Recognizing Joy in the Small Moments

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

My day to day life is pretty ordinary and often consists of fixing food, cleaning up the house, running errands, playing with my kids and other household tasks.  At a glance, it doesn’t feel very glamorous and there are days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can turn the kids over to him while I escape to the bathroom by myself or go for a short walk around the block.  A break from everything I have to manage and be responsible for.  Does anyone else hear themselves in my words?

Even though they lack a lot of excitement, most days are good.  The laundry, the dishes, the chauffeuring kids back and forth to school and other activities, homework, chores, fixing meals, buying the second pair of shoes in as many months because kids grow so fast.

But if I stop and take a look at the moments in between, what do I see?  My kids pretending to be a baby animal, laughter at made up knock-knock jokes, my daughter getting me a yogurt out of the fridge for breakfast before getting her own bowl out for cereal, a hug from my son for no reason other than he just wanted to.

I think there is a difference between the real life that is essential to every day living and the real life that is in the small moments in between.  The ones that we just might miss if we’re not looking for them.

I will be the first to admit that I lean more towards being a realist.  But I don’t think being a realist excludes me from being optimistic about what’s around me and seeing the good in people and situations.  Over the last few months, I’ve implemented two small practices into my daily life that help me recognize the small moments: a joy journal and a phone app.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

A little over a month ago, I started a joy journal with the sole purpose being to write down at least three things every day that brought me joy.  It might be something to do with my kids, my husband, something I saw that made me laugh, a personal success and so on.  One of the benefits of this journal in my life is being able to take a step back and see what’s happening in the in between moments of life.  I have started looking for things to write down in my joy journal each night that my kids or husband do or say.  I look for the positive aspect of a negative situation and focus on that.  I work to create joy in my life, my family’s lives and those I associate with, rather than just expecting it to be there.  Overall, I am becoming a happier person.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

In February of this year, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook where she had compiled a short video of one second clips of each day of her life for the previous month.  Many of them were similar, some were out of the ordinary, but all of them together brought a smile to my face.  Right then, I downloaded the app she used to create her video called 1 Second Everyday. (It’s free!  Download from the Google Play Store or iTunes.)  Since I have my phone with me most of the time, all I have to do is pull it out and take a video.  Then I open the app, select the day and choose which part of the clip I want to represent that day.  And at the end of the month, I had a short video of clips from my family’s lives.  (If you’re interested, you can watch a TED Talk from the creator of this app on why he created it.) 

Having these two things–a joy journal and the 1 Second Everyday app–have become wonderful tools for me because they capture the little moments of joy in every day life and reminds me that my life, ordinary as it may seem, is pretty darn good.

How do you find joy in the small moments of your life?  Do you write them down?  Take a picture or video?  I’d love to hear what benefits you’ve experienced from focusing on joy.

9 Lessons Learned In 9 Years of Marriage

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

9.5 years ago: It was a Monday morning and I was heading into work at my on campus job when I made a quick detour into the bathroom to put on some mascara.  Another girl from a different department was in there doing the same thing and we chatted briefly before she asked me a question that would literally change my life, “Do you ever go on blind dates?”  I was a little taken aback since we’d only been talking for about two minutes, but answered with a “yes” before she explained that she wanted to set me up with her younger brother.  Three days later he called (after much pestering from his sister) and we set up a date for that weekend.  To make a long story short: our first date was a huge success, we started dating exclusively a week later, got engaged two months later and married four months after that.  Today, we are celebrating our nine year wedding anniversary (yay!) and I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned during our time together.  (Plus you get to see cute pictures of me and my hubby. *wink*)
You and your spouse are going to change  Maybe this should go without saying because it seems obvious, but the truth is, people are going to change over time.  I am not the same person I was on the day I got married and neither is my husband.  We’ve grown as individuals, as parents and as a couple.  If you go into marriage expecting that everything will stay the same, no matter what, I think you will be disappointed.  These changes are natural and to be expected because life happens and life doesn’t stand still. 

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

Sometimes you go to bed angry  A few months back, I shared the worst marriage advice I ever received (and what we do instead).  It was from a well-meaning, older relative who said, “Never go to bed angry.”  I didn’t take her advice.  I’ve found that there are some conversations that happen late at night when neither of us are fully able to discuss things rationally and one or both of us go to bed with the problem unresolved.  My husband and I can both be very passionate about expressing our point of view and sometimes it’s just better to stop talking and go to sleep.

Seeing your spouse become a parent is beautiful  We tried for a year and a half to get pregnant with our first child and then waited another nine months until she arrived.  I felt like a mother from the moment that I found out I was pregnant, but my husband didn’t feel like a dad until she was born.  Because I had a c-section, he was actually the first one to hold her and he went with the nurses while she was cleaned and weighed.  Seeing the anxious concern on his face during the surgery and then the joy and excitement once she was born was priceless and beautiful.  When we had our second baby, a boy, he was so excited for his little buddy to finally be here.  I loved watching him with our kids moments after they were born and seeing him become a parent each time.

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

Date nights aren’t just going to happen  When my husband and I were dating, we went out on dates all the time.  Over the years, going on dates has slowly become something that takes a little more effort and planning.  Unless we actually make the time for them, they don’t happen, especially not with two little kids at home.  If I notice that my husband and I seem to be getting on each others nerves or more grumpy, it is usually tied to not getting enough time together away from the kids to connect.  We are still working on going out consistently.

Working together to solve a problem  The more time you spend with a person, the better you get to know them.  You know how they think and what makes them tick.  You learn how each others strengths and weaknesses compliment the other person.  My husband and I are much more efficient at identifying and solving problems than we were when we first got married.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a parenting problem, family problem, work problem, relationship problem or putting together IKEA furniture. (amiright?)  I’ve learned that my husband is good at looking at a situation from a larger scale and identifying problem areas and coming up with solutions.  I am good at planning things out, keeping us on track and identifying potential issues along the way.

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

You keep learning new things about each other  I remember sitting with my husband one day eating some cookies and he said, “I like these, but oatmeal raisin are my favorite.”  Um, what?  I didn’t actually believe him.  We texted his sister (the same one who set us up) and asked her to tell us what my husband’s favorite cookie way.  Her reply: “Oatmeal raisin.”  How did I not know this?! (Clearly I never made cookies for my husband while we were dating…)  I think sometimes I feel like because my husband and I know each other so well that we forget there are a lot of things we don’t know about each other or have never done together.  Just last summer, we went water skiing for the first time together.  I’m actually a decent water skiier, but he didn’t believe me until I popped out of the water no problem.  Doing new or different things with your spouse, like on date nights, is so important because it gives you the opportunity to know them better and love them all over again.

Build dreams, make goals, achieve together  One of the best things my husband and I have done for our relationship is to make goals.  It’s given us something to work on together.  We believe that if we are moving forward in the same direction that we’ll have less conflict and more success in life.  Whether it’s reevaluating a budget, planning to go to Italy (one day!) or redoing our yard, we are better together.

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

Don’t stop doing the little things  Along with dating, doing the small things in a marriage really make such a big difference.  Because so much of our day and week is repetitive, it can be easy to fall into a routine with each other.  When my husband and I take time to connect each day, it rejuvenates us and we feel more whole.  When I hear my husband praise me in front of someone, it makes me feel happy and appreciated.  When I sincerely thank him for taking out the garbage so I don’t have to, he feels loved.  I think a big key to this is discovering your spouse’s love language.  It’s those little things that they do in your love language that lift you up.

Love them more than the day you married  On the day of our wedding, I truly think my husband and I felt like we couldn’t love each other more than we did that day.  But we were wrong.  Our love grew as we put each other through school, struggled to make ends meet, got new jobs, built a house, had kids and so many other moments.  Each year on our anniversary, we look at each other and know we are still in love and that love is deeper than we could have imagined on that sunny spring day in May nine years ago.  It seems impossible and yet, here we are.

9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

How long have you been married?  What lessons have you learned?

The ULTIMATE All Things Valentines Round Up

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Less than two weeks ago, an idea popped into my head.  It went something along the lines of, “Holy crap!  Valentine’s Day is going to be here in a month!  I need some new ideas, yummy recipes, crafts, printables, beauty… I need all things Valentines!”  I hopped on a few Facebook groups and asked my blogging friends to submit their Valentines posts for what I hoped would be an ultimate Valentines round up.  I didn’t just want crafts or recipes.  I wanted something where I could find a ton of different ideas centered around Valentines all in one place.  And that, my friends, is how this post came into being.

When I was in first grade, I had a crush on a boy named Mikey.  Turns out, Mikey had a crush on me too.  And when Valentines Day came around and all the kids were putting cards into each others homemade boxes, I was waiting for one special card.  On the bus ride home, I shuffled through the cards and candy until I found it.  It was a Barbie Valentine that said, “You’re cool!” on the front.  But on the back it said, “Your cheeks are like roses, your eyes are like the sea, and I think you are meant for me!”  My little 7 year old heart felt like it was going to explode and I kept that card in my treasure box for the rest of the year.

I love the fun and excitement that accompanies this holiday.  I love decorating my house with hearts in every shade of pink and red and leaving love notes for my kids and husband.  I’ve heard some people criticize the idea of Valentines Day and point out that we should be doing fun, sweet, thoughtful or romantic things for those we love all year round and not let everything rest on a single day of the year.  I don’t disagree with this perspective, however, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying a little harder to show your love to those you care about on Valentines Day or the days leading up to it.

And with that in mind, I give you the ULTIMATE All Things Valentines Round Up!  You’ll find recipes, crafts, kid activities, date night ideas, printables, beauty and gift ideas from over 35 different blogs.  They are sharing their best ideas with you and I hope you find something new and fun to celebrate your Valentines Day with the ones you love.

NOTE: All links/images are used with permission from the original source.  To view the original post, click on the corresponding link below the image. (Images and links are viewed left to right, top to bottom.)

Included in this section you will find all kinds of printable valentines and printables to display in your home. 

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Don’t Burst My Bubble  |  Housewife Eclectic
Pop Goes My Heart  |  Housewife Eclectic
You Make My Heart Pop  |  Tastefully Frugal
Valentine Pick Up Lines Love Notes  |  Marriage & Family Strong
You’re A Catch  |  Tastefully Frugal
Cutie Valentine  |  Tastefully Frugal
I’m Stuck On You  |  Tastefully Frugal
Smart Cookie Valentine  |  Your Everyday Family
The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!
Harry Potter Printable Valentines  |  The Quiet Grove
Tic Tac Toe Valentine Card  |  Craftivity Designs
Mermaid Printable Valentines  |  The Quiet Grove
Super Hero Printable Valentines  |  The Quiet Grove
Valentines Candy Bar Wrapper  |  The Quiet Grove
5 Free Valentines Day Printable Cards  |  My Circus, My Monkeys
The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!
Free Valentines Printables Round Up  |  Sunshine & Munchkins
So many fun and creative ways to get your crafty on!

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Love Frame with Scrabble Tiles  |  Home Crafts by Ali
Shabby Chic Love Mason Jars  |  Tastefully Frugal
Scrapbook Paper Valentine Wreath  |  Home Crafts by Ali
Valentines Day Doilie Banner  |  Your Everyday Family
The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!
DIY Wine Cork Trivet  |  Aileen Cooks
Simple DIY Hearts Sweater  |  She Wore Stars
DIY Valentines Rag Wreath  |  Sunshine & Munchkins
Looking for some decor inspiration?  These ladies have got you covered!

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Valentines Decorating On A Budget  |  Tastefully Frugal
Kids Activities
There are so many fun ways to get the kids in on the Valentines Day celebration.  Check out the links below for activities for many ages.

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Valentines Box  |  A Beautiful Life
Valentines Day Popcorn Cones  |  Adie and Aden
Valentines Party for Kids  |  Sparkle Shiny Love

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Brain Building Valentines Activities  |  ILS Learning Corner
You Have My Heart  |  Espresso Ever After
Love Note Envelopes  |  Sunshine & Munchkins

What is Valentines without some yummy sweets?!  I’m pretty sure I need to make all of these!

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Homemade Italian Cream Soda  |  Housewife Eclectic
Sweetheart Fruit Tart  |  Your Everyday Family
Valentines Day Ombre Sweet Treat  |  Tastefully Frugal
Fun Valentines Day Kid Treats  |  Sandy a la Mode
Chocolate Nutella Croissants  |  The Quiet Grove

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Valentines Sandwich Cookies  |  Recipe for a Sweet Life
How To Make French Macarons  |  Glitter, Inc
Sugar Cut Out Cookies  |  Glitter, Inc
Egg In A Heart Valentines Day Breakfast  |  Espresso Ever After
White Chocolate Covered Oreos  |  Sunshine & Munchkins
Valentines Day Fruit Kabobs  |  A Sparkle of Genius
The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!
Valentines Day Popcorn Treat  |  Crazy Life with Littles
Get inspired with these lovely ladies and use their fashion knowledge to your advantage.

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Valentines Outfit On A Budget  |  Sparkle Shiny Love
Easy Valentines Day Manicure  |  Posh In Progress

Gift Ideas
Gifts are a thoughtful way to say you care about someone.  Find some unique ideas in the links below!

The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!

Baby Girl Valentines Gift Guide  |  Kelsey Diane Blog
Valentines Day Books for Kids  |  Kelsey Diane Blog
Why Gifts Matter On Valentines Day  |  Only Girl 4 Boyz
Valentines Gifts for Him  |  Kelsey Diane Blog

Date Night Ideas
Of course, one of the highlights of Valentines Day is the date night that comes along with it.  Whether you celebrate at home or out on the town, these ideas are sure to get you excited and in a romantic mood. *wink* 
The ULTIMATE round up of all things Valentines!
24 Ways To Show Your Spouse You Love and Care  |  A Fresh Start On A Budget
50 Inexpensive Date Ideas  |  A Fresh Start On A Budget
Phew!  Can you even believe all the great ideas packed into this post?  I hope that no matter what, you were able to find a little fun and inspiration to celebrate your Valentines Day!

4 Ways To Keep Moving Forward

In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.

Last week, I posted about the campaign I got involved in called “I Am Amazing Because…”  The purpose and goal of this campaign is to promote confidence and positivity by recognizing the talents and abilities and characteristics of those around us that we find amazing and unique and then telling them.  We, as individuals, should be included in this recognition and often I think we forget or downplay what is amazing about ourselves.  When I shared my post last week, I wrote that one of the qualities in myself that I find amazing is my ability to keep moving forward.

I received this shirt in exchange for my review and promotion but all thoughts and opinions are 100% mine.

As I’ve gotten older and reflected on who I am as a person, I’ve realized that when I’m not growing in some area of my life, or I’m not working towards a goal or purpose, I start to get grumpy and restless.  When life starts getting too routine or I notice myself getting complacent, that’s my internal nudge to make a change.

Growing up, my situation at home presented some challenges.  I found myself placed in circumstances that were not of my choosing, nor did I have a way to remove them from my life.  But one thing that kept me going, quite literally, was the knowledge that I could keep moving forward in different areas of my life.  At some point I knew that things had to get better. That what things I did have control over, I could make the best of them and focus on that.

This post contains affiliate links, which if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.
Photo Credit: Kendra Leigh Photography & Video

There is a quote that says, “If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backward.”  In today’s world, it is impossible to stand still.  So what stops us from moving forward?

  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Past Mistakes
  • Unclear Goals
  • Allowing Yesterday to Define Today
  • Unrealistic Expectations

You could probably add to this list, but that’s not what I want you to focus on.  What I want you to take away from this post today is how to keep moving forward.

In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.

Recognize Progress
Sometimes we aren’t necessarily faced with being unable to move forward, but rather that we don’t feel we’re moving forward fast enough.  We have a goal in mind and we’re just not reaching it as quickly as we’d like.  This can turn into frustration, disappointment or any number of negative emotions.  Those emotions can cause us to lose focus which can slow us down even more.  It’s important to recognize progress, no matter how small it is.  Each step forward is a step towards your goal.  Each step is essential to our growth and progress as a person, not only in our quest to accomplish something.

Ask for Help and Support
Having a network of people to rely on when things get hard is a great tool to help you keep moving forward.  Your network might include your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors or even a support group.  The people I ask for support from varies depending on what my goal is or the challenge I’m facing. We must surround ourselves with people who want to see us succeed and will help us along the way, especially when we stumble, fall or want to give up.  

Adopt a Mantra
By definition, a mantra is simply a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently.  I’ve seen a lot of posts from people who have chosen a word or phrase that embodies what they want to focus on for the day/week/month/quarter/year.  You could have a different mantra for different aspects of your life, or have the same one that encompasses all aspects of your life.  You can change your mantra if you feel it isn’t working for you.  There are no rules when it comes to mantras.  You simply choose one and then make that your focus and the thing that brings you back when you start veering off course.

Speak Positively About Yourself
I’ve talked about this concept of positivity and self care a few different times, such as here and here, but that’s because it’s so important!  We can be our own worst critic or our greatest cheerleader.  In order to continue moving forward in life, we have to believe that we can.  When fear or uncertainty tries to push it’s way in between the cracks, we have to push it back out and remind ourselves that we can do this!  If you find this idea difficult, another way to approach it is to think about those who depend on you and how what you do affects them.  For me, that’s my kids and my husband.  If I speak badly about myself, what does that teach my children?  How are they going to start talking about themselves?  If I tell my husband that I don’t know why he married me, or list off all the things I’m horrible at, is that going to help grow and nurture our relationship?  Your life has an impact on other people whether you want it to or not, so why not make it a positive one?

In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.
Photo Credit: Kendra Leigh Photography & Video

In an effort to encourage this attitude of positivity, Cents of Style is running a deal on all of their inspirational t-shirts.  I chose “Keep Moving Forward”, but if that doesn’t quite resonate with you, check out their selection.  You can find 30+ options to choose from and maybe you’ll find the one that hits home for you.

To take advantage of this deal, click HERE to view all the t-shirts.  Select the one you want and at checkout, enter the code INSPIRE17 and it will take 50% off the lowest marked price plus get FREE SHIPPING!  This sale will run from 1/20/17 thru 1/22/17.  Don’t miss out on this awesome deal and use it to buy something that will inspire you, make you smile and help your day be a little brighter.

I encourage you to keep moving forward.  Whether that means leaps and bounds or inch by inch, keep moving.  Keep growing.  I know you can do this.  Because you can do hard things.

3 Ways To Feel Good About Yourself

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

When I was going through my awkward pre-teen and teenage years, I received a lot of comments about my size and weight.  I’ve always been tall and thin.  I have a high metabolism as well as being active.  Some of the comments I got were positive: “Wow, you look great!”  (Thank you.)  Others were stereotypical: “Are you trying out for cheerleading?”  (No, I’m not.)  And others implied that I had an eating disorder: “What do you eat everyday?  An apple?”  (I actually ate more than some grown men.)

Thankfully, I’d been raised by a mother who had dealt with many of the same things growing up so I wasn’t affected by their comments as much as I could have been.  (I’d be lying if I said I was completely immune from their words.)  Despite having a difficult time finding pants long enough for my tall frame or shirts that weren’t too short, I had a positive body image, which I’m grateful for.

Now that I’m older and have had a couple of kids, my body has changed a bit.  I’m still tall and thin.  My metabolism is still high and I try to be active.  But there are parts of my body that I’m not nearly as happy with as I used to be.  I’ve nursed both my kids and that part of my body never recovered from that.  I’ve got more wrinkles than I used to have.  And the clothes that I could have worn five years ago just don’t fit the same way they used to.

Becoming used to these changes hasn’t come overnight.  I’ve had moments where I’ve been unhappy with what I’ve seen in the mirror and wished for my own fairy godmother to give me a little boost or tuck in a few select areas.  (Am I right, ladies?)  But for the most part, I’ve come to love and accept and appreciate this body I’ve been given.

As women, as mothers, as wives, we want to feel beautiful and attractive and desired.  Granted, we are all our own worst critics and it can be difficult to train ourselves to look beyond the imperfections (real or perceived).  But it’s important that we do this because, as I mentioned above, everyone wants to feel good about themselves (and they should!).  So how do we do that?  I’ve got a few ideas.

Trust the opinions of those you trust
There are a handful of people that I really trust.  They are the people I can go to when I need an honest opinion or a little pick me up.  People who have my best interest at heart and want to see me happy and succeed in life.  Think about who these people are in your own life and trust them when they say you are beautiful, or kind, or funny, or creative, or whatever makes you YOU.  Lock those compliments away or maybe even write them down.  And when you’re feeling down, think about those words, lift up your chin and keep moving forward.

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

Take time for yourself
Regardless of where you are in your life, you need to take time to take care of yourself.  I had a conversation with someone once about the importance of doing this and they asked, in all honesty, “But isn’t that selfish?”   My answer to them was “No!  It’s called self-care and everyone has to do it if they want to stay healthy: mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.”  What you do to take time for yourself is going to be different for everyone, because everyone has something different that makes them feel happy, uplifted and rejuvenated.  For some of you, it might be a bubble bath and a book.  For others, it’s taking the time to put on a little make up and fixing your hair.  Getting your nails done, a treat from the bakery, lunch with a friend, exercising.  Think about what makes you feel good about yourself when you do it, and then do it.

Create opportunities to dress up
Being a stay-at-home mom, the opportunity to dress up doesn’t come very often.  I have church on Sunday where I put on a dress or skirt, but it has to be practical and easy to move in since I have young children.  Around the holidays, my husband has a work party.  We have a few date nights scattered here and there, but they’re not as often as we’d like and even then, they might be something as simple as grabbing a treat and coming home and watching a movie.  Not really something to dress up for.  So what’s a girl to do?  See if you can create opportunities to dress up.  For me, this means taking a little extra time on Sunday mornings to shower and (gasp!) actually blow dry my hair.  Or maybe I curl it.  Maybe I put on some eye shadow or experiment with a new hairstyle.  Put on some high heels instead of flats (even though they’ll come off in a couple hours).  What makes you feel like you are dressing up?

This last Sunday, I did just what I mentioned above: I showered, blow dried my hair, put on some eye shadow and wore heels.  I felt awesome!  (But I was definitely done with the heels after three hours…)  I wore this darling swing dress that I received from Cents of Style along with a bracelet from their tribe jewelry line that simply says “uplift”.

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

To be totally honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d like the dress on me.  I generally go for dresses that have more of a shape and the Remi Swing Dress doesn’t.  But when I put it on, I felt both comfortable and beautiful.  I could have worn it all day.  The color is perfect for fall.  Plus it is long enough for my tall frame both in the length and in the arms.  (I am 5’9″ and I got a medium.)  Definitely a win in my book!

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

If you’ve been looking for a new dress, I recommend looking into this one.  They have 17 colors and sizes ranging from small to 3XL.  The are running a Fashion Friday sale on this dress from 10/21/16 to 10/23/16 for $21.95 with code DRESS2016.  Another bonus is that they offer FREE shipping!  How often do you find that from a clothing store anymore?

We are our own worst critics and focusing on our flaws isn't going to promote a healthy self image.  These are 3 things you can do to feel good about yourself.

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
I received the dress and bracelet for free as part of this promotion.  All opinions expressed are my own.
I’d love to hear what you do to help yourself feel good!

The Worst Marriage Advice I Ever Received

Have you ever heard the advice: Don't go to bed angry?  See how I turned the worst marriage advice I got into 5 useful communcation tools for working through arguments.

This last May, my husband and I celebrated our 8 year wedding anniversary.  It is crazy to think of both how short a time that is and yet how long it seems and how much has happened during that time.  We both graduated with our undergrad degrees, bought our first home, had our first baby, graduate school for my husband, finishing our basement and having our second baby, plus family vacations, birthdays, holidays… I could go on forever!

As many women who are to be married, I had bridal showers thrown by family and friends.  (I had a total of three.)  And at each shower, all of the women gave their advice for how to have a happy marriage.  It was fun and enlightening to hear what each person had to say.  Some I agreed with and others I accepted with a smile on my face but quickly discarded.  My favorite wedding advice I ever heard was at one of my best friend’s bridal showers when her aunt or grandma (I can’t remember which) said, “If you’re gonna fight, fight naked!” HAHA!  I think there’s probably some truth to that. *wink*

But it was the advice that I heard from an older relative of mine that I thought was the worst.  When it came around to her, she said: “Never go to bed angry.  Whatever you’re fighting about should be resolved before you go to sleep.”  Now, let it be said that I love this relative dearly.  In addition, I also recognize that she came from a different time and what was “expected” of a wife or marriage relationship was different than today and maybe she was sharing what worked for her and her husband.
Now, I feel pretty confident in saying that many, if not most, of the married or soon-to-be married or even single women have heard this same advice spoken by a well-meaning friend or family member.


I totally disagree!

Let me explain why:

First, I have to bring up the fact that my major in college was Marriage and Family Studies, which is basically a pre-marriage/family counseling major.  I had to take a million a ton of marriage classes.  I loved every single one of them.  But one of my favorites was a class called Forming Marital Relations and was taught by the dean of the school (Dean Busby, BYU) who specializes in, among other things, relationship conflict/conflict management in couples.

I specifically remember learning about this concept because it was different than anything I’d heard of or considered before.  We learned about different ways that couples fight (there are four) and that only one of the four is actually dysfunctional, although the other three are not created equally.  My professor taught that success in relationships isn’t determined by whether or not you fight, but rather HOW you fight.  That concept is one that I’ve carried with me and thought about since then.  (You can learn more HERE.)

Have you ever heard the advice: Don't go to bed angry?  See how I turned the worst marriage advice I got into 5 useful communcation tools for working through arguments.

I think there is a misconception that if you fight or disagree with your spouse, then you have problems.  (While this may be true in some cases, I would venture a guess that it’s not the majority.)  Fighting (or disagreeing) happens when you have two different people who have two different backgrounds and two different opinions on something and they disagree.  I’ve found that since having kids, parenting is one of those areas where my husband and I have disagreed.  He comes from a family where he is the youngest of six kids and was kind of given free reign growing up.  I am the oldest in my family and my parents were more strict with me.  You can see where just that fact alone causes a difference in approach or opinions.

Another area of conflict is money.  (What?  Fighting about money?  Never!)  My husband and I agree that we need to have a budget but his ideas are much stricter than mine.  He also values certain things more than I do, such as electronics.  I value certain things more than he does, such as craft supplies and clothes.  There have been times over the years where we have butted heads over these topics and we’ve had to work to resolve them together.  These are just two examples, but I could come up with dozens more.  And it’s not because my husband and I fight or disagree all the time, because we don’t!

So, what do you do when you and your spouse come up against a problem that needs solving or an issue that needs to be discussed?  How do you handle it?

Here are 5 suggestions for working through arguments (and going to bed angry is actually one of them!):

Set aside time to talk
Depending on the size of the issue, it might be a good idea to set aside some time to talk about it.  Wait until after the kids go to bed.  Hire a sitter to watch the kids while you go to dinner.  Take a walk around the park.  If it’s important enough to argue about, then it’s important enough to take the time to talk it over without feeling rushed.

Have you ever heard the advice: Don't go to bed angry?  See how I turned the worst marriage advice I got into 5 useful communcation tools for working through arguments.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood
If you’ve read Stephen R. Covey’s: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, then you’ve heard this before.  And even if you haven’t read the book, it’s a phrase that’s thrown around often when talking about communication.  Our knee jerk reaction when someone disagrees with us is to try to defend our stance.  We are so worried about proving our point, that we don’t even listen to the other person talk and sometimes we even talk over them before they’re done.  (I know I’m guilty of this one.)  The reason this one is so difficult is because we are viewing everything a person does through our own frame of reference, rather than thinking about it from their point of view.  When we make a conscious effort to really listen to what the other person is saying, and the other person does the same, it’s a lot easier to come up with common ground and an agreeable solution.

Don’t involve family members or friends
One of the first rules my husband and I established with each other when we started dating was that if we had a problem with the other person, we needed to discuss it with them.  Not family.  Not friends.  Not the random stranger in front of you in the line at the grocery store.  This is a lot harder for women than it is for men because when women talk, it’s about relationships.  When men talk, it’s about sports, politics, data, etc.  To be clear, I’m not referring to things like getting suggestions for potty training or tips for getting your kids out the door on time.  I’m talking specifically about issues that involve you and your spouse and possibly your kids (discipline, schools, extracurricular activities, etc).  When you start bringing other people into your relationship, you are creating even bigger problems than were there in the first place.

Sleep on it
It’s true!  The complete opposite advice that I received from my well-meaning relative is actually one that I personally give to couples getting married!  Here’s why: You are not going to be discussing things rationally or able to give your full attention to a subject if you are tired.  Tired = grumpy and emotional.  There have been many occasions when my husband and I have started talking about something, which lead to talking about something else that we didn’t even realize was an issue and the next thing we know, it’s midnight and we’re getting no where because we’re both tired and know that we’ll need to be getting up early.  So my advice is just sleep on it.  Wake up with a (hopefully) full night’s rest and a clear head and resume your discussion at another time when you can devote your attention and time to it.

Pick your battles
Let’s face it: The person you married is not going to agree with you on everything.  And (surprise!) you’re not going to agree with them.  If you fought or argued about everything you disagreed on, it’s totally possible that you would be constantly fighting.  So just let it go.  Pick your battles.  Ask yourself if you really need to open your mouth and say something.  Some days, I am looking for a fight so I’ll start getting nit-picky about the littlest things.  My husband usually can tell when I’ve had a rough day and will (wisely) remove himself and the kids from me for a while so I can have a little space.  And given this time, I will see the error of my ways and take a chill pill.  *wink*

I hope these suggestions gave you some tools to use in your relationships!

What was the worst wedding advice you got?  Share below!

How To Celebrate Your Anniversary On A Tight Budget

How To Celebrate Your Anniversary On A Tight Budget--lots of great ideas that will fit any budget

Tomorrow my husband and I will be celebrating our EIGHT year anniversary!  It’s hard to believe how fast the time has gone and all that’s happened in that time: college graduation (2 Undergraduate degrees and one Masters degree), bought our first home, had 2 kids, job changes and many other experiences and memories.  I always look forward to celebrating our anniversary because I love remembering and celebrating the day we were married.

I remember for our one year anniversary we decided to go on a cruise.  We were still in college so we saved up and bought a Mexican Riviera cruise.  I had been on a cruise in high school and my husband had never been on on so we were really excited.  As luck would have it, the swine flu broke out a week before we were supposed to leave and all cruises to Mexico were cancelled.  Unable to get a refund, we decided to go on the California Coast cruise that was being offered instead.  It was kind of a letdown to be honest and we haven’t been on any big anniversary celebrations since then due to life happening.  Since then, we’ve done various activities for our anniversary each year ranging from dinner and a movie to an overnight stay in a 5-star hotel.

How To Celebrate Your Anniversary On A Tight Budget--lots of great ideas that will fit any budget
Our Wedding Day (2008)

Since our anniversary falls on a weekday this year, we are waiting until the weekend to officially celebrate our special day.  We decided to drive into the city and go to dinner and spend the night in a hotel while my mom watches our kids.  My husband and I are pretty frugal when it comes to vacations, no matter how big or small, so we are always on the lookout for a good deal.  This got me thinking and I realized that there are probably a lot of couples in the same boat as us.  You want to do something special, but you don’t have a lot of money to spend.
I’ve created a list of ideas that I think would be fun for an anniversary date/weekend.  (I would estimate the cost ranging from $0-$300, depending on which option you choose and where you live, as well as your personal budget.)

How To Celebrate Your Anniversary On A Tight Budget--lots of great ideas that will fit any budget

Picnic at Home–Grab a blanket and head outside!  Or stay inside if that’s your preference.  Either way, a picnic is a fun, low-key and inexpensive way to celebrate your anniversary.  (Check out this list for 97 of the Best Picnic Ideas.)

Walk Down Memory Lane–If you live nearby some of the places where you and your spouse have special memories, go back and visit them.  Take pictures, recreate the moments and remember the excitement of falling in love.  Visit your old stomping grounds.  Go to the parking lot where you used to make out (you know you did it).  Another idea would be to attend an event together that you attended when you were dating, such as a college football game or a play.

Favorite Restaurant–This could be as inexpensive or pricey as you want it to be.  For my husband and I, we love going to TGI Friday’s because they have some of our favorite food and lots of good memories.  Plus, we rarely go there so it’s a treat for us.  If you want to dress up, go somewhere nice and enjoy being fancy for the night.

Movie Night–A movie night can be as simple or as extravagant as you have a budget for it.  You could rent a Redbox movie or even rent a movie from On Demand or another similar service if you don’t want to leave home.  If you decide to go out to the theater, going to a matinee is less than going in the evening.  Bring a few snacks in your bag so you don’t have to spend money on the food from the concession stand.  Some places have drive-in movies so check around and see if you have one locally.

Order Take Out–If you don’t have the luxury of leaving home (because of your kids or any other reason), you could order take out from a favorite restaurant and bring it home.  You could easily couple this with having a picnic at home if you don’t want to prepare the food yourself.  Or you could go for a drive up the canyon, to a park, to the beach or any other place that you enjoy.

How To Celebrate Your Anniversary On A Tight Budget--lots of great ideas that will fit any budget
Park City (2015)

Visit Touristy Places Off Season–Last year, my husband and I stayed at a hotel near a local ski resort.  Since it was May, there weren’t many people around and we were able to enjoy the scenery and visit little shops and eat at restaurants without the crowd.  Our hotel was much less expensive as well.

Celebrate Early/Late–Going along with my previous suggestion of visiting places off season, you could opt to celebrate your anniversary early or late to take advantage of that.  In addition, if you like the beach but got married in the winter, maybe you could celebrate in the summer and go when it’s nice and warm.  Same thing goes for an activity like skiing.  I don’t think it always matters when you celebrate as long as you do.

Use Coupons and/or Gift Certificates–I am all about getting discounts.  Why pay more for something if you can save a little money?  I don’t think it cheapens the experience at all but rather makes it more enjoyable because you’re not spending more than you want or need to.  One year for our anniversary, my husband and I got couples massages at a huge discount using Groupon.  We were able to do something we wouldn’t normally do at a fraction of the cost.  My sister told me the other day that when anniversaries or birthdays come up, they always check their gift cards to see what they have so they know what they can afford to do.

Stay-cation–More than anything else we’ve done to celebrate our anniversary is to go on a ‘stay-cation’.  We find a hotel nearby and stay overnight while a relative watches our kids at home.  Just getting away from home and going somewhere new can be so relaxing and rejuvenating.  You don’t make your bed?  Someone else will.  You want a late night snack?  Someone will bring one to your door.  Also, going on a weekday versus a weekend will always save you money at a hotel.  You can still stay somewhere nice without having to pay premium pricing.

How To Celebrate Your Anniversary On A Tight Budget--lots of great ideas that will fit any budget

Camping–I’m throwing this idea out there for those of you who like camping.  I’m not in this category, but I know a lot of people who are.  If you are one of them, this could be just the thing for you to do to celebrate your anniversary.  Whether you camp in a tent or rent/borrow a camper, camping is definitely one of the least expensive ways to get away.

Have Friends/Relatives Take Your Kids Overnight–If spending money on a hotel isn’t something you can afford, see if friends or relatives would be willing to take your kids for the night while you stay at home.  Enjoy a full night’s rest without wondering which child will have you up at 2am.  Combine this with another stay at home activity listed above and you’ve got a great anniversary planned!

I’ve only listed a few of the ideas that I came up with.  If you want a few more suggestions, visit The Dating Divas website.  The whole purpose of their website is to provide ideas to keep the flame burning between husband and wife.  I found a link to 75 Dates to Celebrate Your Anniversary ranging from tame and simple to hot and spicy.  They’ve got something for everyone.

I hope you find a great way to celebrate your anniversary together!

What have been your favorite ‘on-a-budget’ dates or anniversary celebrations?

Why Being Vulnerable Matters

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.

There is this topic that’s come up recently in conversations with family and friends.  It’s the topic of vulnerability.  A recurring thought that’s been shared between myself and those I’m talking to is the feeling that vulnerability is something to be feared.  That if you’re vulnerable, you’re weak.  And if you’re weak, you will be ridiculed, taken advantage of and the respect of others will be lost.

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.
At a college football game about 2 weeks after we started dating

This fear of being vulnerable extends into all areas of our lives.  It affects our relationships with loved ones, because if we do not open up and talk about our true feelings, we aren’t able to make a crucial connection with them.  And if you aren’t connecting on a personal level by talking about things that are hard and deep, then you aren’t establishing a strong foundation for a lasting relationship.

Shortly after my husband and I started dating, I went on a week long trip for a college class.  Our dating relationship was new and fragile.  But we were committed to keeping in touch during this trip, so we had 2 or 3 hour long conversations every night before we went to bed.  We discussed everything from our favorite movies to our least favorite foods (coleslaw and potato salad, in case you were wondering).  Sometimes we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.  And other times, we talked about things that were so personal that one or both of us didn’t say anything for a long time while we simply tried to process the words that had been spoken.  Those were the things that really started building our foundation.  Now that we are married, it’s still hard to talk about certain topics.  But the fact that we keep trying to be vulnerable with each other is something that keeps us together.

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.

It also affects our ability to make new and lasting friendships, because if we never get past the formalities of “where are you from” and “what do you like to do”, then you never talk about the deeper topics, such as current challenges and childhood struggles that are still affecting you today.  Again, that opportunity to really connect with another person is lost.  When I was in college, I met one of my best friends.  We immediately connected.  If you were to ask us when we became friends, neither of us could tell you because it’s as though we’ve always been friends.  Even so, it wasn’t until we helped each other through difficult breakups or challenging situations that we began to cement our relationship.  If one of us walked into the apartment and found the other one crying, there wasn’t a rush to hide it and pretend everything was ok.  We talked about it.  We cried together.  We were there for each other.  Today, we live in different states.  We don’t talk as much as we used to and our lives are busy.  But when we do talk, or we do see each other, it’s like we were never apart.  That is what being vulnerable does.

Fear of vulnerability affects our willingness to try new things and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations where there is a possibility, maybe even a probability, of failure.  When we are only living within our personal realm of comfort, never trying to develop a new skill or share an idea, we aren’t growing.  How can we, when our fear of what others will think or say or do paralyzes us?  I had a relationship professor in college (lots of college examples today!) who taught us that if what you are currently doing in a situation isn’t working, do something different.  And not just a little different.  A lot different.  Something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable.  Something that stretches you beyond your limits. Something that if you weren’t afraid of failing, you would try in a heartbeat.  I’ll bet that if you stop and think for a moment, you can think of something that you’ve always wanted to do or try, but haven’t, because of fear.  I’m not talking about skydiving when you are afraid of heights, or touching a snake when just the thought of them makes you shiver.  I’m talking about taking a cooking class when you don’t have a clue how to cook.  Going to a neighborhood playgroup when you don’t know if any of your friends will be there to talk to.  Signing up for piano lessons when you feel silly that you’d be playing songs that a 5 year old knows.

It is through vulnerability that we find strength.  Great thoughts on why being vulnerable matters.
A picture from my senior year of high school

I recently started taking a dance technique class from a friend of mine with some other moms in the neighborhood.  I took dance lessons many years ago, but after graduating from high school, then college, then having kids, it was a passion of mine that got put on the back burner.  Since we got married, my husband, knowing that I danced before we met, has asked me again and again to dance for him.  And he’s not even talking something sexy.  He just wants to see me doing something that I’ve told him that I love.  But I’ve always come up with some excuse: “Well, I’m not very good anymore.”  “There isn’t enough room here.”  “I don’t have my dance shoes.”  The other day, a song that I had recently learned a short routine to came on the radio.  My daughter was the only one in the room and she was eating so I didn’t think she’d even notice when I started dancing.  By the time I finished, she was clapping and saying, “Good job, Mom!  You are a good dancer!”  Then she proceeded to tell my husband that I had just done a dance and he says to me, “Oh sure, you’ll dance in front of her, but not me. (he’s smiling)  I want to see it.”  Here is my sweet husband asking me, yet again, to be vulnerable.  To show him something that I love and I’m not as good at as I used to be.  After a weak, “There’s not enough room” excuse, I find the song and do the dance for him.  Then I did it again.  And you know what?  He didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect.  He only cared that I had shown him a little part of myself that I’d kept hidden because I was letting my fear of being vulnerable stop me.

Be strong.  Be vulnerable.  They aren’t conflicting qualities.  Yes.  Being vulnerable is scary.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s doesn’t come easy.  It’s something that I have to remind myself of daily, sometimes out loud.  Sometimes it comes from my husband or my kids.  Other times, it’s a friend who tells me that I can do it because they’ll do it with me.  It’s ok to try.  It’s ok to fail.  It’s how we grow and learn and live.

When "I’m Sorry" Is Enough

Recently, I’ve been dealing with some hard things in my life.  Nothing life threatening or relationship damaging.  But hard nonetheless.  Things that don’t seem fair and I’m having a hard time seeing the positive and having hope.  I was sharing my feelings with a friend the other day and she just looked at me and said, “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.  That really sucks.”  And then she gave me a hug.

Life is hard.  Life can give us really difficult things to face.  Some are fleeting.  Others stay with you for a long time.  And it’s during these hard times that it’s really nice to confide in someone.  To spill your guts and not think about how irrational or negative your thoughts might be.  To not have to think through exactly how you’re feeling.  It might change in 30 minutes.  It might not.  But what you don’t need to hear from the person you’re sharing your thoughts and feelings with is an insincere, “That’s too bad.”  Or “well at least…” and then name something that is clearly worse than your current circumstances but doesn’t make you feel any better and might even make you feel worse.

Sometimes, all you need is for someone to say, “I’m sorry.  Life isn’t fair and what’s happening to you sucks.”  That’s it.  You don’t need them to solve your problem.  You don’t need them to try and find the silver lining.  You just need to know that they hear you and they are sorry that your life is hard right then.

Obviously, I’m not saying that you should complain about every single bad thing that happens to you.  Doing that will just make you and those around you unhappy.  I’m referring to the times when you are trying to be strong and deal with something that is genuinely hard and you just need to get the frustration or sadness or whatever you’re feeling out.  It’s during those times that you should find someone to talk to.  A person you can trust to not make you feel worse.  A person who loves you.  Someone who will simply say, “I’m sorry.  This is a hard thing.  You’re not alone.”

So if you’re going through something hard right now, I’m sorry.  That is a hard thing.  And you are not alone.

Choose Happiness

Happy 2016!  How did you ring in the new year?  I’ll be honest, I was in bed well before midnight so I was sleeping and trying to finish getting over this dang cold that’s taken over my life for the last couple of weeks.

It might sound cliche, but I truly love the idea of new beginnings.  Have you ever had a day that seemed to be going all wrong, only to make a conscious decision to “start over”?  Or going to bed grumpy and waking up to see the sun shining and you have a smile on your face before you get out of bed?  I love knowing that while I might not have control over how everything in my day goes, that I do have control over how I react to it.  And isn’t that half the battle?

Earlier this week I talked about a few of my new goals for the year, but I thought of one more that I wanted to mention: choose to be happy.  This goal stems from the memory of a time during junior high when my life at home was challenging due to circumstances out of my control.  Rather than focus on the negative, I made a valiant effort every day to see the good in the bad.  It didn’t change my circumstances, but it made them easier to deal with.  I came to be known as someone who (almost) always had a smile on her face and could help others see the good in things.

As I’ve gotten older and life has moved forward, I find that there are days I tend to get caught up in “the thick of thin things”: small irritations turn into big problems and it seems hard to find the positive when I’m already having a tough day.  But I want to make a bigger effort to catch myself when this happens and try harder to choose to be happy.  I want to create a new beginning for myself, no matter what time of day it is or how rough the day before was.

Life is hard.  But it becomes so much harder when we don’t choose to be happy.  So regardless of what other new goals you’ve set for yourself this year, I hope you’ll join me in the effort to choose happiness. You won’t regret it.