Thursday, April 26, 2012

my word for the year // finish

I don't know if I've ever admitted this to anyone, but I've always considered myself somewhat of a quitter.

Geez, quitter sounds so harsh, doesn't it? Some words just carry so much judgment with them, and that is certainly one of them. But it's true - I've always had this habit of picking things up and then tossing them aside once the next shiny object comes along.

When I was little, like most little girls, I started as a ballerina (still don't understand to this day what the allure of a pink leotard and tights is. I mean, it doesn't really get more uncomfortable than nylon and spandex up your butt, does it?) But after one year I gave up my ballet shoes in favor of something more... exciting. Rhythmic gymnastics. Yes friends, I was a ribbon dancer. And boy did I ribbon dance my little heart out. Until of course I realized that I was the least flexible person in the universe (still am) and couldn't do a backbend, therefore banishing me to the back of the class in our recital. Um... nobody puts this ribbon dancer in the corner. After that, it was tap, jazz, and hip hop, but it didn't take long for me to realize I had more fun challenging my brothers to a game of PIG on our basketball hoop in our driveway. I wanted to do something competitive. So I started soccer, and after about twelve seasons of that I wanted a new challenge so I learned how to play volleyball. And flag football. And at one point in there I think I seriously considered joining the diving team in high school. Scattered throughout there were school plays, art lessons and an endless amount of fads and hobbies. As a college senior I took up piano lessons for pete's sake!

So why the constant change? Because there is nothing in life that I enjoy more than a new challenge. I've always been that way. Really I'm only half kidding about the whole quitter part. I honestly think this serial hobby thing has less to do with my habit of stopping things, and more to do with the fact that I love starting new things. There is something so gratifying to me about learning a new skill or picking up a new hobby. It's a fresh start at mastering something. I get bored easily, and constantly switching things up keeps my brain fresh and my interest renewed.

But here's the problem with serial hobbyism (yup, I just made it a thing.) Sooner or later, you're still always left feeling like a quitter. You look back and realize you never really saw anything through, never pushed through the plateau of slow and steady cultivation of a craft. It takes diligence and commitment. Well these are certainly qualities that I want myself to possess, so I started thinking maybe I should push myself to focus a little bit more.

A while ago I came across a blog post on Life As An Artistpreneur (yet another blog that my blog would love to be when it grows up) and it was all about choosing a word for the year. This one word would give you something to meditate on or work towards throughout the year. You can visualize a direction you want your life to go in over the course of the year just by being mindful of this one word (talk about pressure to pick a good one!) I read the post way back in January, and told myself I wanted to think long and hard about what my word would be. Well, (surprise, surprise) I completely forgot about it and for months I went wordless.

But now I know.

My word for 2012 is.... finish. A simple notion perhaps, but the word itself seems to compel. It begs to be acted upon. And that's exactly what I need and what I want to accomplish this year. Not only do I want to commit to my interests and really cultivate a craft like I mentioned, but this word stretches so far beyond that. I want to follow-through, to become reliable, to keep promises, to push forward when things get hard or boring or inconvenient. It's not just a word for my hobbies, it's a word for my life.

Yesterday marked the completion of my two-week challenge to myself to write a blog post a day here. I'd be lying if I said that some days I didn't want to call the whole thing off. My attention would be elsewhere or my creativity would be stunned, but I stuck with it. Because my word is finish. And finish I did.

I have such big dreams for this blog. Almost every day I read these other fabulous blogs written by these inspiring women that seem to be an endless wealth of wisdom, humor and inspiration. I want to be that. I want this blog to be that.

It's kind of like when you're 12 and you see an episode of Sex And The City by accident (at a friend's house obviously. As if we had HBO... ) and you just have this sudden and urgent desire to be grown up. You want to wear the big girl clothes and talk about big girl things and let your bra straps show under your tank top and have it somehow be cool. But then you look in the mirror and you are forced to remember - you're 12. You don't quite know your place in the world yet and you have absolutely no control over your hair and you don't even have bra straps (well, not real ones at least.) You're forced to realize you're still just a little girl and being in a rush won't get you to your twenties any faster, it will only frustrate you.

THAT is the story of my blog right now. I have all these ideas for what I know it can become. I want it to be better and more me. I want to update my design, I want to have regular features, I want to have guest bloggers. I want to learn how to be a better photographer, and I want you all to have a reason to come back each day. But here's the thing - I'm still 12! I do my best to remind myself that all of that will come, in time. As with all great things, it is an evolution, and my blog will be all grown up after it has put in the time. Maturity must be earned from experience. And commitment and diligence, as it turns out - those pesky, elusive qualities I'm working on.

This two-week challenge was my first step. The first thing I finished in a series of months that will hopefully be about teaching myself patience and focus. It's about making this blog a priority in my life and remembering how much joy and fulfillment I get from seeing it grow. It's about not only writing down goals for what I want it to be become, but dedicating myself to accomplishing those things. To finishing those things.

I haven't stuck with one thing this long in my entire life. While I can't promise I'll be posting every day anymore, I can tell you that these two weeks have been just what I hoped they'd be - a pleasant reminder that I am not, in fact, a quitter. Not if I don't want to be. So here's to 2012, and my new word of the year. Who knows what I will finish next.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the unfinished business of feelings

Today is another day, my friends!

I just want to take a quick second to say thank you to everyone that sent love my way after reading my last post. The support was overwhelming to me (in the most wonderful way), and it was really comforting to know that so many people out there were with me, hoping that I didn't remain a weird bumpy lizard for the rest of my life (see, isn't it just more fun to crack jokes than be all dramatic? Yes, yes it is. Like I said, today is another day!)

I actually read back over my last post today for the first time (I typically read back over at least once or twice to proofread after each post, but couldn't bring myself to last night after hitting 'publish'). Honestly, I found it to be on the verge of unbearable to read. I know why I had to write it, but I still really hated hearing my inner self in such a defeated position. Nobody likes to admit when they feel knocked down, so doing that just felt so unnatural to me. Also, I typically try to stay away from making things more dramatic than they need to be. (Okay, that's a big fat lie. I LOVE making things dramatic if it's going to make it funnier. But in serious matters where it actually counts, I do tend to avoid the whole "whoa is me" persona because I find it terribly undesirable.) So you can imagine why playing the damsel in distress card so publicly was a bit unsettling as well. Still, at the end of the day, putting all of that out on the table provided even more of a therapeutic effect than I had originally expected.

You see, I'm the type of person that needs to feel things.

We all have our own ways of coping with challenges and bad feelings. Some of us run from them, some of us mask them with humor. Me? I absorb them like a sponge. I let them creep into my whole being so that I can first feel them deeply, then spit them back out never to return again. After that they become old feelings - fulfilled feelings - and they have no business with me anymore. Kind of a weird analogy, but I think of it like the classic definition of ghosts - souls that have unfinished business, right? (Thank you, Casper, you gem of a film.) Once I let my bad feelings have their shot at simply being felt, they no longer have unfinished business and they can pass on to the other side. Like rain clouds that get heavier and heavier until eventually the bottom just opens up and everything comes flooding out. And once the cloud let's it all finally rain down, only then can it become light again. The point is, my coping mechanism is that I need to feel things in order to overcome them - sadness, frustration, fear... you name it, and I want to feel it so I can get rid of it.

And that's what yesterday's post was about. So thank you for understanding that. Thank you for allowing me to be honest, to write something that wasn't well-thought out or entertaining (not to mention something long! Sometimes you just don't know how much is on your mind until you uncork the bottle and start pouring.) Thank you for letting me be extremely vulnerable (like, trembling as I wrote the thing vulnerable) and for replying to that honesty with Facebook messages and comments, tweets and texts of love and support. To you all that went out of your way to say "chin up," your time wasn't spent in vain. Today I felt optimistic, hopeful and calm. I feel confident that soon this whole thing will be just a blip on my timeline.

I also want to say that there are those of you out there reading that are going through much worse. Whether it's a health struggle, an emotional struggle, or any struggle really, we all have things that kick us in the butt at some point. They are life's curveballs, and no matter how grave or trivial, how overwhelming or minute they might be, it doesn't matter because they are all curveballs just the same. Even the smallest of armies can win a war by catching the other side off-guard, and that's because there is great power in the element of surprise. My point is that I get it - it's a skin thing. It's not the end of the world. But the fear of the unknown can sometimes be the most paralyzing of all. And when something in life hits you so unexpectedly, it doesn't matter the circumstances, it's hard to adapt.

Either way, I just want to say thank you for making me feel that my feelings are valid, and that being upset can be okay. We all have sad days, but it's how you turn those around that defines who you are. I have a saying that some of you may recognize from earlier posts, but my personal mantra is that happiness is a choice. You can't always choose not to get knocked down, but you can certainly choose whether or not to stay down.

Today's visit to the doctor unfortunately didn't provide any definitive answers for me. But we'll keep trying and I'll keep hoping for the day (someday soon) when this isn't a worry for me anymore.

The feelings have been felt, the business has been finished, the rainclouds have been emptied.

Room has been made for some happier days ahead.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

a mystery diagnosis

Today I was sad.

I realize that most of my posts on here tend to be in the way of inspirational, quirky and happy (it is in the title after all!) which is an accurate reflection of my mood and my life a majority of the time. But I also have other days. Days where something that life has thrown my way has me down, and no matter how many of my own lessons in strength, optimism and happiness I conjure to my mind, I remain in a bit of a funk. Today is one of those days.

I'm sorry if the following is not what some of you had hoped to read today. Maybe you came here for a laugh, or a new craft, or a silly life lesson I've been fixating on. These are the things I do love to share, and I promise I will get back to them shortly. But for now, today, on my sad day, I wanted to simply share with you why I'm in a funk. I wish I could say I want to tell this story to help someone or offer something of worth, but I think truly and honestly I want to share it just to be heard - to get these negative feelings out of the way to make room for more positive ones again. So feel free to read on, or don't, but please know that I'm about to let you in on a very personal, very unflattering side of my life the past month or so. And please forgive me for being a bit of a downer. It's not a side I'm particularly fond of, but it's a side nonetheless, and hence it has a right to be heard just the same. (I will also warn you, if you'd like to keep up the notion that I am attractive or desirable in any sense of the word, stop now because after reading this post it's quite possible you may never see me as those things again.)


Some of you may have noticed my cryptic reference in another post to a topsy turvy couple of weeks I've had of late. I promise it wasn't my intention to be all "I'm angsty but I'm not going to tell you why." I honestly just didn't have the time (or the impetus) until now to sit down and write what I knew would be a very long and more serious post. The truth is I've been struggling with a very unexpected health issue for the past month, and I haven't been particularly keen on telling many people about it.

I actually started writing the long, drawn out version of this story when I realized that it doesn't really matter how I got here; it only matters that I'm here now. So I'll spare you all the details and feelings of the past month and give you the gist of it instead. (Believe it or not, the following is the extremely abridged, but still ridiculously long, tale of my last month as a case fit for Mystery Diagnosis.)

Exactly one month ago today on March 25th, I arrived home from a weekend away in West Palm Beach to find tiny, light-colored bumps covering the entire surface of my arms and legs. What I originally thought to be a simple allergic reaction soon turned into something that I knew needed professional attention when those bumps became even more abundant over the course of the next three days. When I visited my dermatologist that first time, she was stunned. "I've never seen anything like it before." (For the record, not something you want to hear your doctor say.) I was poked and prodded that first visit, but was told that in all likelihood it would be a bacterial infection - something anyone could pick up from a towel or a set of sheets. The doctor took a swab from a few of the tiny bumps and sent it away for testing. I left the office relieved and feeling like I finally had a good idea of what could be causing this freak occurrence.

Days passed and each morning I woke up to a more severe version of my condition. The bumps were not only covering the entire surface of my limbs, reaching from my ankles to my hips and from my wrists to my shoulders, but now they were beginning to itch. It was all I could do every second of the day not to scratch my skin raw. Finally I received a call from the doctor's office letting me know about my test results. I fully anticipated a simple confirmation of the suspected bacterial infection, a quick prescription for antibiotics, and bottabing, bottaboom, finally this nightmare would be over. Instead? "Miss Winegeart, we've ruled out a bacterial infection. Can you come back in today at 4pm for another look?" This was Friday the 30th. It had only been five days, but it had seemed like the longest five days of my life.

Back to the doctor's office I went. I sat in my paper gown once again being poked an prodded, surrounded by looks of bewilderment. Two more doctors from the practice were called into my exam room to give a second opinion and what did I hear? "It's like nothing I've ever seen before..." (This phrase was beginning to get a bit old.) They traded diagnoses back and forth as they walked around me, and I started to feel like the bonus question on a med school pop quiz. They reasoned through my symptoms, explaining why I seemed like "a textbook case of x, but a contradiction because of y..." I heard every explanation under the sun but finally they all seemed to agree that my symptoms appeared "consistent with" (fancy term for "we're not positive but it's close to") a viral infection. (Apparently viruses can manifest themselves in a number of different ways in our bodies - including skin. Chicken pox for example is a virus.) The suspicious part was that I exhibited no other symptoms of viral infections that are common, like a fever or sore throat. The only way to check for that would be to do a skin biopsy and send it away for testing.

I had never had a biopsy before. I hate needles, and blood, and anything remotely resembling pain, so imagine my surprise as I sat there on the exam table being told that they'd need to cut a small spot from my skin to send away to a lab somewhere. I felt terrified. And alone. And frankly just so confused as to how I got myself into this situation. I held it together long enough for them to perform the very minor procedure, and I distracted myself easily enough by cracking jokes with the nurses. They told me they would call me the second they received the results, which would be in a few days. A few days?! I left the office, headed to my car in the parking lot, and the second I put the key in my ignition, I lost it.

The flood of emotions in that moment was more than I could handle. I wanted to think it was no big deal. I wanted to act like it was just a stupid skin thing. But that's not how it felt to me - it did feel like a big deal and it didn't fee like it was stupid. It felt scary. What was wrong with me? I was frustrated that I still had no answers. I was miserable because every moment I felt compelled to scratch my now raw and irritated arms and legs. I felt helpless. I felt ugly. I felt terrified.

That night, Jason knew how down I was feeling, so we decided to stay in and watch a movie. I'll never forget that night as we both sat there on the couch with me rubbing bags of ice cold water over my arms and legs (the three different itch relief prescriptions up until that point had been ineffective), and Jason looked over at me. "Babe, it's spreading to your neck." I sprung up and ran to our hallway mirror. Sure enough, small bumps had started to appear on my neck. They were barely noticeable, but in my head all I could think about was What if it reaches my face? Every feeling I had leading up to that was only intensified. This thing, whatever it was, wasn't slowing down. I've never felt so out of control of my own body.

It never did reach my face (thank goodness) but each day it still got worse. It managed to get my stomach and my hands before the following Wednesday came along and the doctor finally called with my biopsy report. Again, I anticipated confirmation of a viral infection, a recommendation to wait it out, some prescriptions to help in the meantime, bottabing, bottaboom, back to my happy self. Or not. "Miss Winegeart, it's not a viral infection... Our report says that it is consistent with a reaction caused by an arthropod bite (arthropod is a scary word for insect, thanks Google), but the doctors here at the office have to disagree based on our assessment of the aesthetics of the bumps. The report also states that it could be caused by a drug eruption (meaning a reaction to medication.)" So based on the fact that we can't find a bite site on my body, and the fact that I literally hadn't ingested any medications leading up to the outbreak, they were telling me that they still had no idea what was causing this bizarre behavior. Another office fee, another dead end.

Luckily at that point I had called enough times for them to know just how bad things were getting with the itching. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and still halfway unconscious I would realize I had been scratching. I'd get out of bed to find that in my sleep I had scratched part of my arms and legs to the point of even drawing blood (okay, it's absolutely gross I know, but if I don't accurately express just how bad things got, I feel like I end up sounding like a big whiney baby. Or who knows, maybe that's how I sound anyway. Oh well.) To help with my symptoms, we agreed that I would take Prednisone for a period of time, a bad-mamma-jamma steroid known for its anti-inflammatory powers. This is some hard stuff, by the way, which is why they waited so long to prescribe it to me. It's so powerful in fact that you have to take graduated doses over time so you can ween your body off of it. Thankfully I didn't have any weird side effects (which I heard does happen) besides some mild jitters.

Thursday, the morning after taking the Prednisone for the first time, was the first morning in almost two weeks that I noticed any sort of improvement in my condition. Up until that point it had all been downhill. I'll never be able to describe that feeling of finally seeing hope again. (That sounded way more dramatic than I intended it to, but I swear it's true.) When you're going through something like that where every day seems worse than the one before, you start to forget what normal feels like. You lose sight of how it would feel to see your condition start going away. And when I finally experienced that moment of "this might get better," it was the happiest day. Each day I took the medication, things improved. I got to the point where I stopped thinking about it every second of every day, and I sincerely thought that these few weeks were just a freak incident that would fade into a distant memory.

My prescription for the Prednisone was for 20 days. My final dose of the pill was yesterday, and up until then things had gone almost completely back to normal (except the scars that remain on my arms and legs where the scratching got the better of me.)

So that begs the question then, why the sad day?

Two days ago while we were in the mountains on our retreat, I was washing dishes after breakfast and happened to look down at my bare legs. I instantly noticed that there appeared to be white blotches on my legs. These were the same white blotches that turned into bumps back on March 25th. Instant panic set in. I called my mom immediately (because I may be 23-years-old, but when something like this happens to you, nobody knows how to make you feel better like your mother.) She assured me that the second I got back home, we'd find a second doctor and get blood work done to get to the bottom of this mystery. Her confidence was reassuring, but I couldn't get over the heart break of seeing those familiar blotches back on my legs. I did my very best to keep calm, and over the course of a few hours, the blotches went away. Maybe I overreacted, I thought. Maybe I'm just so scared of it coming back that I'm starting to see things. 

Then today. This morning I woke up to bumps on the backs of my knees. The itching has returned too, though not as bad as it was before. My mom managed to get an appointment with one of the best dermatologists in town and tomorrow morning I wake up to go there and see if they can help me find out what's going on in this body of mine. Even though I thoroughly hate the thought of needles, I know it's what needs to be done in order to determine the underlying cause for all this madness. Still, I spent the entire day teetering on the verge of tears just thinking of what might happen if this issue flares up badly again. My brain instantly goes back to the misery I felt for those two weeks, and I want desperately to avoid that feeling again.

There are a ton of things I have learned from this process - ones I hope to share at a later date when I can look at this entire situation in a much more objective light - but there is one thing that has stuck out to me since the very beginning when this all started. You never know how much you appreciate your health until you don't have it anymore.

I don't know what this thing is yet and I don't know where it came from. I do know that it hasn't gone away, and that part scares me. Tomorrow I hope to wake up feeling like I'm on top of this whole thing, confident like my mom was on the phone when I called this weekend. "We will find out what this is. We will figure out how to make it go away." I want desperately to feel that way tomorrow. But for now, I'm just sad. Sad that it's back, and sad that this unpredictable and inconvenient thing has gotten the better of me momentarily.

Thanks for bearing with me through this downer of a post, but I just had to get the whole thing out on paper so that maybe it won't clog up my head anymore. I hope I can stay strong, and I hope most of all that this whole thing turns out to be nothing, because I must say, more than anything, I really hate sad days.

Monday, April 23, 2012

practicing patience

I like to think of travel as an extraordinary lesson in patience. Every moment seems to present an opportunity to either keep your cool or absolutely lose your marbles on a lady in a turtleneck and a drink cart.

I have finally arrived home from what seems like a long day of travel, even though in truth it was only two short one-hour flights. It doesn't matter how short the trips are, spending time in airports has this uncanny ability to make me feel like I've shaved years off my life. Nowhere else do I feel constantly confronted with situations that test my every last nerve, and so today as I felt my anxiety reach those familiar high levels, I couldn't help but think about patience.

It's funny because patience is one rare quality where we have complete and total control over whether we possess it. While some people seem to throw it around like it's some genetic predisposition ("I'm just an impatient person..."), the undeniable truth is that patience is something you simply care enough to exhibit or you don't.

It is the act of practicing self-control. Can I control my urge to hop across these twelve plane seats and yank that person's carry-on from the overhead bin since it seems to be causing them so much darn trouble? Can I control my need to step behind the ticket scanner and replace what must be the world's slowest gate agent? It's all about control.

When we were at the Asheville airport waiting on our flight out, we had the opportunity to catch an earlier flight from the one we booked but it would cost $50 each (we were traveling with five of us.) Instead of paying the fee, we decided to take the originally planned later flight, despite the fact that some of us (including me) had a tight 45-minute connection in Atlanta. About five minutes after the earlier flight took off, Delta alerted us that our flight would now be 30 minutes late (obviously making our connection seem darn near impossible.) If we missed our Atlanta flight, at least there was one more later flight into Jacksonville, but it would cause us to get home at around midnight. Midnight?!

My first instinct was complete dread. My couple-hour travel time would then become an eight-hour trip, plus we were so close to getting on that earlier plane. After a solid five minutes of sulking, I realized that our fate wasn't even set in stone yet and I was already making things more miserable for myself. We would still have a small window of time to dart to our Atlanta connection, which is certainly better than no window at all. So instead of slipping into a full-on travel meltdown, I just kept trying to keep my eye on the possibility our plans would stay in tact.

Now, you want to talk about patience... there is NOTHING more nerve-wracking than trying to remain calm when you know you have to rush to catch a flight. Suddenly it's like the rest of the world is moving in slow motion, covered in molasses, with their feet sinking into concrete. Trying to get off the plane in Atlanta was of course completely disorganized and far more difficult than it needed to be (by the way, have we not discovered a more efficient way to exit aircrafts? I mean, really.) Still, I tried with each fiber of my being to breathe through each moment and control my inner impatience. Was it really going to get me there any faster if I stared down the person holding up the line off the plane? Or if I acted snappy and short to the people around me for not walking fast enough? No. The only thing it would do was raise my own blood pressure and make my travel experience less enjoyable. If we made it, we made it, and if we didn't, we didn't. I just didn't want to be a raging b-word in the process.

As it turned out, our pilot clearly wanted to make up some ground because we got in about 15 minutes earlier than we had originally anticipated. We had to do a good amount of speed-walking through the airport (I avoid running through the airport until absolutely necessary because if you've ever seen someone run through the airport they look absolutely silly and I refuse to expose myself to such ridicule) but we made it to our gate in time. We boarded the plane with time to spare and as I sat down in our spacious exit row seat (the benefit of traveling with a 6'5" guy - he'll do whatever it takes for that extra leg room) I smiled at myself for being mindful of my own patience. I felt pretty darn good about how I handled things, and it was a great reminder for future encounters (not just travel-related) that simply being mindful of a stressful situation can help you exercise more patience.

I kept my cool today and made it home with blog-writing time to spare. Score one for me on the karma scale.

Whether it's holding your tongue with someone that gets on your nerves, not giving up when a task gets too hard, or preventing yourself from running over an old lady with your suitcase in an airport, remember that patience is just the act of practicing self-control.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

facing fears

One thing you need to know about me before proceeding: I'm a huge fraidy cat.

It's one of those things I've always just accepted about myself even though I also acknowledge the fact that it's not a particularly attractive quality. (I mean, let's be honest, adventurous and fearless? That's sexy. An encyclopedia of worst-case scenarios? Not so much.)

I think I may have inherited this trait from my darling mother who, bless her heart, has spent every waking moment since I arrived trying to protect me from anything and everything terrible in the world. The woman has seen enough episodes of 20/20, Dateline NBC, and "It Could Happen To You" specials to convince herself that it could, in fact, happen to me, so really you can't ever be too careful. (Let it be stated that I love my mother for this not only because it means the world to me that she cares enough to want to keep me from harm's way, but because it is a quirk that is undeniably her and I find it adorable that she worries so much. She is truly the best mom a girl could hope for.) But seriously though, she may or may not have bought me a hammer that I keep under my driver's seat "just in case I ever accidentally find myself submerged in a large body of water and have to knock a window out." I also own pepper spray and get literal heart palpitations when Jason drives over the speed limit. Like I said, big whopping fraidy cat.

The thing is though, while I don't mind the fact that I just want to be safe and smart in certain situations, I don't want to let this whole worry and fear thing to prevent me from having really awesome experiences. I hate flying, but I continue to fight through every flight because I don't want it to keep me from traveling. I'm afraid of heights, but if I wouldn't want it to hold me back from hiking a beautiful mountain. And so when Jason told me we would be white water rafting as a part of our retreat, I'm not going to lie, complete and utter fear set in.

I know it's silly. I know plenty of people have white water rafted - children, for pete's sake, white water raft - but the thought of falling out into freezing cold water and being pulled under a rapid is terrifying. Still, it was one of those experiences I knew I would never forget, and so I decided I wouldn't let my fear take over. Instead of embracing the fear, I instead decided to embrace the excitement of trying something new. I thought I'd kind of make it a challenge to myself to see how strong I could be in attacking this activity head on. Instead of back down, I'd step up to the task, listen to everything our guide said, and paddle as strong and as hard as I could. (Sidenote: I hate to keep bringing it back to Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, but I just find it so helpful in providing small and actionable strategies for tackling real situations. She talks about something called reframing, which basically means shifting your focus and emotions in a situation. For example, instead of dreading a birthday party you have to plan because you know it will be exhausting and time-consuming, look at it as an opportunity to be creative. This simple reframing technique allows you to enjoy the task more. That's what I tried to do with the rafting - turn fear into an opportunity to challenge my strength. Side sidenote: I swear that woman does not pay me for these sweeping endorsements. But maybe she should...)

Once we got to the rafting outpost, stuffed ourselves into the ridiculously tight wetsuits (picture Spanx on steroids. Well, maybe don't picture it because I assure you it was not pretty...) and life jackets, I started to feel the fear a bit more. This is really happening, I thought. I'm really going to do this. I did my best not to make this fear known to the rest of our group, but as one of the guides went over all of the safety techniques and the things you have to remember if you fall out of the raft, I started to panic a little. "In the event that you fall out of the raft..." Ohmygod, that is really a thing. People really fall out of the rafts and have to be saved... did he just say jagged rocks and bruises? Did he just say drown?!

I did my absolute best to keep my worst-case scenarios to a minimum, but I'm not going to lie, there were a few times that the hazy image of me helplessly floating down the river, paralyzed from the freezing cold water crept into my head. Every time that happened I just thought to myself, I am going to be the best damn paddler these people have ever seen. (Then, I would chuckle to myself because the very statement and fact that I was saying it to myself seemed ridiculous. This little cycle of fear, reassurance, and inner chuckling lasted quite a while which ended up being the perfect distraction.)

After the safety lesson, we rode over on a bus to the riverbank where we would get into our rafts. We split up into two groups: Bimini, Sarah, Heather and DeAndre, and Jason, Sean and myself. (I will be completely honest, I think I inadvertently rigged the teams. I may have tugged Jason aside and casually mentioned that if he wasn't in my boat, there would be a 78% chance I would pee my wetsuit. Like I said, fraidy cat NOT an attractive quality.)

At the riverbank we were introduced to our river guide, Matt, and I couldn't help but size up the person that would have to save my life in a dire situation. He was the last guide to show up, but I knew I immediately liked him when he quickly threw on his shirt in a hurry and apologized for the Thomas the Train stickers all over it. "My son's stickers, sorry..." I mean, how cute is that? He looked about in his mid-twenties, but there was something extremely comforting to me about the fact that he had a son. People that have children know what it's like to live for someone other than themselves and protect them at all costs (like my mom) and in my book, that's the guy I want responsible for my safety.

We were the last group to put our raft on the river, and as we carried it down I heard Matt ask, "So have any of you ever white water rafted before?" Jason and Sean both said they had, and Matt replied with something like "Oh perfect, this is going to fun. I can tell you guys are a group I can try some things with." TRY THINGS?! I hardly think this is the time to TRY things. I haven't been rafting! Me, little me over here that looks very uncertain. What if I don't want to try things?! That was what I was thinking, but somehow what I said was, "Let's do it."

What ensued was probably one of the top five most fun things I've ever done in my life. The second I got on the water, all of my fear seemed to leave me. Maybe part of it was being with three big guys (one of which I knew would at the very least have to save me because my mother would personally hunt him down if I perished in a tragic rafting accident), but I think it was just the fact that at that point I had no choice but to have a good time. There was no turning back, so from the second we set out I was determined to make the most of every moment.

It was perfect. We would go through a rough patch of rapids and I just told myself that my only job was to follow every word that Matt said and I knew we'd be okay. I was sitting directly behind Jason, which made me feel oddly protected. During the calm parts I would look up and I could see gargantuan mountains with peaks hidden by cloud mist. The water may have been cold as ice, but it was clear as glass too. It couldn't have been more enjoyable. Matt took us down hidden, secluded river paths and had us spinning around rapids. It was so exhilarating, and with every stroke I really did feel strong. Matt would say, "I'm not used to having a group with this much power," which was clearly in reference to the two burly men I was sharing the boat with, but I obviously interpreted it to be specifically directed toward me. Why, thank you, Matt - no, I've actually never been rafting before, can you believe it? It also helped that the entire time we were cracking jokes. I find that any situation filled with anxiety for me can be mitigated with humor. Amen for that.

When it was all said and done, the smile on my face couldn't have been bigger. I didn't fall into the rapids (thank god), and even though I was freezing my buns off, I swear I could've done the entire thing over again. I know I'm a big fraidy cat, but I'm glad that my mom also instilled in me the importance of enjoying life and taking in experiences. I honestly can't wait for the next time that I can go white water rafting, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to do something outside of my comfort zone.

And with that, please enjoy these flattering photos of me in a parka.

Friday, April 20, 2012

spring retreat begins

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before or not, but this weekend the entire IWearYourShirt team is headed to our annual Spring Retreat. Since we all work in different cities, it's a chance to come together and recharge (but mostly just think of ridiculous video ideas and develop inexplicable inside jokes that will be brought up for months to come.) This year we're staying at Hidden Creek Cabins in the Smokey Mountains. I've been looking forward to this trip immensely, partly because I adore the mountains of North Carolina (I grew up driving to North Carolina almost every summer or fall with my family), and partly because we have an amazingly eclectic team that makes me laugh so hard I want to pee my pants.

I do want to make this post short because a) I've been up since 4am (who knows what I'm capable of writing this far into my sleep deprivation) and b) out of complete selfishness because I'm literally plucking away at my keys in the upstairs bedroom of our cabin while everyone is hanging out in the hot tub and playing games downstairs and I have deeply rooted social separation issues which constantly make me feel like I'm missing out on the MOST FUN EVER if I'm isolated from a group. Yes, I know, I should probably seek professional help.

Instead of regale you with tales from my travel day (this would likely consist of my harsh, if not good-humored judgment of people at the airport for their complicated baby-toting apparati and the prevalence of women traveling in 5-inch high heels), I decided I'll just share my favorite photos I took throughout the day of our place and Bryson City, the town nearby.

I have to say that while I spent the afternoon on the porch, eating fresh guacamole, drinking a refreshing Carona and taking in the gorgeous mountain view, it occurred to me just how lucky I am to have the job I do and the freedom to have fun with people that make me laugh.

I'm looking forward to the weekend ahead, and can't wait to give you guys some updates of the hilarity that is sure to ensue - especially because we have a nice little outdoorsy adventure planned tomorrow morning that will no doubt provide me with some fun tales to tell. I'm already developing anxiety, which is a sign of great stories to come.

Hope you're all enjoying your Friday evenings. Talk soon.

Fresh guacamole. Is there anything better?

Find your beach. 

Old railroad car in downtown Bryson City

Happy Jasol.

Slightly ominous sky, but beautiful nonetheless.

Mmmmm... off diet. YUM.
Doesn't do the view justice, but I tried.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

pancakes and play time

I'm back in action, ya'll. Back. In. Action. You might be able so slow me down with a little self-doubt and an apocalyptically terrible migraine, but you can't stop me! Today I woke up feeling refreshed, energized and motivated. Don't you just love when that happens?

So unfortunately for those of you that enjoyed the brief appearance of my brooding, sardonic self, she has now been replaced with the ever-optimistic if not painfully cheerful side of me. (Fear not, she'll be back. Some old lady will cut me off in a parking lot or I'll find myself in the shower realizing all the towels are in the wash and, BOOM! out she comes.)

By breakfast time I had already started three different posts that popped into my head. I'm not going to lie, this may have had something to do with the fact that Jason decided to make pancakes this morning. How am I NOT going to have a good day when it's pancake day? Oh lord do I love when Jason decides to make pancakes. Once every two weeks or so he'll wake up and I'll say, What do you want for breakfast? all sluggish and tired-like because I'm expecting it to be one of of our two classic go-tos: eggs/turkey bacon (the occasional spinach and ham scrambled in if I'm feeling spicy) OR the ever-exhilarating oatmeal (I like to add chia seeds and peanut butter - Yeah, I know, REBEL.) Instead of my predicted responses, however, I see his face light up and with a smile he says, How about pancakes? YES! PANCAKE DAY! My face typically then looks something like this:

Plax's Beach Day face = My Pancake Day face
Now that I think about it, next time I'm feeling in a rut I'm just going to declare it a magical pancake day because I really do think it's one of the little known secrets to happiness. (By the way, these aren't just any pancakes, they are vegan pancakes that are still unbelievably delicious while not being terrible for you. This makes them magical in my book.)

Chef Jason has a sense of humor. What's better than pancakes? Happy pancakes.

All this excitement from pancake day got me thinking about mornings in general. While I've established that I'm a terrible shell of a human in the morning hours, I realized something as we got out of bed this morning. I think our relationship is in its purest, most wonderful form first thing in the morning and last thing before we go to bed each night. These are by far my most cherished moments of being together, and not for any of the most obvious reasons.

You see, almost every single morning we both wake up at the same time. My alarm goes off, I hit snooze, and we both roll around with a very cuddly little Plaxico trying to squeeze in one last half hour before we actually have to get up. I purposefully leave the blinds in our bedroom open when we go to sleep at night (weird, I know, but our house is incredibly secluded and luckily we live in a very safe, if not very senile, gated neighborhood.) I do it though because I love waking up to the sunlight filling our bedroom. When the three of us finally open our eyes, the whole room is glowing. (Yes, three of us... Plax may or may not sleep in our bed. That too is a topic for another blog post, but for now I beg you not to judge our parenting.) I find that it's easier to wake up when the room is bright, and the day seems so full of possibility.

And with that possibility comes laughter.

Every morning it's something different - a joke, a made up song, a vivid description of one of our ridiculous dreams - but most days start off with an amazing laugh. This morning it started when I sprung out of bed with excitement once the pancake day announcement had been made. Perhaps it was that elation mixed with my utter goofiness in the morning (I take only partial credit for this state as I can hardly be considered fully conscious until about 11 am), but for no reason at all I walked from one side of the foot of the bed to the other doing this ridiculous dance that involved gratuitous hip movements and a very catchy little diddy about pancake batter and chocolate chips. I made undeniable eye contact with Jason still laying in bed and desperately tried to contain my laughter.

Laughing hysterically, Jason very vocally expressed his repulsion by my dorky dance and insisted that I stay far away from him (a request that I took as a personal invitation to jump on him.) The problem? Jason is about twice my size and four times as strong as me, so the next ten minutes consisted of me trying through multiple strategic approaches to jump and land directly on him, resulting in his ridiculously strong man legs kicking me off the bed each time. It took approximately twenty three attempts, but through sheer determination and a carefully choreographed Plaxico-licking ambush, I hopped up and landed directly on top of him, crushing him underneath me (read: he could barely feel that I was on top of him. {read: I'm so incredibly light and dainty.}) We lay there laughing and cracking jokes and with that we finally got up to start our day. Before I even got out of my pajamas I had laughed so hard my stomach hurt (not to mention I had almost broken a sweat. Trying to crush someone is quite the work out!)

Anyway, so why should anyone care what weird and embarrassingly juvenile behavior Jason and I display in the morning?

Because I think that one key to being a happier, healthier person is finding time to play. Maybe it's wrestling with your significant other (not like that, ya sickos.) Or maybe it's singing in the morning with your kids (like Gretchen Rubin, the author of my latest book obsession The Happiness Project.) From Gretchen's findings:
"Research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life; people who have fun are twenty times more likely to feel happy."
Well, no duh. Having fun leads to being happier. Could it be any simpler?

Now, let's just get this out there, I'm no life expert and I'm certainly no relationship expert. While I know I do my fair share of writing about how grateful I am to have found an awesome partner in Jason, make no mistake about it, we go through the same things that all relationships do. We bicker, we disagree, we fail to provide the things that the other one needs. We're just two best friends trying desperately to understand the opposite sex and keep our relationship growing and improving. Neither of us is perfect and we both screw up a lot. In fact, if it were up to us, we'd say the secret to a great relationship is a mutual appreciation for bathroom humor, separate closets, and cookies. Lots of cookies. (You can see how I'm in no place of qualification to provide any real relationship advice.)

But one thing I do know to be true - we are both happier these days and our relationship has been on a great high note for the past few weeks. I credit this in part to the fact that we've been spending our mornings and evenings doing just what we did this morning: playing. Every night that Jason doesn't have to stay up late working, one of us ends up laughing so hard we cry. And it's those moments that I am so grateful to have found this person. A person to play with.

So let's recap, shall we - the secret to a great morning according to the life and relationship expert, Caroline Winegeart? Pancakes and play time. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

when migraines attack

Ladies and gentleman, in a stroke of unbelievable luck, I have developed a migraine. Like, a BAD migraine.

As a result, the tiny elves in my head that I pay to write my blog posts have unfortunately packed it in for the evening. (Those lazy asses. They must be Gen Y elves. No work ethic at all. Somebody remind me to hire better elves!)

Anyway, I promised myself I wouldn't leave you hanging, so in lieu of a proper post or really any coherent thought at all (the elves tangent being a perfect example), I'm going to attempt to distract you with adorable pictures of my fur child, Plaxico.

By the end you'll hardly even notice that I didn't write much at all. It's the blogger equivalent of a magician's sleight of hand - Look at this shiny thing over here (Plax photos) and you won't even notice me stealing your wallet (er, leaving you postless.) A winning strategy, no doubt.

(Sidenote: I openly admit that I googled the phrase "slight of hand" because I had no idea what the real word was in that phrase. Turns out it is "sleight." I did not know this word existed. Thank you, Google, for making me realize yet again I've been using idiomatic phrases with no real comprehension of the words that they're comprised of. See: "beck and call.")

And with that, I'll be spending the rest of my evening in the dark, popping ibuprofen, begging Jason to massage my temples. There will also probably be dark chocolate involved but that has little to do with my headache.

And with that, I give you... my shiny object:

I like to think of this shot as his "serious pose" in the cover spread of Doggy GQ magazine. Those piercing eyes, that casually placed paw. He's a pro. 

"No, you hang up... NO, you hang up..."

Thinking of switching up my look. Is the purple too much? 


Have your people call my people. 

Did you say... walk?

Mom, be honest, do I look like a dweeb?

What can I say, he's photogenic like his father.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

positively uninspired

I feel like I've been on an inspiration high since I started my two-week challenge, and ideas have seemed to come from every possible direction. Thank you to all of you that have left comments and sent encouraging messages about the posts you like. It honestly still baffles me that anyone would take time out of their day to read my stream-of-consciousness, but alas you keep reading and so I keep writing!

I have loved the challenge of coming up with something new that I want to share with you guys each day, and I'm learning a ton about my writing "process," which I never really had the chance to explore before (I mean, two posts a month with weeks in between is hardly conducive to falling into a rhythm.) I've also kind of enjoyed the pressure of a deadline because it doesn't allow me the time to second guess myself or scrap my posts (FYI, I do this a lot.)

Yesterday's post was a perfect example of something I would have easily trashed. Halfway through I felt like everything I was saying was leading in twelve different directions and would never find its way to the resolution I was trying to get across. And then I remembered my own advice: Everything doesn't have to be tied up in a bow. Everything doesn't have to have deeper meaning or relevance. Sometimes writing is just about getting your thoughts down on paper (er...virtual paper. You know what I mean.) That's what I did with that post, and it somehow tied itself together behind my back (so sneaky when my words do that!) I ended up getting more feedback and conversation out of yesterday's post than any I had written since the beginning of this personal challenge. I was shocked.

Self-doubt can be a terrible thing. There are times when I read other blogs or articles that people have written and I think, I wish I could write like them. I start to doubt my own style and my own abilities just because I fixate on someone else's talent. When I do that, I try to remind myself of two things: 1) I'll never be as good at being them as they are, and I'll never be as good at being them as I am at being me (you may have to read that one back again, it sounds a bit like a complicated fortune cookie.) And 2) I write first and foremost for me. Even if no one else in the world cares, every single time I read my words it's a wonder to me that they came from my mind. Sometimes I don't even know what I'm thinking or how I feel until I read it myself on a page. I have to focus on the process not the result, and be true to my own voice (which, if I had to pinpoint it, is some concoction of rambly, tangent-y, overly sentimental, dramatic, and hopefully honest.)

Anyway, tonight is a perfect example of a day where I didn't feel particularly inspired or motivated (I knew it had to happen sometime during this whole two-week challenge thing), and at first that had me scrambling to come up with a post. Without even realizing it I was doing just what I had tried to avoid by taking on this challenge. I was trying to manufacture something. So instead I decided I would simply let you all know how I'm feeling: uninspired. And even in admitting that fact I feel I have done myself a service, and probably someone else as well, who is going through the same feelings of self-doubt as I am.

I want to thank all of you that take minutes out of your days to read my stuff. Really. I can't tell you the happiness it brings me when my words resonate with another person, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and for sharing your comments. This is my creative outlet and the one side-project that I've stuck with longer than a few weeks (this is HUGE for me, as you know I have a serious, technical condition known as hobby ADD.) While I'm doing my best to remember that I write for myself before anyone else, the truth is that your feedback helps me battle my own self-doubt and keeps me doing what I love: writing. I hope some of my posts the past week have made you laugh or made you think (or both, if I might be so bold.) Here's to hoping inspiration finds me again soon so I can continue to bring you some fun glimpses into the craziness that is my life.

Thanks for being here, and as always, thanks for reading.

Found via Pinterest from Sorta Crunchy

Monday, April 16, 2012

does he dim your light?

Lately I've found myself in conversations with some close friends that are going through tough breakups. Their relationships are ending, some that have lasted for years, and it has me thinking about my own past relationships and why they may have ended.

For being so young, I think I've experienced a fair amount of serious, substantial relationships with some really great guys. I have to be completely honest with you guys, I've kind of been boy crazy since I was little. I found out what a boyfriend was in Kindergarten when the dashing JP Stevens (yep, I name names) gave me a piggyback ride during PE and I didn't have to walk from the basketball court to the monkey bars. Not a bad gig, I thought, and the rest is history.

I'm what you would call a "serial relationshipper," and while this type of woman often gets criticized for being weak or dependent, I maintain quite staunchly that there is nothing wrong with finding yourself in relationships more often than being single, if of course you ARE confident in your independence and you have a strong sense of self. Now, I certainly agree that maintaining that sense of self while always in a relationship can be challenging, but what can I say, I like a challenge. I enjoy being a partner with someone and I thrive off of situations where I have to constantly improve myself while improving with someone. Anyway, this post isn't about my psychological justifications for having serial boyfriends (though you better BELIEVE that topic will find its way back around... I'm a sucker for a great self-psychoanalysis), it's more about what I've learned from being that way.

Ask any of my friends what my "type" is and they will undoubtedly laugh at you. Why? Because I have literally run the gamut. My ex-boyfriends are a cast of characters that could literally fit the bill for a hilarious reality TV show. The free-spirited surfer, the goofy go-getter, the cultured musician, the sarcastic law student...(picked to live in a house, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real. Yeah you know how it goes...) But honestly each one of them has represented a different side of me and appealed to me for that very reason. Some of those relationships were healthy and ended because it was time to move on, and others were volatile or simply inhibitive to my own personal growth. With each relationship (all of them lasting close to a year, some a bit longer) I did my best to take what was good and right and positive about each dynamic and keep searching for that. All that wasn't good and right and positive I made myself aware of and promised to never settle for that again. I told myself that that is how I'd arrive at the perfect person for me (not to be confused with literally the perfect person, which does not exist.)

Two of these friends that are in the midst of ending these relationships have said very similar things to me, and it just happens to be one of the most important, if not THE most important, thing that I have learned in this process of scrutinizing my relationships. They both said to me in similar words - "Now that things have ended, I realize that he dimmed my light."

Back when I was dating one of the previously mentioned cast members, I hit a point a few months into our relationship where things didn't feel right. There were a million positive things about this particular relationship but as time went on I had this nagging feeling that wouldn't go away. He was a quieter guy, but I always loved that about our dynamic because I thought we were great complements to each other (in no scenario or situation have I ever been considered "quiet.") But as time went on, my upbeat, outgoing nature started to create tension between us. When we were around friends I always seemed just a little too boisterous for him. I laughed a little too hard, I enjoyed talking to strangers (abstaining from any candy they offered of course), I didn't mind it when the spotlight turned to us in conversation. These things made him incredibly uncomfortable though.

I really think you overdid it a bit, tonight... he'd say. Overdid what? I thought. I was just being myself. 

And that's when I should have known. Looking back after things were over, I thought of so many situations when I held back, bit my tongue, or filtered my personality so that I didn't make him feel uncomfortable. Over time I began to believe that there was something wrong with my personality and my humor, and those words would creep in and take hold. Eventually it started to feel like I had this weight all over me - like I was tethered to the ground. I couldn't play or laugh or tell stories at dinner without feeling judged.

When I finally ended it, I didn't really know why it had to end. I just trusted that it didn't feel right, and I wanted a future for myself that did feel right. A future relationship where I felt lighter and more... me. (Sometimes that really is all you have to go on, and I firmly believe in matters of the heart trusting your gut is the only way to be truly happy.) Then, as I was explaining things to a friend a few weeks later (as you inevitably have to do if you're a girl going through a breakup - retelling the details to each separate girlfriend, fielding questions, making official statements... it's like a heart-breaking media tour), I had an epiphany and the words just came curiously out of my mouth: "He dimmed my light."

It really is as simple as that.

He made me feel guilty and ashamed for having a bright and commanding light. Not on purpose and not maliciously in any way - he was a great guy. But still, living life as a grayer version of yourself is no way to live. I am so incredibly blessed to have learned that lesson because I carry it with me in every facet of my life. I was also glad to hear my friends say the same exact thing because it is an important thing for any woman (or anyone, in fact) to remember.

Take the things that you love and appreciate about yourself, and choose people/jobs/lives that allow you to be those things unapologetically.

Don't ever let anyone or anything dim your light.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

glorious, unwritten future

Sometimes I fixate on the future. What's my purpose? What's my path? Will I ever do something truly meaningful or amazing?

There was a time back in college when I thought I knew just how my life would go. One of the benefits and drawbacks of college is that it forces you (most people, at least) to define a course of action for yourself. Pick a major, get an internship, land a job, and voila! you have a career and therefore you have direction and purpose.

The second I graduated, something became very clear to me: being an adult can really suck sometimes. And feeling limited to one career and one path seemed to make the hope of a less-sucky adulthood diminish by the day. So I made a calculated choice to deviate from my chosen path. I would take opportunities as they came to me, whether they fit into my chosen direction or not. I would embrace the complete and utter uncertainty of my future because it would allow me to feel free to explore the many paths that life would offer me.

While the idea of a completely malleable future was a bit unsettling at first, I realized that uncertainty also means hope. If I have no clue where my job or life will take me, then it gives me the flexibility to dream of a wild, amazing future for myself filled with possibility and wonder.

I'm perfectly fine with admitting it: I have no five-year plan.

It's a big fat question mark. And while this fact makes my life a bit harder for my parents to explain to their friends when they ask about my "career," in my eyes that question mark is far more motivating and inspiring than any specific career goals could ever be.

When I fall asleep at night and dream of my future, it's always something different. I'm a writer, or an entrepreneur, or a teacher, or an artist. I'm rich, or I'm not. I'm in a comfortable home, or I'm traveling the world. The point is, my future IS only limited by my imagination. Living life feels like reading a great book and wondering the whole time how the story will end, except I'm the author.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having specific goals or knowing exactly what you want to do and the life you want to lead. I just happen to be the type of person that feels trapped by that certainty. So if you are like me and you find yourself wanting more than the path before you, just know that the world is at your disposal.

Embrace your glorious, unwritten future and live the life of your wildest dreams.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

decorate with the things you like

I feel like there's an expectation that your home is supposed to be a direct reflection of who you are. This is the place and these are the things that you've chosen to surround yourself with, so they must say a lot about the person you are, right?

I look around and I wonder all the time, Does our home really feel like 'us' when people walk in it? Does it evoke the same feelings to other people as it does to me? Could a stranger walk around in my house and get a sense of the things I like and that make me happy?

These are things I've always wanted my home to do. But when I take all those expectations and I think about decorating or improving our place, sometimes all of that can seem like a lot of pressure.

I compare it to that same feeling when you show up to class on the first day and the teacher asks, "Okay, now everyone go around the room and share one interesting fact about themselves." What?! Just one. Holy crap, I better not screw this up... Or it's the same reason that I get anxiety just thinking about the design of my blog. I'm never happy with it because it's my one solitary place on the internet, and I want it to just scream Caroline. (Maybe not scream. You'd probably prefer no one scream Caroline at you. Whisper? State? Express? Yeah, one of those will do.) Point is, it feels like the way you decorate is your one shot to tell your story when people walk into your home. (Okay, so I understand that home decor should not have such dire stakes, but hey, these are the voices in my head and if you haven't noticed already, they can be a bit... dramatic.)

Since Jason and I moved in together over a year ago, I've had this nagging desire to make our house better. More us, more inviting, more interesting. However, the problem for me is that there's no end result I'm really working toward. I don't have some inspiration picture that I'm following to a tee or a definitive vision I'm trying to realize. I just want to keep trying to make it beautiful, reflect our personalities and be a place of delight and comfort. Easier said than done.

As you may recall, I like themes. patterns. purpose. When I started decorating, I wanted so badly for it to be like all my favorite HGTV shows (Property Brothers? Color Splash? Income Property? Oh, I love them ALL) where I have this color palette and plan and inspiration board, and I simply do everything I can to make it look like that. Um... yeah... as it turns out, it doesn't quite work like that.

Unless you have buckets of money or are a trained interior designer, life is actually nothing like those shows. (Life? Not like how it's portrayed on TV? Mind-blowing, I know.) You have to prioritize, make manageable changes and see it evolve over time. That's why it's impossible to have it all look like a magazine right off the bat, as much I want it to. I realized early on (in one of my first blog posts in fact) that if I simply focus on buying/incorporating things that we both just like, then an overall look and feel will develop on its own. And I'm so happy to say that I think it has.

Things have really come a long way since I moved in. We've done several projects that you may even remember from earlier blog posts - perhaps the epic sanding battle of 2011 or my pride and joy our shadow box clock ring a bell - and through it all I've managed to care less about sticking to any one theme or aesthetic and simply decorate with things that make Jason and I happy: bold, bright colors; black and white accents; unexpected art; clean and modern lines. It's so fun that I can finally see our sense of collective style emerging, a sort of "modern quirky" as I like to describe it (Jas provides much of the modern, I predictably supply the quirky.)

We definitely have a long way to go (like, an infinite way to go, since we established that this process never truly ends), but I'm really happy with the space we've created for ourselves. There are a few nooks in particular in the house that make me smile every time I pass them (check them out below!) They are filled with funky accessories, gifts we've bought for each other, a few of my crafts, and what I think is a fun, colorful energy (like us!)

Although the whole house may not scream 'us' yet, I feel like if we focus on creating more spaces that give us the same reaction that these few do, we'll have a house full of personality in no time!

In the kitchen...

Random assortment of fun shelf accessories. IKEA wine rack. Clock with a mustache.
Fun fact: The wine cork letters were one of my first craft projects on this blog,
and in that post I talked about wanting a shelf to finally display them on. Hooray for following through! 
Coffee bean owl. What the fork? Empty bottle of double-barrel tequila from our dear friends Don and Debbie
over at TacoLu. Vintage camera print that Jason gave me for Valentine's Day this year. 
All of my actual wine bottles were too big to fit in this cool wine rack from IKEA so instead Jason and I went to World Market and simply picked out four bottles with unique/interesting labels. They make me happy, and I love the contrast between the light and dark.
Our new sharks' teeth holder - a giant mason jar. Swoon.
Above our bed...
I love the shelf above our bed. It was Jason's idea to turn this shelf sideways and hang it up there.
Each nook is like its own little cubby of whimsy to me.
Love this print and our fun little bird...
This is a crochet Plaxico doll that Jason commissioned someone on Etsy to create.
It is so darn precious it gets its own cubby.
I adore the bright teal color of these vases and love the juxtaposition of the tall and skinny
with the short and stout. When the sun pours into our bedroom they just sparkle. 
And just so you have the full picture, this is what it looked like when we first put it up
with the new bed/rug we got each other for Christmas last year.
And to give you an idea of how much personality we've been able to add...
here's right after we refinished the bedroom set.
And of course, let's not forget how far we've come. Here's how it all began right before we decided to strip down the furniture. Crazy to look back at how each small change has made it a different room!
My desk...
I love my workspace in our office upstairs. The bright colors and natural wood desk, coupled with the natural sunlight that comes through those windows (when it's not dark of course) make it an extremely pleasant place to get work done. (I usually have my laptop up there as well and use the extra monitor/keyboard as needed... which ends up being every day.)
Trying to add bits of whimsy wherever I can...
Our bookshelf...
For some reason this bookshelf makes me so happy. Maybe it's all the bright colors from the books below, or maybe it's the Calvin and Hobbes print I bought Jason for his birthday last year that I FINALLY got framed.
Whatever it is, I heart it.
Also love the awesome coffee table book that Jason's sister got him for Christmas - lots of original sketches of classic automobiles. Since Jason is such a car buff it's fun to see one of his interests so prominently on display.

Do you feel any of the same pressure I do to make your place express you? Do you have any favorite spaces that seem to make you smile?