Last Summer

This time last year I was struggling with something that a lot of young women can relate to – body image and anxiety.

During the beginning of 2016 I was feeling beautiful and confident in my own skin. I was working out more regularly and I had lost weight leading up to my wedding day.

Between work, graduation, and wedding planning there were times when I was simply too busy to sit down and eat a real meal. Juices and smoothies became my go-to for lunches when I was out running errands. I ended up losing weight, but I was also feeling fit and healthy.

After our wedding, that all changed.

The week after our wedding was spent packing and getting ready to move into our new apartment. Again, there wasn’t much time to sit down and have big meals, so we were always eating quick bites on the go.

Once we had moved into our apartment and I had unpacked everything and got our little apartment all set up, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself and all of the free time I now had.

The days seemed to stretch out ahead of me with countless empty hours while Brendan was at work. I didn’t know how to fill these long lapses of time while Brendan was away, so I started watching television. Having television to watch was a treat for me since I didn’t have cable when I lived with my grandma the previous year.

Televison became my constant companion. I always left some show streaming all day long, whether I was actually giving it my full attention or not. It was comforting to me to have some background noise of human interaction on.

I was excited to be married and living in a new city with Brendan. But I was also scared and lonely, and this resulted in me feeling depressed and very anxious all of the time.

I started to feel so alone and craving time and interaction with other people (rare for an introvert like me). It didn’t help that our small apartment got little to no sunlight due to the fact that our windows faced a parking garage. I never knew if it was sunny outside or not.

My mood quickly began to reflect the view I saw outside that window – dark, cold, gray, and ugly. I built up walls and literally made a prison for myself. For some reason I was scared to go outside in this unfamiliar city without Brendan by my side. I cry a little on the inside every time I think of how I isolated myself.

I craved going back home and visiting my family. I felt safe and comfortable there, and it was nice to have others to talk to.

I remember being excited to go to the dentist and be around other people. My hygienist complemented my hair, and I thought about that all day long and how good it made me feel.

I eventually found my way back to journaling and blogging and that helped me with getting my feelings and frustrations out. It also helped me to understand myself a little bit better.

I started going to Starbucks to sit outside in the sun to read and write. But this didn’t cure me of all of my woes.

July came and my body image came to an all-time low. I gained weight after the wedding and I began to hate my body and beat myself up for eating more than I had earlier in the year. I took up going to the gym to work out. I felt better at first. I started going to the gym at least 5 times a week and would work out at least 2 hours while I was there. It gave me something to do and helped the hours go by while Brendan was at work (4 p.m. – 12 a.m.).

I began to develop more muscle and as a result I weighed more. This crushed me. I couldn’t shake the number on the scale and the fact that my pants fit tighter. I had also become obsessed with tracking calories again and how many steps I was getting.

This immediately took me back to when I was a teenager, counting every single calorie and on the verge of an eating disorder.

I started regularly having anxiety attacks and would break down crying in Brendan’s arms. I hated looking in the mirror and I wanted to wear clothes that would hide my body.

One evening that really sticks out to me was at the end of August (2016).

Brendan and I had decided to go to Liberty University for a movie night they were having as a way to kick off the new school year, and I was feeling so defeated with my body that evening. Everything I tried on I hated – I felt bloated, fat, and disgusting. The worst part was that I knew we would end up seeing some of Brendan’s former co-workers on campus and I didn’t want them to see me looking the way I did.

Isn’t it stupid?! In my mind I thought I needed to be thinner and prettier, and I felt like I didn’t deserve Brendan. In reality, I’m sure nobody would have even noticed that I had gained a few pounds. I cried before we left our apartment that evening, and we almost didn’t go because of me.

When September rolled around I knew that I couldn’t go on like that much longer. I decided to stop weighing myself everyday and stop looking in the mirror to constantly pick myself apart. I also stopped wearing my Fitbit, gave up tracking calories on MyFitnessPal, and cut down my gym time to just 3 times a week.

And with these changes I felt the shackles loosen and fall off.

Of course, it didn’t happen over night. After a few weeks I started to realize that I wasn’t focusing on the reflection in the mirror anymore and I was actually starting to enjoy my food again.

I’d say it took anywhere from a month to a month and a half for me to start really feeling better. It took hard work and dedication, a change in my mindset, and the support of my husband.

I never really told anyone else besides Brendan that I was struggling. Body image and anxiety can be a difficult thing to talk about and trying to explain it to people can be even harder.

Those were some very dark days for me, and it hurts me to think about how I beat myself up so much. It hurts to write about it too, but I feel like it’s important for me to share where I’ve been.

Thankfully I am in a much better place now – body, mind, and spirit.

I didn’t write this post because I want people to feel sorry for me. I wrote it in the hopes that it might help somebody else out there that is dealing with something similar.

I’m still learning that it’s okay to not always feel okay. Television and social media are always showing us these beautiful little snapshots of people’s lives, and we don’t always see what’s going on on the inside. The important thing to remember is that we’re all human and none of us will ever lead a perfect life.

Learn to listen to your body and its needs. Surround yourself with a support system – even if it’s just one person you can confide in. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Take care of yourself because you are worth it!

 

 

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Weekend Recap (Aug. 4-6)

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a simple weekend recap on the blog. Last weekend (August 4-6) was so refreshing so I thought I’d share a bit about it.

One of Brendan and my intentions for the month of August is to have a date night at least once a week. We already spend a lot of time together, but we wanted to focus on spending some quality time together outside of our apartment. Friday was the night we planned to have date night.

During the summer Brendan gets off work a little earlier on Fridays, so we were able to head out for dinner around 5:30 p.m. We chose Olive Garden for our dinner destination.

For dinner I ordered whole wheat linguine with traditional marinara sauce, salad (with no dressing or croutons) and, of course, breadsticks. Since going vegan in November last year, I’ve learned different things you can order from chain restaurants that are vegan friendly. I was surprised and happy to find out that the breadsticks at Olive Garden are vegan!


After dinner we decided to walk around downtown for a bit to get some exercise before going for dessert.

A storm ended up rolling in just as we were walking back to our apartment. So we watched and waited it out from our apartment before walking to get dessert.

We had dessert in downtown Roanoke at Altus Chocolate’s newest location. Altus Chocolate is a charming local artisan chocolate shop/cafe that originated in downtown Lynchburg. Their story is so inspiring and I love that the idea for the shop was conceived after the owners watched the movie “Chocolat”.

Altus Chocolate has been around for about five years now, but since I’m not a big chocolate person I never went when I was living in Lynchburg. When I heard that they were opening up a new location in downtown Roanoke, I was delighted and knew that we would have to go check it out.

Brendan and I had a wonderful experience at Altus Chocolate – the employees were very helpful and friendly, the desserts were rich, flavorful, and pure, and the atmosphere was charming (I especially loved the French inspired music).

I ordered the Rich Hot Chocolate and had it made with coconut milk and no whipped cream, and I also got one of their vegan Coconut Cranberry Macaroons. Brendan got a chocolate chip cookie. The chocolates are a bit on the expensive side, but they are handmade by the staff with the highest quality ingredients. I love the fact that they have dairy-free and vegan options for people like me!

Photo by Brendan
Photo by Brendan


I would definitely recommend a trip to Altus Chocolate if you are in the Lynchburg or Roanoke area and are looking for an authentic chocolate treat. I can’t wait to go back and try some of their coffee.

I am currently reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris, so I thought it was very fitting for me to sit a read a chapter while I was at Altus Chocolate.

Nothing too exciting happened on Saturday (August 5). I spent the whole day working, so didn’t feel like doing a whole lot that evening. Brendan and I ended up getting dinner to go and enjoyed a nice cozy evening in our apartment.

Sunday (August 6) was a gorgeous day filled with spontaneous adventures. After church Brendan and I came back to the apartment and went over all of the chores and different things we wanted to get done that day. But the weather was so nice, we both decided that it would be fun to grab some food and then go on a little drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Well, our little drive ended up taking us all the way past the Peaks of Otter and into Lynchburg. And I didn’t mind one bit. I decided to let go and just enjoy wherever the day would take us.

By the time we go to Lynchburg it was about 2:45-3 p.m. and we were in need of a pick-me-up, so we decided to go to Starbucks. And since we had both brought a book along with us we sat outside in the sunshine and read for a little bit before moving on with our adventures.

Next we ended up driving over to Riverside Park near Rivermont. Brendan and I had never been to Riverside Park before. I can’t believe I lived in Lynchburg for 5 years and there are still so many places that I never explored. The trails were nice in this park and we even came along some pieces of Lynchburg history as well.

Brendan was especially excited about this steam engine we found in Riverside Park.

As we were walking down one of the trails, we stumbled upon the big train trestle over the James River. This is the same train trestle that has seen so many lives taken over the years, including the life of Liberty University student Jon Gregoire. I had never seen the trestle in person, only pictures of it. There was such an eerie hush that hung in the air. We paused for a moment there in silence, remembering those who have lost their lives at that spot.


After the park, we headed to Rivermont Pizza for some dinner. Rivermont pizza is one of our favorite places to eat in Lynchburg. The food has been excellent every time we’ve gone.

Before we headed back home to Roanoke, we made a quick stop to see my brother Jon and his new apartment in Lynchburg. He’s in a nice spot in town and I can tell he’s loving it already. Lynchburg really is a great city and I love going back for a visit every chance I get.

We got back home around 9:30 p.m. It was such a fun, rejuvenating day. Sometimes it’s important to leave the dirty dishes in the sink and the laundry unfolded to get out and explore!

 

August Goals + Intentions

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here, but I felt that it was important for me to post about my goals and intentions for the month of August.

With summer quickly coming to an end, I’m looking back to the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year and realizing that I have a lot left that I want to accomplish. For me, I’m more likely to get things done when I write out monthly, weekly, and even daily goals – looking at my goals and intentions through this lens makes them feel less daunting and more attainable.

My list of intentions for the month of August is looking a bit lengthy at this point, but I’m not going to let that deter me. An area that I really want to bring more focus to this month is reading and writing. With work and life in general, I just haven’t put as much time and energy into it as I would like. And I want to change that.

I’m looking back to my 14-15 year old self for inspiration on reading. Back then I was going to the library weekly, reading a chapter a day of several books – one of the classics, Shakespeare, some history, etc. And let’s not forget that I finished the entire Harry Potter series in exactly 31 days. I was a reading machine.

And then I’m also looking to my 18 year old self for writing inspiration. I was spending hours in the morning writing – journaling, writing letters, fiction writing, and even dabbling a bit in poetry. I was challenging myself and writing in styles that were out of my comfort zone. I definitely wrote a lot in school (I did study journalism after all), but I rarely did writing for myself.

This month I’m looking to change that. I want to write for myself, whether that’s journaling or writing fiction. And I want to get into a daily habit of it.

Here is a list of my August Goals + Intentions:

August Goals + Intentions

Monthly:

  • Finish hanging wall art/shelves
  • Transplant plants to pots
  • Write more – journal, letters, short stories
  • Take Unit 1 quiz for Herb Course
  • Incorporate dry brushing into my health routine
  • Form a night time routine
  • Make 20 homemade cards
  • Finish reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Weekly:

  • Stick to meal plans
  • Oil pulling 3x a week
  • Brush w/ activated charcoal 3x a week
  • Gym/workout 3x a week
  • Read a book from the library every two weeks

Daily:

  • Read the Bible
  • Journal for 5 minutes
  • Go on a walk
  • Read a chapter of a book

What are your goals and intentions for this month?

DIY Mother’s Day Gift “Basket”

Hello and Happy First Day of June!

This post from Mother’s Day is a bit overdue. With traveling and going on vacation for Brendan and my one year anniversary I just haven’t had the time to write. But, better late than never right?

I had so much fun putting this gift “basket” (jar, really) together for my mom this Mother’s Day. I wanted to give her something that was pampering but also practical for everyday use. Like me, Mom is into essential oils, natural face soaps, tea, and lovely candles. I wanted to include a few treats in this gift that she normally wouldn’t buy for herself (such as essential oils). While I put this together for Mother’s Day, you can make this for any occasion you want! So here’s a little peek at what I decided to include in Mom’s gift.

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Jar from Marshall’s 
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The smell from the candle, soap, essential oils, and tea was heavenly. 

I actually found a lot of these goodies at T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. Surprisingly, they have a great selection of natural health and beauty products. I have seen some of these brands at natural/health food stores, so I trust that they are good quality. I have used some of these brands before, like the Eucalyptus soap by PlantLife and the Cooling Eucalyptus candle by DW Home and I really liked them.

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I also tried my hand at making some homemade Bug Bite Salve. Again, I wanted this gift to be pampering as well as practical, so instead of making some body scrub that I knew my mom probably wouldn’t use I decided to make this bug bite salve. Mom loves to spend her time outdoors, so I knew this would come in handy. I bought the tin and most of the ingredients I needed to make the salve from Health Nut Nutrition located in Lynchburg, which is one of my very favorite natural health stores.

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While I had never used this brand before, I loved this little aromatherapy roller set from Tisserand Aromatherapy. Each roller has a special blend of essential oils to help you de-stress, give you energy, and aides in a restful night’s sleep. I bought this set from T.J. Maxx.

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I also decided to include some dried chamomile flowers (from Health Nut Nutrition) so that mom could make a fresh cup of hot, relaxing chamomile tea. I found the adorable muslin sachet from my local Co-op and then just included a little index card with instructions on how to prepare the tea.

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Earlier this year I took a free online course through Herbal Academy which introduced me to herbs and learning how to draw plant monographs. It included a bunch of wonderful resources and free print outs, such as this Tea Meditation practice. This Tea Meditation encourages you to sit with a cup of herbal tea, taste the rich flavors and complicated flavors and take time to relish in the moment. Then, take a moment to journal about how drinking the tea makes you feel – what does it taste like? Do you feel the tea working in certain parts of your body?, etc. Since Mom loves a good cup of tea and journaling, I figured this was the perfect thing to include. In addition to the chamomile flowers, I also included some of our favorite teas from Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Tea.

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And finally, I finished off the gift “basket” with some fun packaging! I found the cute bag at Marshall’s and the sparkly tissue paper from T.J. Maxx.

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I had so much fun shopping for my Mom and putting this little gift together! Hopefully this will bring you some inspiration for your next DIY gift basket. Have a lovely day everyone.

 

 

Spring Fever

Spring has finally graced us with her presence and has touched every plant and tree in sight. My spring fever has hit hard this year and I have been spending every second that I can outdoors, deeply breathing in the delicious aromas of blossoms in the air and soaking in every ray of sunshine and moon beam that I possibly can.

I have spent quite a few days at my parents’ house over the past few weeks while Brendan is away and traveling for work and it has brought me back to the sweet spring days of my childhood. My parents live in the farmhouse that my grandmother grew up in and there is no shortage of rolling fields, strong protective mountains, and eternal sunshine on that old hill.

Being able to wake up to the sound of birds chirping and sunbeams streaming in on your face is one of life’s simplest pleasures, but oh how it is good for the soul. When I visit my family I spend my days in a creative mindset – dreaming up all kinds of beautiful ideas that I want to put into action and stories that I can never seem to get down on paper.

Mother Dear and I usually share sweet conversation over mugs of coffee in the morning while everyone else is asleep or at work. Then we spend our afternoons and evenings bathing in the sun reading, drawing, and talking about anything and everything. Nights are usually spent outdoors around the fire pit or inside watching an old re-run of some worn out TV show.

For me, time stops when I am on that old hill. The stress of work melts away and I forget that I have adult responsibilities to tend to. I always believed that when you grew up and moved away from home that things changed and that the place you used to live in would never feel like home again. But I was greatly mistaken with that thought. While I know that my parent’s house is no longer where I live and I know that I have a little nest of my own with my husband and my kitty elsewhere, I feel that the word “home” will always slip gently from my lips when I think of my parents’ house.

Right now I love living in our little downtown apartment – it’s what I have been dreaming of for the past few years and I couldn’t be happier that I get to spend this time in the city with Brendan. But I am also looking forward to finding a beautiful little place one day that we can call our own and will be the site where Brendan and I will settle down, have babies, and call our home.

Not The Fresh Start I Was Hoping For

Sometimes days, or weeks in my case, don’t go as planned.

Last Sunday I was sad to see my 3 day weekend coming to an end, but I was looking forward to the fresh start that the new week and the new month of March were sure to bring. I was so ready to write out my goals for March, start a new yoga challenge, and get creative in the kitchen with my meal prepping.

Well, Monday morning I woke up feeling off balance and a little sick. Not sick with a cold or the flu, just kind of meh. I thought about calling off work, but it was too close to when my shift would start, so I went into work hoping I’d feel better as the day went on. I should have known that since I didn’t even feel like having my morning cup of coffee that things were not going to get better. Work was a struggle for me, but I struggled all the way through my shift. And then Brendan told me that he wasn’t feeling well either. And that night it hit us – food poisoning.

After a weekend of eating out to celebrate Brendan’s birthday with his parents, it’s no surprise that something made me sick. I always feel terrible if I eat out several times a week, let alone a couple of times in one day. My body just does not thrive on that kind of food. We think the cause of the food poisoning were the French fries we had on Sunday night. So, I guess I’ve learned my lesson about eating out too often. This was the very first time Brendan and I have gotten sick at the same time since we’ve known each other and the first time we have been sick since we’ve gotten married. I guess I’m thankful it wasn’t the flu though because literally everyone has been getting that. We both decided to call off work on Tuesday because we both felt terrible. We literally just laid around on the couch all day.

Brendan seems to have recovered more quickly than me. He also didn’t eat as many fries as I did, so maybe that’s why he wasn’t as sick. But I have been sick on and off again all week and I can’t remember the last time I have felt so bad. Since Sunday, I have lost 8 lbs, been able to eat very little, and haven’t really had any coffee this week (I have several cups of coffee every single day, so that’s a huge deal for me). The bottom line, food poisoning is no joke.

Thankfully, I am feeling much better today. I have the weekend off from work, my man is back in town after being gone for work, and I have the time to catch up on all of the things I had planned for earlier this week. Through all of this I have definitely learned not to take my health for granted. This is why I strive day in and day out to nourish my body by feeding it the clean, healthy options it needs and also why I try to move and get outside every single day. Since taking my health more seriously, I rarely get sick. But when something like food poisoning happens, I am reminded that taking care of myself is of the utmost importance and that the choices I make have consequences. I definitely won’t be getting French fries for quite some time.

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On a different note, here are some pictures from last weekends adventures with Brendan’s parents when they were in town visiting us. 🙂

Ms. Judy and Mr. Dan at the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke.  

First thunder storm of the year rolling in. Taken on the balcony of the Taubman Museum of Art.



Lunch at The Village Grille in Grandin (not the fries that made me sick). 

Brendan and me and Black Dog Salvage. 

Since this cow picture at Black Dog Salvage is way more than I can afford, I took a picture of it, featuring my almond milk latte.

Almond milk latte from Cups in Grandin.



Look at these gorgeous blooms in downtown Roanoke. 

I’m looking forward to this month and the warmer days that are on the way. Happy Saturday everyone!

End of the Month Reflection

As I sit in front of the computer this evening reflecting on the past couple of weeks, I find it hard to believe that we are well on our way into 2017. Is it just me, or does it feel like New Years Day was just a few days ago? This month has been so full of change, happiness, and positive energy – just the start to the new year I was hoping for. I hope that the month of January has been as lovely for the rest of you as well.

I wanted to devote some time today to looking back at my goals and habits that I set for myself at the beginning of the month and assess how well I stuck to them.

I definitely met some of my goals – getting a job, recycling more, and doing yoga more often – but I ended up slipping on some of my healthy habits I was trying to establish. I started the month off strong doing 15 minutes of yoga in the morning and at night, I was journaling everyday, and making headway on my reading list. But then I started my new job and my routine got thrown out of wack, and I’m sad to say that I haven’t worked very hard on getting back where I was. So I think the month of February will be a great opportunity to do this.

During the month of February I want to get more serious about my yoga practice and dedicate more time to it daily. I want to start incorporating more fruits and veggies into my diet because, believe it or not, even though I’m vegan I definitely don’t eat all of the plants I should. I want to go to bed earlier so that I have more time in the mornings to read my Bible, do yoga, and eat breakfast before going to work. And I also want to write more – I want to journal, blog, and write letters and articles more regularly. These are just a few of my goals + habits though.

On another note, Roanoke continues to grow on me. Meeting new people and really learning more about the community is giving me a deeper appreciation for this city. I’m hoping that in the coming weeks I’ll have more to share with you about how I am getting involved in this beautiful little community and how I want to serve and make a difference.

Roanoke really has so much potential and I am excited to see it grow and thrive in the years to come. How awesome it is to be placed here right now at this time of growth and development and to know that I have the opportunity to help progress that change. I know God has me here for a reason and I pray that He will help show and guide me to the areas I can be of service.

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And with that I say so long January! You’ve been grand.