Styling Your Black Leather Jacket for Spring: Just Add White

Leather jackets just feel right to me. They are thicker than most spring jackets, so in the Midwest, more warmth is a total win. I spend 95 percent of my life cold, so they work for me in that regard. I also love how they work for the edgier side of my style, but I try to avoid looking overly biker mama-ish. (So not a biker mama. I have two kids, I’m a teacher, I enjoy collecting pens, and I go to bed before 10…).

One way I like to style them for spring? With crisp white skinny jeans/pants and neutral booties. My first instinct is always to wear black booties, but if I’m looking for a lighter look, the taupe bootie balances out the edge of the jacket, making the look more seasonally appropriate.

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Here I’m wearing the newest leather jacket to my collection, which I snagged as part of my Trendsend box from Evereve. My top is a LuLaRoe Lynnae, which I’m wearing oversized (usually a size small, sized up to a medium). My jeans are Rockstars from Old Navy (I think they’re a few years old), and my booties are a new Target find. The Universal Thread brand at Target (these booties and another pair of shoes I snagged recently) has a Madewell/Lucky Brand vibe to me, and I’m really digging that bohemian/classic feel.

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Are you even a Mom blogger if you don’t torture your kids by taking so many pics?

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.

Find Your Glitter Belt

Isn’t it weird how style works…how you buy something out of your stylistic comfort zone and then end up questioning your entire personal style? Is that just me??

As amazing as it is to know and OWN your personal style, I would argue that an equally as amazing feat is taking style risks. It’s also a great way to break up a mundane daily wardrobe.

I love black, gray, and olive…I’m admittedly a neutral-loving fool. But I am also very intrigued by blush pink and have been really into velvet as well. Enter blush colored velvet Amelia dress.

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I love a structured jacket…in fact, I’ve been talking about them for years as one of my favorite closet staples. But since I have several basic jackets in my rotation (six LuLaRoe Jaxons and counting…seriously. It’s that good.), why not add an embroidered one? Better yet…why not add one with embroidered unicorns?

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My daughter Johanna is in a unicorn phase, which I LOVE, and I get major style points from her on this one.

Another way to break out of a style rut and have a little fun in your wardrobe is to think back to your old self and what you once loved stylistically. When I was in high school, I had this glitter belt I would wear every day. I have always loved glitter, but let’s face the harsh reality that glitter isn’t always workable in a wardrobe of a 34-year-old working mom. Admittedly, a little glitter goes a long way. That’s why when I found these ankle booties accented with glitter, I fell in love.

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I purchased mine from Groopdealz at a major discount, but I’ve linked the same pair at Kohl’s.

So now it’s your turn. Think about what you have been considering adding to your closet, but you have been reluctant to do so because it’s not your norm. Sometimes those little wardrobe additions make all the difference. Also take a minute to think back to your former self. What was that one piece or one accessory that you seriously loved in your younger days? What essentially is your own personal “glitter belt”? Unfortunately, I think we all get very caught up in these unwritten societal rules of what not to wear. I think there’s always a way to add in what we love and make it appropriate for any occasion or age.

#BestLifeby35: Choose Your Word

It’s January…the month where bitterly cold weather meets goal setting. Definitely a bizarre combo, but since we are inside so much more this month, it’s really a great time to set some goals for yourself. But might I suggest you shift your initial goal setting focus?

Obviously in January, we know how trendy it is to set (hashtag) goals. In fact, you may choose to skip the reading of this post because you’re so over reading blog posts about goal setting. But as a goal-oriented person who loses focus without goals, I found myself wanting to write about my process in picking a word for 2018.

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As you may know, I have started a blog series I have entitled #bestlifeby35, which basically covers my journey toward living the healthiest life I know how to live by the time July 18, 2018 rolls around and I turn the big 3-5…halfway to 40….holy buckets.

(Check out my first post in this series about Intentional Time.)

In the last few years, it’s been trending to choose a word for the New Year. Now I initially rolled my eyes at this process, as I thought it was a little cheesy. But I felt myself losing focus on what I truly valued in my life in 2017, and when 2018 showed up, I was willing to try whatever it took to regain my focus.

Your word of the year is essentially a mantra, focus, or something that is to define your purpose throughout the year. As a word person, I admittedly took WAY TOO LONG in picking mine. But reading Lara Casey’s Goal Setting Blog Series helped my process along. It helped so much, in fact, that I purchased Lara’s Cultivate What Matters Intentional Goal Planner.

I followed the process Lara outlined…I looked back at my 2017, looked ahead to my future, analyzed the common threads, looked words up in the dictionary to see if the definitions resonated with me, and ultimately decided where my 2018 focus should lie.

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It’s VALUE.

The definition was the deciding factor. I loved the two definitions: a person’s principles or standards of behaviorone’s judgment of what is important in life.

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For the past year especially, I have prayed for guidance in the area of balance. The striking visual I often see in my mind (when I stop to think about life’s demands) is an  overworked server at a restaurant striving to carry 17 plates around a crowded room. I think at this point, though, it’s up to me (with God’s help) to delineate by using my value system. I think it’s about taking life one day at a time and carrying out my duties and tasks based on what I value. What I value most will always come first, and if there is time afterward, then the other tasks will be completed. If not, tomorrow is a great time to tackle those.

2018 is a year when I define that value system and let it guide my life.

It’s a word I will display in a few places (on my desk at work and at home…and on a bracelet…thank you, Instagram ads). It’s a word that will help me to ask myself fruitful questions: Right now…in this very moment…am I doing something of value? Is the time I’m spending right now in line with my value system? That thing that I’m not doing right now…is that a good choice, given what I said I value? 

The truth is, you don’t need really anything to help you choose and live out your word. But above are just a few things I have done and purchased to help my process. So after you have chosen your word, please share it with me in the comments! I would be honored to pray over your word and that it helps you to live a joyful and prosperous 2018!