Thursday, April 30, 2015

Losing Religion, Finding Jesus

From high school till the middle of my freshmen year of college I went 4 years without missing a Sunday of church. I came home early from family beach trips to make sure I attended church (I don't know why I couldn't have just gone to a church at the beach but I was a teenager logic wasn't my forte).

I hung onto my perfect attendance record at church like a badge of honor. Obviously I was a super Christian because of my perfect attendance. I was active in my youth group, helped teach the preschool Wednesday night classes, and went on mission trips every summer. Once I entered college I quickly became involved in a Christian campus group and attended weekend getaways, Bible studies, and of course found a local church.

Now here I sit 7 years after breaking my perfect attendance record for church, since I fell off of the perfect Christian bandwagon. I remember the day I missed church for the first time in 4 years vividly. I was dressed and driving a friend to church. We pulled into the parking lot and I just couldn't go in. I had been dealing with a lot of personal struggles and I couldn't bring myself to have to go into a church and fake happy. I dropped my friend off at church told her I would pick her up in a hour and instead I drove to my favorite park in town. There I wrote the journal entry below which I later submitted to our campus literary magazine.

Please be remember I was only 18 when I wrote this. I'd like to think my writing has improved over the last 7 years. However, I feel like it is necessary to share to help you see the spiritual evolution I went through/continue to go through.

This morning nature was my church.
For 20 minutes I sat and experienced a service that renewed my soul.
The birds sang hymns of praise to the one and only King.
The children's laughter reminded me of the joy God can bring into our lives.
The ripples in the creek that slowly expanded reminded me of God's expansive and never-ending love. 
The soft breeze blowing in the trees and caressing my face reminded me of God's gentleness and yet at the same time the wind can be might and firm, like God.
The sun slowly began to rise and the warmth of it enveloped my body, reminiscent of God and His open arms that will always hold us.
This morning I could not bring myself to go to a church building to worship.
I could not handle another sermon that I simply drowned out or another song that I sang out of obligation and duty. 
I could not go into a church and force another fake smile to keep up with the image of a "happy Christian". 
I needed to feel something...
Something real and relevant and peaceful.
And this morning I found that at a park.

For the first time in a long while I felt God, I saw God, I experienced God.
I did not have to sit and stand in accordance to tradition and ritual.
I did not have to carry on small talk with people that would forget my name in 10 minutes.
I did not have to listen to a mere man speak for 30 minutes.
Instead, I listened to God speaking, I sat quietly and contently for 20 minutes and experienced a real and relevant God.

And it was liberating...

It was a revelation for me. That I could have a relationship with Jesus and be a Christian without necessarily being this stereotypical almost caricature of a Christian. In letting go of perfection I found a deeper relationship with Jesus, one that goes beyond religion. Looking back now I have a greater appreciation of grace because I am not perfect and never will be. That is why grace is such a beautiful thing. God knew I would never be good enough, God knows that nothing I do could possibly make me deserving of Christ loving me, let alone dying for me. Oh the pressure that I no longer feel! I thought I had to prove I was worthy, but I'm not and never will be.

Unfortunately some of my negative experiences with other Christians and with churches led to me getting completely uninvolved with the Christian community. It's not to say I do not have Christian friends but I do not have that tight knit community I felt in high school (I LOVE my home church and wish I could attend there every Sunday. They are truly living out what it means to love other's as Christ would and not making it about religion but instead relationships.)

Daniel and I still haven't found a church. I could give you every excuse under the sun why we haven't. For a couple of years in our marriage I was working retail, meaning working some Sundays and most Saturdays. We moved. We wanted to enjoy the one day we had together. I was pregnant and tired. We just had a baby and didn't want to take a baby to a new church. But what it comes down to is we haven't tried as hard as we should. We haven't made it a priority.

I titled this post "Losing Religion, Finding Jesus" because that is where I feel I stand at this point. I am tired of all the church bureaucracy and legality. I just want to find a community of Christians that are supportive, love Jesus, love others, and would be ok with me having a beer when I want to. So maybe I am ready for Daniel, me, and Landry to take that step in finding a church home. I hope by doing so it can pull us closer to Christ and closer as a family.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Haircare Routine

Let me tell you, having curly hair has been a difficult road for me. I remember when I was 13 I got my haircut like Mandy Moore in How to Deal. No one explained to me just because I got my haircut like Mandy Moore did not mean that my curly haired would suddenly be straight and look the same as her's. Needless to say I had a nice little afro (I did learn my way with a straightener eventually). 

I spent the better part of my teenage years straightening my hair. I would occasionally wear it curly but overall straight. Finally my junior year of college I realized how much easier it was to just wear my curly. Now in days you are more likely to see my hair curly than straight. It just takes too much time to straighten and then I have to worry about rain and frizz. 

I switch my shampoo and conditioners semi-regularly. I never seem to find one that I am really in love with. A few weeks ago I received Soapbox Shampoo and Conditioner in Bataua Fruit. It smells amazing! It is sulfate and paraben-free. Usually shampoos that are sulfate and paraben-free seem to not clean my scalp as well but that was not the case with this shampoo. It also gets a little more sudsy than some sulfate and paraben-free shampoos which I am a fan of. The conditioner is great too, my only complaint being I feel like I have to use a little more than normal to get it through my hair. 

Ok now for the best part about the Soapbox Shampoo and Conditioner. As every one knows I am a HUGE TOMS fan. I frequently sing the praises of the TOMS company and what they stand for. Well Soapbox is a company that is also making a difference. For every shampoo/conditioner sold they partner with Splash who provides a month supply of clean water to a community in need! I also love that they do not simply supply the water and leave. They make sure systems are in place for long-term sustainability which is wonderful. I love supporting companies that have a mission beyond making a profit. I want my dollars to go to helping others! 

Ok so now onto the rest of my hair care products/routine. After I get out of the shower I put in Obliphica's leave-in mouisturizing cream. It smells great and gives my hair that extra boost of moisture it needs. Then I add a little bit of VERB Ghost Oil. We received it at TXSC and I have fallen in love. It is the best and so light weight! It does not weigh down my curls which is so essential. 

Then I let my hair airdry for an hour or so and then use my blowdryer with a diffuser to finish drying it. It's a pretty simple routine! 

Then on the second, third, and maybe fourth day (I HATE WASHING MY HAIR) I use Batiste Dry Shampoo (I prefer Pssssssst but I can't find it in town anymore) to soak up oil at my roots. I also use a little bit of sea salt spray by Parlor to help give my curls a little more structure. Some days I use my curling wand to help fix some curls that have gotten a little frizzy from baby hands in the hair and sleeping on it. 

I really try to keep my haircare simply as can be. I am still on the search for the perfect hair mask/deep conditioner. I haven't found one I love yet. 

Shampoo- c/o Soapbox
Conditioner- c/o Soapbox
Leave-In Moisturizing Cream- Obliphica
Hair Oil- c/o VERB Ghost Oil
Sea Salt Spray- Parlor by Jeff Chastain
Dry Shampoo- Batiste
Brush- Spornette
Curling Wand- Conair
Blow Drier- Conair (similar)

What's your favorite haircare products? Do you have a deep conditioner you love, help a girl out!? 

*I was provided the shampoo and conditioner free from Soapbox via Influenster. The opinions are 100% my own and I was not compensated for reviewing the product. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Daily Wears 04.28.15

So here's my first outfit post since I started my 40 Days to a Better Me. I wore this outfit this past weekend when Daniel and I had a date night. I've had this black and white top for a few years now. I got it while I was still working at Lane Bryant. I love how it flows away from my stomach so it camouflages my post-baby belly. 

I LOVE these Sam Edelman flats. I first got a pair almost identical at a Salvation Army store for $3.00. They were brand new and perfect. I wore them to pieces while I still worked retail because they were so comfy but still looked stylish. I was so sad when I eventually had to throw them away. I never could afford to get another pair because Sam Edelman's shoes aren't exactly cheap. Luckily I found this pair this past fall at TJ Maxx! I stalked them for pretty much all fall and winter and eventually they made their way to clearance where I got them for $29.00. Not as awesome as my $3.00 score but still a lot better than the full price of $100+. 

I don't care for these jeans with this outfit. I would have preferred skinny jeans to my boyfriend ankle jeans. Unfortunately right now I have no skinny jeans that fit and I am sticking with my 31 piece capsule wardrobe. Throughout these 40 days I am going to be keeping track of items that I wish I had or keep reaching for that I don't have. Maybe by the end I can have a little shopping list of things to be on the look out for. 

As far as my healthy eating as part of my betterment, it is going well! I have been doing much better at taking the time to cook and I am starting to enjoy cooking again. I am finding it less cumbersome. I have been using My Fitness Pal and in the last 6 days I have lost 5lbs. 

I truly feel like I am not restricting myself or denying myself anything. I am just practicing moderation and making better choices. There are times that I am not caring as much about my calories, like Sunday night we went to Applebees with Daniel's parents. I ended up getting the 4 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken. High in calories but delicious! And I brought half of it home. I didn't feel guilty because I know I am making better choices the rest of the time and that I had been physically active earlier which kind of balances everything out. 

Top- Lane Bryant (similar)
Pants- Old Navy
Shoes- Sam Edelman
Earrings- Target (similar)
Bracelets- Etsy
Purse- Lane Bryant (similar

Any ways that you are trying to better yourself? Any opinions on favorite brands of skinny jeans? 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend Recap

An alternative title would be "How to Spend 24 hours Sans Baby". We have only been away from Landry over night 3 times before this weekend. The first time was around Thanksgiving when Daniel was putting new flooring down in the living room and it ended up being more challenging than expected. Landry ended up staying with his parents for the night so I could help him finish it up.

The second time was Valentine's Day weekend. Daniel planned a quick little overnight trip to Johnson City, TN. We ended up eating lunch there, walking around the mall, and then going back to the hotel and sleeping. It was wonderfully restful but we didn't do much.

The third time was just 2 weeks ago when my Nana passed away. Landry was sick at the time and we had the visitation and service. So we took her to Daniel's parents house for them to watch her overnight so we didn't have to drag her around every where while she was sick.

So Saturday when Daniel's mom called and offered to watch Landry overnight we thought about it and said yes! Any night where I am not with Landry is difficult but it was so nice to have some time this weekend where we got to be a little more carefree. No obligations, no exhaustion, nothing we had to do!

Here's a little recap on how we spent 24 hours baby-free!

First thing is when you are baby-free make sure you go to Dick's Sporting Good and try on lifevests and of course take pictures! 

We then had dinner at a local restaurant called "Mountain Burrito". It is similar to Chipotle but local and they call their burrito bowl "Naked Burritos" which I find very amusing (I have a sense of humor of a young boy). We then headed to the movies to see "Insurgent". We hadn't been to the movies since I was pregnant! 

We stayed up late Saturday night while Daniel replaced our bike tire tubes. We even left the house at 10pm to go get sodas at McDonald's. Our life is one where we do not leave the house after 7:00pm so it was kind of wild. We stayed up till midnight watching Big Bang Theory in bed. 

We decided to make Sunday morning our outdoorsy time. Prior to baby we would spend a lot of our free time kayaking and playing tennis. Tennis wasn't really an option because it was wet outside so instead we went to the greenway and biked. 

I was SO excited about kayaking! It had been almost 2 years since we last kayaked because of pregnancy/new baby/winter. Daniel managed to get into his kayak without any problem. I however got stuck in the wonderful red clay of NC. I took my keens off and threw them into my boat and managed to get in. However, in the process of getting in my shorts fell down, like butt hanging out. So I tried to pull them up while sitting in my kayak and I tipped my kayak over. I ended up in the freezing cold water on a cold and overcast day. It was so hard to get my boat out too! It was a good laugh though so I guess it was worth it. 

It was a fun 24 hours, but as soon as Daniel's parents got to our house with Landry everything felt right in the world again. Daniel even said later"why do we ever split up? We should all stay together all the time!" Our little of family of three (plus our two pups) is kind of my favorite thing in the world. It was nice to reconnect with Daniel though and also to get outdoors. It was so rejuvenating! 

Stay tuned tomorrow for my first outfit post from my accidental capsule wardrobe

So what were you up to this weekend? 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Wonderful Web Round Up

Pink is one of those few celebrities that I truly admire! She is kickbutt, has great songs, and really does her! 9 Times Pink Proved That Every Woman Should Be Able to Define Herself.

I am dying to make these Coconut Lime Energy Bites. Now to just buy some dates!

These fox and raccoon knee socks are freaking adorable! Pretty sure I am eventually going to have to get Landry some for the fall!

When Landry gets a little bit bigger I want to get her a cute chair. I really like this one from Land of Nod but it's so darn expensive!! Any suggestions for cute chairs for kids?

I had every intention of breastfeeding Landry. Unfortunately my milk never came in. This right here explains all the feelings.

If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen I bought chia seeds which are suppose to have AMAZING health benefits. Here are some recipes I have found using them!

With not having family in town it can be hard to have any sort of regular date nights. And when we do manage to have a date night it usually turns into dinner and walking around Target. Here is 24 date night ideas under $10.

One of my biggest goals for Landry is for her to know she does not have to fit into any mold. That being beautiful and a princess needing saving is not the end goal in life. I want her to be smart and strong and feel empowered. I love this list of 12 Empowering Children's Book to Add to Little Girl's Bookshelves.

Any great find on the web this week you want to share? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

40 Days to a Better Me

Some how I managed to create an accidental capsule wardrobe. In no way did I set out to create such a small wardrobe for myself but a couple of days ago I was going through my clothes while Landry napped to realize hardly any of my clothes fit me right and I am just not happy with my wardrobe. Which is actually me not being happy with my body right now. 

I was so proud of myself before getting pregnant. I had lost 40lbs (still not where I wanted to be) and felt really healthy. Since having Landry I am back where I started before ever losing weight. I weigh the most I ever have minus pregnancy. I have gained weight the last few months because well it comes down to emotional eating. So instead of looking at the clothes in my closet every day that don't fit me and having breakdowns because I hate all my clothes I decided to just adjust.

So starting on April 22nd (when I had this huge closet clean-out) I will only be wearing the 31 items left in my closet  for the next 40 days (now until the end of May). I hope to get a little more creative with my outfits (utilize my accessories more!) and gain a better understanding of my style. These 31 items do not include lounge wear, active wear, and pjs. 

In addition to only wearing these items I am also not doing any unnecessary shopping. No clothing/shoes/accessories, no makeup/beauty items, and nothing additional for Landry. I want to cut down on excess and focus on what we truly need. 

Because I don't like doing anything small I am also making it a goal during this time to track my eating with MyFitnessPal every day. I am not saying I will necessarily stay in the calorie range they give me but in the past I eat better when I track my food with MyFitnessPal. It makes me much more aware of snacking and what I am putting into my body. 

It is also getting prettier weather outside so I would like to get physically active again. Walks in the evening as a family, kayaking, tennis, and hiking. I am NOT a gym person but I am all about fun active activities. 

So I guess I am doing a cross between a capsule wardrobe a la Un-fancy and a 30x30 remix a la Kendi with some exercise and self-improvement thrown in for good measure. Stick around these next 40 days to see what kind of outfits I can put together and how my weight loss progress is going. I am sharing with y'all to help keep me accountable! Check out my wardrobe for the next 40 days! 

2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of cropped jeans

5 tee-shirts

4 tops

2 cardigans, 2 vests

5 dresses

6 skirts

4 pairs of shoes

What my closet looks like now. I wish I had taken a before picture so you could see the change! 

Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe? Any suggestions for getting more active as a stay-at-home mom? 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eleventh Avenue

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. However, all views expressed are my own and this is a company I truly love and want to share with my readers! 

Recently I have become a huge fan of Groopdealz as seen here, here, and here. I heard several of my friends talking about it but never really looked into it. Groopdealz's site is pretty much a hub to discover and buy adorable products from various boutiques. Recently, Groopdealz has rebranded as Eleventh Avenue. Not only does that mean that they have a new name but they also have a fancy new website!

It's such a cleaner layout now and much easier to navigate! My favorite sections to browse is the kids and jewelry! I can always find cute accessories and tee-shirts for Landry and unique jewelry for myself at seriously cheaper prices. 

Eleventh Avenue has also introduced me to some new boutiques and etsy shops. I am able to sample those shops products at a cheaper price and once I've fallen in love I go and check out their sites to find more goodies!

Just this week we bought Landry this teepee:

It's going to be her birthday present for her first birthday. Her birthday isn't till the end of July but it was only $75 PLUS 15% off. I haven't been able to find a decent looking teepee for that cheap anywhere and I have really been wanting to get her one. I love the grey color (neutral for the win) and it comes with a zippered carrying case which is a double plus. I can just picture us laying out in the yard under her teepee reading books and playing with toys (except for when she tries to climb the thing and probably tears it down. Just being real!) When we're not using it outside for now I plan on putting it in the basement (it's kind of our playroom). 

Ok so now since I have raved about how awesome Eleventh Avenue and shared my awesome teepee score I wanted to share with y'all a coupon code! From now until 05/22/15 you can use AVENUE15 for 15% off of your total purchase. So on top of their discounts you are saving even more! I know that is a win in my book!

Right now I am wanting these items:

What kind of goodies are you interested in? Have you used Groopdealz or Eleventh Avenue before?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Daily Wears 04.21.15

Since becoming a SAHM I really haven't been wearing a lot of my clothes. I have several pretty skirts that I just let hang there in my closet. So I decided, why not start wearing them? If we aren't going to the park then what's the big deal! Especially if I throw own a plain tee and slip-on shoes. It is a really comfy outfit that looks a lot more put together than just shorts or jeans. 

You know what else makes this outfit great? It transitions perfectly to a date night outfit. Of course that is assuming you can find a sitter (HOW CAN I TRUST ANYONE?) and that your outfit didn't get covered in spit-up, food, and other delectable baby goodies throughout the day. 

So when I say it transitions into a date night outfit I am obviously a liar because I don't know when it my life that the planets align to offer me a date night plus have an outfit stay clean for a whole day. When people told me that having a baby meant I would have more laundry I thought they were just talking about the babies clothes. I was oblviious to the fact that it meant that I would be doubling the amount of my own clothes I have to wash because ALL THE THINGS end up on my clothes by the end of the day.

I digress, anyway just changing a couple of things, slip-on TOMS to wedge TOMS, shirt to cardigan, snazzy earrings, and a different bag, can really transform an outfit. Also let's talk about how TOMS really has me covered for everything. Slip-ons are my go-to for every day foot wear (seriously my favorite shoes, I own 10 pairs of slip-ons), wedges for fancier, bags, and now my coffee of choice is TOMS roasting co. Peru roast is my new coffee of choice. It's a medium roast and just perfect. I fell in love at TXSC15 and I haven't looked back. On my TOMS lust list is a pair of sandals, particularly these, and a pair of sunglasses, particularly these.

Ok so I don't know how this went from transitioning your outfit to an ode to TOMS but it did! PS not a sponsored post I just really adore TOMS and what the company stands for. At TXSC15 Bethany Joy Clark summed up their company with the statement "We are not a company with a mission, we are a mission with a company." If that doesn't give you the warm fuzzies and make you want to join the TOMS community then you have no heart (ok you do but you get what I'm saying!). 

Day Outfit
Tee- Old Navy
Shirt- Old Navy
Skirt- JcPenney (similar)
Shoes- TOMS
Bag- c/o TOMS
Necklace- Groopdealz (similar)

Date Night Outfit
Cardigan- Lane Bryant (similar)
Shoes- TOMS 
Bag- Handme down (similar)
Earrings- Lane Bryant (similar)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Moving Forward

Hey everyone! I was a little terrified to take a break. I knew I needed it so I could focus on grieving, on my family, and because I wouldn't really have the time to truly devote to posting. But it made me nervous because what if I fell apart so much that I couldn't bring myself back to blogging? What if it seemed pointless in the grand scheme of things? What if no one even cares that I didn't blog? What if I just didn't miss it? But I did miss it, I don't just blog for others, I want to continue blogging, and as silly as it sounds I think my Nana would want me to. I think she would tell me "Brittany, blogging gives you an outlet, it gives you a way to express yourself, and that matters."

I guess now I am trying to focus on moving forward. When Joan (my grandma that raised me) passed way a little over 2 years ago I really struggled. It took me months to get to a point where I could see a point in anything, where I felt like I could move forward. Needless to say, I was depressed. I've had that fear this time with my Nana passing, that I would sink back into that depression. But here's the thing, I am sad. I miss her. Today I even thought, "I need to call Nana and ask her where she got that" just to realize that isn't an option. It breaks my heart and there are tears. But unlike when Joan passed, I can see light. I can imagine moving forward. Not moving on because you never move on from a person that played such an important and integral part in your life. But I can take comfort and solace in the fact that Nana knew how I felt about her, I spent time with her in these last months, and I have the memories of amazingly long phone conversations multiple times a week.

This past weekend I took the time to focus on the positives in my life- my little family of 3. I think that is what makes moving forward easier this time. I have Landry now and as corny as it sounds I can see the circle of life (Lion King much?). There is a beginning and an end to everything. Above is some pictures from our weekend. We spent the weekend enjoying local restaurants, nature, parks, cupcakes, and each other. It was exactly what we all needed after the last several chaotic weeks.

What have y'all been up to lately?