This Time Around…

Open mouth, insert foot. Face palm. Just imagine me being embarrassingly humbled. Why? I tried to give you advice on how to navigate your summer…when I was the one who desperately needed it. 

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At the beginning of last summer, I wrote a blog post about how teachers can survive the summer. And the summer of 2017 was indeed one of the hardest summers of my life. I couldn’t WAIT for August to roll around. If you want a little eye roll action, read it HERE.

So I’m going to start THIS post by saying that I don’t have all of the answers. But what I can share with you is what I plan to do differently. It’s two-fold, really: perhaps what I’m writing about here can help you as a mama navigating the summer. And perhaps writing this post and checking in with you periodically will help to keep me accountable. 

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This photo was taken of me at the beginning of last summer…I remember telling myself that I wanted to put myself together every morning. Spoiler alert: That SO did not happen.

A typical question I get when I meet someone new: “So what do you do?” I answer, “I teach high school English.” And it’s usually one of two responses: “Ugh. I don’t know how you do that.” or “Well, I bet you sure enjoy those summers off!” 

Yeah…how about NO?! 

Here’s why: I THRIVE on routine. I thrive on having a plan and executing it. I don’t know how to handle life when there is nothing to write down in my planner. Sad but true. Summertime breeds a lack of routine, and it drives me absolutely nuts. 

So I’m vowing to do better, and here’s how:

  1. Send in the reinforcements. I plan on hiring a babysitter once a week. I also am considering restarting my YMCA membership so I can both work out and have two hours of child care provided. The kids LOVED going last summer, and I loved getting my workout in.
  2. Loosely schedule every day. I would like to better execute a plan for each day. Last summer, I tried to implement the “no plan” plan, and I hated it. The kids were bored, and so was I. Also, I was sitting in my sweats at like 10 A.M., and it made me feel icky. Now I’m not judging if that’s your thing…it’s definitely not mine, though.
  3. Bucket list. Make a list of things we can do this summer, and involve the kids! Ask them what they want to do…now that they’re older, they can give great feedback. Shockingly…I’ve never done this.
  4. Institute quiet time. Everyone needs a break from each other, so I plan on instituting at least an hour a day where everyone chills by themselves and reads or plays quietly.
  5. Do something I love to do every day. Summer is about having a little bit more free time, so I want to spend my days pursuing my passions and hobbies: working out, writing, reading, empowering women through fashion, Instagramming….you know, nothing crazy.
  6. Actually keep some parts of my “school routine.” Getting up before everyone and having an hour of prayer and journaling time has done wonders for my sanity as the school year draws to a close. I plan on keeping up with that routine.
  7. Dependence on God. I know summer is a time when I am just emotionally weak. I need to depend on the One who gives me strength when I have none. I actually signed up for Jess Connolly’s SUMMER TO THRIVE SUPPORT GROUP to keep myself accountable for staying in The Word AND learning other ways to find joy in my least favorite season.

I’m sure I will add to this list as I learn and grow over the next few weeks. What steps will you take to ensure that you find joy in your summer?

The Closet Staple Most Everyone Needs

The Closet Staple Most Everyone Needs

When I have downtime, my brain just CANNOT focus. I always tell myself now is the time to focus. But then I start thinking about every little question that has popped into my mind over the last three months. I wonder what personality type I am on the enneagram. How do I style that blazer? Is it time to get rid of that jacket? Ooh…that Tarte mermaid eyeshadow palette is so pretty. What should the kids and I do this summer? Should I give macro counting another go? And this is just like a 10-second snippet.

Obviously, I am living my best life on spring break right now…and that for me involves reading, writing, and online shopping in sweats, all while sitting by the fire. Spring seems to be fashionably late.

My spring break has freed up more time for me to write and to think about my personal style. Yes, I do think about style a lot, for many reasons: 1. I try to blog about it every so often when I can; 2. I do quite a bit of styling in my side gig; 3. Having a firm understanding of my personal style makes getting dressed a whole lot easier in the morning; and 4. Feeling good about what I’m wearing = confidence.

One aspect of my style I know to be tried and true is my love for jackets. I LOVE a structured jacket more than anyone you probably know. There is something about them that just works. But more specifically, blazers have actually caught my attention lately.

Blazers used to be synonymous with shoulder pads and ’80s for me. But blazers have come a long way, my friends. Get this: they can actually be really versatile and flattering.

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BLAZER: Free People, TEE: LuLaRoe Christy, NECKLACE: Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant, JEANS: Old Navy mid-rise Rockstar (unavailable online right now), BOOTIES: Target (old)

I recently bought two blazers on sale at Nordstrom, and my favorite of the two is this FREE PEOPLE UPTOWN GIRL BLAZER, pictured above. I am a major fan of a black blazer, too, but having more feminine options allows you to play with styling a bit more. To me, this blazer’s color (a dusty rose) makes it a great feminine option to add to your closet. I also like the menswear cut. It’s longer and covers my hip, which I really appreciate. I am a pear shape, and the longer length creates a more flattering silhouette, concealing my biggest problem area.

Adding a few blazers to your closet is not a bad idea. I love a blazer over a dress for a job interview. Teachers, that’s also a great look (blazer + dress) for supervising school dances. I also like to dress a blazer down by adding a graphic tee and jeans.

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In my look pictured above, I found a middle road for Easter Sunday…I added a gray LuLaRoe Christy Tee and black denim (Old Navy Rockstar…the perfect jeans for moms on a budget who still want to be cool). No Easter dress for this girl since it was FREEZING, and we got like 4 INCHES of SNOW that day.

Side note: Yes, this blazer is pricey. But it happened to be 30 percent off when I bought it, and honestly, when you see unique pieces that you love, it isn’t the worst thing to splurge every now and then. I fell in love with the colors, stripes, and cut of this one and knew I’d be disappointed if it went out of stock. It works for a few occasions I would need to dress for: job (I’m a high school English teacher), church, date night…and probably more I’m not thinking of right now.

So here’s your assignment: find a blazer that works for your body type and the occasions you need to dress for….before you get distracted. I know. That may be hard to do, but it’s worth a try.

Learning What Self-Care Actually Is…

Learning What Self-Care Actually Is…

Have you seen it? That post circulating through social media that tells women this truth: Self-care isn’t about manicures, pedicures, or shopping. What are your initial thoughts? Heck no. That’s how I relax! or… I see the truth in that?

Well, I was somewhere in the middle for awhile…until I found a true example of self-care that extended beyond a blissful hour of peace that a pedicure provides. I started reading again.

Nerd alert…I get it. But as an English teacher, I am so focused on reading for my job that I don’t read for my pleasure or betterment. I made it a goal of mine this year (as I have outlined in my #bestlifeby35 blog posts earlier this year…I have been trying to better myself in a myriad of ways as I prepare to turn 35 in July…EEEEEKKK) to read two books a month. And to some of you, that’s laughable because you read two books in like a week. But two books a month is doable in my current season.

I have focused on the personal development genre for most of my reading this year. At the end of 2017, I felt an overwhelming sense of my rhythms being off. The best way to describe it? I was constantly trying to walk in someone else’s cadence, and the more I tried to catch up and get into step, the more off kilter I became. And that (of course) is being very general, but let’s just say that a great number of aspects in my life needed reconfiguring. So therein lies the choice of reading books in the personal development genre.

So why is reading self-care? I have choice. I can pick to read any book I choose, any book that speaks to me. And let me tell you…teachers don’t always get choice in reading on the job, so it’s actually quite freeing! #englishteacherlife

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Late to the party on this one…but a good book, coffee, and peace is my new love language!

Reading is mine, my rhythm, my speed, my timing. The book is something that is always there for the taking when I am ready (and sometimes there may be a few days in between reads) that will better me when I pick it up.

Reading books written by authentic writers also grounds me in a sense of normalcy, that the feelings I’m feeling and the struggles I just can’t quite seem to overcome are not mine alone.

Lastly, I LOVE WORDS. I LOVE CONSTRUCTIONS AND COMPOSITIONS AND STYLE AND AUTHENTICITY. OK, yes, a little heavy on the caps there, but I crave the written word. I don’t always have the time to blog (though I would love to carve out more time to do so…something I’m working on), but it’s fairly simple to pick up a book and start reading while my kids are actually playing together and getting along or when my family falls asleep before I do.

So here are the books I have read thus far this year, along with a quick synopsis of my actual takeaway…not a summary per se but a “when I think of this book, this is what resonated” type of commentary.

January Reads: 

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Stronger than the Struggle by Havilah Cunnington — very real and practical description of how the enemy works in our lives; Havilah also outlines the necessity of spiritual warfare. It sounds really “gloom and doom,” but Havilah is so amazing and refreshing that it totally doesn’t read that way. It’s actually very empowering. Growing up in a traditional church, we never really talked about the enemy, so this book was a great way for me to learn more about this difficult topic.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis — definitely a favorite of mine. We women believe so many lies about ourselves. Rachel confronts hers head-on at the start of each chapter and explains how that particular lie no longer has power over her. And I would venture to say most of you have believed almost all of the lies she outlines. This book (in my opinion) caters so well to the young-younger mom group.

February Reads:

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Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist – probably the most artistically driven in terms of the writing, Shauna explains how it took slowing down for her to find her peace. At times, the artistry of her writing (if I’m being honest) did not quite click or connect with me, but nevertheless, I appreciate her beautifully written message of centering and reprioritizing.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown – How has someone I’ve never even met taught me so much? Brene Brown is my teacher, and she doesn’t even know it. One thing I learned from this book is how to stand confidently in my values, morals, and basically how I’m wired and how I was created. She gave me courage to boldly stand alone when no one around me is doing life quite like me. A quick example I would like to touch upon further in a later blog post: I feel strong professional pull toward teaching and styling. I have often lamented that I wish God would point me in a direction toward one over the other. But what if the two pulls are part of how I was created? What if what I need is more courage instead of more clarity and a definitive answer?

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Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley

As a working mom, I find so much value in Emily’s authentic and inspirational tone. She outlines how she has learned how damaging and soul sucking perfectionism actually is, and she strives for a life of grace instead of perfection (as the title suggests…ha). Now I want a Simplified planner….

March Reads (well, currently reading):

A Simplified Life by Emily Ley

*Emily’s newest book offers practical tips for simplifying all aspects of life. One tip I especially loved is her tip on makeup (have a five- to ten-minute routine perfected for those crazy mornings) and hair, that she only fixes her hair a few times a week and has a few updos that she rotates through every week…GIRL, YES. I’ve been doing that for years, and I am a much happier person when I don’t put pressure on myself to fix my hair (for me, that’s straightening my lion’s mane) on the daily. Obviously, there are tips for simplifying other aspects of family life that are also very helpful and practical.

I would recommend all of these reads if you are looking to break the chains of perfectionism in your life. Even if you’re not a perfectionist per se, you may have perfectionist tendencies or feel a compelling need to reflect a semblance of perfection on social media. I know I for sure fall into that trap from time to time. But there is so much freedom in imperfection. I will keep updating you as my reading list grows! I would love to know your recommendations, too! Leave me a comment below and let me know what you’re reading!

One final thought…self care should recharge us, make us better equipped to fill the roles we have been called to fill. Is your self-care routine actually doing that?

The Dangers in Worshipping the Lack

When you hear or read the word worship, an experience or an image comes to mind. You’re singing in a church, you’re listening to praise music in your car on your drive to work, you’re fulfilling your God-directed calling with a happy heart, or you’re thanking God in prayer.

Can a person worship God and something else? God would say no: “No other gods, only me” (Exodus 20:3, MSG version). Most of us think we are in God’s good graces if we attend church on Sundays, pray for others, check off every box on our Christian to-do list. But is it possible to follow Jesus and worship something else?

Because I have. God revealed to me very clearly late last year that I worship my lack and have been doing so my entire life.

Here’s a quick run-down of what this worship has looked and sounded like:

Age 17: Why did you miss 2 points on this assignment? Why did you only score 15 points tonight?

Age 22: Why are you only earning this much of an income working this hard?

Age 27: Why can’t you get pregnant? What’s wrong with you?

Age 29: This house is way too small and is starting to get embarrassing. Better move to a wealthier neighborhood.

Age 34: You only made this much selling LuLaRoe this month? Maybe it’s time you give it up.

These are just a few of the lies I told myself. The irony in this post, though, is that I actually “bettered” myself and “fixed” all of those problems by striving, striving, striving. I kept telling myself that once this goal had been met, once I was no longer “without” in that specific area of life, that I would appreciate all that I had.

Not true.

It’s a really sad state to find yourself in, to always be wanting more. Oddly enough, though, I feel like our social system teaches us early on to go for more, go for broke, reach for the stars, insert any other goal-setting cliche. What can we teach our children, then, when they don’t achieve this or obtain that? I think that’s just as equally important of a lesson as goal setting is: gratitude and a shift in perspective. It’s certainly not wrong to strive for seemingly unachievable goals, but the crash and burn that results in expectations not being met is really destructive. We must teach (and implement) a quick rebound method (once a basketball player, always using basketball terminology).

I just recently finished Havilah Cunnington’s new book Stronger than the Struggle. (Stop what you’re doing right now and snag this book. A more comprehensive review coming later.) How glaring were her words on page 192: “We can spend our days focusing on our lack [emphasis added], the places that turned up empty. Or we can focus our full attention on celebrating our hard work and all God has done, coming to a place of celebration.”

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Once this obsession with my lack became so clear to me, I have started to see everything with a different lens. Instead of focusing on that one wall in our house that is still bare over a year later, I have started to appreciate the little corner I worked so hard on decorating and styling in our foyer. Instead of groaning about having to get up early every single day (wait…I still kinda do that…), I focus on how much I love my job. I truly do. When I’m feeling exasperated with my kids arguing over some snack or toy, I separate them, and it is in that moment where I can choose to look into their eyes and become so joyful that they’re happy and healthy. Well…maybe not happy in the moment, but you get what I mean. I literally cried the other night giving my kids a bath and then again when Daddy found their baby videos. Gosh, I’m so lucky to be their mom. And I’m certainly not perfect (though there were many years of my life where I wished that you would think I was), so this mindset shift isn’t always foolproof. But even if I’m thinking from a space of gratitude and positivity more often than not, I’m a heck of a lot happier than I was in years past.

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For too long, comparison has been my standard and my motivator. If comparison is your standard, you’re always going to be lacking. And if you’re always in the lacking mindset, you really and truly are hurting yourself and your relationships with the people who love you. Take it from me, the recovering perfectionist.

Updating Your Accessories Wardrobe for Back to School: My Favorite Jewelry Line

So if you follow me on Instagram, you know I just turned 34! And every year after my birthday, I get into full-on school mode. It’s like my kickstart to preparing for the upcoming school year. I first prepare my wardrobe (clothes, shoes, accessories) so I’m not getting upset that I don’t have anything to wear (#priorities).

I start by purging what I don’t wear anymore. But I have noticed that the pieces in my accessories wardrobe that have true staying power in my closet are Stella and Dot pieces. Now some argue that Stella and Dot pieces are pricey, but when I think about it, those are the pieces I’m still wearing years later. You get what you pay for in this case.

Many of you know I used to be a Stella and Dot stylist, but I decided last year that I wanted to focus solely on LuLaRoe. I still truly believe in the product and wear it all the time!

So in the spirit of accessory wardrobe updating, I thought I’d show you some of tried and true favorites!

My Staples

THE REBEL PENDANT

A quick browsing of my Instagram shows you that this is my go-to staple necklace. I have both gold and silver. I have worn this necklace for literally five years. It is so slimming and flattering and looks great with dresses, tops, anything really! I would totally pay this price for something I knew I’d wear for years! And I have!

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ESSENTIAL FRINGE NECKLACE

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I reach for this gold fringe necklace all the time! It is my go-to gold statement necklace. I love it because it creates a statement but also looks very classy and sophisticated. I also like to layer a colorful necklace on top of it. This pink one is actually also a Stella and Dot piece that is not longer available, but that just shows you I’m still getting a ton of wear out of my older pieces!

BRACELET STACKS

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One of my favorite ways to add interest and edge to my look is through bracelet stacks. I absolutely LOVE the various options Stella and Dot has to vary shine, hue, and texture for a one-of-a-kind look in your arm party.

Here are some of my favorite bracelets to layer. These are ones I actually currently own:

Renegade Cluster Bracelet

Arrison Stretch Bracelet

Gilded Path Wrap Bracelet – Hematite

Illuminate Cuff

Addison Cuff

GETAWAY BAG

I don’t travel often anymore, but when I would stay in Illinois for the weekend when I was living in Iowa, this was my go-to bag! It unzips for even more room for more shoes or whatever your thing is that you overpack! I am planning on taking this bag to Vegas early next month. The print got me. It’s absolutely beautiful, not to mention well-made. I don’t buy travel bags very often, and I know this one will serve me well for years to come.

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HUDSON TOTE – MEDIUM

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I love this tote so much. The perforated detailing is on point, and I love the subtle touches of gold. This is a perfect size for a mom and would be a great option for work as well, depending on your job! When I go back to work, I will be carrying this one for sure!

CITY SLIM CLUTCH

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I don’t have the need for too many clutches in my wardrobe, but when I need a clutch for date night or a wedding, this one has served me well. And I wear black all day, every day, so it’s the perfect color for me. But you already knew that!

And here are some pieces I’m hoping to add to my wardrobe!

My Wishlist

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Daytripper Bag – Black/Cream Stripe

I love this bag for teaching! Since I’m an English teacher, I will need a bag that zips so my papers aren’t constantly falling out. Most budget-friendly work totes do not hold up for me, and this one has definitely caught my eye!

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Signature Engravable Delicate Necklace – gold

I have wanted this one for at least a year. I am still trying to decide what I want engraved on it, but one idea I had is a meaningful Bible verse. Another idea is my kids’ initials (because they both have the same initials).

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Pave Triangle Path Ear Climber in Hematite

How fun are these? I typically gravitate toward studs, but I love the detail (and of course that they’re black…)

So many more things have caught my eye, and I am carefully making my wishlist! Will keep you updated!

Order Your Own

I have an online trunk show open right now if one or a few of these pieces have caught your eye. I would very much appreciate you shopping with me if you’ve found my tips helpful! Shop my link HERE. It will be open until August 3!

Tell me what you think! What Stella and Dot pieces are you loving right now?