6.29.2015

To FitBit or Not to FitBit?


We are all well aware of the FitBit trend by now, right? But what is the REAL inside scoop on FitBit? Some bloggers, like Amber, LOVE their FitBit and swear by it while others think it leaves something to be desired.

I own the FitBit Flex which claims to track steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep. I have had my Flex for nine months now. This has given me plenty of time to formulate my own thoughts on the device, including some pros and cons.

PROS:

1. It gets me more active. Although I am active most days, I started to notice that I did VERY little on my rest days. I have found that my FitBit gets me moving even on these days. I have also noticed myself choosing further parking spots, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and taking my dog on two walks a day. Every step counts!

2. Sleep tracking helps overall sleep hygiene. As is the case with tracking things in general, I have found the sleep log really helpful for getting better rest and becoming more aware of my sleep habits overall. I can start to think about what I do leading up to bedtime that helps or hurts my sleep quality. 

3. The app and dashboard. The FitBit app is so easy to use and I love having all of my data in one easy to access location. I check the app (or dashboard) multiple times a day to see where I am at with my goals. The app is also great because you can join challenges with friends and see how your seven day step count matches up to others!

FitBit 30 day steps
4. Convenience and comfort. I love that the Flex is a simple, lightweight band that goes on your wrist. I know some worry about the "look" of it, but I have found it easy to pair with most any outfit. On the rare occasion I get really dressed up, I take the tracker out and place it in my bra or purse.

CONS: 

1. They're unreliable. Since getting my Flex, I have had the band replaced twice and the entire device replaced once. The bands break easily and it is not unusual for your tracker to just stop working for no good reason. If it weren't for the great customer service and free replacements, I would definitely have more negative things to say about this. However, whenever I have had a problem, FitBit has been great about sending me replacements quickly.

2. It can become easy to obsess. You MUST remember to give yourself grace on the days you need a day off. For me, whenever I am sick I really struggle to rest because not meeting my step goal for the day drives me crazy. It's all about balance.

3. Inaccurate tracking. I have found that my FitBit distance and calories burned do not always match up with my other trackers such as Garmin or Strava.

4. Lack of bike/swim tracking.  I knew the Flex would not track these things when I bought it, but so many of my active minutes include these activities. However, you can manually input swimming and biking fairly easily.

In conclusion, I really do love my FitBit. For me, the pros outweigh the cons, especially when you consider the cost.

Do you own a FitBit? What has your experience been like?

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6.26.2015

The Bravest Story Ever Told

Today I am thrilled to announce Nina from Flowers in My Hair is here. Nina is really special to me, and this guest post is even more special to me. In her post, you will learn about a story she shared a year ago. I encourage you to go read the original post on her blog. That post was the reason I first connected with Nina. We connected because I was one of the women who e-mailed her and shared my own story. So, please, if you read one blog post today let it be this one. 

cassieI am a writer. Sometimes words keep me up at night in excitement, sometimes they come haltingly and I must work through it. Sometimes an entire piece will come to me, as if I am in a dream. So when I sit at a computer to write it (or every now and again, use longhand) it just flows out of me. Those are the stories I know I must tell because they surely have been sitting inside me for awhile, marinating, until they put themselves together sometimes without my consent, to be born.

Such was the case with something I wrote about on my own blog nearly a year ago. It was the story of an unhealthy, abusive, and very much Christian relationship I was in. I know those things seem incongruous but when you are studying scripture, praying and chasing for purity, what do you call it? And if it involves pushing and shoving, my head knocked against doors, and a sexual act without consent? I feel it's important to add the word "christian" to the description because it's a lie that all men who hurt women are the shady characters you see on street corners. In fact, statistically that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Yes, the words came to me and I wrote them as if I was in a trance but posting them? Publishing them? That was a whole other story. I was terrified. I am terrified. Whenever I share anything personal, it can be anxiety inducing, but this was different. First, very few people knew the whole story. I was afraid I would not be believed and that would hurt. I knew people who knew both of us–myself and the boy–would be reading. Little did I know, the readers would include people he played football with, some of his boys, so to speak.

I prayed about it. I was so scared. Even with so much fear, there was an immediacy in my heart that I did not understand, a rush. And I knew I had to post it. There was such a strong and quick response, unlike I had seen or have seen since. Those boys he played football with? They reached out to me. They were shocked but kind. They believed me. Some of those conversations were awkward but they happened. And that alone is something to praise God for.

People I had not heard from in a long time read it (I didn't even know they were readers of my blog) and they believed me too. Then women started to email me. They shared their stories. It was overwhelming to be entrusted with such intimate details of women's lives but I am so very glad they had the courage to write to me. I prayed over each one of the hundreds of emails and even texts from women I knew but who had never shared their stories of abuse with me (and in some cases anyone). I wrote them back. I wrote them back from my heart. I cried over their words. I did the best I could for them and put my heart into it.

It convicted me that something needs to be done, even if it only more dialogue. I have a long way to go with the dreams God has put on my heart in this area but they are there. I pray for these women all the time and prayer is never a small thing or last resort. I believe it is powerful. I have to believe it.

Even writing this now, I am still scared. It is a scary thing to have such a fragile part of your story out in the world where anyone can read it, where anyone can judge it. I've been judged on many other posts but I have yet to receive a negative response to this one and yet, a part of me waits for it. Things looked pretty good from the outside; why would anyone believe they were anything but? I still wake up days and want to take that post down. But I don't. Because I know I am walking faithfully by leaving it up, that by women's own words, it has helped others.

Here is the harder part for me to admit: a part of me is still afraid because I was taught to be afraid. I would never have dreamed of speaking up while it went on. Like smoke sticking to my skin, some of that residual fear is still there when I think about that time in my life. That fear is not from God and so this is one more reason I know writing it was important.

So I leave it up.

It's especially on my mind because it's almost one year since I wrote it, pressed publish, scared out of my mind, not knowing that minutes after I clicked "post," emails, Facebook messages, texts and more would be sent to me.

I believe that telling your story is important. It's so easy to say and it's even easy to believe. But when it came time to tell a difficult part of mine, it was hard. Like I said, the words came easily–maybe for the first time when it came to telling this particular story. But sharing it? That was difficult. So many incredible people met me where I was at–women and men–and a dialogue began but still it was hard to tell and it's hard to keep telling it by leaving it up. But I am glad. And I know the anxiety, those bits of panic that beg me to take it down are not from God. I know finally telling the truth honored him.

I wonder if that instinct to take it down will ever leave. A year later, I have it less and less but it still pops up, that fear which is so familiar to me because I lived it for two years.
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Here is what I want to tell you: be brave with your stories because they are your stories for a reason. They have been entrusted to you. I used to have awful nightmares where I could not speak, where the bad guy would come to me slowly, so I had plenty of time to speak, but when I opened my mouth my throat ached with silent screams. If no one ever has the courage to speak up, then we can feel isolated, alone and I don't think that's God desire for us. That's why I love Cassie and Christine's Speak up for Silence series.

Numbers are great. Statistics are important. But stories...There is something powerful about saying: I am the last girl you would have ever thought this happened to but it did and it is not my shame but his. Sharing the good things is important too. And of course, everyone has to make their own decisions and set their own boundaries (and I deeply respect that). I never planned on writing about this relationship. I just couldn't ignore God's little pushes anymore so I took a breath and metaphorically jumped.

If it was possible to tie this up with a pretty bow I would tell you to be brave with your life and your mistakes. The world can surprise you with its goodness. If we keep quiet, it is as if all we have is the world's secret shame, or at least it can feel like that at times. And all those women who contacted me? They taught me something so important. That thing I was scared (for the wrong reasons) to share? It was the very thing they needed to hear. There are lots of good reasons not to share things on the internet, but fear, the kind I am describing here? It is not one of them.

I am increasingly broken hearted over the news and intellectually, I know the stories the media picks up are only a piece of a puzzle. So I try to be brave with the stories I tell because silence only wounds in this case. And maybe, just maybe, you have a story where the silence is wounding you and others too.

The first post I wrote on the subject: Dear Nina in a Prom Dress. It required some follow up after all the responses and conversations I had: About Yesterday, You are not Alone, About the Men.

Feel free to use the code: brave for 20% off any ad spot. If you'd like to talk more privately, please feel free to email me.

Thanks for having me here today, Cassie.

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6.25.2015

Speak Up for Silence: Why Therapy Worked for Me

speakupforsilence
Welcome to the third week of Speak Up for Silence. If you want to learn more about this series, please read this. Today's post is from Amanda of Amanda Moments. I know you will appreciate her candid take on this topic. PLEASE feel free to leave her comments below- I know she will read them all! Take it away, Amanda.

I had always thought that therapy was a place for broken people. People with serious addictions, those who went through terrible trauma or who had serious mental issues like multiple personalities or schizophrenia. Or, at least for Hollywood starlets needing to vent about their cheating husband. Never anything that “normal” people needed, and certainly never for me.

I was wrong.

My Story

For years, I had been feeling worn down emotionally and mentally. For years, I let it build, thinking that time would fix it or that partaking in simple pleasures like bubble baths or vacations with my husband would fix it. At first, I chalked it up to a super stressful job I had out of college (and was at for four years afterward), and figured it would pass once I moved on to a new job. But then I got engaged, and wedding planning brought out the worst of it again. It would surely pass after the wedding, right?

Nope.

I did become happier in general once I settled into my new digs. Marriage felt wonderful, my job no longer caused me anguish, and I got joy out of hobbies like reading and blogging.

Yet my mind was still a mess. I couldn’t focus on much of anything for too long. I had trouble falling asleep 9 nights out of 10. I overanalyzed every single detail of my life. I fretted over the small things and became consumed by the big things. I couldn’t even go to the store without having some sort of breakdown. My mind constantly was racing, I worried about everything, I had so much anxiety. I tried to put on my happy face for other people, but I was a mess inside. My husband received the brunt of this pent-up anxiety, poor guy.

Finally, one day at work, I realized that I had been blankly staring at my computer screen for who knows how long. I completely spaced out. My body was present, but my mind was in another galaxy. Then it happened again when I was trying to do some reading. I realized I was reading the same sentence over and over without actually taking it in.

I did talk to my husband, best friend and mom about some of the things on my mind, thinking that I just needed to talk it out to feel better. It helped a little but not enough.

I finally realized that I needed real help.

I was terrified about therapy. I was worried it wouldn’t help, I was worried I’d feel stupid, I feared judgement from the therapist, I wondered if I would even like her. And I still had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t “broken” enough for therapy. I’m just a normal person with some anxiety – surely this would be a waste of time because I didn’t have serious enough issues to warrant professional help. I mean, I have no addictions, I’m not a cutter, I’m not suicidal, I wasn’t molested, I wasn’t schizophrenic. What on earth could a normal person with a little anxiety possibly get out of therapy?

Turns out, a lot.

My Experience

I first looked into the therapists in town through doctor’s offices, but they were expensive and my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I tried some privately licensed therapists and counselors too, but they were just as expensive and still no insurance. I almost gave up on the notion until I remembered that I actually was able to get help from a local business that offers community programs and counseling services to the community for free through my employee benefits program. I called right away and was set up with a woman a week out. The day of the appointment, I got a call that she was out sick and I rescheduled with someone else for the following week. That day, the second therapist was also sick, and I was rescheduled with yet another person for later. I was so discouraged by my start that I thought, maybe it wasn’t in the cards, and I almost cancelled that third try…but figured sometimes the third time’s the charm so we’ll let it play out. I waited for a call that day that Lady #3 would be sick too, but the call never came, and so on my not-so-merry way I went to the appointment. Full of anxiety, of course.

I remember that first meeting pretty well. I was so worried that I wouldn’t click with her, or feel comfortable sharing so much personal information about myself and feared judgement, but to my surprise, this woman was wonderful. I felt super comfortable, she made me feel at ease, and I knew this one would work out (I think there’s a reason the first two were cancelled. I was meant to wait for this one—the right fit). I briefly shared what brought me to her, and I remember saying that I felt like a hot mess. I whipped out my list of topics I wanted to cover (because what overplanner and worry-wart) wouldn’t make a list of things that needed to be covered?), and she sort of chortled. Apparently most people she sees aren’t as organized or prepared when it comes to therapy as me. Oops.

I had no clue what to expect out of this hour. I didn’t know if we needed to cover everything and solve it all immediately. But she guided me through a conversation addressing, at a high-level, my biggest concerns, and she explained her process for helping me, adding that she felt very confident that together we could calm my mind. She said that she thought of me as one of those rubber band balls. There were all these layers, wound up together, crossing paths, covering up what was in the center, and that over the next several sessions, we would peel back some of those bands, one by one, until we reached that center and I could function, confidently and calmly, and know how to work through everything without becoming a jumbled mess again. I was hopeful, but still doubtful. Still, I embraced the process and crossed my fingers.

That second session was amazing. Once we started diving in to what was eating me up, I couldn’t believe how great it felt to get it all out to an outside source (that’s the key – for me, my husband, friends and family are great, but I didn’t take their opinions seriously because they were biased). She talked me through all my feelings and experiences, explained how the mind works, how every experience (especially ones as a child) affect us, how to think about all of those, and how to approach similar situations smarter going forward. Each session we’d go deeper into each issue until there was not much more to say about it, and each time I felt lighter and better about everything.

I had several assignments throughout the process. One was a mindful activity, to recall and write down every detail of one particular experience I had that we thought could be one trigger moment for me. Another was to write down every time I got distracted trying to do something to see just how often my wandering mind affected my daily tasks (it was a lot). Another was to list every resentment I could think of, and then we talked through them, helping me see how many of them were actually insignificant and silly, and others that were meaningful ones, she explained how my reaction to those affected who I am today, and that in some, I had no control over the situation, so my resentment was actually valid, but still helped me find ways to move on from them. The most recent one was to read and work through The Assertiveness Workbook, and also one chapter out of The Self Esteem Workbook.

In my fifth session, I was feeling so much better, I thought I was “cured.” But then shortly after, something happened that set me off again and my sixth session was a panicked one. I told her I had regressed and felt out of control again. We went through every emotion I was feeling, charted it out, and evaluated why I was feeling that way, what areas of the situation I had control over and how to essentially talk myself off the ledge. She explained that because I had experienced a trigger, my mind went back to what it knew, which was a fight-or-flight response, in which the brain actually functions off this frantic energy rather than rational thinking, so throughout a long series of questions and analysis, we broke it all down until I was thinking rationally again, which made the experience seem not so bad after all.

That leads me to where I am now. I have a few sessions left as part of my benefit plan, and after that … well, we’ll have to see. But I know that I feel a trillion times better than before already. I still have trouble with a racing mind and falling asleep, but it’s miles better than before because the worst issues are off my chest and I’ve learned ways to cope when I feel frantic again. I have hope that we’re close to discovering what’s in the middle of my rubber band ball.

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far, is that I was stupid for waiting so long to ask for help. I was completely wrong about therapy. I now believe it really is for anyone, and I cannot sing its praises enough.

Seriously, if you’ve ever thought about going for yourself, but have held back because of the stigma of therapy, do it anyway. You don’t even have to tell anyone if you’re worried about what people will think. Just go, because having a professional, unbiased, outside source coaching you through your issues, is priceless. It’s one of the best things I have ever done. No one should ever feel ashamed of asking for help, because in this short life, why not try to live the happiest life possible? 

Want to share your story? Please consider submitting a post HERE!
 
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6.24.2015

Slang Words I CANNOT STAND + Meet Lauren



Lately I have noticed a plethora of slang words on social media. I'm not sure that any of them are "new," but they are just now starting to permeate my niche. That being said, there are a few I absolutely cannot stand.

1. [ON] FLEEK. Like... WHAT? Why can't we just stick with "on point?"

 2. RATCHET. Historically, this word has been used in a discriminatory context. No thanks.

3. BAE. I'm not your bae.


 4. BASIC. Pretty sure I would punch someone if they ever referred to me as "basic."


5. TURN UP. I haven't "turned up" since college.



Are there any slang words you can't stand? 

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Joining us today is Lauren from Lot 48. Lauren is full of good stories, has a great sense of humor, and is always REAL on her blog, which I always appreciate. BE sure to hop on over to her blog and check out her amazing wedding photos. 

Hi everyone!  I’m Lauren and I blog over at Lot 48!  At my blog I like to write about anything and everything.  My big passion is my "you are beautiful” linkup that happens the first Thursday of every month to promote self love and self esteem.  I hope you will check it out and join in! I love writing and my dream is to be a screenwriter for comedy tv. I spent a semester in college interning in LA at two production companies.  It was one of the best times of my life, other than doing a study abroad in london. I love blogging and love the community and all the friends I have made! 
1. What are you passionate about? My relationships, my faith, and writing.  My relationships, particularly my relationship with myself, is my #1 priority.  Because if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, then you won’t have good relationships with anyone.  Self love is so important!  My faith is also right up there, the most important thing that I have, the dearest thing that I hold onto.  And screenwriting is my true passion, my trade, my skill.  If that was my job, wow, that would be incredible.  

2. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?  Play the violin.  I have always thought that it is such an amazing instrument.  It is so beautiful and has the most amazing sound.  I have always wanted to learn. 

3. What’s something you wish everyone knew about you?  That I am figuring life out just like the rest of you.  And I think we are a lot alike, as a human race.  It’s kind of poetic how we are all bound together by feeling, by insecurities, by the same fears.  Sometimes it may seem like I have it figured out, but I don’t.  I am incredibly insecure.  I try my hardest to act like I’m not, but I am.  I really, really am. 

6.22.2015

One Year of Marriage


Yesterday we celebrated ONE YEAR of marriage. Oh, how time flies. I know they all say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but I think I disagree. We have definitely faced more trying times like living in two different countries and moving halfway across the U.S. two months after getting engaged. This year has surely been full of lessons but it has also been full of growth and love. I can't wait to see what the future brings us. Happy Wedding Anniversary to my husband.

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6.19.2015

Recovering from Blogger Burnout

Recovering from Blogger Burnout

As we discussed last week, blogger burnout is exhausting and challenging. Many of you reached out and admitted that you had experienced burnout during your journey; simply identifying the issue makes it easier to correct. Blogging is a hobby for most of us, and, to continue enjoying the experience, you have to develop habits that cultivate your creativity instead of stifling it. Today, Lindsay and I are discussing how to recover from blogger burnout. 

1. Take a break. This might seem obvious, but taking a "blog break," even if it's for only one day, can be refreshing. Spend a day- or longer if you need it- doing nothing blog-related: don't respond to emails, don't reply to blog comments, and don't spend time on social media. Completely unplug and unwind. Consider setting boundaries moving forward. 

2. Reach out. Chances are you aren't the only blogger who has struggled or felt uninspired. Chat with someone you admire and ask how they handled their burned out feeling. Bounce ideas off a friend or mentor. The blogging community is strong and you certainly don't have to handle your frustration alone. 

3. Reevaluate. When having a particularly rough week, ask yourself the following questions: "Why did I start blogging?" "What do I enjoy about the blogging process?" "Would I miss it?" These questions can help identify if a break is necessary and where to make improvements. Sometimes making a small change, like taking weekends off or reorganizing your schedule, can make a huge difference in your attitude. 

4. Get inspired. Take a vacation, read a good book, or simply unplug. To be effective as bloggers, especially lifestyle bloggers, we have to LIVE our lives! Slow down and experience the world around you for what it is instead of for the purpose of creating an interesting blog post.

5. Cope ahead! Don't wait until you're completely burned out to do something about. Watch for warning signs and if you start to notice characteristics of burnout, do something to stop it from getting worse as soon as possible! For some, this might be saying "no" more in order to prevent becoming overwhelmed. For others, this might involve ensuring the more important things in life get accomplished before blogging gets checked off the to-do list.

Although this is not an inclusive list, a number of other bloggers have written on this topic (for example, this). We encourage you to read their posts too because not all tips for recovery will work well for everyone!

How have you recovered from blogger burnout in the past?

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6.18.2015

Speak Up for Silence

speakupforsilence

Welcome to the second week of Speak Up for Silence. If you want to learn more about this series, please read this. Today's post is from Shane over at Sea Salt Secrets. Shane has shared about her struggle with anxiety before, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate her ability to talk about something so overwhelming in such a candid way. Her bravery in facing her anxiety and moving to Australia for a job is admirable and she's one strong gal. I know we will all benefit from what she has to say today.

IMG_5635 See that smiling face up there? That's the smile of a girl who has suffered from anxiety disorder for most of her young life. I can't pinpoint exactly when it began, but for as long as I can remember, I have been a Type-A perfectionist, fueled by an unhealthy dose of worry and stress. I am a chronic overthinker and everything in my life is made a million time mores complicated than it need be. Anxiety has led to countless meltdowns all because I was so worried about what could go wrong in any given situation. Sure, we all feel stress and overwhelm at some point for exams, interviews or important life changes. For me, this feeling is amplified to the max every. single. day.


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I have come a long way since college and could not be more proud. Moving across the globe to Australia for my first job was unfathomable to me just a few years ago when I was busy living inside my cozy box of comfort. Contrary to popular belief, anxiety is not something you can just "get over" at the flip of a switch or the swallow of a pill. Anxiety is a chemical imbalance in the brain that is not something I can control.
  • Don't tell me to "chill out", "calm down" or "just relax"
  • Don't tell me I'm irrational and it's all in my head.
  • Don't tell me to stop being emotional or dramatic.
  • Don't ask me if I am PMSing.
  • Don't tell me you don't see what the big deal is, I'm making mountains out of molehills.
  • Don't ask me if I've tried yoga or meditation.
  • Don't tell me this isn't a "real" illness. It is very real. We suffer in silence.
  • Don't ask me if I took my meds this morning.
  • Don't tell me we all have stress so you know how I feel.
IMG_5633 
 "He's so chill and laidback...you are constantly on edge"

Anxiety tears apart my relationships. I overanalyze so much that I ruin them before they even begin, then beat myself up about letting a potentially amazing thing go. I am not blaming my behaviors on this illness, but it is a full-time job maintaining a sustainable relationship when I can barely stand being around myself.  

"Why do you take that prescription, I've never seen you anxious?" 
 
I've tried going au natural for a few months and I was unbearable. You know all those irrational fears I voice or pointless arguments I begin? That is my anxiety rearing it's ugly head. I prefer to live a happy, normal life and medication allows me to come back to the surface and breathe.
 
"You look like you haven't slept in days."
 
That's because I haven't. Sleeping is absolutely the worst. I toss and turn for hours as my mind races in a million different directions.
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The hardest part in all this is learning self-acceptance. Anxiety is draining but I refuse to let it control my life and steal my happiness. I need to learn more about myself, what triggers me and how I can best deal with these situations when they arise.
 
Anxiety is a silent disease and will certainly be a lifelong battle, but the only true setbacks we have in life are the things we allow to be defined as such. I am done feeling guilty and ashamed for something I cannot control.

Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.
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I have anxiety but I am not my anxiety. I am a strong, independent, and courageous woman who is ready to take on the world.

Want to share your story? Please consider submitting a post HERE!
 
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6.17.2015

Staying on Top of Sending Cards for Special Occasions & GIVEAWAY + Meet Brooke

Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards

Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards

Isn't it special when you have a birthday or anniversary and a friend or family member remembers to send you a card in the mail? I know it always puts a smile on my face. For that reason, I try to stay on top of sending cards for special occasions. Whether it's an anniversary, birthday, wedding, breakup, thank you, or get well soon card, I think it's important to let people know you are thinking of them, even if only with the simple gesture of a card. These are some of the tips that work for me:

1. Put birthdays and special occasions in your calendar. 
I use a combination of my Erin Condren forget-me-not perpetual calendar and my monthly view calendar. When events come up, I always try to remember to add them to my perpetual calendar. Each month, I then sit down with my monthly-view calendar and add in that month's events according to my perpetual calendar.

Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards
Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards
2. Make a list of cards you need to purchase. 
For this step, I create a two column list. The first column is the name of the person and the second column is the type of event or card.

3. Purchase your cards. 
I like to get cards purchased at the very beginning of the month. That way I have all the cards I need for that month's events. I struggle with greeting cards because I feel like they can be cheesy and silly. Thankfully, I just discovered Olive and Clyde who make witty, yet heartfelt cards for all types of occasions. I feel like these cards do a good job of conveying my personality while still saying the right thing given the occasion.

The following are a few of the recent cards from Olive and Clyde that I have recently sent out:

Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards

Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards
Olive & Cylde Greeting CardsOlive & Cylde Greeting Cards Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards

4. Sit down and fill out the cards all at once. 
If I do not sit down to fill out the cards right after I purchase them, I know I am likely to forget and miss the special occasion, so this is how I prevent that from happening. I like to sit down with my calendar, address book, cards, return address stamp, and postage stamps so I can knock them all out at once. Usually, I try to get my husband to sit down with me too so we can fill them out together.

Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards
Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards
Olive & Cylde Greeting Cards
5. Aim to get the cards in the mail at least a week before the date of the special occasion. 
I usually try to send all of my cards out at the same time. I will do this once at the very beginning of the month and a second time halfway through the month. Then, I like to put a little check next to the event on my monthly-view calendar so I know that I have sent the card. And BAM! Just like that, you're done! 

Lucky for you, I'm teaming up with Olive and Clyde to bring you 5 cards of your choice FREE! Enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
What tips do you have for staying on top of sending cards for special occasions?

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Today you all get to meet the lovely Brooke, a fellow sarcastic and INFJ. I adore her outlook on life and she has some of the cutest kids I have ever seen (they also have great names). Stick around and get to know her!



Hello hello! My name is Brooke and I blog at Bye, Comparison, a blog that aims to encourage us all to live creatively, honestly and (faith)fully---sans the unhealthy comparison game, hence the bye in 'Bye, Comparison.' I am coming up on 9 happy years of marriage that have confirmed for me that I am a super husband-picker. We have two little girls, Ellis (6) and Maci (3). I find all three of them to be utterly hilarious humans, and they think the same of each other, but the girls never get my jokes and therefore don't have the same appreciation for my humor that my husband thankfully does. I'm an art teacher by trade, a mom at heart, and a blogger/creator by nature. I hope you'll stop by and find something that interests you, inspires you, and encourages you!

1. What are you passionate about?  
The things that fall into the category of what I am passionate about are: healthy marriage, my kids (and insisting they grow up surrounded by messages that don't put them down for being girls/women), and my faith. Lots of other high-ranking things, but the three I listed are the only real passion-level qualifiers.



2. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be and why?  
If I could learn to do anything I would choose to be fluent in ASL, and at least 3 foreign languages. I think being multi-lingual would be really exciting because I love deep conversation so anything that makes it so I can better understand what someone else is saying is a big win in my book. I'm a certified Christian life coach and I love listening and engaging with people in meaningful ways.

3. What's something you wish everyone knew about you?
I'm a homebody that would love to travel the world. I love being with people and I get exhausted by being with people (even the ones I love the most!). I'm an INFJ, pretty much to a tee. I really like people that laugh easily. I've been cutting my own hair for the past 18 years, so you know, sometimes that's okay and sometimes it's less okay.


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6.15.2015

Happy Birthday, M


Today is my husband's 26th birthday which just seems crazy to me. I figured today I would share a little story about the first birthday I remember spending with him, because it's worth a good laugh.

It was June, 2011 and we were working together for the first time at our summer job in Flagstaff. On June 15, we all decided to go down to a Diamondbacks game with a few of our coworkers. It was a good time, nothing out of the ordinary happened, and we all really enjoyed ourselves.

A few days later, on a Monday, one of the girls that was at the game with us found out that the 15th was your birthday and that you had just "failed to mention it" to all of us. I remember this was a Monday because it was our staff meeting and this girl brought a fruit pizza to it, which I thought was a little odd. She let me in on the little secret that it had been your birthday and she made it for you.

I couldn't believe you would do that, but now it's a little laugh worthy. You still don't like your birthday acknowledged, but ust so you know, I'll never let a birthday go unacknowledged like that again.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUSBAND! I LOVE YOU! 

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6.12.2015

Identifying Blogger Burnout

Blogger burnout. Most of us have experienced ourselves or have had friends who have experienced it. Blogger burnout, like any form of burnout, can be stressful, exhausting, and downright frustrating. There have been many posts about recovering from the burnout, but how do we identify the early stages of burnout? How do we catch ourselves before it's too late and we feel completely defeated? Today, Lindsay and I share some ways to identify blogger burnout before it gets the best of you and your blog.



1. Content has stopped coming easily. Creativity flows best when you are engaged and excited. When burnout sets in, it can be hard to maintain this creativity, which often leads to lack of new ideas. If coming up with new post ideas has felt forced and frustrating, you might be headed towards burnout. However, sometimes creativity ebbs and flows normally, so don't put all your eggs in the same basket.

2. You start to dread blog-related e-mails. Dreading e-mails, whether it's about a new comment, an opportunity to collaborate with a brand, a new sponsor contract, or just a fellow blogger reaching out for advice, is never a good sign.

3. The thrill of blogging seems to be missing. Blogging is a hobby for most of us and it should be fun! If blogging has stopped feeling fun, refreshing, or rejuvenating you might want to consider whether or not you're experiencing burnout. 

4. It feels like work. As mentioned above, blogging is a hobby for most of us. But when you're feeling burned out, there are times you feel you HAVE to get posts written, you HAVE to comment on other blogs, and you HAVE to reply to comments- just as there are tasks you must complete for your day job. It's especially stressful when you let completing these tasks interfere with your life.

5. You want to avoid social media. Does the thought of engaging on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook overwhelm you? It's another component of blogging that should be exciting, but sometimes it feels daunting. It's a good sign to take a step back and reevaluate.

Balancing work, life, and a blog can leave you feeling worn down; it's normal when you're juggling so many things at once. When it comes to your blog there's one important thing you must remember: the pressure is self-imposed. We all burn out from time to time and you're certainly not alone. And no one expects you to do anything but your best.

Next week we'll discuss tips on recovering from blogger burnout. Hope you'll join us!

Have you found yourself experiencing any of the above situations? What are other ways you identify blogger burnout?
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6.11.2015

Speak Up for Silence

speakupforsilence

Welcome to the first week of Speak Up for Silence. If you want to learn more about this series, please read this. Today's post was submitted anonymously, but that does not make it any less important. I encourage you to read this story and leave a comment because I know the author of this will read them, even if they choose not to respond. There is such wisdom in what you are about to read, and I hope that you will all find it moving, encouraging, and helpful even if you do not share the same struggle. 

Obsessive compulsive disorder.

Three words, often shortened to three letters, and used as a joke to describe what is actually just high maintenance behavior or enjoying your home being very organized.

Those three little letters in a joke are the most insulting thing to hear when you live with the actual disorder every day of your life.

Imagine this scenario.

You've just been given an extremely specific, highly detailed description of every worst case scenario that could possibly occur based on your next move. Beginning with complete dismemberment of your body, continuing to losing every belonging, further worsening to every single person in your world abandoning you, and ending in the world imploding. Now imagine you've also been handed a very detailed highly specific set of instructions of actions you must take to prevent those scenarios from happening.

That's my brain. My brain is highly compartmentalized. In one section, I store worry lists. In another, I store lists of actions I must take on a daily basis. In another I store lists of actions I must take if under extreme stress to prevent disaster from happening. If something has escaped its compartment in my brain, I must repeat one or several actions until order has been restored in my mind and the lids are securely fastened onto each thought compartment.

One of my compulsive behaviors I subconsciously do when stressed include scratching my skin on my face or scalp in one or two or ten spots until I realize I'm doing it when I begin to bleed. This is my least favorite (as if there is a favorite) because it's highly visible and occasionally leaves me with permanent scars, making my disorder glaringly obvious when I look in the mirror.

I also routinely find myself halfway to a destination only to have to return home and be late to check again that the curling iron I have already unplugged several times actually did get unplugged the last time I rechecked it. If I'm very very stressed I will often just pin my hair back because I know using any type of hot tool will only stress me out more. I'll also skip cooking anything if I know I'll have to leave the house after because I won't be able to stop thinking about the stove and worrying if it's on and I've inadvertently burned down my entire neighborhood because I was careless just this one time.

I also routinely straighten items, grouping them together in logical order, trying to make the outside world reflect the compartments I have set up in my brain. The way that I eat is highly structured as well, clockwise around a dinner plate, starting with vegetables and ending with meat. Sandwiches must be cut so that crusts can be eaten last, unless it is a sub in which case I must keep it wrapped in parchment paper so that it maintains its original structure and not let the contents fall out. Candies must be eaten in matching colors two at a time, one on either side of my mouth. Any deviations from these regular maintenance compulsions will lead to my regular worries becoming larger and larger until I am absolutely certain disaster is coming.

When I feel that a disaster is imminent I resort to other behaviors. I will refuse to sleep until I know for certain there is not a single germ left in my home. I will refuse to speak until I've finished every chore, checked every lock, checked every outlet, and every pipe. On my worst days I will deny myself food because I have failed at any given task I've assigned extreme importance in my mind.

Before I was diagnosed and began to find medications that helped to ease the constant stream of apocalyptic thinking and compulsive behavior, I developed severe eating disorders in my attempts to control the world around me. In my worst month thus far in my life I dropped 20 pounds in one month. I already weighed just 120 pounds because for several months I was having a maximum of five meals per week. That month, I allowed myself one meal per week, and if I ate anything else, I did not permit myself to digest it for longer than fifteen minutes. The severe weight loss nearly killed me, resulting in severely decreased liver and kidney function and causing my heart to weaken while at the same time having to work harder to keep my body going.

Many people in the Christian community believe that because I still engage in my "standard maintenance" compulsions and regularly turn over specific worries in my mind, I'm simply not a real Christian or I'm not praying enough or I don't have enough faith. That's a severely harmful misconception.

My brain chemistry is not regulated the same as someone without a mental illness. My body does not know how to regulate the parts of the brain like it should and needs assistance from medication to make my life bearable and help me be able to live in a mostly "normal" fashion. This is not a matter of lack of prayer, it is a matter of a body not functioning as it should, just like someone with diabetes is not suffering from a lack of prayer or faith, but a lack of a body that can self regulate properly.

I can't offer advice for you, really, on how to handle your own illness beyond finding a good psychiatrist you trust and can tell literally everything, and a therapist you can do the same with to help you learn coping mechanisms.

However, if you don't have a mental illness, I have some requests.

My illness is not a joke. As you read above, my daily life with OCD is much more difficult than liking my closet sorted by color. There is a constant stream of anxiety, a need for order at all times, and a reluctance to explain to anyone that I have OCD because I know the comments that will follow will be something along the lines of "oh me too I HAVE to have my room clean or my volume on an even number." That's not OCD. That's a personal preference. Real OCD isn't funny. It's not something to joke about. It's not something to belittle. I don't want you to feel sorry for me, but I do want you to understand what living with this is like. I've had this since I was a little girl and was fearful of many many things and needed a specific routine to provide comfort and a specific order of doing everything to ensure my world would not crumble. A little girl in fear of her house burning down, family dying, friends leaving if she doesn't routinely eat a specific way, and scratching herself until she bleeds as she turns over fears in her mind is not something to joke about. There's nothing funny about obsessive compulsive disorder.

I would also request that you not tell someone who has a mental illness they need to pray more or have more faith or lean on Jesus. They don't need to feel as though they aren't good enough for God, and these comments don't help. They just add one more catastrophic thought to add to the list: if I don't stop worrying, God will leave me. You can see how that fear would make every single aspect of living with this particular illness a million times worse rather than providing comfort.

Don't laugh about my illness. Don't tell me to pray it away. Hold my hand if you're next to me and I begin to scratch my face and ask me what my worry is at the moment. Help me to talk through it and talk myself out of disastrous thoughts. Help me by allowing me to complete one chore before asking me to discuss my stress. Ask me when I'm scheduled to see my therapist next, and suggest I maybe go sooner so we can work on developing more thought processes to help me ease my anxiety and have less overwhelming compulsions to engage in. For some people therapy might be financially unattainable, but is vital for their success in life. If you are able to, offer to pay for their therapy. Each session is usually between $100-$150 and is often not covered by health insurance, and during very difficult times, we may need to go to a session once or even twice a week. I'm fortunate to be able to afford my healthcare, even the parts not covered by insurance, but so many people can't, and you have no idea how much having a session paid for without worry will help someone have one less fear to turn over in their mind repeatedly.

This is simply a reflection of my life with OCD. Not every case looks the same. I have found some ways to help myself relieve anxiety without harming myself, like counting things until I find my heart rate has slowed and I don't feel so much like the world is going to end at any moment. I'm not crazy, I'm not a joke, and I'm not an example of a bad Christian. I'm simply a person whose brain doesn't work as it should, but I'm doing my best to keep the lids on my mental compartments and not let myself believe that the earth will implode tomorrow starting at the top of my head.

Want to share your story? Please consider submitting a post HERE!

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