Movie Night!

One of my favorite things to do at the end of a long day is to have movie night with my husband. This is something that we’ve gotten into the habit of doing on the nights when we get home from work at a decent time. We love movie night so much that we even created our own little theater in our living room! Mark set up a projector so that our movies fill the wall, and we always move the couch so that it’s in just the perfect spot. I like how movie night allows us to be together without really having to do anything or go anywhere.

I was recently introduced to the family-friendly streaming website Pure Flix, and we teamed up to share some of my movie night essentials. I was happy to come up with these ideas for movie night fun, so here they are!

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Since Mark and I have different tastes in movies, we take turns choosing what to watch. Sometimes he has to watch chick flicks or documentaries, and other times I’m stuck watching some superhero movie. I checked out Pure Flix and liked how there are several genres of movies and shows, and they’re suitable for all ages. I don’t like getting to the middle of a movie and realizing that it’s full of garbage that we shouldn’t be watching, so  Pure Flix is helpful to filter out those distasteful films.

Snacks are always a part of our movie night. Since we don’t get home until after midnight, we’re usually hungry from skipping dinner at work. I like to brew a nice cup of tea and make a huge bowl of kettle corn to share. Sometimes I even mix some Reese’s pieces into the kettle corn! Snacks give me that extra boost to stay awake and help me to at least make it through the first five minutes without falling asleep!

Once we pick our movie and grab our snacks, I cuddle up with my fuzzy blanket and we each find our spots on the couch. Once we press play, we put our phones and other distractions away, start munching on our food, and enjoy the show!

Help us choose some future movie night ideas! What are your favorite movies???

Surviving or Thriving?

IMG_1619.JPG“I want to thrive, not just survive.”

I remember someone telling me that during a particularly difficult season of life. I hadn’t really thought about the difference between those two words before then, but that sentence has stuck with me for many years.

The dictionary defines surviving as “continuing to live or exist.” It’s a pretty dull definition that doesn’t hold much hope. Surviving is when you are able to keep yourself alive, but it doesn’t go much further than that.

Thriving, on the other hand, is defined as “prospering or flourishing.” This sounds bright and open. It is full of hope and possibility. This is what I am aiming for. Thriving.

During the first couple of months of marriage, we were definitely in survival mode. Maybe that’s not “normal” for newlyweds who are supposed to be all starry-eyed and blissful, but it’s the truth. I had to adjust to life in a new city. My husband Mark and I hardly saw each other because of our opposite work schedules. Even when we started working at the same place, we were tired from working late every day and went into autopilot mode of waking up, going to work, and repeating. We were trying to get things done and simply survive.

Now, only 9 months into this whole marriage thing, we are still learning and growing a lot each day. Personally, I’ve grown in many ways. I’m more familiar with where we live, I’ve made connections with people, and I’ve gotten better at going outside of my comfort zone. I left the pizza place that Mark and I worked at together and now manage a frozen yogurt shop, which is conveniently right next door and owned by the same wonderful people. Our schedules are full and if you ask me how life is going, I’ll likely say “busy,” but I think I’m slowly creeping out of survival mode and making baby steps toward thriving.

I’ve learned that in order to get out of survival mode, I have to be intentional. I have to plan out my time, make room for myself and others, and find little moments of happiness along the way. I have to be present. I have to choose to gently set aside the to-do lists and pause the never-ending thoughts in my mind in order to intentionally be in the moment. Instead of simply letting each day pass by and run into the next, I have to pause and reflect. I have to think about the highs and lows of the day, along with things that I could work on. Time goes so fast that it’s easy to close my eyes and push through without even noticing all the amazing moments along the way.

Life comes in waves, and it seems like it changes as soon as I finally feel like I have a grip on things. I’m sure this won’t be the last time that we find ourselves in survival mode, but I’m hoping that with each experience, I learn a little bit more and adapt a little bit better. Sometimes we have to do what we can to survive, but we can’t stay in that place forever. My goal is to spend more of my life thriving than simply surviving, and I’m doing what I can each day to make that happen.

 

 

 

[No Title]

It’s been a crazy few months around here. Christmas, school, work…life has been busy and full and difficult and wonderful. It’s not often that I find time to pause and reflect, but I’m thankful for those rare quiet moments when I can sit by my crackling candles to think and type and dream.

For a while now, I’ve struggled with the idea that I’m not doing enough with my life. I know how that may seem strange, given the fact that I just went off about how busy I’ve been…but I feel like I’m not really helping people. I’m not putting a degree to use. I’m not out in the world, doing awesome things and changing lives like some of my friends and the people I follow on social media. I don’t have a fancy job title or any noteworthy accomplishments. I feel like because I’m not doing anything that can be posted about on Instagram or placed on an impressive resume, I’m not doing anything productive at all.

In the midst of my internal wars and doubts, I remind myself that maybe I don’t have to have a fancy degree on the wall or an official title. Maybe I don’t have to actively be doing anything to make a difference. Maybe just being is enough. Thinking about interactions that I’ve had with others, many memorable conversations and situations where I’ve felt valued were times when other people were just being themselves. Doing their jobs, offering a listening ear, or even just smiling. Sometimes, just being there for someone is what they need. And even though I may not have an impressive title or a cool degree or superhero skills, being there is something that I can do.

My life is nothing like I would have imagined it to be at this point. Don’t get me wrong–I’m happy with where I’m at, but it’s just so different than I planned. I’m turning 23 next week. My original plan was to have my Master’s Degree by now and to be working in the medical field. Instead, I don’t even have a bachelor’s degree (um, yeah, thanks to my lovely school for telling me I graduated and then changing their mind) and I spend most days working at a pizza place (which is something I said I’d never do, but I actually love). I’m not actively saving lives or helping people function better or doing anything earth-shattering. I have to believe that I am where I’m at for a reason, though. Even if it’s not time to go out and be someone, maybe I can still make a difference by just being and living and remaining open to the possibilities.

Maybe we don’t need titles in order to make an impact. Maybe just being is enough.

 

 

 

 

Thankful & Grateful

img_0243In early November of 2014, I remember standing in my bathroom, sobbing, and saying “all I want for Christmas is a new leg.” My leg was literally dying and the skin on my foot was breaking down rapidly. Gross, yes. Also excruciating.

Christmas came early that year, and somehow I got exactly what I wanted. Two years ago yesterday, Dr. Hero saved my life and chopped of my leg. It was the scariest and most wonderful day ever as I finally felt freedom from the years of living with a failing limb.

As I reflect on the past two years, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by gratitude. On this ampuversary, I remember the fact that this life is such a gift. I feel like I received a second chance at living when I had my amputation. Without surgery, I would have died. Even if I didn’t have my amputation and my life was somehow spared, I would have been struggling to survive each day as I had been for the two years prior. I am so thankful for that life-changing day.

Life since the amputation has been a mix of highs and lows. I suppose that’s how life in general is, and nothing will really change that. Even in the tougher moments, I have to remind myself that it is wonderful to be alive. Although there has been a lot of pain, especially this year, I wouldn’t trade where I am today for the world.

I’ve been trying to decide the biggest way in which my amputation has changed my life. I think the shift in perspective would probably make the top of the list. I’m more aware of what matters and what doesn’t. I’m more intentional with my time, my actions, and my relationships. I have gotten way out of my comfort zone and I’ve realized that sometimes it really pays off to take risks. And I’m more thankful than ever for each day.

I’ve been busy living a very full life these past few months, which is why my blog posts have been few and far between. As much as I’d love to have more time to write, I’m okay with the infrequency. I am extremely grateful that my days no longer consist of sitting on the couch, staring at my computer for hours on end and waiting to go to sleep. I’m thankful for the things that fill my schedule because they show that instead of simply surviving, I’m actually living.

Thank you to my friends, family, and blog readers for all of your love and support during the past two (+) years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the many amazing people that I’m blessed to have in my life. For you, and for life, and I am so very thankful and grateful ❤

Bittersweet

There are some days when the sun is out and everything is lovely. Days when I’m filled with genuine joy and I’m thrilled to be alive.
…And then there are days when it’s pouring rain and I’m standing in my kitchen, crying over apple crisp and wondering what I’m even doing here.
It happens.

The point of this example is not that I have some weird emotional attachment to apple crisp…although I suppose I do, as it brings back bittersweet memories. The point is to say that sometimes, things just aren’t okay. Life is messy, people are imperfect, and we have feelings for a reason.

I recently got married, so I feel like I’m not allowed to say that anything is wrong, and rather, I’m supposed to give people this image that I have some sort of “newlywed bliss” where my whole entire life is wonderful. I mean, I am a total realist and I completely expected things to be how they are right now, so those thoughts aren’t coming from my own expectations. But still, there’s a mental barrier that’s been holding me back.

I guess it’s just the whole “fairytale” thing that movies and society lie to us about that’s preventing me from being real. I have this idea that people think that my life should be blissful and sweet all of the time because I’m a newlywed, so I feel like openly telling the world that things aren’t perfect is like complaining that my happily ever after isn’t always happy. Y’all. Life after a wedding is still. Life. And even fairytales have least one “bad guy” & a fair amount of struggle. So there.

If I’m truly being honest, the past few months have been bittersweet. Heavy on the bitter, lighter on the sweet. Aside from my wonderful marriage (which is one of the few things that is going well and does make me happy), life has been hard. Several people (mostly family) who I thought would always be there for me have abruptly disappeared from my life for unknown reasons. Things have happened in other areas that have been out of my control. My emotions have been all over the place, and it has often been hard to push past the darkness and focus on the positive. It’s been a season of pain, loss, and disappointment. Sometimes I am not okay, life is not okay, and admitting that all is okay.

Well, here is the part where I’m tempted to delete everything that I just wrote and instead upload a happy, polished post. I  want to simply tell myself to think about all of life’s happy moments and completely ignore the pressing pain. But that’s not real, and that’s not the point of this blog. So I’ll leave it as is, trusting that you will read my words not as though I’m whining and complaining (trust me, I know things could be so. much worse.), but instead, read them for the raw reality that they are. Honest words that express the fact that life isn’t perfect, and we don’t have to hide away or pretend that our struggles don’t exist just because they’re not as bad as so-and-so’s, or just because we “should” be happy all the time.

It’s easy to wear masks and pretend that everything is wonderful. Social media, especially, allows us to be as fake as we want, showing our friends (and strangers) our best, edited, and enhanced side. We aren’t as comfortable with showing the messiness, letting people into the darkness, and admitting that we aren’t always perfect. But I think that in order to have connection with others, some aspect of vulnerability is important. Because we’re all broken. But when we choose to open up and let the light in through those painful cracks, we realize that we’re not alone.

It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay.
This is where the healing begins.

 

 

 

Unplugged

8265cba6-6923-4bdc-bd86-e4c17b69238bWhile on our honeymoon, my husband and I decided to have an “unplugged” week. No phones, no social media, no calls from work. I’ll be the first to admit that I failed at keeping my phone off the whole week, but when it was on, it was for good purposes (like telling my mom I was alive…or taking photos at the beach…ok, in all honesty, it was mostly to look at wedding pics.)

It’s amazing how much we (I) depend on social media and technology to get through life. It’s as if one day of missing peoples’ Facebook posts will result in the world coming to an end. In reality, the opposite is true. The world gets brighter when you’re not carrying around everyone else’s burdens.

There was one specific morning of our vacation when I popped onto Social Media. Mark was sleeping, so I figured I could “cheat” since our reason for being unplugged was to have more time to talk and enjoy each others’ company without the presence of screens. I quickly realized the mistake that I had made when I unlocked my phone.

You see, aside from the connection piece, by being away from Social Media, we weren’t reading so-and-so’s depressing post or seeing photos that reminded us of hard times or feeling guilty about that person who we weren’t able to invite to the wedding. Guess what? All of those things happened in the five-minute period of time that I snuck online. And all of those things stuck with me throughout that entire day.

In this super-connected world, it’s hard to disconnect. It is extremely difficult to make the decision to stay off of social media for any length of time. I mean, I probably check Facebook 20 times in a single day without realizing it, and it rarely makes me feel better about my life. In fact, my Facebook time usually leaves me hungry from seeing recipes, jealous of my friends’ super cool lives, and depressed by the horrifying news articles and sob stories that people post. Aside from the occasional adorable baby picture or engagement announcement, my feed is typically filled with drama and bad news. Where’s the fun in that?!

This week, my goal is to be more mindful of my social media usage. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be off social media altogether, but I’ll be using it less. I want my time to be spent actively building relationships rather than silently reading about what everyone else is doing. I want my focus to be on my husband, my friends, my home, and my own life rather than trying to measure up or make the next great Facebook post or count the number of “likes” on my photos.

Life is short and I don’t want to look back and remember it only through a screen. I want to fully embrace each day without straining my neck to read another status about someone’s broken car or annoying brother, although I’ll keep those people in my prayers. I want to be mindful of how I spend the moments that I’m given, knowing fully that I cannot get them back.

Starting today, I will choose to think twice before so carelessly wasting my time on things that don’t really matter, and I’ll work on being fully present in each moment.

 

 

Wedding Day!

IMG_7416.JPGToday, August 27, 2016, I marry my best friend.  At 10:30 in the morning I will walk down the aisle, dressed in white, toward the man of my dreams.  It’s surreal, exciting, and a huge reason to celebrate.

You see, if I’m being honest, I never thought I’d have the chance to say “I Do.”  I thought love and marriage were things that I just wouldn’t be able to experience.

When I was 12 and essentially paralyzed from the mouth down, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever talk, walk, or hold anyone’s hand again.

When I was 15 and fighting for my life as I battled Anorexia, I didn’t think I’d remain alive long enough to even have a boyfriend.  Even if I did live through it, I was convinced that nobody would ever love me.  I was too broken and scarred for anyone to handle.

At age 17, during my stay at a girl’s home in Nashville, I began praying about my hypothetical future husband.  I seriously doubted that I’d ever be one of those girls who found her Prince Charming, but I still decided to pray because that’s what some of my friends were doing.

(Psst…guess who came into my life–as “just a friend”–about 6 months later???)

I thought the destruction of my right leg would be the ultimate man repellant.  Out of all the girls in the world, I thought, nobody would choose the one on crutches.  As I hesitantly dreamed about the possibility of getting married, I imagined myself hobbling down while using my aluminum sidekicks, as I called them.  There was no way I’d ever be able to walk down the aisle.

After my amputation, when my old best friend Mark texted my mom to let her know he was praying for me, I had a feeling that I should reach out.  I had absolutely no intentions of jumping into a relationship with him at that point (um, I think the pond thing taught me my lesson about jumping into things), but I knew we should talk.

A few weeks later, that friend told me he wanted to be the first person to take me out in public after my surgery.  I accepted his invitation and we went on what would become our first unofficial date.  By that point, we had both been through things that helped shape us into better, stronger people.  People who didn’t need significant others, but decided that we would give the whole dating thing a try.  That was the best decision of my life.

The song I’m walking down the aisle to is “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds.  The lyrics say, “Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here…”  When I listen to that song, a timeline of events flashes through my mind.  I am so thankful that every moment, both good and bad, led us to where we are today.

Mark, I love you.  You are my first love, my last love, and my only love.  I can’t wait to marry you and spend the rest of my life by your side ❤

10 Before 30

With 10 days left before I say “I Do,” I’ve been thinking about goals for the future.  Getting married is not something I thought I’d have the privilege of doing, so it’s neat to be able to check that off my “dream list” soon.  I was inspired by Personal Capital to share this great idea of posting my goals for my 20s!

Here are 10 things that I’d love to do before I turn 30 (In no real order, besides the obvious):

  1. Get Married! Okay, as I said, this was always on the “dream list”, and I never let it get past that point until I had a ring on my finger and a wedding date in my calendar.  I am so thrilled to be marrying my best friend, Mark!  Of course, not everyone is into the idea of marrying young, but I don’t see the point in waiting until I’m “older” just to make people happy.
  2. Have a decent savings fund I am the financial person in the relationship, so money matters tend to stress me out.  Having a savings fund for emergencies or future purchases will help relieve some of the panic when unexpected things happen.  By using a tool like this retirement planner, I’ll be able to keep track of my savings.
  3. Buy a House My fiancé and I are renting a townhouse that I’ll be moving into after we get married,  but it will be nice when we have saved enough money and are able to get an actual house.  There are definitely perks to the whole renting thing (someone else takes care of lawn maintenance, for example), but there are also some things that make me cringe (workers coming in and out to fix things all the time, thin walls, etc.) I’m looking forward to the day when we can settle down in a more permanent (and maybe more peaceful) location.
  4. Graduate and go to Grad School Since my current college is the fourth one I’ve attended, I’m still scrambling to meet all of the requirements to graduate.  I started the whole college journey 8 years ago when I participated in a high school/college program at the local University, and I’m still not done.  (I mean, I was in the hospital for a good chunk of those 8 years, so I’m giving myself some grace.) I’m aiming for a December graduation, and then I’ll take some time to save up and figure out what I truly want to do before applying for grad school.
  5. Have a job that I love I’m still discovering what I’d like to do career-wise.  This fact both stresses me out (because I don’t feel a strong sense of direction) and feels freeing (because there are so many options.)  I know that the right job will come along eventually, so I’m trying not to worry about that too much.
  6. Pay off Student Loans Apparently it’s hard for average, non-athletic people to get college scholarships…or maybe I just didn’t look hard enough.  Either way, I have an uncomfortable amount of student loan debt that I’m slowly paying off.  I’m hoping that I’ll at least have a good amount paid off by age 30.  (Hey, at least I got a discount and only had to pay the leg part of the “arm and a leg” fee when I had my accident at school #2! (Bad joke? Sorry.))
  7. Become a Mom  I told Mark that we could either get a dog or have a baby (a few years from now, preferably), but not both at the same time.  We’ll see what happens in that department!  Hopefully I’ll either be a dog mom or a human mom by the time I’m 30.  Maybe both if he gets his way 😛
  8. Travel  With the busyness of life, it’s hard to find time to get away and travel.  I know that this is probably a prime time for exploration since Mark and I don’t have kids or anything, so I hope to at least see a little bit of the world in the next few years.  I’m definitely looking forward to an upcoming adventure to the beach, and I’ll be soaking up every minute.
  9. Develop and Maintain a Balanced Lifestyle  I am easily overwhelmed (as evidenced by my minor  major freakout moments related to wedding planning), so having consistency and balance is important to me.  I feel much better when all aspects of my life are where they should be for a given season–mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  Things get crazy when I forget to care for any given category.
  10. Live Boldly  I’m usually a reserved, quiet type of person (yeah, yeah, some of you are reading this and laughing), but I’m working on getting out of my shell and fully embracing life.  I tend to brush things off as unimportant, but I have to remember that life is not a dress rehearsal.  I won’t always have the opportunity to go somewhere or do something, so I shouldn’t live half-heartedly.  I want to be all in wherever I am.  I want to be unafraid to take risks, talk to people, and do things that might push me a bit out of my comfort zone.

There you have it!  Is there anything that I should add?  What are some things you’d like to accomplish in the next few years?  I’d love to hear from you!

Youshare

youshare-website-logo-sept-16-20151.jpgI believe in the power of stories.  I feel like there are a lot of things that we can learn by hearing and reading the stories that other people have to share.  I also think that there’s something special and freeing about telling your own story.

I am an ambassador for The Youshare Project, which is a website and community where people can read, listen to, and share true and personal stories.  It is a safe space to give others a glimpse of your experiences, or to simply learn about theirs.  I absolutely love the concept behind Youshare because I think it’s amazing how we each have our own journey and our own story to tell.

If you’ve ever read a post online and thought about having your own words published, Youshare is a great way to do just that!  Anyone, from any level of writing experience, is welcome to submit their story for the chance to have it read by a warm community of lovely people.  In addition to written work, Youshare also has a new feature called Dial Youshare, which allows you to record your story for people to listen to.  If you check out the Dial Youshare page, you might even recognize a familiar face and voice!

On the Youshare website, you will find a tab that is dedicated to a call for submissions.  This lists the topics that Youshare is focusing on for a given period of time.  Currently, these topics are about division and birth stories.  If you have something to say about either subject, feel free to share!  Personal stories are always accepted as well.

If you’re not interested in submitting a story of your own, you can still check out the website to read stories that people have written about some pretty powerful experiences.  Some things people have written about are disabilities, marriages, loss, and happy moments.  Youshare gives you the chance to step into someone else’s shoes for a moment as you learn a bit about their life.

I hope you take a minute to visit the Youshare site and learn more about this wonderful project!  If you submit a story, be sure to let me know so I can give it a read!

Becoming Better

When challenges arise, you have a choice.  You can become bitter, or you can become better.

Life is messy, as we all know.  People say things that rub us the wrong way.  They do things, whether deliberately or accidentally, that cause us pain.  We feel tossed around and beaten down by the painful experiences that we have in this one wild and crazy life.

I have personally been going through some things lately that have been frustrating and discouraging.  With each situation, I’ve realized the importance of protecting my heart from bitterness.  It’s so tempting to automatically resort to resenting the people who have been hurtful.  So. Tempting.  But where does that get me?  Well, the only place bitterness really leads is to the same level as those who are causing it.  That just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

It takes conscious effort to catch the bitter feelings before they take root in my heart.  Looking at the circumstances that I’ve found myself in, I probably have good reason to choose bitterness.  I would love to yell and scream and say “forget you” to the people who have decided that my feelings and my existence don’t matter.  My fingers are tempted to type out nasty texts and dial numbers for the purpose of making unkind phone calls.  My heart wants to shut down and forget everything I’ve learned about love and kindness.  But that would only add to the bitterness, making things worse and making it harder to forgive.

I do not want to be like the people who have caused these deep wounds.  I don’t want to be the nasty person who chooses to use my pain as a weapon.  Instead, I want to rise higher.  I want to accept what has happened, knowing that I can’t change it, and move on without allowing it to settle in my heart.

Moving on isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.  By moving on, I can embrace all the good in life, because really, there’s so much to love.  I’ll be moving on with open arms and a guarded heart.  I won’t force myself into peoples’ lives and I won’t allow their words and actions to sink deep, but I will be willing and ready to work things out if they ever choose to come back.

Focusing on the “better” side of things, I’m marrying my best friend in exactly 32 days, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m choosing to focus on that fact rather than the chaos and pain, and I’m thankful for the amazing people who have surrounded me with love and lifted me up when it would be so much easier to fall to the ground and allow the struggles of life to get me down.

It’s time to become better, not bitter.