How To Deal with Your Confusing, Undefined, Non-Relationship

Ah, friends with benefits. The "No Labels" relationship. The "let's hang out and see what happens" relationship. The confusing relationship that is defined only by the fact that it is undefined. It is the dating equivalent of being trapped in quicksand - the more you try to clarify the more confusing it gets, and the more you fuss the further you sink. 

Not that you haven't tried to define it. Oh, but you have. You've attempted many "what are we" conversations, which all led nowhere. It gets tiring, they get annoyed. So, you convince yourself you don't have that many feelings actually, and decide you’ll play it cool, let it ride out. But deep inside, you hope that one day they will see the light and it will become something real.

But that day never comes.

Your heart is torn to shreds, your confidence is at an all-time low, and you have turned into a version of yourself you barely recognize. 

These non-relationship-relationships have the ability to cause the most heart-wrenching heartbreak and the worst part? You end up feeling silly because you were never really with them, were you? You're embarrassed to tell your friends about your non-breakup with your non-boyfriend they never really got around to liking. You feel you can't really be upset about the situation because it's not even a real situation. 

I've been there. We never really dated, but the pain was more than real. We spent a great deal of time together, went through difficult things together, had mutual friends, the whole nine. It ultimately led us down a path of finding comfort in each other it, and I found myself trapped in a “situationship”. Sometimes external circumstances work to push two people together in a way that bonds then, and if one develops feelings, it’s the perfect recipe for heartache.

I will never forget the day I realized our “non-relationship” was coming to an end; that we wouldn't talk every day anymore, and that one day I’d have to face seeing him with someone else. I began to feel crazy -  what kind of person can feel so strongly for someone who doesn't feel the same way towards them? The truth is, it happens all the time. 

I learned a few things through navigating my undefined, no-labels, non-relationship, so I will share my wisdom:

They never have a clear cut ending.

Most of the time these relationships just fade, and you will spend your days wondering if maybe you gave up too soon. The ending will be as undefined and organic as the beginning - it will likely end over time, and there will never be complete closure. You can't hope to have breakup answers when you never had relationship answers. 

The pain is also undefined.

You’re stuck dealing with a broken heart that you can’t explain, you can’t talk to that person about it because you will fear they will dismiss it and say it wasn’t even real, and you can't vent to your friends because they never accepted this person into their circle as a real possibility. You will feel alone, and that's okay. Taking time to process through what led you down this path will help you not repeat the same mistakes in the future, and avoid other undefined and painful relationships. 

The only way to heal is cutting off contact.

If you know that you can’t handle the uncertainty, get out as soon as you realize you have deeper feelings. Cut off contact because they will only grow as you spend time together. There is no way around this. If you think you can handle being friends with them after, just remember how you thought you could handle not knowing what you meant to each other and how that turned out. This is the time to protect yourself and walk away. 

Consider their side.

Sure, you have a lot of feelings. But maybe they do too. Stop and think what this situation might be like for them -  maybe they are taking advantage of you, but maybe they are also scared of what “could be”. It’s possible that they don’t know how to talk about their feelings, that they are afraid you don’t feel the same, or that they simply don’t have the words to define the situation, so they don’t. More often than not, you’re not the only one confused. 

Let your guard down.

Letting our guard down is scary, because it feels too vulnerable. But life begins at the end of emotional self-defense: when we guard ourselves and our feelings so much that we would rather miss out on a whole realm of experiences life has to offer than to be hurt, are we really living? In vulnerability lies the door for a full and fulfilling life, filled with beautiful moments and no regrets. 

Advocate for yourself.

Like in your career, when you find yourself in an undefined, confusing non-relationship, the best thing you can do is advocate for yourself. Be honest, brave, and speak up for yourself. If you feel you are being taken advantage of, not being considered equally, you have every right to speak up. You (and your feelings) are just as important as the other person’s, and you must be willing to say what you feel out loud. And then, if things don’t turn out the way you hoped, you must be brave enough to know your worth, and put action behind it by walking away. 

Forgive them, then forgive yourself.

Forgiving the person who has strung you along and hurt you along the way is difficult, but it pales in comparison to how hard it can be to forgive yourself. You will be tempted to spend hours upon hours dissecting where you went wrong, what you could have done differently, and if it was your fault it all went up in flames. Stop. Wrap that chapter of your life up with a bow and put it away. Write it all on a piece of paper and throw it to the wind. Put a message in a bottle. Whatever you need to do to let it go, do it today. Take the lessons learned, know that you were vulnerable, honest, brave, and compassionate, and that is all anyone can expect of themselves. 

MORE ON MILLENNIALS:

Designer Spotlight: This Eclectic Home Tour Will Give You Major Print Envy

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Spotlight |  Suzanna Santostefano

 

AUSTIN, TEXAS

We love to share interior design and home tours that inspire us, and when we first came across this eclectic Austin home, we knew we wanted to feature it. Meet designer Suzanna Santostefano - she and her husband made the home their own by building some of the furniture themselves and incorporating recycled elements, along with color and texture to create a home that inspires and welcomes those who live in it - coincidentally, the designer's motto. We hope you enjoy her unique home as much as we do

1. My Style: Eclectic, comfortable, a maximalist minimalist.

2. Inspiration: I am most inspired by landscape architecture and architecture. It definitely informs how I see an interior space.

3. Favorite Items: Rugs, textiles, wooden chest my parents brought back from S. Korea in the 80’s

4. Favorite Stores to Shop: Craigslist, and for wall art I like custom art pieces done by my husband and friends. 

5. Biggest Challenge: Working with a long, narrow living room.

6. What Friends Say When They First Walk In: The home is so relaxing and they love our unique style.

7. Proudest Design Project: The shared kids bedroom because I created a very functional space that everyone loves to be in, and the vision I had for the room came to life seamlessly. 

8. Favorite Room To Enjoy and Why: The most used room in the house is our kitchen/dining room. We entertain a lot and this is where everyone gathers. We have double French doors that open it all up to the backyard and our deck that acts like a second dining room. I love how everyone spills out of the house into the backyard - which if it was considered a room would be my favorite!

9. Biggest Indulgence: Always rugs.

10. My Best Decorating Advice Is: Make your home comfortable and livable. If you’re stuck and not sure what to do, hire someone that can help guide you. It’s worth it to make your home a place you love to be.

Photo credit: Andrea Calo 

You can connect with Suzanna through her Instagram and Pinterest!

Also be sure to visit her website to check out her other projects. 


10 Simple Ways To Turn A Crappy Day Around

Coffee with girlfriends ways to make your day better

source

It’s only 2pm and you're already on your fourth cup of joe. There's a stack of papers a mile high you have to take care of before going home, there are plans tonight you don't know if you can keep, and that nagging headache isn't going away. Your coworker asks for help with a simple task and you snap. You throw your head down on your desk feeling defeated and wonder: "Will this day ever end??"

About 50% of our happiness is directly influenced by the things we deliberately do to make ourselves happy. That means good news for all of us: we have the power of turning a bad day around. Next time you have a hellish day at work or need a pick-me-up in the middle of a slow afternoon, try one of these proven tips to instantly lift your mood and make your day better. 

Get some Vitamin D.

If you can, take your lunch break outside.  Sit in a sunny spot and sip your drink with your eyes closed. Soak in the rays and absorb some Vitamin D, feel the warmth on your skin and meditate on what you are grateful for - it is healthy for your body, and proven to naturally lift your mood. 

Stop and smell the roses. 

We mean literally, stop and smell the roses. Fresh flowers are an easy way to brighten your day or week and put you in a good mood- especially on a cold, gloomy day when sun is not an option. Go to your local Farmer's Market and pick up a bouquet of flowers for your home or work space, or grab a latte and stroll through your neighborhood nursery - studies show that plants help lower anxiety and calm your nervous system.  

Put your phone down.

Take a break from social media for at least one hour per day and focus on being fully present in whatever you are doing. Give your 100% full attention to your family or friends and engage in a real face-to-face, uninterrupted conversation. Social media can trigger anxiety and depression, and if your day is already going downhill, try to avoid any additional stress until you are fully recovered. 

Have sex.

You heard me. Get busy. It will bring you and your partner closer and will leave you feeling less stressed. Physical intimacy releases the "feel good" hormones in our brain and studies show that regardless of the activity, the process of deep connection with another human being increases happiness levels. You're also not likely to be distracted by other issues, allowing yourself to be fully in the moment, another plus. 

Put it on paper.

Free your mind of the constant thoughts and ideas running through your mind. Journaling is said to be therapeutic and can even help decrease anxiety. If you like to draw, pick up a coloring book and pencils and get those creative juices flowing. This exercise helps to tune out the noise around you and centering yourself, which helps develop self awareness and self love. 

Unplug.

Free up some time in your busy schedule for YOU. Try and aim for at least 15 minutes of alone time everyday. Take the time sip your coffee out on your deck in the morning or to take a bath at the end of the night. Whatever it is, try to squeeze in time for you. You need to unwind, relax your muscles, and mentally decompress. 

Breathe in some fresh air.

My grandfather always told me to get out and breathe in the fresh air. But seriously, have you ever went outside and actually breathed in the air deep into your lungs? It feels great and you can actually feel the oxygen rushing throughout your body. It can also help relieve any built up stress or tension from your day.

Break a sweat.

We make every excuse in the world to not get to the gym, but it is known to actually make us more productive and energetic. Try designating (at least) a half hour a day to working out - get that blood moving and heart pumping. Don’t have a gym membership? Get outside. Lace up those Nike's and take yourself on a walk, a jog, or stretch out your yoga mat. The first step is the hardest, but just trust that you will feel much more energized and ready to conquer your day once you take the first step and get moving.

Listen to your favorite song on full blast

Try unwinding from your busy day by listening to some of your favorite songs. Plug in those headphones during your lunch break and simply get lost in the melodies of the music. The music will help to keep your mind off things and give you a small break from reality. 

Get inspired.

Come up with one inspirational quote every Sunday that is meant to motivate you that week. You can keep it posted on a letter board like I do at home, or you can simply write it down on a sticky note and put it in your car or on the mirror at home. Wherever it is, just keep it where you will see it and let it serve as a daily reminder and source of encouragement.


How to Set New Goals And Achieve Them in 21 Days

Source: Francesca's

Source: Francesca's

Every year, millions of people make resolutions on December 31st, and promise a better self for the new year. But who says you must begin bettering your life when the ball drops? Starting resolutions in the New Year puts unnecessary pressure on ourselves that ultimately pushes us to fail before we have had a chance to really begin. 

Studies show that it takes about 3 weeks or 21 days to either create a new habit or break an old one. We all have one or two goals in mind, and this Summer is the perfect opportunity to get your life in order and make some real improvements. 21 days is all you need, and with these baby steps, you can be a whole new you by Summer's end. 

1. Get organized

This is something most of us can use a little help with. Less is more. Let go of the clutter weighing you down. Keep what makes you happy and give the rest to charity. Get a cute planner and write down your activities. Whatever being organized looks like to you, get it done. You will feel so much lighter and peaceful. Start by setting a time window to do tasks A, B, and C each Monday, and increase it every day until day 21. 

2. Start writing in a journal

Again with the cute accessories. Buy a journal that makes you happy when you look at it and begin writing in it. Maybe start with once a week, and then build up to it. Writing your feelings down, whether happy or sad, will allow you to get out what's on your mind. Or maybe you can use it to write down fun memories you have with your spouse, kids, or friends. My husband and I do this with our kids and it's one of our favorite little rituals. The best way to form this new habit is to not expect to write one thousand words on your first day - write a sentence on how you feel about the day, and leave it at that. Over time you will naturally want to write longer entries. 

3. Go see your doctor on the regular

This is one I need to take my own advice on. As women and mothers we totally let ourselves fall to the bottom of the list. Of course our children need all of their well-checks, and our husbands are forced to go by us, but who forces us to go? And not just your "lady" doctor, but your family physician as well. Get your physicals so you can feel confident knowing that you are healthy. 

4. Learn useful skills or hobbies

Have you always wanted to learn piano or guitar? Do you find monotony in cooking the same things each week? Maybe crocheting always looked fun. Whatever has been on the back burner, turn it up to full blast and try it out. Even if it's only for 20 minutes a week, but do it every week. Start by using one of the windows of time you set aside for each Monday and cross it off the list for the week. Dedicate some time to whatever you choose, and dive in. 

5. Learn a new language

Not only will it make you sound super cool to say you know a new language, but it will look great on your resume. It will help you improve your communication skills and get parts of your brain moving in ways they maybe haven't since college. There are lots of free ways out there now to learn as well, so you cannot use money as an excuse! If you can commit 3 weeks to this, your brain will begin to crave the new knowledge and it will become much easier over time. 

6. Get a calendar and use it for important dates

Keeping on the theme of organization, it won't hurt to stop forgetting your families birthdays and anniversaries. This one was made for me because unlike my super-on-top-of-things-sister, I am a train wreck. I forget everyone's birthday unless I actually birthed them.  I am horrible at sending cards and it never fails that I remember someone's birthday the next day. You can do it on your phone, or maybe you are blessed and can just remember things very well. Either way, think how good it feels on your special day to have warm wishes sent your way. Taking time out of your busy life to remember someone else is never a bad thing, and soon it will become second nature to write a quick card and pop it in the mail. 

7. Plan an annual girls trip

Each and every year come fall, I gather with some of my favorite ladies. We all live in different states so while we can communicate by phone, that's not quite the same. Our husbands and parents watch our kids, we rent a cabin, and have the best time ever. Everyone always asks me what we do and I'm sorry I'm sworn to secrecy. But really, we each make different foods for the meals, and we talk. A lot. We have a years' worth to catch up on! Though this is not really a daily habit, it should be something you make a priority for the year for the sake of your mental health and overall self. It doesn't have to cost a lot, but making yourself a priority in this way will help improve and put into perspective the other aspects of your life. You spend all year going through the grind of life, you deserve and need a break. 

Whatever you choose to commit yourself to to better your life, make it realistic and attainable. Remember it will be hard to stay motivated, so tell a friend tell them what your goals are as you will be more likely to stick with it if someone is checking in periodically. And if nothing else, say yes to the girls' weekend. 
 


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Why Your Kid Needs A Mental Health Day, Too

It is the Monday-iest Tuesday ever. I heard that somewhere before, and it just couldn’t be more true. My flock and I woke up with the need for it to be Friday. Is that even possible? We are just stepping our toes into the beginning of the week, and already I needed a break. We all needed a break.

All three of my kids wanted pizza for breakfast, and you know what, I was too tired to cook, so that’s what they had. Left over pizza. I know, I’m NOT winning "Mother of The Year" over here anytime soon. To make matters worse, we have a freshly stocked pantry and fridge. Maybe I’ll cut up apple slices and throw them on top for good measure. Eh, there’s always tomorrow right?

We sat down for school (we are homeschooling family) and I will not lie to you, it was 3 PM, and we were all in our pj’s. I am a lover of schedules, as I’m sure a lot of mamas are. If I have no schedule, my life slowly crumbles around me. Our normal day starts after breakfast. As I sat there about to start our first lesson, I looked at my kids through my tired, puffy, coffee-needing eyes. Two were wrestling over one of my birch logs, and the other with the sweetest face saying “ I’m ready mama, I’m listening, even if I don’t want to! “ as she is upside down, doing a handstand.

Laughing and shaking my head I was reminded of when I was little and I myself did not want to go to school. There were days my mom would let me stay home if I was out of it, or she could sense I needed a relief. I recall a few times that on those days we would drive to the mall, or the movie store, when Blockbuster was still a thing, and we would just hang out. I don’t necessarily remember all the conversations, or even what problems were clouding my mind that I couldn’t face school. However, I do remember spending time with my mom. The fact that she could sense that about me and gave me that security and freedom, made all the difference in the world. She didn’t need to do that for me, but she did anyway. Those are some of my most favorite days.

I decided to write this day off as a mental health day. I told my kids we were “skipping” school and they looked at me like I was crazy. Instead of school, we went to the park and took a long walk. We watched movies and had hot chocolate. We just enjoyed each other. I had some of the very best conversations with my littles, and it is so amazing what they can grasp at 6, 5, and 3 years old.

As a stay-at-home mom, heck, even a mom in general, there is seemingly so much pressure on our shoulders. If we need breaks as adults, we should allow them for our children too. Here are a few reasons kids need “mental health days” too.

1.       Kids are sensitive and feel stressed out

Much like adults, our children are faced with what appears like more and more pressures. It seems like especially nowadays, we expect so much more from our children. Of course they still need to meet deadlines, study, and complete their work, but sometimes when pressures mount, they need to know they’re not alone, and that life is all about work and no balance.

2.       They are over-scheduled

While I love me a schedule, everyone in our house, including my kids, function increasingly better with less on their plates. I look back and I don’t understand how my mom did it all, running me to all my games and practices. I feel a little more pressure as a homeschooling mama from society to make sure my kids are getting socialized. Clearly, that’s my own doing. We have about 3-4 activities depending on the week at hand, and the weeks we have 4 or more, we are all rushed and cranky. It makes sense, the more your children are involved in, the more outlets they have to feel stressors in. Pick their favorites, and stick with what makes everyone happy.

3.       Peer pressure

Not only are there pressures from school work, but from fellow classmates as well. They may be fighting with their best friend, or feeling the weight from making decisions they aren’t ready to face. Allowing your child the day out of their normal environment, especially if they are feeling down, in turn provides you with a great opportunity to get to know your child better. It gives you a better chance to communicate with them and find out what is going on in their lives. Giving them a freedom day will let them know you do indeed understand what is like to be a teen. Who knows, you may even get more than a one word answer. Fingers crossed.

4.       It will build trust between you and your child

We all know how fickle teenage hormones can be. However, when your child sees you respecting their feelings and needs, they will become more honest with you in return. Whether you're aware of it or not, your child is already taking mental health days on their own. Only in their case, it is in a form of a fake sick day. That’s right, faking sick to get out of school was around long before Ferris Bueller. If you don’t allow your child a mental health day, they will lie to you and take one anyway. Ouch, that hurts me to say, even writing it out! I am not promising a magical fix, or even that your kid will never lie again, I am just saying that when a child feels understood, safe, and heard, they will be more willing to be upfront with you. Communication is key to any and every relationship.

5. It teaches them balance

It is tough as adults to find balance in our life. It seems like it is always about work, or accomplishing goals. When do we find time for "us"? It's a struggle our generation faces every day. Helping your child identify when they may need a day off from the stresses of life will help them grow into a balanced adult who will recognize the signs of overload, and know how to do a little self care. 

Though they have summers off and other holidays to recharge, stressful days don’t always present themselves when it’s convenient for the calendar. I believe we hold our kids to such unattainable levels of performance, that we forget that they are just that: kids. They feel what we feel, and aren’t even capable of determining all of their emotions since they are still growing and changing. On the flip side, if your child is asking for a mental health day every day for weeks on end, there may be a deeper issue going on to look into.

Every child is different, every family is different, and what works for one, will not work for all. If you present this day to your child as a “breather” and not as a way to retreat, you aren’t abusing it, but rather showing your child “I’m with you, I understand, and your health is more important than this task”.

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 5 Ways My Marriage Forced Me To Be More Independent

“Then two shall become one flesh.”

That biblical verse and concept is read a lot at weddings. It implies that two people – two very separate and unique individuals –really do become one, in spirit and flesh. What God has joined together, let no man separate.

Funny thing, that. 

Because when the honeymoon is over, life moves on, and reality sets in, though a couple is now together and married, they have separate lives. Still.

And believe it or not, every couple should have some separation (within their marriage) in their lives. It’s probably the healthiest thing any couple can participate in to have a right relationship.

What I’ve learned - err, was forced to learn - over the last 17 years, was that while my husband and I lean on each other for support, love, relationship, and friendship, there will come an enlightening moment in your daily life when you realize one important thing: your spouse won’t – and can’t – be everything for you.

I mean this in the best way possible. I really do.

But, your knight in shining armor will be late for dinner, he’ll forget about you sometimes. He’ll text his friend or be on the phone when you are with him after hours of not seeing him. 

Want the truth? Though he wants to be the best he can be for you, he can’t fulfill every need or lack or longing. 

That’s impossible. 

He’s a human being. Human beings have faults. Faults means disappointments. And disappointments mean rethinking everything.

Did I feel this way before I married? Did I need him to do everything for me before we met? No. So, when and why did I suddenly switch my thinking and feel I needed more from him now than I needed before we were married?

Here are a few ways to become more independent and avoid being overly co-dependent of your partner. 

Re - Examine Yourself

Arguments happen. But they’re really a good thing. They allow you to reexamine what you believe in, why the arguing is taking place, and how to resolve issues. My husband and I agree on a lot of things. We also have differing opinions on plenty. I’ve learned to keep my opinions but still appreciate his. The respect is maintained and we’re still a unit …but with opposing views. This forces my independence. Which is good! I get to believe what I believe in and I get to respect his views as much as he respects mine.

Redefine Yourself

My husband is a firefighter. This means that for roughly half the week, I’m alone. I am a single parent in EVERY sense of the word. There is no one to fix things for me, to rescue me, or to help me. He’s out. He’s unavailable and out of service and rescuing other people. I am not who I am based on him being home! Nor, am I who I am based on when he’s gone. While my role shifts, from single to married every week (which takes its toll), this is a way to learn how to be comfortable with who I am in both roles. It’s taken time to figure this out, but it’s made me a stronger and better person.

Renew Yourself

There are times when I feel very alone and it’s through no fault of anyone. It’s the nature of two people living and going through things together. Life is busy. Kids crowd out peace and intimacy. My husband’s job keeps him away from me all the time. But, as much as I could focus on that, I don’t. Instead, I take these days away from him as time for me. Time to let me watch what I want to watch! I have the remote! I cook things I want to eat that he doesn’t always like to eat when home. I let God take care of me on these days. This time away actually renews me and makes me feel more me, more independent and a stronger woman for my husband when he comes home. In the end, I realize that there’s not a whole lot bad about this arrangement.

Refine Yourself

The great thing about hardships is realizing I don’t need to depend on him for everything. And I’m actually refined because of it. His absence sharpens me. It has allowed me to get rid of all the mushy, pudgy parts of myself and force me to be stronger, leaner, braver and more… me. I’m stronger with him because there are two of us. But even without him, I can be strong. Honing in on what’s not so good about me (complaining, nagging, etc) while he’s gone makes me a super-woman when he’s home.

Remind Yourself

If there was anything that grew me up, that showed me I could still love, honor and respect my husband and also be my own woman, it was believing that my husband couldn’t solve my problems. This is probably something everyone, male or female, goes through. We are human. But, my gosh. I shouldn’t place that burden on him! We can’t all fix everything. It’s unrealistic to think my husband can solve all my problems any more than I can solve all of his. Together, we’re the strongest. But separately, we too can figure things out.

Marriage is tricky. Finding balance is what we’re all after in all areas of our lives.

I have to think of myself as an independent person, who happens to love, live and give everything to the man I married. When I’m strong by myself, I’m even stronger with him. And tell me, what man isn’t going to be attracted to that?

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A Letter To My Best Friend

Victoria's Secret

Victoria's Secret

It’s been a hard day.
Okay, it’s been a rough week.
No, actually it’s been a tough month.
Ah, screw it this just hasn’t been my year.

Dear Friend,

I know. I know it’s been hard. My lack of positivity, my negative mindset, the complaining, the crying, the silence, the stress… the list goes on. It goes without saying that I haven’t had the best year. It hasn’t been one specific thing, just a million little things that have happened & these million little things have seemingly turned me into a person I don’t necessarily enjoy. But, through it all… you’re still here and I don’t even know how to say how thankful I am for that. When things get tough, a lot of people tend to run as fast as possible. But not you.

You’re the friend who knows exactly what to say, or not to say, without me having to ask.
You’re the friend who has attempted to cheer me up more times than I could ever count.
You’re the friend that has basically done anything to help me get out of the house and out of my mind.
You’re the one that’s listened to the same story, over and over and over again.
You’re the one who has offered advice, knowing pretty darn well that I’m not going to take it.
You’re also the friend who has never said “I told you so” when I didn’t follow above mentioned advice.
You’re the one who has let me come sleep in your bed because I couldn’t stand another night alone.

You sit with me, you laugh with me, you cry with me, you empathize with me, you pick me up when I feel like my world is crashing, you remind me that this is only a phase …. But most of all, you’ve stuck with me during the worst seasons of my life and I couldn’t love you more for it.

You’re the reason that I have the tiniest bit of hope that this season of life will turn around.
You’re the reason that I haven’t packed all of my belongings and disappeared across the country.
You’re the reason that I’m able to stand on my own two feet sometimes.

It takes a strong person to stick by someone who feels so broken, someone who feels so worthless, someone who feels like they keep taking hit after hit after hit. You’ve never left my side, no matter how low things got.

The lower I got, the more you loved.
The more negativity I portrayed, the more positivity you radiated.
The more tears I cried, the more you tried to make me laugh.

You will never regret being a good friend to someone who is going through a rough time. Standing next to someone in the midst of a storm (that may feel never ending) and just holding their hand, giving them reassurance that it’s going to be okay… yeah, that is something not many people know how to do, but you do. I know it’s exhausting. You’re exhausted, I’m exhausted & we both know that my problems could be much worse. But you never say that, you just love me for who I am. Whether the me that you’re loving is the happy version or the broken version – you just love me.

Thank you for not giving up on me. You stuck by my side when others decided that it was too much to handle, because you know that this is temporary. You know me, you know that I will bounce back & when I do – I cannot wait to celebrate you and shower you with the love you’ve shown me. Thankful is not the correct word to describe you, dear friend, you deserve a word that means so much more. Because as I finally see the horizon and the storm passing, I can truly say that I would have never made it through this season of life without you.

So thank you, thank you for sticking around.


More on Friendship:

Breastfeeding 101: 10 Must-Have Items For Your Newborn Baby

Getting through the first weeks with a newborn is not easy, as any mom out there would agree, but there have been many baby items that have it made it that much more bearable for us – and I wanted to share them with you! Keep in mind that these items are not uncommon, however are certainly ‘must haves’ for the new mommy and daddy. As promised, here are my favorite recommendations thus far:

1. Medela Soft Shell bra inserts

These things were lifesavers for me. If you plan to breastfeed, these were the best recommendation I ever got. If you are breastfeeding, your nipples will get extremely sore and cracked - so sore to the point that you don’t want to wear a shirt or even shower! These shells make it a lot more tolerable. You insert them into your bra or cami and your nipple sits in a dome, so that it doesn’t touch anything. They are also great for when your milk supply comes in because it collects and catches any leakage (before your shirt gets soaked).

2.  Kimono Tees

These are for the baby. I would suggest getting a pack of 3, since you'll use them quite frequently. They open and snap in the front, instead of having to put something over the baby’s head. These are great because while the baby’s umbilical cord is drying up, you don’t need to irritate it by putting a traditional onesie on. Our baby was comfy in his kimono and we had him wear it to bed every night until his cord fell off.  

3. Breast pump

This is a must have, even if just for back up. Your breasts become so engorged the first few weeks that you may need to pump after your baby eats, just to relieve the pain you feel. Whatever you pump, make sure to freeze for later! 

4. Rock and play sleeper

This is great for when you need a break or baby needs a change of scenery. Ours rocks and vibrates, and baby sleeps very well in it. We also take it with us when we go visit family, which is great because it’s compact and lightweight.

5. Muslin Swaddle blankets

These come in so many awesome patterns and are so soft. We swaddled baby every night before went to bed for the first month or so. We found him getting the best sleep when he was swaddled. The tighter the swaddle, the better they tend to sleep - but remember, not too tight!

6. Pampers Swaddlers

These newborn diapers are amazing. They have a strip that runs down the front of the diaper that lets you know if your baby has peed or not. The strip is yellow and will turn blue when saturated with urine. It is an easy way to know when to change the diaper at a quick glance. 

7. Baby Lounger

This portable baby lounger is a God-send. We took it with us anytime we left the house to go visit friends/family. It is a pack-and-go (it folds up into a backpack for convenient travel) bassinet that is fun and engaging and keeps baby comfy and safe when you leave the house. We purchased the Lulyboo Baby Lounger To Go and love it. It is good for the first three months or until your baby outgrows it.

8. Baby mittens

You wouldn’t believe how long your babies nails can get, even right after they are born - you may even need to give your baby a manicure right when you get home like we did. Mittens are important to have on hand as babies tend to scratch their faces in their sleep or while moving around. 

9. Binky

We were very hesitant to use a binky at first, but it really helped soothe the baby when we were changing or bathing him. We don’t encourage him to use it all the time, however it is better than him sucking on his fingers. We asked our doctor and he eased our fears by saying it can help with the hiccups and reduces the risk of SIDS. If you are concerned or on the fence, check with your baby's doctor and make the right decision for your family. Also, make sure to buy the 0-6m size, which is much smaller and fits the newborn face better.

10. Micro Steam Bags

These are great, affordable sterilizing bags that you can use up to 20 times per use. You just insert water, the items you want to clean, and then microwave for 1-3 minutes depending on your microwave wattage. It’s simple and easy and makes the whole sterilizing process 10x easier!

I hope that this series has helped some of you ‘new mom-to-be’ out there. I know a lot of these items seem so obvious, but they really were lifesavers for us! I would love to hear what some of you seasoned moms have to say about products or items you think are your favorite ‘must have’ items. Make sure to leave me a comment below! 


FTC Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. 

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30 Beautiful White Houses For Every Style

Everyone loves a beautiful white house, so when we saw Architectural Digest blog article on the most beautiful white houses, we simply had to share.  Head on over to Architectural Digest to see the full article! 

Beautiful White Houses That Suit Any Style

Text by Alison Levasseur

Photo: Scott Frances

Photo: Scott Frances

Architect Arthur R. Kelly designed the 1930 half-timbered Beverly Hills, California, dwelling, christened Nine Gables; its brickwork and stucco are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hardwick White.
Photo: Mary E. Nichols

Photo: Mary E. Nichols

Actor Rob Lowe and his wife, Sheryl, looked to East Coast precedents in designing their California home. “It was inspired by the Virginia-area style,” says architect Don Nulty. Mark Rios of Rios Clementi Hale did the landscaping.
Photo: Mary E. Nichols

Photo: Mary E. Nichols

A California home by Appleton & Assoc. incorporates elements of New England vernacular architecture.
A bluestone walkway leads through the flower garden to the Greek Revival dwelling, in Millbrook, New York, which was designed by architect Peter Pennoyer and decorated by Katie Ridder.

Continue to the full article on Architectural Digest - Beautiful White Houses That Suit Any Style


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How to Make Friends When You Move to a New City 

It doesn't quite seem fair that when the moving company handed me the forms to fill out for my valuables, there was no place for me to write my friends' names down. You get to go to a brand new place, with adventures awaiting you, and you're essentially starting from scratch. All of these fun new things, and no one to share it with. In my case, I do have my gorgeous husband and beautiful kids, but starting over in general is hard. Let alone being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of three whose gorgeous husband also works crazy hours. 

I am a by nature a keep-to-myself kind of gal. This is NOT my first rodeo when it comes to moving, and it probably won't be our last. I find comfort in routine, and discomfort in putting myself out there. In order to have the kind of life I wanted for myself and my family, I knew I needed to change my way of thinking. 

If you find yourself in a new place without friends, here are a few ways to find some. 

1. Explore

What better way to be around people? I have to thank my kids for most of our friends in our new city. My husband took us all to a park that was a bit of a drive, and because we did that, my daughter met a friend there. My daughter and her friend brought both of us moms together and said " we want to have a play date, so you guys need to meet ". My now friend and I both looked at each other with awkwardness and an hour later we had exchanged numbers. She was my first friend here, and because of her I met so many other people.

Now will all of your outings end with BFF necklaces? No, probably not. But if you don't venture out, how will you ever know? 

2. Sign up for a meet up

Go online, and sign up for different meet ups in your area. Maybe it's a moms group, maybe is a homeschooling group, dance group, etc. This one was harder for me. I love talking to people, but do not thrive at introducing myself. When you sign up for something you are interested in, you know the other people in your meet up group have at least one like-minded interest. It's easier to start a comfortable, non-forced conversation that way. 

3. Take a class

Do you love photography, cooking, or flower arranging? This is a perfect time to continue your preferred choice of education or learn a new skill you've always wanted to learn. Whether it's by yourself, or with your partner, these types of classes can be so fun and rewarding. You can meet new friends or couple friends, and do something you love at the same time. If nothing else you will definitely grow more as an individual. But gaining a friend or two wouldn't hurt either! 

4. Make an effort with co-workers

What better place to meet new people? Your work environment. I know some people like to keep things strictly professional, and by all means, that's perfectly OK too. If you're not the boss, and it's acceptable to hang outside of the work place, jump in! If nothing else, at least people can tell you what's around and fun places to go to. 

5. Volunteer

Pick something that you're passionate about, and use your time to make the world a better place! I mean let's face it, those boxes can wait to be unpacked and it's not as if your calendar is filling up, so give a little, and you may just get a lot in return. 

6. Say yes, a lot

The only way you will meet anyone is by starting with that little word " yes ". This is hard for me too because the word " no " is so small and cute and just rolls off my tongue so well. The more you say yes the more you will be exposed to. The more you're exposed to, the more opportunities you will have. 

I am not sure why as an adult it feels so difficult to make new friends. Maybe it's because we don't quite feel old enough to be an adult, and do adulty things, but are definitely too old to meet new friends over sharing our lunch boxes. However, putting yourself out is good for your soul at any age, and who knows where relationships will take you. Meeting the right people could expose you to wonderful new adventures, but you'll never know if you don't try. 


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Breastfeeding 101: Tips For Successful Breastfeeding

I want to start by saying that I am first and foremost no expert in this subject. With that being said, since I started on my breastfeeding journey, I have had a handful of moms reach out to me to ask how I did it or what has helped me to become so successful. I am writing about what has worked for me, and trying to offer some helpful advice to moms out there that were wondering the same. 

I have learned a few basic principles when it comes to breastfeeding. I will call them the 3 P’s. Breastfeeding isn’t something that you can learn overnight or from reading a chapter or two in your ‘What to Expect’ book. It takes patience practice and perseverance. So let's break it down.

Patience

When I first considered breastfeeding my baby, I thought, how hard can it really be? All you do it put the baby to your breast and let them do all the work - it’s a natural and simple process, right?

Well, I quickly learned that that is not always the case. If you are a mom that took to breastfeeding that quickly, I applaud you and am very jealous. However, for the average mom it takes time. They say if you can try breastfeeding for two weeks without giving up, you are very likely to succeed (and I have to agree with that!) On the hard days I kept telling myself, you are 5 days in, 9 more to go! It helped to have a goal in mind and to keeping positive, knowing that it would get easier. Being on the other end now, breastfeeding feels effortless. You just have to have a little bit (okay a lot a bit) of patience throughout the process. 

Practice

You won’t truly learn how to breastfeed until you actually do it. There are many different positions you can try holding the baby in to be able to get the best latch, and that is something you will get the hang of once your baby has actually arrived! Some moms prefer support pillows such as the Boppy or BrestFriend, and soon you will figure out what works for you too. What I thought would originally work for me, didn’t. I bought a pillow and used it three times. It just wasn’t the right one for me. It’s all about trial and error. It took a good two weeks (that magical number again) to find the correct position that worked for baby and I. What works for one person isn’t always what is best for you, so don't compare, and don't judge yourself.

Perseverance

I am not going to lie to you; Breastfeeding is hard. It is a beautiful thing once you get the hang of it, but until then you will most likely endure some real pain. Because your breasts aren’t used to having a baby sucking on them you may initially have cracked nipples, pain when baby latches, discomfort when your breasts are engorged with milk, sensitivity, etc… but don't worry, it's nothing that you cannot handle! For me, it was tough during those first two weeks. I cried at some feedings and prayed that the baby would latch on after an hour of trying. But here I am three months later, breastfeeding pain-free and baby latches on within seconds. The point here is that initially you may endure rough times, but push through them because the benefit is beyond rewarding. Staring at your baby as they nurse on you makes you feel so happy knowing that you are able to provide comfort and nutrition to your newborn.

Now that we understand the 3 P’s, there is also another P that I have forgotten to mention… products! What would we do with out them? And how in the world did they use to do it before a little help came along? Since I started breastfeeding there are many items and products that I found helped to set me up for success. I am not going to go into too much detail just yet because my next post, “10 ‘must-have items’ for your newborn baby” covers my favorites, but here are a few that I found super helpful during my journey. Would love to hear yours as well.

  1. Lansinoh breast cream
  2. Breast shields. You will hear me RAVE about these a lot. They were hands down the best things I purchased during this pregnancy. They cover your breasts in an air filled dome, so that you can comfortably wear a bra and not feel any pain! It also collects any milk that may leak during your day. (For this reason, I never had to use breast pads)
  3. A reliable breast pump 
  4. Handsfree bra
  5. Breastfeeding bra and cami. I live in these tops. Any breastfeeding top is great because most come with snaps that you can just undue when you are ready to feed!
  6. Freezable milk storage bags from Target, if you plan on pumping. I have gone through a bunch of different bags but these seem to be the best! They have a double lock closure and freeze flat.
  7. The app BabyNursing. I use this app everyday. I track each time I breastfeed, what side, and how long. In the first month I also tracked every wet diaper. You can do so much on this app and it was so helpful to my husband and I. It can even export all of your data into an awesome spreadsheet that you can bring to the pediatrician.

Did you find this post helpful? I would love to continue this series and talk more about pumping, establishing a milk supply, and/or whatever else you might want me to talk about. Please let me know your thoughts below and any specific questions you might have! 


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10 Underrated Italy Destinations To Add To Your Bucket List

Rome, Florence, Milan. Italy is beautiful no matter where you go, but with media highlighting only the mega cities, it is easy to forget about the smaller, less known destinations. To give you some renewed travel inspiration, and major wanderlust,  we have compiled a list of 10 must-see spots along the Italian coast filled with history, art, culture, and amazing food. 

Cefalù (Sicily)

This quiet and mysterious town was given it's name by the Greeks, and it's a place of refuge and religious inspiration. The distinct personality of Cefalu makes it a perfect destination for an Italian holiday with its sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets, the glorious Normal Cathedral, and historic harbor views. Stay in a cozy B&B, take a morning swim in the clear waters, take advantage of the famous Sicilian culinary scene, and enjoy this coastal town like a local.  

Getty

Getty

Atrani (Campania)

White houses, balconies filled with flowers, narrow streets, and medieval architecture adorn this quiet fishing village off the Amalfi coast. Its many churches and rich culture act as a reminder of when the city acted as home for many Roman patricians, and the town continues to be a a popular site for archeological findings. Though it is the smallest colony in Italy with only .12 km2 of surface and a population of roughly 912, the Mediterranean climate and historical value continue to draw in visitors.  

Getty

Getty

Furore (Salerno)

This small village was made famous for its fjord created by a narrow gorge, as well as of the most photographed and scenic arch bridges on the coast. The town used to be a hidden settlement no one knew about until local authorities ordered the houses to be painted bright colors so tourists wouldn't miss it on their drive down the state road. The tactic worked, and the Fiordo, as locals call it, is now the main attraction, including a bar, gift shop and museum, and is also where the National Diving Championship is held each summer. 

Capri (Campania)

Off the coast of Naples, this island is known for its rugged landscape, upscale shopping and luxury hotels. Capri is a destination for both Italians and foreigners, and many make it a point to wear the pants named after the city. There is no car transporation, and access is only via boat or ferry. Main attractions are the many museums, churches and monuments, and of course the Blue Grotto, a sea cave that glistens in dark blue due to the light and reflection of the ocean shining through the cavity.

San Giminiano (Tuscany)

Encircled by three walls, this medieval city is known as the Town of Fine Towers. With eight entrances into the city dating back to the 12th and 13th century, San Giminiano has a rich history behind its Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Plagued by family and religious rivalries, towers continued to be built in increasing heights, reaching 72 total and standing as high as 230 feet. Currently the town is recognized for its artistic and touristic value, as well as for its locally grown saffron and white wine varietals. 

Bellagio (Lombardy)

Situated on the cape that splits Lake Como in two, Bellagio is one of the most romantic destinations in Europe. Luxury hotels, great food and many outdoor activities, it makes for the perfect honeymoon or getaway. Take in the view of the lake from your balcony enjoying an authentic cappuccino, or head out for an afternoon of kayaking, sightseeing, take a cooking class or go for a motorcycle tour.

Vinci (Tuscany)

Tuscan hills, olive groves and vineyards surround Vinci,  Leonardo Da Vinci's birthplace. Some of the main attractions are, of course, Casa Natale di Leonardo, the farmhouse where Leonardo was born, and the Museo Leonardiano which holds many reproductions of his drawings and inventions. The city is alive with green and agriculture, and only a short drive from Florence, making for the perfect day trip.

Verona (Veneto)

We all know Verona as the backdrop for Shakespeare's tragic love story Romeo And Juliet. But aside from that, there is much to see and experience: Spend a day visiting the bridges, piazzas, eating the traditional food, or attending an opera show at the Arena. Other popular destinations include the Duomo, Verona's main cathedral, the Porta Borsari, the ancient Roman gate, and Castelvecchio, the city's most imposing building. Don't miss the short drive to Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona, pictured here. 

Limone Sul Garda (Lombardy)

On the western side of lake Garda, this small town of less than one thousand inhabitants is made up of pure Italian charm. Renowned for growing lemons, the area is now a popular destination for tourists, so beware of lines and crowds in the warmer months. Olives groves and farm tours are a popular attraction,  as well as the small private beaches and many cafes. Interestingly, natives of this area display a "longevity protein" in their blood which turns out to remove fat from the arteries quickly, protecting them from arteriosclerosis and heart attack.

Cinque Terre (Liguria)

Composed of five villages, Cinque Terre is part of a National Park and one of the most unique havens in Europe. Carefully built terraces and homes on the steep cliffs overlooking the sea are part of what gives this area its special appeal. Something out of a painting, this is home to brightly colored buildings and the bluest ocean waters, and a protected atmosphere from mainstream tourism, since it is not easily accessible by car. The villages live off vineyards, olive cultivation, and fishing. On your visit you will enjoy Mediterranean seafood, wine, and the local specialty, anchovies. 

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6 Valentine’s Day Ideas for Single Parents Flying Solo

cute blue sweater solo valentines day

When you’re a single parent, Valentine’s Day is usually devoted to showing your kids how much you love them, but what about those who co-parent and won’t have their child on February 14? Spending the holiday solo can make a person feel really lonely, which can sometimes lead to relying on unhealthy vices. If you’re a single parent who won’t be with their child, here are a few rewarding, love-filled ways you can spend your Valentine’s Day on your own.

Go to a museum

As much as you love your child, there are just some situations that aren’t a good idea — like taking your toddler to a museum. Take the night off as a chance to check out that exhibit you’ve been hearing so many good things about, or stopping by the art gallery you see on your drive home from work every day. You can even bring along another solo friend.

Volunteer

Show the love you have for your community by donating your time. You might want to spend your evening serving meals to the homeless, or maybe you want to read to seniors at the local nursing home. You’ll spend your Valentine’s Day with your mind occupied and focused on a truly wonderful goal, and have an enjoyable, rewarding time doing it.

Check off of a “favorites” list

Give yourself a day of all the things that make you smile. Make a list of all your favorite little things that could happen throughout the day — maybe it’s having your favorite spinach pastry from the coffee shop for breakfast or taking a short walk after lunch — and then make a point of checking off as many as you can. It can be as small as forgiving yourself a single Valentine’s cookie or as big as getting a massage, any simple pleasure that would make your day of love brighter.

Pamper yourself

Going to a spa is great if you can swing it, but they tend to be pretty expensive. Bring the experience home, instead, by having a spa night in. We all deserve a little self care, so on Valentine’s Day,  show some love for your own wellbeing and indulge in face masks, sugar scrubs, and a pedicure. Pour yourself some herbal tea or cocoa, and let your mind relax.

Adopt a four-legged pillar of support

Companion animals can make an important difference in the life of anyone going through a tough time, offering unconditional love and loyalty. Finding steady emotional support isn’t easy, especially as a single parent. If you’ve been having a difficult time with anxiety, even depression, adopting a companion animal could be a great addition to the family.

Explore a new hobby

How many times have you found yourself saying, “Someday, I want to try that!” Discovering a new hobby or passion can be the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day. It could be learning a different language, picking up knitting, or taking a new fitness class at the gym. Take the child-free night to focus on getting yourself started, then find a way to work your new hobby into your routine as much as you can.

If you’re going to be without your child this Valentine’s Day, keep these ideas in mind to have a healthy, happy celebration of love!


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Breastfeeding 101: The Truth No One Tells You

Source - Photography by Michelle Lange 

Source - Photography by Michelle Lange 

From the moment I found out that I was going to be a mom, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I know how beneficial breastfeeding is for your baby and being that I am a nurse and have great immunity, I wanted to pass on all those beneficial antibodies to my baby. 

I tried to do my research before our baby boy Landon was born, on the best ways and techniques for feeding a newborn. I read various articles and excerpts from my momma-to-be books, searched tons of Pinterest articles on breastfeeding, and even asked my mommy friends the scoop and what worked for them. I was determined.

However, to be honest, the way I really learned the best way to breastfeed my baby was by doing it

I found it stressful to become good at breastfeeding in the hospital. It isn’t something you just learn overnight. It takes a lot of time and practice. Each nurse would come in and teach me a different technique and their way of doing things, which just ending up leaving me more confused than before. I was frustrated. The hardest part for me was getting the baby to latch. It wasn’t as easy as 1-2-3, like I thought it would be. It took a lot of patience, suffering through quite a bit of pain, and staying up long nights with baby.

I remember back to one specific night in the early weeks of breastfeeding. It was 2:30am and I came downstairs to feed the baby because my husband had work the next day. It took over an hour and a half of trying many different techniques to get him to latch. It just wasn’t working. The baby was very hungry, and I was exhausted. I was about to give up. Was there something wrong with me? Why couldn’t he latch on? Why can't I figure this out? I felt completely helpless. This is the common struggle of a new breastfeeding mom. 

I had my precious son three months ago and have been successfully breastfeeding him since. I will say that it has been a journey. We have had some easy days, but many hard days in the beginning. One of the most truthful pieces of advice I received, was to give breastfeeding for two weeks.

The golden number of ‘two weeks’ was exactly the amount of time it truly took baby and I to get the hang of what we were doing, and what worked for each other. Being three months in now, I will say it was 100% worth it. Hang in there- it gets easier, I promise.

Thinking back from where I started to where I am now, I cannot help but feel a sense of accomplishment. It feels great to be able to provide for your baby and to be the one they turn to when they need sustenance. Having those little eyes stare back up and yours is priceless and makes your heart melt every time. No one said it was going to be easy but they did say it was going to be worth it.

Trust me, I know it can be frustrating. I know that feeling well. With all the hormones, emotions, and sleep deprivation it can be a really challenging time. But I encourage all you mommas-to-be out to stay hopeful and give it a try. What do you have to loose? All you have is something to gain. For those of you currently struggling, I ask you to hang in there for the ‘magical two’. It can get much easier after this point. You are doing amazing things for your baby and his/her health, and if it's not for you, you can walk away with no regrets. 

In the next part of this series I will be talking about tips for successful breastfeeding and what items/products I recommend which helped me to get not only comfortable, but also good at it. Stay tuned!


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If There Is Such A Thing As Soulmates, I Didn’t Marry Mine

Source: Barefoot Blonde

It’s a belief as old as time that there is one person out there for you. One magical, unique person who can make you feel the way no one else can and will make you whole and happy every day of your life. You will never get bored of them, you will never fight, you will agree on everything, and life will be pure bliss. 

Well, it is year 3 of my marriage and I can say with certainty that if that’s true, neither one of us succeeded in finding our soulmate. Don’t get me wrong, we are a great match. I’m a little bit extra, and he's perpetually shocked about it. Just yesterday, my very practical husband walked in on me showering, and by showering I mean watching Sex and The City from the bench in the shower with the hot water running, my legs crossed like I was at happy hour, my dogs at my feet, shampoo in my hair and a glass of wine in my hand. His words: "Is this actually happening right now?"

Yes, yes it is. Welcome to the future.

This soulmate idea seems more and more unreasonable the older I get. As human beings we are so deeply complex, that the very idea that there is someone out there who will fit all of our needs and make up for our shortcomings makes me think whoever came up with this was trying to sell romance novels, or really had never made it past the year mark in a relationship.

Being single was fun; doing my own thing, spending my own money, staying up until 4 AM watching Snapped, having popcorn for dinner and sleeping sideways across my bed. But being married has taught me a whole new concept: It’s not all about me.

At first I was shocked and appalled, and a little offended. What do you mean we don’t get the house I want with the furniture I want, drive the car I want, get the bedding I want, eat the foods I want, and you buy me presents every day and praise my beauty forever? I felt a little tricked. This is NOT how you were when we were dating. The injustice of marriage! *shakes fists in the air*

The more mature, evolved part of us knows that is not realistic. But there is still a part of us that wants to throw a fit and dig in our heels when we don't get our way. It’s the same part of us that believes in soulmates, the elusive person who will, in fact, let you get your way every time. It’s the same part that feels cheated and thinks the grass is greener when things aren’t going so well. The harsh reality is that even that perfect person will hate the texture of velvet and not let you get the curtains you wanted. They will have opinions and needs of their own, and that by definition will collide with yours. 

The answer probably lies somewhere in between getting over ourselves and realizing meeting our needs should not be at the core of our motivation to find a partner. There is a sense of self-importance when we are single and exclaiming from the mountain tops of our self-centered existence that we are out to find our soulmate. It’s no wonder divorce rates are so high claiming incompatibility, as people realize they are inherently different and lose all hope they can make it work. 

Reading through the question “Do you believe in soulmates” on Reddit provided me with even more insight on the topic. Some claimed the chances of finding the one perfect person in all of the world, let alone make a romantic connection with them, are slim to none. On the other side, several claimed they had absolutely found their soulmate. It did seem that most of the believers had only been with their soulmate for a year or two or were long distance, and one even had an open relationship, which really confused me. Some also believed that your soulmate could be anybody; a friend, a family member, someone of the same sex or in a different age group. If that’s possible, then the idea of a romantic soulmate becomes even more unattainable.

When we really start inspecting our complicated human nature, it becomes clear that we have unreasonable expectations of other people. Ideally, this realization should make us become more accepting of other’s wants and needs, in return making us more complete beings. After all, wouldn’t having more to offer close the gap and increase our chances of finding “the one”?

I believe you fall in love and that person becomes your soulmate over the course of your life. That seems like an even more romantic notion, that someone would work hard to become a better fit for me. How wonderful an idea to choose someone and one day look around to see you’ve molded your whole life around them, and you can’t imagine life without that person because they literally are the other half of it. I believe you fall in love based on compatibility, but that person is just as limited as you, only in different areas. Our time is better spent bettering ourselves so that when we enter into a relationship we are equipped to handle the conflicts and differences. Maybe then we can allow them to fail and disappoint us and our whole belief system doesn't come crumbling down. I would hate for my husband to believe I was his perfect soulmate, because I have plenty of showering with wine moments up my sleeve.

What about you… do you believe in soulmates? 


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When it Comes to Forgiveness, There's a Double Standard

We all make mistakes: big ones, small ones, mediocre ones, accidental ones… the list goes on. It’s part of human nature and seeing as no one is perfect, it is bound to happen on the regular. I have quite the conundrum in regards to this topic and it goes a little something like this…

When we make a mistake, we expect for others to be understanding and forgive us immediately.
When someone else makes a mistake, we pick apart every single detail and take our sweet time in forgiving them.

As a people pleaser, I absolutely despise when I make a mistake that hurts or makes someone angry. I over apologize, I overanalyze, I do whatever I can to make it right. Yet, I find myself actually getting frustrated when it takes time for someone to process the situation and eventually forgive me. It’s a helpless feeling. You want to say and do everything to make that person understand your side of things, to understand why you acted the way you did.

But, are we taking into account that maybe that's not what they need? Probably not, because even though you are the one that made the mistake – you are only concerned with your timeline of things, not the person that you wronged. Which is ironic, because even though you want them to forgive you, you are still being selfish in the manner of their forgiveness process.

There’s another side to this: when someone makes a mistake that affects you, that whole immediate forgiveness thing suddenly becomes nonexistent. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with the “forgive and forget” part. As a professional over-analyzer, I pick apart absolutely every detail of the situation. I will sit there for days trying to figure out WHY this person would ever do that, I take it personally, I ice people out, I have a million questions that I want to ask.

But indeed,  the answer to all of it is pretty simple:  just like me, this person is human.  Unless it was with malicious and premeditated intent, it was simply a mistake, and I can bet that they feel just as bad as I do when I screw up.

So why is it such a double standard? Why don’t we give others the same grace that we feel entitled to when we screw up? Why aren't we a little more understanding? Why do we make small mistakes a bigger issue than they should be? But lastly, why is forgiving so hard to do?

The truth is, we are wired to only see our side. We must learn that there is, always, another way to look at a situation. Once we get over the massive obstacle of thinking our way is the only way, it's actually quite easy to accept that hey, maybe it's not all what it seems.

So, when it comes to mistakes and forgiveness, don’t be so hard on someone. Talk about it with them instead of icing them out. Vulnerability is another really hard thing, but it is key in finding true forgiveness between two people. When you get to the root of the issue, you’re likely to diffuse a situation that was unintentional to begin with. Having people in your life who love and care for you is so essential to your happiness, why make things harder on yourself by jeopardizing valuable relationships because of a mistake?

Yes, of course there are some mistakes that are irreconcilable. Those are the situations where you have to forgive someone who isn’t even sorry, and it’s something you do for you and ONLY you. But in most cases, we have to realize we are never going to be perfect, and we are always going to have regrettable confrontations with people around us. It's part of life. But what can set us aside and open a whole world of possibility, is extending the grace to others we wish to receive from them when we've messed up. 

In the end, forgiveness can be a tough pill to swallow. But what's the alternative? Being right, living in your lonely castle carrying around the heart of an ice queen, and slowly cutting everyone out of your life. Doesn't sound like a great option. We grow as people from practicing forgiveness, and it makes us better people. The key thing is to not stuff your feelings, talk them out, and take your time. Forgiveness can't be rushed, and sometimes the relationship won't ever look or feel the same, but something new and more genuine can come from it.


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House Tour - An Austin Home In Full Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is almost over but since Christmas is everyone's favorite, here is our last House Tour for the year!

Name: Deborah Stachelski

Location: Austin, Texas

Years Lived Here: 2

My Style: My holiday style is what I like to call “Cabin Getaway” because I love to make my home feel like I’m hiding out at a lodge - I love plaids, plus textures, and deeper colors for this time of year. 

Inspiration: I love decorating for the holidays, and Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Everything feels a little cozier, life moves a little slower, and it makes me want to be present and in the moment. The same goes for my home decor - I like to make my home as layered and textured as possible, so that you can’t resist but to curl up with a hot cup of hot cocoa and watch Hallmark movies for hours. My favorite decor items are my super soft faux fur throws, and lots of fluffy holiday bedding. I tend to add a lot more color around this time as well, and red plaids take over. I always have holiday music playing and a cozy robe to stay warm, and make it a point to enjoy the little things as the season goes by too fast! 

Favorite Element: My holiday print bedding and all the cozy pillows make me want to stay in bed all day! 

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge decorating my home for the holidays is not overwhelming the spaces and doing too much. 

What Friends Say: They love how cozy the house is this time of year, and of course, Hallmark movies on repeat.

Biggest Embarrassment: My puppy eating my Christmas tree and having an allergic reaction and us having to get rid of it! 

Proudest DIY: I am admittedly not a DIY'er, sadly!

Biggest Indulgence: Dark curtains and plush throws for this time of year really help to warm up the living room with its concrete floors, so I wanted to invest in some heavier materials for the season.

Best Advice: Don't do too much, a little can go a long way with holiday decor! 

Dream Sources: My Austin Pottery Barn store has by far the best Christmas decor. I also like to get fur throws from RH, scented candles from Candelles and Bijou Candles, and custom art like all my equine photography which is from my super talented bestie Chloe over on Boxwood Avenue. One of my favorite items is my Louis XVI chair and coordinating pillows I reupholstered with custom textiles from  Cynthia Webber Design - it's actually an oil painting printed on fabric! 

PAINT & COLORS

All of the paint we used once we moved in is Spartazero by Dunn Edwards - It was important to us that the paint was non-toxic and low odor/zero VOC.

  • Living room, dining room, and kitchen - Reclaimed Wood
  • Office/Glam Room - En Plein Air
  • Bedroom - Miner’s Dust
  • Master Bath - Reclaimed Wood
  • Piano Room - Grey Pearl
  • Kitchen Island- Poolhouse by Sherwin Williams
  • Kitchen Cabinets - Pure White by Sherwin Williams

All photos by Reagen Taylor - You can find more of her work here

A huge thank you to my very favorite, Pottery Barn Austin, who kindly sponsored so much of the beautiful Holiday decor!


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The Real Reason We Are Not As Good At Multitasking As We Think

Multitasking: Are we really that Good? (Or just good at lying to ourselves?)

Here’s a little quiz. Which one of these do you think is easiest and safest?

a. Taking a shower while brushing your teeth.

b. Texting while walking (or chewing gum and walking—I hear this can be quite difficult at times).

c. Cleaning out the fridge while making dinner. (Hey kids! I guess I’m not cooking after all tonight!)

d. Folding laundry while watching the latest zombie series episode. (Did you see how badly you just folded that towel? Oh, wait, you don’t care?”)

e. All of the above

If you answered anything other than “e,” then I think we’re missing the point behind multi-tasking. Multi-talking is supposed to be beneficial, meaning we can “kill two birds with one stone” or we’re low on time, high on things to do. So, if we can accomplish two or three things at once, then geez, we just shaved off seconds! (I’m being sarcastic. Seconds. SECONDS. That’s it.)

But, is a job speedily done – along with another job speedily done –ever going to turn out as good as it could if it had been done by itself? I doubt it. I really do. Because in the end, it will always be about quality over quantity. Two things done half-well don’t equal one thing done well. 

I can hear you saying, “But, I have to multi-task. I don’t have the time NOT to.” But, see you actually do. You have time to do something right first, than doing many things half-hearted or things that you’ll have to redo.

You know you have the time to not text and drive, because that could kill you. You know you have the time to watch the baby and not cook over the hot stove at the same time, because that baby’s safety is paramount. We don’t even question those because they’re so obvious. 

But what about the less obvious multi-tasking hindrances? Why should we focus on one thing at a time.

Here’s a few reasons why.

1. You’re missing out on the moment.

You’re missing out on now. If I’m brushing my teeth in the shower, am I really brushing them well? Am I getting clean? How do I shampoo my hair and brush my teeth anyway? The moment of now, the massaging my head with the shampoo should be the amazing moment, not chewing on the toothbrush while I clean my head. The best moments are the ones we focus on. Watch the zombie show! Don’t ruin the moment with laundry! Why would I want to do that?

Actually, I know why. I’m a mom. And there is always something to do and always something that didn’t get done. But, in order to have peace in my head, I have had to teach myself to stop multitasking. If I don’t want to resent other family members for watching the zombie show and not fold laundry like I did, then I either need to do one thing at a time, or have them fold the laundry with me. If I fold the laundry alone, I resent no one else having to and become so angry at them that I miss out on focusing the show! Mom fail for sure.

2. Where’s the joy in rushing?

There is none. Instead of raising joy in me, rushing raises my blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. I may feel satisfied that I could do many things at once, but it’s inevitable that I missed out on true joy. There’s true joy in walking the dog (while smelling the fresh air), rather than walking the dog and surfing the internet.

There is joy in everything we do, but we have to find it. We have to find it for ourselves. And we’re not going to get it doing two things at once if even we saved a few seconds. Busyness is a joy-stealer and multitasking will take that joy. Be intentional with your time and that joy gained is worth far more than crossing things off your to do list. Trust me on this. I’m a list-maker. I love lists, but my mental health is more important.

3. Calm cool collected people look so much cooler than a whirlwind in a dress.

I’m telling you. Chill people, doing chill things, have low blood pressure. They have time to think about what they’re doing AND they look so much better doing that than what I look like sweating off my makeup trying to do ten things at once. I’d rather choose to relax and look relaxed. The bonus?  I really am relaxed. 

So, while I can close the dresser drawer with my foot, hold a coffee cup without spilling, blow a kiss to my dog, and grab my jacket and purse, while I leave the house texting my dude that I want “take out Chinese” for dinner, that’s great and amazing. Awesome job, me! High five. But when I spill the coffee on my blouse, misspell my text and auto correct says “make out in my car,” and kick the dog accidentally instead of the drawer and then realize I left that thing on the kitchen counter … not so awesome.

Let’s all slow down. Slow it waaaaay down and enjoy one thing at a time for peace of mind, body and soul. One thing at a time done right supersedes any functional or dysfunctional multitasking.

Slow it down and enjoy it all, like a nice big piece of pie and ice cream. Wait … is eating that considered multitasking? Nah.


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