bird.

 

Anyone else attempting this life change? What have you found successful or helpful?

I would love to know, please comment below or on my Facebook page.