Monday, April 30, 2012

Haiti Recap - Part One.

There's no chance I could get all I have to say about my Haiti trip into one post, so this will be a bit of a series over the next couple days or possibly weeks as I get it all down on paper. I thought perhaps I should do it in three parts (but we'll see how many pictures I really want to share).

Let's start with the almost 5 month journey to get to the trip. I want to share with you a blurb from my journal. This was written December 11th, 2011:

I should learn to watch my words, especially in the house of God. I was sitting in service this morning, browsing my bulletin, chatting with Auburn. I said almost flippantly, ‘if they were taking a trip to Haiti this year, I’d go’. That night I logged onto and sure enough, there it was on the list: Haiti.
You’re probably wondering, why Haiti? Well, after my friend Rafael went to launch his Uber Shelters in the wake of the extreme loss Haiti has experienced as a country, his enthusiasm and heart for the people there really touched me. In addition to Raf, one of my Dad’s players and my twitter friend, Pierre, being from Haiti has done so much to help his people. I’ve been touched by his passion and love for his country and his desire to help the people there.

I filled out my application, sent in my deposit, and called my Mom to tell her that I will be going to Haiti and please donate towards my trip instead of buying me Christmas gifts this year. Lord help me – I’m going to Haiti!

It was weird to go back and read that. I had all these Christmas plans for what I would use the money towards, what I wanted as gifts...and in a split second my perspective changed. My parents and several other relatives donated towards my trip as well as bought me some of the supplies I would need for the trip...

I came back from Christmas and wrote this on January 5th:

A new year and the Lord’s mercies are new. Jess & I have set a date for our yard sale – February 18th. I got $300 towards my Haiti trip for Christmas from my parents. Also, after I sent her a list my Mom stuffed my stocking with sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, etc. I got a holder for my passport too, which by the way has not arrived yet.
I’m humbled by the Lord provision in all areas of my life. And my excitement for this trip grows and grows. This is the verse that keeps coming to mind:

‘Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.’ – Isaiah 1:17

I'm smiling as I look back and realize I had no idea how the Lord would still manage to blow me away. From receiving a huge check in the mail from someone I didn't ask for money from to realizing in hindsight, I never really had to ask for anything...people just gave! And gave and gave and gave. So much so that by the end, I was able to donate some of what had been given for me towards my teammates.

I prayed when I first decided to go and told the Lord I wasn't going to ask people for a bunch of money and if he wanted this trip to happen, and I felt like he did, he'd have to provide. What I didn't expect was him to open the flood gates and remind me that the box I fit him in is my doing, that my small mind doesn't fit my big God.
I kept moving forward with shots and passports and planning....

I continued to write out my prayers requests and the Lord continued to guide my steps. From start to finish my prep, my one and only fear was whether or not my stomach could handle a week in a 3rd world country. I have to take this time to say, my doctor was incredible. From working through all my fears with me to saving me hundreds of dollars on vaccines, antibiotics, and appointments - he played a huge part in this trip prep and I am forever grateful. I pray the Lord blesses him in tangible ways.

The spring seemed to go slow with Haiti always feeling far away and then all of the sudden it was April! The countdown was on. I spent April buying supplies, preparing for home renovations, dotting my i's and crossing my t's. Then all of the sudden it was time to pack!...

With a 5:30 meet up time on Saturday morning I worked hard all week to get most of my prep done in advance. Since I didn't need to take my hair equipment, my work clothes, or really many of the things I use on a day-to-day basis, it wasn't hard to park in advance. Maybe the hardest part of my prep was making sure my work was in good shape to do without me for a week so close to an event and my blog was scheduled so you people wouldn't be bored and lonely without me. ;]

To say the prep for this trip came together seamlessly would be an understatement. I see God's hand in all of it. From being the first to raise all my funds, to having friends donate bed sheets, flash lights, and snacks for me, God was in the big and the little details. And I'm happy to report that didn't stop with the prep work, but that's for another day!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Club Friday: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes.

After taking a long break from writing about books on Fridays, it feels good to be back in a groove. For the first part of this year I wasn't particularly fired up about many of the books I was reading (especially finally reading all the freebies I'd downloaded on my Kindle). But the last few weeks I've been devouring books at an elevated rate and I literally haven't been able to put them down.

In March I wrote this post about finishing what I've started, my book shelves. It turned out many of you were up to the same challenge and through Goodreads and Twitter we've been able to do this together. I've loved it! There are few things I enjoy more than nosing around in what you're reading.

Amber from Brunch with Amber and I decided to exchange books (I believe I shared this previously). I went through her 'read' list on Goodreads and told her I really wanted to read this book from her list:

I finished 'Hollywood is like High School with Money' on my flight to Baltimore and immediately grabbed this one out of my purse and dove right in. It was the perfect book for travel because even at 500+ pages, the book itself was small and easy to tote around. By the time I arrived at my final destination for the weekend I was 150 pages in! I read every chance I got all weekend and finished the book after returning home Monday.

It was the right balance of character development, intrigue, and murder mystery to keep my attention. It kept me wanting to know more and pushing through the pages and as previously mentioned, not many books have been able to do that for me this year! I trust Amber's book judgement because we seem to have similar taste in books so I expected that I would enjoy it but I really did love this book. I don't want to give too much away but if you're looking for a summer read that will keep you interested, try this on for size.

I've passed my copy on to Mia so if you're friends with us on Goodreads you can watch to see her reaction in the coming days/weeks as well.

Happy book club Friday to all and happy reading.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

It's ok.... not even pack a hair dryer for Haiti, who will I be impressing anyway? be mildly terrified of the pictures that will be taken of you while wearing all lose fitting clothing for a week. pack some chocolate because you can't imagine going a week without it. have a week where you can't keep up your typical reading schedule (here's your chance to catch up!) be phone and internet free for a WEEK! This idea mildly terrifies me but also excites me. A chance to really get away and truly be unplugged. love the journal Jess got me for my trip. Can't wait to write in it. be scared of what you might miss while you're out of touch. want to travel the world now that you forked out 180 bucks on a passport (anyone want to go to Europe next year?) be over scheduled. take a day or two off from time to time to love your life again. be slightly crazy in the head after reading ' Master Your Metabolism' by Jillian Michaels. make rules and break em. I tell myself I have to do things and then sometimes I chuck that and do what I want. love to layout. I know, I know - sunscreen. But I just love the sun. be giddy with excitement about possibly having Mia, Jo, and Amber in Tampa the same weekend this summer. love getting mail, even if it's stuff you paid for. be obsessed with One Kings Lane. already be working on your birthday wish list, when your birthday is in September. These home projects have got me making all kinds of lists. overcommit to fun things. Trips, visits, birthday parties, oh my.
It's ok.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Working for the Weekends.

I'm afraid the next couple weeks I'm really going to be itching for the weekends. But before you think that's to get out of work some of the weekends are actually FOR work. I know I'm not the only event planner in my blog circle so many of you will relate to this... I'm entering the time of the year where the fruits of months of labor come together in events.

Obviously while you read this I'm in Haiti. I will return Saturday night the 28th and spend Sunday getting all the furniture into the guest bedroom for the painter to start May 1st. But after that the next couple weekends are insanely awesome. Ok wait, the first weekend in May will be low keyish. As low key as I ever am. Since the house will be in full blown upgrade mode I will be in town, hanging out, and getting things done.

The following weekend (May 12th) we have our Tampa Father & Kids Experience where Tony Dungy will be speaking. We're expecting about 1500 Dads & Kids. I've been working on this for weeks as you can imagine so I'm excited to kick off event season in our 'hometown' with one of my favorite men leading the way!

After that I leave Wednesday the 16th for Washington, DC! I will be there for 6 days with my cousins, aunt,uncle, the city, and Leanna! I am thrilled. This trip is exciting on so many levels. I love big cities. I love to explore. I love to get away. I love to experience.

I will return on a Monday and by that Wednesday the fun will continue with a visit from my Mom who will be in town just shy of a week, though spending the first few days (while I'm working) with her best friend on a little road trip as I understand it. Once the holiday weekend hits we'll be sunning, funning, fro yo eating, and guest bedroom decoring machines. I can't wait! My Mom's visited me once before in Florida and we had a blast! I've been begging for a repeat and I'm finally getting my wish.

After she leaves (boo) I'll head out a few days later to Alabama to work our Auburn event! I've never been to Auburn and I'm stoked to check out their stadium and work there for 2 days. I love to visit new places and to add stadiums to my list. You know you're in love with football when you keep track of all the stadiums you've been too, right?

The next few weeks promise to be crazy but packed with fun. Don't worry, I'm carving out time for the blog and friends during the weeks to come as well. But if you're hoping to get some face time in May you may want to put in your request soon, it's looking like this spring is going to be a blur!

Also to come over the Summer:

- Myrtle Beach Trip
- Best friend visiting
- Girls weekend with Mia, Jo, and Amber
- Possibly Daytona Beach to see my sister, bro-in-law, and niece
- Several other pending visits from friends
- Several other pending work events

Thanks for sharing in the excitement with me!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Among the things I really wanted to do before leaving for Haiti, a night out with this girl was near the top of the list. I asked her if we could carve out a hangout night before I headed out and she was sweet enough to do so.

I feel so grateful for Jess and her friendship over the past few months since blogging and meet up's brought us together. It's strange that a few months later I'm not entirely sure how I survived without her. I just know I never want to again.

This has brought with it a boat load of challenges and a few tough months. 2012 has been harder than expected as I've navigated challenges for my family, with my friends, and in my personal life. I have learned so much about trust, loyalty, and friendship. One thing I find I become increasingly grateful for are my friends.

Jess is so beautiful, inside and out. I cherish the time I get with her. She's so thoughtful, loving, and encouraging. She's a joy to be around and laugh with. She has been exactly what I've needed this year, and I hope the Lord blesses her tremendously for that!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Cleaning Project - the Pantry.

Note: It's weird as I write this I know that it will post while I'm in Haiti. So um, hey from the Caribbean? Hope you enjoy the posts this week and forgive me for slow responses, I'll be back the 28th. Hope you'll still stay tuned here, I've worked hard to keep interesting content in my absence.

I was slow to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon. First off, when I got in my invite and logged in I thought 'this is completely overwelming!'. Then when I realized how it worked, it grew on me slowly. When I later found out it has amazing organizational tutorials and blogs as well as cleaning tips and gift ideas - I came over to the dark side!

If you follow my board you may have found, liked, or judged my OCD pinboard which I started to tag all the amazing organizational and cleaning ideas I've found and want to put into practice. I have found some serious heros via Pinterest! These women are legit.

Let me introduce you to my pantry hero:


This is amazing. I wish that my pantry looked like this. BUT I'm planning on revamping mine in May when I do my official spring cleaning, condo upgrade, and guest bedroom project overhaul! So, while I had that $50 One King's Lane giftcard I got a canister set (for free) that looks like this:

I had been keeping an eye on similar items at Big Lots and Target - but the prices still seemed a bit steep and I was hoping to find them clearanced. Then when OKL had them AND I had a giftcard I thought, perfect! I want to move away from having bags of baking supplies and into having organized, easy-to-find and easy-to-keep-fresh baking supplies in canisters.

A few days later I pinned this - a magic decal tutorial that teaches you how to label your canisters for good. I think I'm going to have to do this, right?

I have a few silver canisters now that will be used in my coffee cupboard. I've also been saving glass jars (because I kind of hate the idea of buying them) to make my own seasonings in, eventually. Ragu pasta sauce in the glass jars was recently bogo so I started with those. I may still have to buy a few for various projects but I figure as much as possible, I will use what I would have otherwise thrown away.
I'm in the process of saving up and cleaning out some BIG glass jars for homemade laundry detergent which I plan to make soon. I find that the large sangria bottles are my favorite, so I snagged a few from a party recently and delabeled them.

I'm still in the market for a great spice holder for my pantry so if anyone knows of a great place to find them, shoot me a comment or e-mail!

What organizational project are on your spring cleaning list?

Have no fear - before and after pictures will happen for this project and many others!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

As I Head to Haiti.

I wrote a post that has apparently disappeared. But as I head to Haiti (I'm en route now) I feel grateful. Thank you to everyone who has pitched in to make this trip a reality for me. These are my prayer requests: - that the Lord would grant me a servants heart to serve the people of Haiti as well as my team. - for traveling mercies - that the Lord would stretch me and grow me in preparation for all the new chapters that await me - change. For change in my heart and a renewed since a gratitude. - that I would show the people of Haiti christ's love Know that I will be praying for you even while you are praying for me. I look forward to bringing back my experiences and sharing them with you. I love you! B

Friday, April 20, 2012

Repurposing Project.

Probably the best benefit to doing my house in black and white with accent colors has been that you can repurposing things with ease. Moving decor from room to room as I've added to my collection has really saved my money and made it easy to keep the house fresh.

When my roommate moved in I had to quit hogging all the pantry shelves and under all the sinks with my entertainment ware. I have quite a collection of placemats, napkin rings, paper goods, etc because I love to have people over and I keep my table set every day (mostly because I never actually eat at it). So I bought a 9 cubie piece of furniture from Target and some red baskets for the dining room.

It served it's purpose but I've never really loved having it in there. Since starting in May I will be living alone again, I decided I could ditch that piece of furniture again. Then I thought, why not repurpose it? My roommate has had one exactly like it (in different colors) in her room while she's lived there and I thought, I could put mine up there in the guest bedroom and just change out the colors.

A few weeks ago I showed you a list of DIY projects I wanted to tackle that I'd found on Pinterest. So this weekend I took on this one. I had plenty going on this weekend but I had planned to layout for a few hours Saturday and then it wasn't particularly sunny. So I hit the dollar store after I got off work and bought 3 vases for $1 each. In the same shopping center as our Dollar Tree there's a Michaels, so I bought 2 things of paint in the color I needed and a paint brush. The grand total was less than $10.

I stuck in 'In Her Shoes' between work and going out for a bit with friends Saturday night and put the first coat on:

After the second coat I was so pleased I decided to go ahead and paint a vase I'd gotten free at a banquet my work did 2 years ago. It was the perfect size for one of the cubbies in my piece (I thought to check that before I painted it Kelly green, thankfully...

It turned out pretty swell as well.

Then I took the combo of the vases I'd made, a few things I had around the house, and a blogpost I saw a while back in which they'd used books of a certain color to decorate and came up with this:

Please excuse my towels on top. I just finished washing those for the guest bathroom and until I load everything upstairs after Haiti, I put them there. But I couldn't wait til I move them in to show you my weekend project! I've now committed to help a few friends paint vases they want to do so - painting party coming soon.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's OK Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

It's ok.... block out time in your schedule to lay out. It's really the only way you get to relax, right? notice people's paint, carpet, and trim colors now that you're in renovation mode. be proud of yourself for working ahead so that you wouldn't be absent from your blog while out of the country but don't have to have guest posts or stale content. (some of you know how hard this is!) be making oodles of lists of spring cleaning/organizing/upgrading ideas that will keep you busy for May & June. have every weekend from now til the middle of summer booked. It's mostly fun things. ask your Mom to come spend time with you/spoil you for a weekend. wish your sisters lived close to you. say no. No no no no. laugh at yourself. get a new pair of glasses at the eye doctor every year because you're insurance will pay for it, even if you don't need them and you want lasik. have a massive stash of soaps and wall flowers but want to buy more every single time bath and body has a sale. (should insert saying no here) be the only person NOT worried about me going to Haiti. I'll be fine people, I promise if pneumonia 8 times and 3 should-have-been-fatal car accidents hasn't killed me yet, what's a little contaminated water and 3rd world living conditions, right? wear your hair up more than down. always be scheming something. Currently for me this includes using my credit card points to get a Bose system for my living room and my dining out to get a free airplane ticket. be literally obsessed with the group texts I've been having with Jo and Mia lately. Hilarious. Love those girls. Who will entertain me while I'm cell phone free in Haiti? insist that everything have a place. Every single thing. be dreading building a new set of shelves I bought for the garage. Blah. Maybe I can bribe my guy neighbor to do them with dinner.... be motivated by new music on my ipod. I love working out to new (or new, old music). love your life and work to change the parts you don't.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Condo Revamp - Getting Ready, Freebie, & Good News!

If my retail friends could see me now! Whew. So much has changed these past few years and I never would have guessed that at 26 I'd be putting off buying close in favor of buying guest bathroom towels and 15 gallons of paint. Oh adulthood, what have you done to the Coach purses buying Becca of the past? Ok fine, I still don't carry cheap purses I just buy them more infrequently...

Making my home upgrade dreams a reality is big deal for me. I've had to grow, stretch, and learn so much these past 4 years of being an 'adult' and taking on 2 big, expensive projects and planning in advance to pay cash for them was huge for me. I felt great about it and my parents have been proud and encouraging along the way. I was so proud when I went to buy the paint and I had perfectly budgeted every dollar needed in advance!

I should also share a few things I've learned along the way...

1. 5 gallon buckets of paint are heavy and you should accept the offer of help to get them in your car.

2. Everything related to a home is more expensive than you'd expect (faucets cost HOW much?)

3. Having a second job is a great way to save for projects faster, if your impatient like me

4. 'They' (as in super professional smart people) say you get back the money you spend on bathrooms and kitchens. I did some researched and that's what it says. So whoever buys the batch pad after me better be ready to fork over the big bucks for my upgraded bathrooms.

5. Haggling is a good thing, even if it's slightly mortifying and makes your hands sweat just thinking about it.

I've focused the last few weeks on getting ready for the upgrades which begin May the 1st. With being out of the country and out of touch the week before this all goes down, I've really had to be on my game. A few of you have been extra excited about these projects so I've been keeping a board of everything on Pinterest for you as well and thank you, by the way, for caring! : ]

If you follow my pinboard you already know I got this for the guest bath:

What you may NOT know is that One King's Lane really hooked me up! A few weeks ago they sent out a survey request and I tried to sign up. I didn't get into the survey and was totally bummed until...they STILL gave me the $50 giftcard code! For doing a whopping nothing. So I signed in on Friday and bought this shower curtain, a beach towel (I'm always working on my stash), and a set of canister for my kitchen and all I had to pay was the shipping and a little tax. Amazing, no?

I really want the guest bed and bathroom to be a place where people can find rest. I want it to be simple, luxurious, and elegant in a way that encourages the people who stay there to take a load off, like their own a-couple-blocks-from-the-water Florida retreat. So that's what I'm working towards...

Ok, back on task...

So far I've completed:

1. Picking out, hunting down, and purchases new faucets
2. Picking out new sinks
3. Picking out granite from a massive yard of it in the middle-of-no-where (Land O Lakes)
4. Unofficial and official measurings and quotes for the counters
5. Scheduling of the counter upgrades, sink and fixture installs
6. Picking out and purchasing 15 gallons of paint and 2 gallons of primer (goodbye Magenta wall, you've been a good friend)
7. Hiring a painter (because let's get real, I'm not doing it)
8. And researching plumbers out the wahzoo. Still working on nailing this down, however.

I've had a roommate living with me for about a year now and she will be moving out 2 days before this all begins. Did I mention I'm insane for planning this 2 days after returning to the country? Yeah, ok...thought so. Anywho, that gives me exactly one exhausting Sunday afternoon to get the guest bed, etc up there before the painting begins and I can't dink any of the walls ever again (at least without a major meltdown).

After 2 months of scrimping, saving, ebaying and craigslisting, working extra hours, bargain hunting, haggling, and maybe even buying a few clothing items and taking them back in leiu of this project, I feel blessed that it's about to begin!

So now for the good news! I found out last week my Mom is taking me up on my invitation/request to spend Memorial Day weekend with me! I can't wait to get some quality time with her just the two of us...and she's agreed to go on a little hunt with me for a lamp, bedside table, and accent chair or chaise for my reading corner. Whoo hoo. It's so nice to have company and an extra pair of hands/eyes.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pay it Forward.

I've shared before that I'm currently enjoying a Monday night bible study with the women of my church. We've got a great group and our time studying the book of Romans together has challenged me on so many levels. I wanted to pause for a moment to talk about a great suggestion they gave us I think you all should try.

A few weeks ago they gave us a pay it forward challenge. Our speaker for the night gave us a list of ideas for this but the list itself isn't important to the challenge. Most of us if we sit down and ponder it for a few moments can think of many ways the Lord has blessed us from health to a roof over our heads and beyond. So here's your challenge to bless someone else...

I've confessed a time or two before that serving others isn't a strong suit for me. I don't mind doing nice things for people, I just tend to do them on my terms. Or as many of us do, I love people in my love language, not theirs. So this speaker challenged us to use our gifts and talents to bless someone who could use a helping hand.

I came home and thought, 'what am I even good at?'. Reading, but I couldn't think of anyone I know who can't read that I could read too. Making lists...but that didn't seem like a useful pay it forward skill. Finally I thought about cleaning and organizing. If there's one thing I've gotten particularly good at, it's cleaning. I love keeping a clean, ready-for-company house and I thought, 'there are plenty of people who would be blessed by an extra pair of hands to clean'!

I of course didn't want to offend anyone by implying they couldn't clean on their own. But thankfully, I remembered that while playing cards a few weekends ago one of my girlfriends who's in her first year of marriage (and has an elementary aged son) had mentioned that it was tough to find time to really clean and organize. She mentioned that she felt like she was always getting 'just enough' done and never really having time to get ahead. Ah ha! Thankfully, she's a close friend and I didn't feel weird or like I was overstepping any bounds to text her and say that I was looking for a chance to serve someone else and would she like a cleaning buddy for a day.

We exchanged a few texts, talked about dates and projects, and finally landed on last Thursday. this was several weeks after the challenge at bible study, but with 2 weekends in a row out of town and Haiti fast approaching I had some scheduling constraints (as did she). I offered to make dinner and bring it with me, show up when she gets home at 6:00, and be ready to do whatever needed to be done.

A few days before our scheduled cleaning date she told me what she'd most like was help cleaning, organizing, and purging their bedroom. She said on the weekly to do list it seemed to be the area that got pushed off or neglected. This is something we can all relate too, right?

For someone who's not a natural server I'm always surprised at how excited I get when I do get/make the opportunities. I racked my brain (and Jo's) for ideas of extra things I could do to bless my friend. Publix (my local grocery store for you out of towners) was running cleaning supplies on BOGO, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stock her up, for the future. I snagged some great deals and made her a bag of supplies for future cleaning endeavours.

When I thought about being a working wife/mother (this idea mildly terrifies me) and what would bless me the other thing that popped into my head? Dinner! Not just dinner for us on cleaning night while everyone was away but a dinner she could share with her family one night when work, homework, and life make it tough to cook. Thanks to pinterest I had a few freeze-then-serve crock pot meal ideas and I decided that would be an easy way I could give her something that would bless her whole family.

I picked a chicken teriyaki meal that was to be served over rice. The best part? It made 2 meals anyway. So I made one for myself on Monday night, and I bagged up one for her to make later. The meal was to be served over rice so I picked up one of those packages you can chop the top off, fill with water, microwave, and ta da - dinner. All J would have to do is dump the ziplock bag into a crockpot (covered with a provided liner, to eliminate scrubbing) and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 (better for workdays) and prep the rice.

So there was my prep work which was didn't require a lot of time or money. I don't think serving other people always has to break the bank, ya know? I made spaghetti for dinner Thursday night for the two of us, so we could eat and get to work! I needed a quick meal I could make in advance so as not to waste the time we had cooking instead of cleaning.

Spaghetti, gifts, and freezer bag in hand, I headed to J's Thursday night excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work. We had so much fun! Not only do I love to clean and organize so I was totally in my element, but we had a blast talking and catching up! We live literally blocks away from each other but our busy lives keep us apart more than they should sometimes. We managed to get their bedroom spotless, clean enough to eat off any surface, and their closet totally organized. We even caught up some of their laundry while we were at it.

We finished the night with a round of Spades, our favorite card game, with her husband and another one of our friends. It was perfect. A great reminder to me that serving blesses the one giving it as much as the one receiving it. Also, a challenge to look for opportunities to do it again. So, there was my experience. Any thoughts on how you could use your talents to bless a friend this week? If you take me up on it, make sure you share your story with me!



Monday, April 16, 2012

Can You Keep Up?


The last few weeks have been insane! With trips every weekend, planning for the home renovations, prepping to the leave the country for a week (doctors appts, etc), entering event season for work, and all of the usual weekly events of workouts, cooking, cleaning, friends, letter writing, and recently ebaying - life has been crazy! If you're having a hard time keeping up, even with the help of this blog, you're not alone! I'm having a hard time keeping up with myself!

The last few weeks have been incredibly rewarding from time with my best friend to time with my family, I wouldn't trade a moment. As I prepare for Haiti I feel an anxious excitement for what's to come. I believe I will come back from Haiti with clarity on some big steps that are coming soon. I hope that by getting outside of my routine, I will be able to hear the Lord's voice clearly. I am going with high expectations and believing the Lord will meet me in a small mission in tent city.

I thrive on the drama of being busy. I love to have barely attainable goals, lengthy to do lists, and scheduled rest times. My best work is done this way. But I have gotten increasingly better at knowing my limits. When I hit the point of drinking over 100 oz of caffeine and doing more than 5 tasks at once, it's time to regroup. I've pushed myself the last few weeks to work harder in prep for this trip as well as to pay in cash for my home renovations and I'm happy to report that I have accomplished both. The Lord has really blessed and multiplied my work in these two areas.

So with sleepy eyes and a full heart I want to raise my coffee cup to productive days, too short nights, and lofty goals being met. Life is short and I'm living it hard.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chapel Hill/Raleigh Trip.

Hello darlings,

I've been working ahead of schedule on the blog lately, in prep to be away in Haiti for a week. I've noticed the trend is to have guest posts while you're away and I've actually had a few offers I may take them up on it someday but I've actually had plenty to say/share/write about, just need the time to get it down before I'm away. I also expect I will come back with plenty to write about as well. We'll see. Maybe you all would prefer a few guest posts...

First up I wanted to share after my post about crochet sweaters that I found an orange Michael Kors one in Kentucky with Candy and I wasn't lying when I tweeted I planned to wear what I bought the week before instead of doing laundry for North Carolina. This was my favorite purchase of the Kentucky/Indiana weekend trip:

After my tweet a few of you wanted to know where I got it. The answer is TJMaxx and it was $39. I've already worn it twice and I love it.

My weekend in Chapel Hill/Raleigh was incredible. It was so nice to be away, to be with my sister and her family, to reunite with my sweet niece, and extra special that I got to spend Noa's first Easter with both of my sisters and my bro-in-law.

The girls on Easter morning @ church. That's Noa, me, Ruth, and Rachel.

Noey and I before the Good Friday service.

Rae and Ruth at Geer's Garden with our 'pile' o fries.

Noa and I on Easter Sunday.

Reunited! This is Friday after I arrived.

Ruth drove in from Clemson on Thursday night. Chris, my brother-in-law grabbed me from the airport on Friday morning. We all went out to lunch at Geers Garden (near Duke). We also had a fro yo stop immediately following lunch. Thankfully, my sisters love self serve fro yo as much as I do!

Friday night we went to a special Good Friday service put on my Chris's church where he is the Associate Pastor, it's called 'The Gathering Church'. It was so fun to be a part of their church and to meet their friends! Everyone was delightful.

Saturday morning I met Jo and Mia for coffee at Starbucks (actually Mia came got me and bless her heart, got lost!):

These girls have such a special place in my heart. I treasure their friendship and it felt so good to chit chat over coffee and bagels with them. I feel like I've known them forever. And I have to say it's great to have friends who understand the football world. It's really not something you can understand unless you've been part of it, lived it.

I was so excited leading up to this meeting that I was kind of depressed when it was over...BUT they've agreed to let me host a girl weekend in August here in Tampa that will include food, sun, beaches, pools, tans, and shopping. So I will just anxiously await that while obsessively over planning in the meantime.

Saturday afternoon the girls and I hit the mall for a bit. I behaved myself, buying only one top from the Limited that was on sale for $6 (couldn't turn that down, now could I?). That night my sister and bro-in-law cooked an AMAZING Easter dinner for us all plus a few of their friends. We had a blast! And I haven't eaten that good in...well, maybe ever. It was delicious.

Sunday we went to church and celebrated the resurrection of my Savior! What a special thing to celebrate with my precious family. I'm so grateful for the sacrifice and the victory associated with Easter weekend. I hope each of you celebrated it with your families as well.

I feel so blessed to have spent Noa's first Easter with her. It was great to catch up with both of my sisters as well as to be part of Chris's church during this special holiday weekend. It was hard to board that plane back to Tampa and I did so tearfully. But I'm already looking forward to many more weekends like this.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saying No.

Over the past few years I've written a number of times about boundaries, creating space, and learning to let go of things. It never gets any easier for me. I'm a people pleaser to the extreme and I have an impossibly hard time saying no, even when I desperately want too. Over the past few weeks this has really come to a head for me.

I'm tired of meeting other people's expectations. I'm sick of being miserable in situations because I can't say no. I'm exhausted of keeping up with my over commitments.

I drove into work in tears a few days back with the weight of trying to balance it all. Church, family, friends, work, my house, my sanity, my blog, my goals, my weight. I finally sat down and thought, 'something has to give'.

I thought through what I could and couldn't eliminate. I started by writing an apologetic e-mail to an author I'd agreed to write a book review for. It was almost a week into April and she hadn't been able to give us a full copy of the book yet and I'm leaving on the 21st for Haiti. It was looming over my head and I thought, 'I don't have to do this'. I was sorry to go back on what I told her I'd do, but with a week and a half less time than I thought she was giving me, it didn't make the cut.

At the risk of sounding selfish I spent the next few days thinking about what I really want. What makes sense for me. What I need to do. But really, focusing on what I want out of the rest of this year. I felt so torn in a million directions and so overwelmed by everyone else's needs and desires. Their needs and desires were costing me dearly. It was time to take a step back and trim some fat. It was time to get real, honest, and maybe even a little selfish.

Too many of my relationships have entered the 80/20 zone. The zone where I'm putting in 80% of the effort to their 20% and I just can't maintain that long term. I believe all healthy relationships have an ebb and flow where each person takes on a little more of the weight for periods of time when necessary. But I was baring too much of the weight for too long.

I have entered a time in my life where I have to learn to say no. I'm 1 week out from leaving the country, 2 weeks out from renovating my house (1 day after reentering the country, mind you), 6 weeks out from my DC trip, 6 weeks out from the beginning of my busiest months of work and travel...and well, you get the idea. I've got a lot on my plate and I'm exhausted. I don't want the quality of my time, work, and effort to suffer because I keep finding myself saying yes when I know I need to say no.

I'm tearing up just writing this because I hate it and it's hard for me. But I'm spending the next few months clearing out some of my time and responsibilities. I need to make time to recover and relax. I've hit my breaking point, and now it is time to rebuild.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Hollywood is like High School with Money.

Happy Friday the 13th blog world. I hope you all are equally unafraid of such things but I did note as I was typing the date in for scheduling what date this Friday fell on.

I took a quick break from deeper, darker readings to demolish this Zoey Dean book in literally 48 hours during one of the busiest weeks of my 2012. I was in prep mode for a weekend out of town (my Scottburg trip) AND early prep for my trip the following weekend (Raleigh) because I would only have 3 days at home in between Whew. But despite work, laundry, packing, cleaning, and celebrating friends birthdays I still managed to fly through the 278 pages of thiI've got to be honest, I loved it. It was the Hollywood assistant version of a Nanny Diaries and Devil Wears Prada lovechild. Witty, hilarious, and maybe a little below the belt of the entertainment industry. I ate it up. As if it all that wasn't enough, it even had a hint of Mean Girls thrown in. As Taylor Hennings has to get her mean girl on to get ahead I found myself thinking 'you're a mean girl, Katy Heron' more than a couple times.

Light, airy, deep-as-a-kiddie pool and completely entertaining I'd say this is a perfect sun bathing read. It was just what I needed to break up my last few reads and a great number 25 to add to the list. I admit, I'm a little tempted to grab another Zoey Dean book soon.

In case I haven't done it justice here's the Amazon take on Hollywood/High School:

Twenty-four-year old Taylor Henning has just landed her dream job as an assistant at a major movie studio. But when her catty coworkers trick her into almost getting fired, she realizes that the old saying "Hollywood is like school with money" just may be true. The thing is, Taylor wasn't exactly a social butterfly in high school-how is she supposed to do any better the second time around?

That's when she meets her boss's popular sixteen-year-old daughter Quinn, and has an epiphany: maybe this teenager can teach her how to use her queen bee tactics to succeed in the Hollywood popularity contest. Quinn comes up with a plan to teach Taylor one lesson a week-everything from "Fake it 'til you make it" to "It's *never* your fault"--and soon Taylor finds herself winning the war against rival assistant Kylie. Until, that is, she's directed to steal Kylie's boyfriend, and something happens that's not in the game plan: Taylor falls for the guy. Now she must do the impossible-- harness her inner mean girl while staying true to herself.

Sold? Grab yourself a copy. Unless your Amber and your getting mine
Linked up, locked and loaded. I love book


Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

It's Ok... fall asleep in front of people when you're tired. At least I hope so, this happened to me TWICE last weekend. Gr. be sad when things you've been excited about are over, even if they were amazing. constantly want something to be planning for. realize you're insane for planning 7 days out of the country followed by 2 weeks of home renovations. Whew. love crockpot meals (and all the great recipes Pinterest has to offer) countdown the days until things you're excited for. grocery shop on your lunch break (seemed so much better than wasting my evening time) hate buying TP, paper towels, laundry soap, etc. It just seems like such a waste of money. LOVE taking out the trash. Weird, I know...but I love it. be really excited for a project with a friend tonight. want to read all the time. be obsessed with Goodreads. pick your nose (in private). They've got to get out of there somehow! write 'shave your legs' on your to do list so it actually gets done. brush your teeth twice a day at work. be ready but not ready for your trip to Haiti in just over a WEEK! love Groupon. hate dirty kitchen countertops, cleaning the bathroom, and hand washing dishes. love buying cleaning supplies and office supplies, even when you don't need either. be proud of yourself for getting $42 worth of free groceries and cleaning supplies at Publix this week. Thrifty shopping for the win!

Oh Thursday, how I love you.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Condo Revamp - The beginning.

Well I'm 2 weeks out from the beginning of the batch pad revamp. Being a homeowner has been the most fun adventure of my adult life. Trust me when I say I wouldn't trade it, it's been amazing. It's insane to think it's been 2.5 years since I signed those papers and gained a home of my very own! I can barely wrap my head around it.

So now, 2.5 years later I'm starting a few upgrades I've been thinking on, preparing for, and saving up the funds to complete. Those dreams start to become a reality May 1st of this year. From May 1st-May 15th my house may be in a bit of chaos but I'm so thrilled for the end result. If you follow me on pinterest you may have seen a new board pop up last week - this board will highlight all the upgrades and give you an idea of what will be happening, what I'm purchasing, etc.

Also I will be taking pictures along the way and giving you before and afters! I know this will excite some of you more than others. But for my fellow homeowners, my soon-to-be-homeowners, and my someday in the distance furture homeowners this may give you some ideas of how to do similar projects.

After quotes and measurements galore it was time to get down to business. I finally bought the new faucets which will be installed when they get rid of my boring while bathroom countertops and replace them with granite. It was an ORDEAL to get the ones I fell in love with online and then found out were an 'online special' which was also out of stock and back ordered! Ack! I spent weeks tracking them down and pricing them out. When I had almost given up because the least expensive price I could find them was $177 a PIECE plus $30 in shipping....Home depot came through for me:

Not only were they by far the best price but I was able to pick them up in person and I had a giftcard that helped cover the cost. I never would have imagined that plain old sink faucets were over 100 bucks a pop but like I've learned with many home projects, the differance between a $100 you can live with and a $134 faucet you love isn't so great in the grand scheme of things. I splurged for the ones I loved.

If you're looking for faucets you should try to only fall in love with ones that are available, though. That's my tip of the day.

So here is your very first 'before' picture of the bathroom. This is the master bath (aka my bathroom). This shows you the very basic white countertops as well as the very basic/very shiney silver faucet that is currently at home in my vanity. In less than a month there will be beautiful granite and a modern meets retro facet in 'brushed nickel'.

One more project I'm working on in advance of the 2 weeks of painting which will commence on May 1st as well, is what I'm going to do with my walls. One of the projects I want to start is a canvas print to represent the big cities I'm visiting. I determined last year to start visiting one big city a year. Last year was New York City and so I bought my first canvas (and began the project) with a groupon for this:

This year, after May, I will have to start searching for a DC canvas to represent my 2012 trip of the year. I've been to MANY places over the years including quite a few of the big cities but in my young adult like I determined I wanted to do some of them again. Still thinking through my 2013 destination so I can start saving and planning soon. Suggestions welcomed. Potentially a West Coast trip is in order.

Thanks for sharing in my excitement about the revamp - updates to come!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Looks I Love #13.

Haven't done one of these in a while, but I adore this chic, simple look I found on Frugal Fashionista the other day. If you don't already follow this blog you may want to start. She does a great job of creating similar outfits to those worn by stars on a young professionals budget spectrum. I adore that concept. Even better, I frequently find that I HAVE the pieces to put together these outfits already in my closet, I just haven't put them together quite like she has.

Don't you think most of us could put this together from a combo of currently owned items and maybe buying a piece or two in order to complete it?


Monday, April 9, 2012

Scottsburg Trip.

First off I want to send you to check out probably my favorite guest post I've EVER done here on Darby's blog.

(boarding passes printed, Thursday @ work)

As I sit down to write this I'm having the urge to sing 'all my bags are packed, I'm ready to go, I'm standing here outside your door'....

I love to travel and lucky for me the last two weeks have been full of it. They're really only the beginning though. Later this month I'm headed out of the country for the first time to the Caribbean to help build a church in tent city, 30 minutes outside of Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti. I will return just before the end of April, work my first NFL event of the season with former Super Bowl Winning Head Coach Tony Dungy, before jetting back off to explore Washington DC for a few days in mid-May.

When I promised you that year of experiences? I wasn't lying. I've put my money, my passport, and my suitcases where my mouth is and I'm going big this year. Travel, travel, travel I will. I love it. I wouldn't trade a second of my time away, even though I always feel a sense of relief about coming back home as well. Keeps me grounded.

I started my Scottsburg trip (my second of the year) with a 6am flight to Baltimore where I endured a layover with a bag full of books and my Christmas iPad (thanks Dad!). I normally fly direct but to be honest, I don't mind the occasional layover when I don't have a deadline for work or a holiday to rush too. I enjoy people watching in airports, reloading on fountain diet coke, and snagging a few postcards to send to my favorite 'penpals' across the states.

Bags of books - literally.

Hello from Baltimore!

This trip started out rough. Everything that could go wrong the week in advance pretty much did. I got sick, for starters. Then I had a relapse of my stomach drama of the year before to follow my sickness. My ride to the airport cancelled 24 hours before my flight. Naturally this was also the week nothing I own fit right, my AC needed servicing, and I learned that diet coke supposedly causes anxiety. Ack! Well, you get the was off to a such a rough start I remember texting Jo on Wednesday night as I was working on packing and saying, 'I'm starting to think my planes going to crash!'. But have no fear, I've lived to write to you all.

My flight to and my time in Baltimore were freezing. While I had thought through packing for my time in Kentucky/Indiana I had not taken the time to realize it would be blizzard worthy weather in Baltimore. Br! But I managed to finish a book and start the next, while being watching by a creeper.

My flight left Baltimore late but arrived in Louisville, KY early. Candy picked me up and we had lunch at Panera downtown before she went back to the office to finish up for the week while I loitered at Panera watching Lipstick Jungle on my ipad and reading.

When I felt like I mooched enough diet pepsi (bleh) and loitered long enough I took a walk around the L. It was absolutely beautiful there, although I kept saying it was 'chilly' and getting strange looks. Everyone there was in flipflops, I couldn't leave the house without a sweater. Florida has made me a real wimp.

One afternoon we took a drive through Henryville, IN - where the tornados recently hit. It was both humbling and a great reminder to make sure we're storing up our treasures, not on earth. To think you could lose it all in a second really puts things into perspective.


Candy & I at Lights Barn.

And again.

Tyler and I. I'm basically built exactly like that.

It as a relaxing low key weekend in the burg. It was hard to catch a 7am flight back that Monday. We got up at 430, drove to Kentucky, I flew to Tampa, picked up my car and headed straight to the office. Nothing like coming back to the real world.

I feel grateful I was able to go back so soon. Two trips to Scottsburg already in 2012 and it's only April. Truly a blessing.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Time Out.

I love my life. On the good days and on most of the bad days. But even I find that sometimes you just have to call time out. We all get in these ruts where nothing goes right, or so it seems, for a while. I've been surviving a long phase like that myself. To combat this I've decided to allow what I will from here on out refer to as 'time outs'.

Last Wednesday my plans (to work late) got cancelled last minute and I suddenly had a free night. I quickly texted Jess to see if we could get fro yo. I knew it was a long shot since we were both at work by then and it was only a few hours away but I figured, why not? Thankfully she was free and in the mood for fro yo as well AND had experienced an equally yucky day. I agreed to fly out the door and over the bridge to the St Pete side of town which is when I remember that Jlo works over there some of the time. She didn't take too much coaxing before she agreed, she could use some friendship and fro yo too.

That night turned out to be the best night of my week, sitting around talking with two girls I have come to adore! I of course had to relay (twice, once for each girl) the story of how I tried to take a tank top to the tailor who wanted to charge me 16 bucks...when I determined I didn't want to use him and screamed in my face that I owed him 6 bucks for 'wasting his time'. It was awful. Naturally I was so overwelmed I gave him the money and then got in my car and used my iphone to promptly write exactly how I felt about my experience online for when people google him. Yeah, take that!

Anywho, as I left yogurtology after 2 hours of belly laughing I thought, 'that was exactly what I needed'. I promptly said as much on my facebook status and later realized Jess had posted the exact same status. Turns out we all needed a time out from real life to just enjoy ourselves, stuff our faces, and laugh.

So consider this post my thank you - to friends who have stepped up to bring me so much laughter and happiness during a rough time of transition in my life. And my encouragement, to you, to take timeouts when you need them. Don't let life weigh you down and don't be afraid to put the 'crap' in your life on the back burner for a few hours and have fun. Turns out, returning to take care of business afterwards isn't quite as daunting!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Don't Quit.

I wanted to share this great poem that came to my attention at work recently. I was typing it up for our president who needed it for something he was doing and I stopped to really read it and thought, we all need this reminder from time-to-time. And so I give you the 'Don't Quit' poem:

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
- Author unknown

So for all of you who have had a couple tough weeks like me, don't quit. Stick it out. We've got this!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Favs.

I figured it's Friday, I'm back in the air, and it'd be fun to share something light today. So here are five things I'm digging as of late...

1. Lipstick Jungle. The TV show. I just started watching it via netflix after finishing all the Vampire Diaries that were available. Naturally, I read the book a while back and now I'm really enjoying the show. I love shows about big wig women in cities. I'm a sucker, what can I say?

2. Chic lit. I let myself surface from a mix of finance, real estate, war, and poverty books for a little chic lit last week and I really enjoyed it. It was nice to have something mindless. This was on my shelves as an inherited book from Bryn & Nancy's castaways.

3. My Sisters. I'm headed to see them this weekend and I adore them. Along with my bro-in-law and niece, of course. (I'll try'n post a picture from the weekend soon)


4. Teal & Coral. I love that teal and coral are popular this year! They're great colors for me AND I adore them. I want to buy accessories, shoes, clothes, bags, and even stationary in them. Even though this is making budgeting uber hard this spring, I'm glad they're 'in'.

5. Change. I'm facing quite a bit of change in the coming weeks and I am embracing it. I feel excited for what's to come, on so many levels. As a self-proclaimed control freak this isn't always easy for me but this time I feel good about it.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

It's ok... have 'off' days. keep some things to yourself. justify the occasional shopping spree you don't really need. plan pedicures way in advance so you have adequate time to be excited about them. be thrilled about a weekend with your sisters, niece, and bro-in-law. have a love/hate relationship with packing. safely be able to say pretty much anytime 'I'd rather be reading'. make people earn your trust, and keep it. be sad when things don't turn out the way you hoped. have unrealistic expectations from time to time. always be a step ahead. hate laundry, we all do. I've probably listed this one before. It's still true. eat your feelings, from time to time (just not everyday,people). drink out of the 2 the your robe. care what some people think, and write the rest off. be super annoyed when people put their kids as their facebook photo. If it's your facebook, put your own face. put items on your to do list that you've already done so you can check them off. (again, probably said this before but it's still true so I'm saying it again) cry. Sometimes you just gotta cry it out (much like hugging it out, but alone). have mixed feelings. have weeks where you're totally uninspired. This is a bloggers nightmare, isn't it? But it happens. schedule in down time because otherwise it never happens. write your best blogs for guest posts.

Thursdays are my favorite, they're fly your freak flag days for me. ;]


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Could Wear That!

Do you ever see fashion trends and think, I could wear that? Not just but maybe sort of pull it off? I've been paying attention to these new crochet sweater trends. That's usually a little too hippy for my simple style but I like the way they're being down played. Below are pictures of 2 of my favorite celebs (a kardash and the Hills LC) sporting crochet sweaters in simple, classic ways...

I found one I loved the other day. It's simple, understated, and it's zips up the back a detail I love on sweaters. And so I put together this outfit for my trip this past weekend including the new crochet sweater I bought (because lets be honest it's way too hot to wear it in Tampa anyway):

Anyone else digging a celeb trend this spring you might actually be able to wear?


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Fashion to Figure Skirt

Hello loves,

Those of you who follow me on twitter/facebook know I was thrilled when Fashion to Figure gave me the opportunity to review a piece of clothing from their company. Many of you know that I have been plus sized the better part of my life and so I understand the struggle to find fun, attractive, figure flattering plus sized clothes. Since I now wear a 12 (sometimes a 10 on a skinny day) I still technically fall into the plus sized category so I was happy to give it a go.

I was allowed to pick which item I'd like to review and keep. I picked the geometric print skirt I'm about to reveal because it seemed functional for both work and going out. I also could instantly imagine myself wearing my red Michael Kors heels with it, which won it bonus points. A few days later it arrived in the mail and I was thrilled with how well it fit! Even with a belt, it's comfortable for both standing and sitting for a few hours at work (I'm a threat to take anything I belt off while I work).

Here's a close up of just how well it fit:

I needed to make it professional for my work day so I paired it with a Caslon cardigan and added one of my favorite red necklaces to jazz it up and bring out the red skinny belt that came with it, as well as the previously mentioned Michael Kors heels.

I scoured the whole Fashion to Figure website with a plus sized coworker and we were both astounded by their stylish selection as well as their unbeatable prices! If you haven't visited their site before you should take the time to browse, the skirt I received was less that $30!

My second favorite item after the skirt was this ribbed ponte dress which is listed for only $42. Even their shipping is flat rate and $5. I was pleased to find and to share this company. I have heard time and again from friends, coworkers, and fellow bloggers how hard it is to find affordable, stylish, flattering plus sized clothes. It seems to me, the search is over!

I couldn't totally keep this under wraps for the few days between the skirts arrival and this post so as a result I've already promised Jess she can borrow it first! Also, Amber told me via twitter she has a clutch headed her way from Fashion to Figure now, which I can't wait to see! Make sure you check out their website and let me know what piece you would have picked to review.

Love, B