Hilary Duff + Girl Power

Saturday night, my roommates and I came across Raise Your Voice on TV. Did we actually watch it? You better bet your bottom dollar that we did! The three of us sat glued to the screen, reciting lines from memory, talking about how Hilary Duff is actually not the great singer that we remember her being, and also about what a cutie Oliver James was. Whatever happened to him, by the way? After Raise Your Voice and What a Girl Wants he just fell off the face of the planet.

Anyway...back to the point of this post, which I'm still not really sure of, but I will figure it out along the way. Watching this movie brought back such a flood of memories and feelings from my teenage years. The sight of Hilary Duff has a way of doing that, because I automatically think about the amazingness that was Lizzie McGuire, all of her awesome chick flicks, and her CD's that I was positive should have went platinum. (They never did...still upset about that.)

Via Google
Hilary Duff revives the girl power in me. I feel like the "girl power" mindset was the driving factor of most young women in the early 2000's. It made us feel like we could do literally anything that we wanted to. Nothing was impossible. Just look at Hilary...she showed us that you can go to Rome on a class trip, meet a cute guy, and perform in an international pop show. She also showed us that you can conquer these types of things by just being yourself...regardless of if you're a little awkward or whatever your downfall is.

Via Google
Somewhere on my journey of growing up, leaving the early 2000's, and leaving flare leg jeans behind, I have forgotten what it feels like to be inspired by little things such as Hilary Duff and girl power. And, honestly, that's just what happens as we age. Life gets hectic and complicated, and eventually the last thing that we are worried about is how confident we feel about our daydreams. I think that's why my roommates and I got so excited over finding that movie on TV. For a couple of hours, we were reminded of that "take on the world" feeling. We were reminded of the songs, and the movies that made us feel like we really are worth something.

Via Google
After the movie ended, I came up to my room to look up Fly by Hilary Duff on YouTube. It's a song that I haven't listened to in probably about five years, but when it popped into my head I knew I had to find it. This song was such a positive influence for me when I was a teenager. It always lifted my spirits, and made me feel like I could go out and kick some serious butt. Let's be honest, even as adults, we still need to feel like that sometimes. We want to be able to feel fierce and driven. Just because we are getting older doesn't mean that we have to forget what it feels like to be self-empowered and excited about life.


So today, I encourage you to get back in touch with your Hillary Duff girl power. Temporarily forget about all of the crap in your life, listen to this song, and take the time to dance around your room with a hairbrush microphone in hand. Heck, you can even go really old school and pretend like you are filming a music video. I mean...what are you talking about? I never did that. (I'm completely lying.)

Peace, love, and girl power. Happy Monday!

Sadness, in Relation to Passion


Sleeping well hasn't been a thing for me lately. 

I had the opportunity to sleep until 9:30 on Sunday morning, but I was awake by 7:00. As soon as my eyes flutter open, I always try to close them and go back to sleep. However, it's usually too late because my brain has already switched on. 

I think entirely too much...about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. My entire life, I have been the person who over-analyzes even the simplest situations, and drives myself crazy over the complex ones. As a result of this, I am also the type of person who "feels" too much. My emotions get the best of me extremely easily. So when something stressful or upsetting is going on in my life, I'm in a constant state of perpetual sadness, and it becomes overwhelming. The only time that my feelings seems to cease to nag at me is the few hours that I manage to sleep. 

I'm really sad lately...about a lot of things. Some things are big, some are small. Some are major, some are insignificant. Some can be explained, and some I couldn't talk about if I wanted to. Life has a way of throwing situations and scenarios at you that you cannot even begin to understand. When these problems stick around for a while, and nothing seems to be changing despite action or prayer, everything just becomes even more difficult. 

I just really wish that certain things were different. And I hope and pray for them to be every single day.

When nothing changes, I begin to deal with problems in the only other way that I know how...I cry. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a crier. It's a representation of emotion that I have always been comfortable with, regardless of if the emotion is happy or sad. Lately, that emotion has just been sad. I'm beginning to feel like it's getting out of control. I feel like I can no longer decide when I'm going to cry over something or not. I hear a certain song on the radio, and I cry. I hear a certain word, or see a certain thing on TV or in a movie, and I cry. A thought or memory will come barreling into my mind, and I cry. 

I'm tired of crying, but I just can't seem to stop. I wont' say I can't find happy, because I do find it for a while on most days. I am just so tired of this giant bucket of depression that is hanging over my head, teetering back and forth and waiting to dump onto me at any second that I seem vulnerable enough. 

Over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I have been doing a lot of apologizing to God for my sadness. But in all honesty, I really don't think there is reason to feel guilty about it. I have been turning my worries and concerns over to Him, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel their weight anymore. Tears were given to us in order to show emotion, and when I'm crying, I always get the feeling that God is wiping each one from my cheek. He is silently reminding me that this too shall pass, even though it feels like it never will. 

So I'm not going to fight the urge to cry, even though I feel it may come too often. Sadness wears and sadness tears, but it also makes a lot of things clear. It shows you feelings that you never knew could be so strong. When you cry for something, it's only because you have been lucky enough to experience passion for whatever it is or was. 

A lot of people aren't capable of having true passion for anything, so I believe that even if sadness is the end result of that passion...it's still worth it. 

Fiction Chat: On Writing Novels [Fiction on Friday Link-Up]


Before I jump into this post, can we just talk about the perfection of my new mug? I bought it last weekend in Thomasville, Georgia, at an adorable shop called The Bookshelf. It was $10, which is more than I would usually pay for a mug but I just couldn't pass it up. I feel like it is perfect for me!

Anyway, it's Friday! Fridays are easily my favorite day on the blog, because I am having so much fun with Fiction on Friday. I haven't had anyone else link up yet, and my blog gets less traffic on theses days for some reason, but I don't even care. The feedback that I do get is great, and I have people that I know in real life tell me almost every day that Fiction on Friday is something they look forward to. I love, love, love writing, and receiving such sweet comments and compliments only proves that I am pursuing my calling.

I want to try something a little different today. Every few weeks, instead of posting a new segment of my short story, I think it would be cool to have a "Fiction Chat," where I talk about whatever fiction-related stuff is on my mind. I may even eventually do some sort of question and answer edition, so be thinking of any questions pertaining to fiction writing that you may have.

For this particular post, I just want to talk a little bit about novel writing. I started writing my first book almost two years ago, and guess what? It still isn't finished. Since I began that first novel, I have made attempts at two others, and you guessed it...neither one of those have been finished either. I have had this problem for the past couple of years where I love to write, and I'm dying to publish a book...but whenever I get to a certain point in my writing I feel like it isn't good enough. So, I get discouraged and end up at a place where I only open up the files and work on continuing the stories once every couple of months. I'm way too hard on myself, and it gets me nowhere.

Novel writing is an interesting thing. It is fulfilling, enjoyable, rewarding, and infuriating all at once. It's so strange how the words can be flowing freely and beautifully one second, and the next you are ready to throw your laptop out of the second story window because one of your characters just isn't showing the development that you were hoping for. When I write segments of my short stories here, it's a little easier because I am literally just playing the story line by ear so stress isn't ever involved. However, with my novels, I have an idea of where I want the bigger picture to go, and I worry entirely too much about meeting my predetermined expectations.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked back up on writing one of these novels. And...it's going well, really well! In fact, I have been pretty on fire. It's all I can think about. I sit at work every day, antsy for the second that I can walk out of the door, drive home, and open my laptop to sit down and write. I have been experiencing a writer's high like never before. I don't know why, but I'm certainly not complaining. Maybe I have just finally realized that I am more than capable of producing a good, solid piece of written art.

And for that, I say thank you to all of you! Your kind words on all of my blog posts, fiction and nonfiction, have given me the boost that I need to get back on the path to achieving my writing goals. Y'all are great, really great.

If you write fiction, what are the pros and cons of the writing process for you? Does doubt in yourself lead to the destruction of your writing?
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Have fiction from the past week that you would like to share? How about anything fiction-related? Add a button to your post, and link up below!

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So You Want to Quit Soda? Part 3.



After discussing why you should quit soda, and the things you should know before attempting to quit, I have finally reached the end of this little guide. As of today, I am 52 days into nixing my addiction to sugary beverages. It is going better than I could have ever imagined, and after I have failed so many times attempting the same endeavor in the past, I am feeling amazing to be almost two months into my goal. So for the final part of this little guide, I have decided to share:

Quitting Soda: Steps to Success

1. Find ways to stay motivated from day 1.
There are a couple of ways to go about doing this. First of all, you need to encourage YOURSELF. Remind yourself that this is possible. Remind yourself of all of the reasons that you wanted to do this in the first place. Place supportive notes and reminders in places you will see them...on your mirror, on your computer, etc. It is also helpful to have an accountability partner. My roommate Amber and I went into the process together, and checked in on each other daily to see how it was going.

2. Be competitive. 
I did this with the number game. Every day that I went without a soda, I would add to the number. For example, I woke up this morning and said, "Today is day 52 of no soda." Watching the number rise puts you into a competition with yourself, and you strive to make that number grow higher and higher. It makes you feel successful, especially when the number reaches the double digits. 

3. Quit cold turkey.
For the first 20 days, I was completely soda free. I didn't even have so much as a sip. I didn't even tempt myself with it. Not allowing myself to have it for that decent period of time seemed to break the dependency on it. The cravings were terrible for about the first 10 days, but every day after that it became easier and easier. 

4. After the cold turkey phase, set boundaries.
After that 20 days, I made a decision to allow myself to have one soda a week. This way, I was able to teach myself how to consume it in moderation. In the 52 days that I have been quitting, I have had approximately five sodas. A couple of them were well enjoyed, but I actually haven't even been able to finish the entire drink on most occasions. And believe it or not, while I used to get headaches from lack of soda, I have found that I actually get them from drinking it now. It's so strange, but I like it!

5. Bring water everywhere.
I carry my FSU Tervis with me everywhere I go. This way, I am putting water into my body when I get thirsty. Since I have a drink with me at all times, I don't get so tempted to buy a soft drink or some other drink that I don't need. Plus, I find that this also makes it easier for me to drink the recommended amount of H2O every day. Overall, carrying water around is a win-win situation.

There you have it...the five super simple steps that have made this possible. Quitting soda has allowed me to prove a lot of things to myself, and even at 52 days in, I am feeling the health benefits. When I reach 100 days, I plan to do a post on all of the changes that have occurred. Overall, I am definitely happy that I have made this decision. 

Will you be quitting soda anytime soon?

Just Enjoying Some Carrots...


And by that, I mean that I am enjoying my time over at Pleas(e) and Carrots, where I am guest posting for Jess today! She always makes me laugh with her childhood stories, so I am taking the opportunity to share one of my own. Hint: is has to do with being in kindergarten. And kissing. I bet you are just dying to know the rest!

But really, you should head over to her blog now. Happy Wednesday!

I'm at the Beach Today


Okay, so unfortunately I'm not really at the beach today. But I am over at She Crab Soup, guest posting for Kelli, which is kind of the same thing! I'm talking about the "5 Forms of Beach Therapy." Come check it out!


Oh, Monday...It's You Again

"Mothers hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but hold our hearts forever."

Well, another weekend has come and gone. I swear, each one goes by faster than the last. Sunday nights always make me a little sad, because I know that Monday is right around the corner and there is another long week ahead. However, I am also super thankful that weekends exist, especially when they are wonderful ones like this one was.

My mom came up to Tallahassee to spend the weekend with me, and it was wonderful. We got pedicures, went on a mini adventure to Thomasville, Georgia, relaxed, went to church, and did some shopping. Oh, and of course ate some delicious meals along the way. Calories don't count during mother/daughter weekends, am I right?

I'm so thankful for the close relationship that I have with my mom, and the time that I get to spend with her is never taken for granted. I hope she knows just how much I love her, even though she is on spring break and has the next week off from work while I still have to go work away in the office. Ha ha...no hard feelings though. Well, maybe just a few. ;)

How was your weekend? Did you do anything new or exciting?

Remember When? [Fiction on Friday Link-Up]

After a short drought, the Fiction on Friday link-up is back! It feels so nice to be able to say that!

Just to refresh your memory, I have two different series going on within my fiction posts. In order to make things a little easier for you all to keep up with, I have given them names.

The story of Riley and Cody, which is the one that I write most often, will be referred to as the "Love in Retrospect" series. The other, which I have only written one portion of so far (Run), will be referred to as the "Escaping Myself" series. I hope this is helpful in differentiating between the two.

Today, I have the next part of Love in Retrospect. If you're new around here, click on the links below to start from the beginning.


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Remember When?

He's been here for 24 hours, and I still haven't been able to bring myself to act like an adult and have a proper conversation with him. And it isn't because he hasn't been trying. His eyes have been silently begging me to open up to him. I have just refused to acknowledge his pleas. 

"You're so stubborn, Riley. Just let go every once in a while."

He's said that to me so many times over the years that I have lost count. Although he hasn't spoken those words recently, I can tell he wants to. He may as well, because I can practically hear them ringing in my ears anyway. 

Growing tired of staring at the tightly clasped set of hands in my lap, I look up to stare silently out of the windshield. The sun settles slowly in the distance, taking its time as it bids the world farewell for another night. 

His right hand firmly grasps the steering wheel, and his gaze hasn't moved from the road in front of him. I know this because I can't help but look over at him every few moments; using my peripheral vision of course. I don't want him to know that I'm looking at him, although knowing him he is probably already aware. 

The evening light make his tan skin glow, and I know that the rings around his pupils are probably sparkling in dim rays of the setting sun as well. 

Is it possible that he has grown even more handsome?

"You know...you can turn your head to look at me if you want," he says with a smirk.

I blush, and a smile escapes as I look him in the face for a brief moment before facing forward again. 

I can feel my guard coming down, and I'm not sure I like it. I shouldn't have let him drag me to the store. I should have stayed at home and practiced being angry. 

As we head back towards my house, I watch the outskirts of town disappear in the rear view mirror. We pass the road that leads to the river dock on our right, and a few hundred feet later we pass the path to McMill's Pasture on our left. 

Before I realize what I'm doing, I turn to him with another smile.

"Remember when we spent night out in McMill's Pasture?"

It's quickly growing dark in the small car, but I can tell that his face lit up at the mention of the memory. 

"Oh, you bet I do," he replies. "That was the night you got poison ivy." 

I throw my head back against the seat rest, laughing freely. It feels so good to laugh. I crack the window, letting in the cool evening air. The combination of the two sensations makes me feel better than I have in a while. 

"Poison ivy or not...it was such a fun night!" I say, "Or, at least it was until we were ran off my old man McMill the next morning. I can still envision him chasing us with that baseball bat. Did he really expect to beat whoever was trespassing with a bat?"

The memory has us laughing uncontrollably. The laughter bounces around the car, and I have to admit that the sound is quite pleasing to the ears. The noise dies down, and we once again sit in silence, our minds wandering in different directions, no doubt. 

He is the first to break the silence. 

"That was the night that I first told you that I love you..." he says thoughtfully. 

Heat creeps up my neck and into my face, despite the open window. I fight the urge to say something sarcastic, and choose silence over a response. 

He takes a deep breath as he goes to express his next thought. "Let's go spend the night in McMill's pasture again. Right now, tonight! What do you say?"

His grin is wild, just as it always is when he gets a crazy, or in his opinion, brilliant, idea in his head. 

My eyes widen as I look at him and shake my head. 

"We are too old for that now, Cody."

He reaches over to squeeze my wrist and I don't snatch my hand away. 

"Come on Riley! It will be great. We'll take some snacks, a flashlight, a couple of blankets...we can sleep under the stars again! We can talk..."

His face looks so sincere, and the idea does sound tempting. What do I really have to lose? I could use a little bit of excitement, and after all, we do have a lot of talking to do. 

"Okay..." I say, smiling tightly. "Let's go. But if old man McMill comes at us with a bat again, I'm letting him catch you."

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Have any fiction from the week that you want to share? Are you writing a fiction post today? Grab a button to add to your post, and make sure to share your link below! 

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Simplicity


I spend a great deal of time longing for simplicity; for a time when life wasn't so complicated.

Do you remember being a child and dreaming about how much "better" life would be as an adult? I know I do. Back then, I was so convinced that everything only became easier with age. I will admit that certain things during adolescence were more difficult than they are now as an "grown up," but for the most part, life really was so much easier. Sometimes I feel like I would do almost anything for the opportunity to be a kid again...even just for a couple of days.

I long to trade responsibility for free time.

I long to trade business casual for "play clothes."

I long to trade irate work calls for kickball at recess.

I just want that feeling of bliss and contentment.

Earlier today, I was trying to remember the last time that I was truly relaxed. While sitting at my desk, I noticed how tense my shoulders and my neck seem to be. That's something I have never really paid much attention to, but now that that thought has entered my mind, I'm really feeling it.

How does one reclaim that childlike feeling of simplicity in the hustle and bustle of adult life? That sense of peace that you get when you are completely relaxed, and your mind is in a restful state...where does that come from?

I'm on the hunt for simplicity...for the ability to feel like I'm soaking up some sun  on a breezy spring day even while I'm stoically perched in my desk chair. Just because there is more to think about as an adult doesn't mean that all good feelings must be done away with, right?

Where do you find your peace of mind?


Being Fiscally Responsible

I've never been someone who understands money.

There...I admitted it to myself. I'm not going to lie, it was a little difficult to type those words. I consider myself a very responsible, organized person, and admitting that I am completely clueless about money management makes me feel like the complete opposite of that. It shouldn't. But it does. Or, I guess I can now say that it did.

Ever since I graduated high school, money has literally controlled my life. I worked my way through college, and I learned really quickly that there never seems to be enough money to cover what you need to cover. 99% of the time I would not have enough money to take care of my monthly expenses, and when I did miraculously have enough, I would have $0.75 left in my account to last me for a week and a half until my next pay day. That's not a good feeling.

After college graduation, I landed my first full-time, all benefits included job. I thought that would for sure be the end of my financial hardships. I just knew that I would be on the road to fortune. (Okay, maybe not fortune...but what would feel like a fortune to me.) Imagine my surprise when I found myself having just as much, if not more difficulty paying my bills than I did before. Sure, I was making more money. But I had also accumulated more expenses, especially after I went through all of the doctor's appointments and surgery for my gallbladder issues. I eventually found myself in a pretty deep hole. I was worried. I was tired. I was completely sick of being worried about money.

It took me entirely too long to realize that I needed help in learning how to point my income in a positive direction. As I have mentioned a couple of times, I have finally done that. Over the past couple of months I have been learning how to budget. I have been learning how to save. I have been learning how to pay off debt. And you know what? It's working! It's really and truly working.

When I logged into my bank accounts today, I noticed that the balance in my checking account had dropped drastically. Last week, I wrote checks to pay off nearly $1,000 in medical debt. Normally I would be upset to see that so much money had left my account, but I actually got excited. You know why? Because I had paid off a good chunk of debt...and I still had money left in my account. Not only that, but right below my checking balance was a really comfortable savings balance...the first savings amount that I have EVER had. That was a truly great feeling.

I am taking control of my money, and by doing that, I am also taking control of my future. A giant weight has been lifted off of my chest, and I am so excited and motivated that sticking to a strict budget is actually becoming an easy thing to do.

Now, excuse me while I go celebrate.

Via Google

One Thousand Gifts (1-25)

At the beginning of the year, my roommates and I signed up for a women's Bible study that was being hosted by two ladies at our church. It ended up being a six week series, and we would meet on Wednesday nights, have a delicious meal together, take some time to fellowship, and then dive into the study. It was a small group of about eight women, of all ages. The dynamic was really great, and Wednesday nights were extremely anticipated during those few weeks. The study ended a couple of weeks ago, and my roommates and I are still discussing it pretty frequently.

We discussed the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. First of all, Ann Voskamp is a BEAUTIFUL writer. She finds beauty in simplicity, and forms sentences and paragraphs in the most poetic way. The video that accompanies the study book is full of all of her personal photographs, and she is an amazing photographer as well. She is just all around a very creative, strong, faith-filled, family oriented woman. 

One Thousand Gifts focuses on finding gratitude in every day life. A short description pins it as "A dare to live fully right where you are." Honestly, is this a lesson that any doesn't need to hear? We all need a little reminder to focus on the positive, find good in the bad, and remain hopeful even in the hard times. Throughout the book, Ann refers often to a list that she wrote...a list of 1,000 gifts in her life. The gifts are everything from the obvious blessings, to tiny things that are so often overlooked. 

During the last night of our study, one of the leaders gave us all journals so that we can compile our own list of 1,000 gifts. I thought it was a sweet gesture, and a great idea...therefore, I have accepted the challenge. However, since I am a blogger, I'm going to take it one step further by not only writing my gifts down, but also sharing them here. Of course, I'm not going to share 1,000 gifts in a single post. Therefore, I will do 25 per post, and post here and there. So, today, I am sharing my first 25 gifts. 


One. The opportunity and ability to freely study God's word within a group of loving, compassionate women.

Two. Daylight Savings, and the extra couple of hours of daylight that it has provided up with.

Three. Springtime! Everything is turning green and bright, and the weather practically begs you to spend time outdoors.

Four. A job that I know will be waiting for me every day, and that gives me the opportunity to grow as a person.

Five. The fact that I am feeling financially stable for the first time in my life.

Six. A beautiful town home to return to every day for comfort and shelter.

Seven. Two amazing roommates/best friends to share that home with.

Eight. The clean, pure air that I am breathing as I type this post. 

Nine. The fact that I am healthy in body and mind, making me able to type, blog, work, and be active on a daily basis.

Ten. Being able to say that I am on day 45 of quitting my soda habit.

Eleven. Clean, crisp water that is replacing that soda.

Twelve. This blog, where I can share my thoughts, hopes, doubts, fears, and dreams.

Thirteen. The blogging community, through which I have made some very dear friends and continue to meet really cool people every single day.

Fourteen. The scripture that is hanging on our living room wall as a reminder..."We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him." - Romans 8:28

Fifteen. The big, comfy, white couch that I am curled up on.

Sixteen. The Silver Snail...my dependable car that gets me from point A to point B on a daily basis. 

Seventeen. Being fortunate enough to have learned how to read and write. 

Eighteen. Being able to read the written thoughts of others. 

Nineteen. Realizing that there is always a new lesson to be learned, every single day. 

Twenty. The moon, and its comforting presence. I know it is always there, even when it is hidden behind dark clouds. 

Twenty-One. The stars, which so beautifully complement the moon. 

Twenty-Two. Knowing that I have a bed to curl up in at the end of a long day. 

Twenty-Three. Much-needed, deep conversations. 

Twenty-Four. A pantry full of food to get me through until pay day. 

Twenty-Five. Knowing that my mom is coming up to spend the weekend with me in just a few short days!

Wow...I'm really surprised at how easily the gifts began to flow after I wrote the first couple down. I have more accumulating already. How cool is that? There really is a lot to be grateful for, and I"m looking forward to documenting them over the next year!

So You Want to Quit Soda? Part 2.

*Click here to read part 1.
 
 
Part 2
 
Last week, when I wrote part one of this guide, I was on day 37 of quitting soda. Today, as this post goes live, I am on day 44. Day 44...I just love seeing that number increase! I also love being able to say that I am overcoming an addiction...successfully, might I add!
 
In part one of this guide, I talked about deciding why you want or need to give soda a swift kick to the curb. This week, I'm going to tell you everything that you should know before you actually begin to make the attempt to cut it out of your life. I know...that sounds a bit dramatic. But trust me, you don't really understand how important something is to you until you deprive yourself of it. That is a lesson that is quickly learned.
 
3 Things to Expect When Quitting Soda
 

1. The craving is real.
You know the saying, "you always want what you can't have?" This is not some lie that your parents fed you...it's the truth, people. Think about it. What do you want when your on a diet? Junk food, carbs...fried things. What do you want when your favorite store is having a giant sale? The one thing that is still full price. What do you want when you're trying not to drink soda? Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper...and LARGE ones. There will be times during the week that soda is literally all you can think about. And you're going to want to give in...but you are stronger than that. Cravings are scary, but they don't have to win.

2. The headaches are not a myth.
Whenever you deprive your body of something it is used to, it's going to react...usually in a negative way. When you don't sleep, you get bags under your eyes. When you don't exercise, you lose tone and gain weight. When you don't pump caffeine and sugar into your system in the form of soda, horrific headaches occur. Don't worry though, these can be cured with a little Ibuprofen if necessary. Something else that helps me is eating a piece of hard candy. Just one piece seems to be helpful, and it keeps me from making an emergency trip to the vending machine.

3. You will probably be grumpy.
The lack of sugar and caffeine in your system, combined with not allowing yourself to have something you enjoy, is going to lead to a bit of moodiness. Especially during the first week or so. Realizing that you can't have a Coke with your Jimmy John's, or you can't run to the office café for a fizzy pick-me-up will make you feel ridiculously sorry for yourself. If you can just stick it out though, that ends. With each passing day, grumpiness is slowly replaced a sense of pride in yourself. You will become happier and happier that you are being true to your goals.

These may seem scary to begin with, but I can assure you that going through each of these is completely worth it as time goes on. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and in this case, healthier and happier!

Next week will be the final part of my little guide. I will be discussing the steps that I have taken, and that have worked for me to get to this point.

What difficulties have you experienced when trying to kick an addiction?

Doubt and Devotion: Looking Up


I have recently realized something about myself, and it's not a realization that is easy to admit. But, I'm going to talk about it anyway because I believe in freely sharing my heart here in this space. I also believe in speaking freely about my faith, even through the trials.

I love God. I have no doubt that His grace has saved me and set me free. I feel His presence on a daily basis, and since I have been a believer I have never questioned His existence. I have witnessed outcomes and scenarios that cannot be explained by anything other than answered prayers. I know His love for me runs deep. I know that He is my father.

Yet...I have a really hard time trusting Him.

It is difficult for me to type those words. Especially here. Especially now. I sit here in my bed on a Sunday morning, writing this post while I watch the clock to make sure I'm not going to be late for church. I write that sentence knowing that it is going to be published on a space in which I speak openly about my faith. I worry that my fellow Christians who read my thoughts here will be question me. I worry that any non-believers who read those words will take them as validation that redemption and faith just don't exist.

But, I'm confessing it anyway, because the fact that I personally have a hard time trusting God doesn't mean that God isn't trustworthy. Because He is. He is the most trustworthy source imaginable.

The truth is, there is no reason that I should have this problem. He always brings me through, even in situations that I feel are hopeless. He has never left me in the cold. I doubt His ability to help me, and He helps me anyway. That is what I call love...true love. Each time this happens I say, "Okay Miranda...this trust issue has got to stop. You were just handed your millionth example of proof of His faithfulness."

Then another hardship will arise, and I'm still not looking up.

I'm looking at myself...straight in the face, trying to figure out how I can fix the problem, because God just doesn't need to handle this one. I won't relinquish my control, because I believe that the outcome will somehow be more favorable if I handle it on my own. And you know what? That idea is a blatant lie, because not only is God more than capable of helping me...He WANTS to help me.

Instead of looking in the mirror and asking myself, "How do we fix this?" I need to ask myself, "What can you do to realize that you need to trust God to fix this?"

This is something that I want. It's something that I know I was able to do at one point. It was lost along the way, to the lie that I can do it better. Now that I have realized the issue, I will be fighting every day to fix it...to fully believe. In the end, I want to be looking up.

The Florkens
 
This post is being linked up for Doubt and Devotion, an amazing new concept created by some inspiring bloggers. I have been silently reading The Florkens and Mr. Thomas and Me for a couple of months now, and when they created this opportunity to discuss faith and belief regardless of religious affiliation, I knew I wanted to join in. The concept is perfect, and I'm excited to link up every weekend!
 


Spring Favorites: The Circle/I Have The Blog Baton!

Hey, hey, hey! It's Thursday! Already? That's perfectly okay in my book!

Today is a very exciting day because it is my turn to hold The Blog Baton! This is such perfect timing, because I have been smart phone-less for the past four weeks and I finally received my replacement iPhone last night. I was so worried I wouldn't be able to participate on my scheduled day, but everything ended up working out perfectly!


In case you aren't familiar with the concept, The Blog Baton is an Instagram account created by Mason @ Mason...Like the Jar. Each day, a new blogger takes over and shares their day in pictures. It's such a cool way to meet new bloggers and learn more about the ones you already know. Make sure to follow along @theblogbaton, and click here to go to Mason's blog and learn all of the specifics and maybe even sign up to participate yourself!

I'm also participating in something else really fun today. It's a new month, which means that it is time for a new topic for The Circle, which is a monthly blogger hangout hosted by the amazing Kiki at In Its Time. This month Meg from Me With the Three is her lovely co-host, and they along with everyone else is getting together to talk about something that is currently very highly anticipated...SPRING! 


What is spring like where you live?
Here in Florida, spring begins very early and it is perfection. March and April are beautiful months. It rains often and everything turns green and vibrant. The temperatures range from high 60's to around 80. It's breezy, and blue skies and cloudless days are frequent. In my opinion, it is the best time of year to be outside, because it isn't scorching hot and the "Florida cold" is gone.

What's your favorite springtime accessory?
Sandals, sandals, and more sandals. I positively hate closed-toed shoes. I love going on the hunt for the perfect pair of strappy sandals and sliding them on with a fresh pedicure. I believe that a girl can never have too many pairs of sandals...they're good for the soul.

Do you have any springtime traditions?
Spring means lots and lots of time outside! This is the time of year that my friends and I become reacquainted with the beach and the Florida sunshine. We always take a trip to have some water-filled fun, whether it's to the beach or tubing down one of the local rivers. It's so much fun!

What is your favorite spring treat?
Hm...good question. I always associate spring with Easter. And I always associate Easter with Reese's Eggs, which are delicious. So I guess I will have to say Reese's Eggs.

Favorite spring holiday?
Easter, hands down. It's a day to celebrate the love of the Savior. Plus, it is also a guaranteed day to have a blast with friends or family. Food, sunshine, and Jesus. It just doesn't get any better!

What's your favorite thing to do in the spring?
I honestly just like to be in the sun, on the sand, or in the water. Spring is a great time to be active and make a ton of new memories! If it could be spring all year long, I would probably be okay with that. 

Find and capture a sign of spring and tell us about the photo(s)!
I didn't have to go very far to find two signs of the new season. When I walked out of my front door, I was greeted by a cheerful blue afternoon sky and bright pink blooms on the flower bush next to our porch. Both make me happy!




I feel like this post is full of so many bright colors. Happy (almost) Spring! 


In Its Time

When You Think Life Falls Apart


"My life is falling apart."

I feel like this is a phrase that we are all guilty of using on a regular basis. Despite the "expect the unexpected" mentality that we attempt to live by, we are still really quick to throw full-out adult temper tantrums when something goes wrong. 

I know that I am personally extremely guilty of this. The older I get, the more obsessed I become with keeping my life on a tight leash. I want it to be a perfect, well-oiled machine, functioning without a single waiver in production. I want each day to run smoothly and be void of unnecessary controversies and unplanned interruptions. I don't want to encounter stress, and I don't want to go out of my way to solve problems that I feel should have been avoided. 

Basically, I, like most people, just want everything to magically go my way. 

I can also tell you though...life definitely doesn't work like that. Things happen. Objects break and malfunction. People argue. Relationships go through periods of strain. Work is terrible more than it is tolerable. There is never enough time to accomplish everything you need to do. The moral of the story is...the control that you think you have over your world and everything in it is actually not a very strong hold. Trying to perfectly direct your life is like using cheap hairspray...it only works for a short while. (I feel like that is something Carrie Bradshaw would write, ha ha.)

I think I'm finally beginning to understand that when certain things "fall apart" or go wrong, it's simply because the focus on those things has been too heavy. I mentioned a few days ago that I had some major technology issues occur about a month ago. My computer crashed, and my phone decided to stop working. Within a 24-hour time period, I was unwillingly separated from everything that I hold dear...blogging, the files that hold the novels I am working on, texting and other forms of communication...everything that my free time is devoted to. 

I threw a pretty good sized pity party over this. My thought process was something like...Great, now on top of this and that and such-and-such and other such-and-such, I can't even write or do anything that I need to do on the computer. Then after that, I felt even more sorry for myself because I didn't have the money to fix either problem. I pouted over this for a couple of days before I attempted to find the good in the situation. 

Then, God tapped me on the shoulder, gave me a little pep talk, and made me realize that I needed to use my time away from technology to get some other areas of my life in order. After a little bit of arguing with Him, I was finally able to see that He was right. So, I made a list of things that I had been putting off and things that were in need of serious attention, and I got to work. 

As I'm writing this (on Amber's computer still...mine is finally on its way back from repair!), I'm surprised to say that I am thankful that I have been going through this little technological drought. In the past four weeks, I have started a financial class, learned how to budget, done my taxes, saved some money, and paid off nearly $1,000 in medical debt. I'm only four weeks in to being more money cautious, and I am already in better financial shape than I have ever been. I'm not so sure that it would have happened had my attention not been pulled away from blogging and writing for a while. And like I mentioned in yesterday's post, I am 38 days into quitting soda and making overall healthier decisions. 

I'm not going to lie, it feels phenomenal. 

However, I won't complain that my computer is almost fixed and a replacement phone is due to arrive on my doorstep tomorrow. I will say though, that I am going to try diligently to pay more attention to all aspects of my life, even if that means I don't blog as often. 

Life is full of the unexpected...every single second of every single day. Just because one thing is bad doesn't mean it's all bad. Just because one thing doesn't go your way doesn't mean that nothing is going your way. Everything happens in perfect timing, regardless of how perfect the timing initially seems. 

Life never really falls apart. Sometimes it just has to be redirected. 

A "Lovely" Little Announcement

Good morning!

I didn't get a chance to announce yesterday, but I was featured in the "You are Lovely" series over at Amy's blog, Taking Steps Home. Amy is one of my favorite bloggers to read on a daily basis. She has a beautiful soul that allows her to create some of the most honest, wonderfully written content. I'm so glad I was able to participate in her series. It was an awesome idea on her part, and you should definitely head over, check it out, and read all of the submissions that have been included so far!


I hope you all have a fabulous day!


So You Want to Quit Soda? Part 1.

A lot of change has been occurring in my life lately. Not anything mind blowing or major really, but a lot of small things that end up being really important in the long run. I have been doing a lot of positive altering in terms of finances and the overall simplifying of daily life. I have also been attempting to say goodbye to some bad habits, and I have to say that it's going well..very well actually.

I have mentioned a couple of times here and there that I have been very dependent on soda for a really long time. I love Coke and Mountain Dew. Those are my two favorites. Ever since high school, they have been not only a source of caffeine, but also just something that I enjoy. The addiction grew even larger in college, and even after college I found myself beginning most mornings with a large Coke. On average, my soda consumption averaged at least two cans a day, which could be worse, but is definitely still not good.

Soda is terrible for you. That is a fact that we are all more than familiar with, yet the knowledge doesn't make it any easier for most soda addicts to quit. It's full of sugar and unnecessary calories, yet that is so easily forgotten as you pop open a can to enjoy. I personally have attempted to quit the craving numerous times, and it just never really worked. That is...it never worked until recently.

Right now, as of today, I am officially 37 days into the journey of "quitting soda."

That's right, you read correctly...37 days! I know the number isn't huge, but it certainly seems large to someone who craves the fizz of a soft drink. I honestly don't even know how I have made it this far. I decided to make the change completely on a whim, and that whim has led to well over a month of not letting soda cravings control my days.

I am so excited about my progress that I thought I would write a little "guide" to provide some helpful tips to nix the habit. I am in no way a professional in terms of health or lifestyle. However, I am an average woman who has addictions just like anyone else. I have found things that really work for me, and I know exactly what it feels like to wean yourself off of something that your body depends on. Therefore, I am hoping that my experience my help someone out there somewhere!


Part 1

So, you want to quit soda? Sounds easy enough, right? I'm sure that you have thought many times, "It's not an issue. I can stop drinking it whenever I want...no problem." I'm also sure you know in the back of your mind that that is completely wrong. When you're addicted to something, quitting is not a simple option. It takes dedication, and a whole lot of will power.

Once you have come to terms with the idea, and have accepted the fact that soda is indeed a negative problem in your life, you are going to try to make a lot of excuses and justifications. You will tell yourself things like:

I know that it is full of sugar, but I would rather drink my calories than eat them. 

A couple of cans of soda a day is not that bad...it's not like I'm addicted to drugs or something.

I have to drink soda or else my headaches become way out of control.

These all seem like perfectly relevant ideas, but here is the truth...all of these thoughts are sure signs that you are entirely too dependent on a beverage. It is certainly true that everything is okay in moderation. Drinking a soda once a week or a couple of times a month...that's probably pretty okay. But drinking multiple sodas every day? That is adding up to a pretty big negative impact on your overall future health.

When I accepted the fact that I was really going to try to quit, I realized a couple of other things that suddenly seemed pretty profound.

1. I spend an insane amount of my hard earned money on soda. Whether it's at a drive through, a sit down restaurant, or even on a 12-pack to bring home...I am throwing a lot of money down the drain and I have absolutely nothing to show for it...except maybe a pesky cavity that results from all of the sugar. I could save so much money just by cutting out the purchasing of soft drinks. 

2. The calories not only heighten the chance of potential weight gain, but the carbonation leaves me feeling bloated and uncomfortable. I was suddenly intrigued by the idea of how much better I could feel if I wasn't constantly pouring sugar down my throat. 

3. Soda consumption leads to the replacement of drinking water, and our bodies need water! I knew that I didn't drink nearly enough, and there was no way that my body was ever really properly hydrated. I suddenly wanted to know that it would feel like to really drink the necessary amount of water. How would my body be affected overall? 

These three realizations fueled the fire for the idea of quitting soda. At the beginning of my journey, these thoughts actually made me excited to give it a go, and that had never happened for me before!

So...here is my first tip to quitting soda:

Sit down, and really think about WHY you need to quit. Make a list (mental or on paper) of all of the changes you are hopeful for, and all of the things you are curious about. 

These ideas will become your inspiration, and really keep you motivated as you step into that first day of no soda.

Are you a soda addict? Are you in the middle of quitting? If so, share your motivations for quitting or wanting to quit in the comments. Make sure to check in next Monday for part two...where we will talk about the things that you absolutely need to know during the quitting process.

Happy Monday!

More Adventures in Calligraphy

It's been a couple of months since I have talked about anything to do with my calligraphy learning experience here on the blog. I have been occasionally dabbling in it since the beginning of the year, and I'm realizing that just as it is with any other hobby, it's important and actually pretty crucial to "find your own style."

A lot of the literature and how-to's addressing calligraphy are very stuffy. What I mean by stuffy is, they basically say, "you must do it this way and only this way or it's not considered calligraphy." The practice of calligraphy is extremely old, so of course there are going to be some specifics as far as hand positioning and stroke angles go. And, as I have been learning the basics I have been following them pretty religiously. However, as I am becoming more comfortable with the concepts, I feel more and more okay with slightly adjusting things in order to add my own personal touch.

On top of using the pens, I have also been giving the Calligraphy markers a try. I don't think I like them as good as the pens, but they do have their advantages. I still have issues with the ink flow of the pens stopping mid-stroke, and you don't have to worry about that with the markers. Still, they dry out fairly quickly and the overall look just isn't as nice as the actual ink from the pens.

Overall, I really enjoy it, and I look forward to further improvement and eventually creating some things to potentially put in an Etsy store. I have some ideas that I can't wait to try! I will leave you all with some pictures that I took during my latest calligraphy fest. Happy Thursday!






Local Product Swap REVEAL!


It's finally time to get together and reveal all of our Local Product Swap goodies! Over the past few weeks, everyone who signed up to participate has been getting to know their partners, shopping for local goods, and mailing out packages. The swap process is always such a fun thing, and it's even more fun when the time to reveal comes around.

Now, let me introduce you to my swap partner and new friend, Dawn. She blogs over at Life in the Sack and I absolutely love her! She is down to earth, ridiculously sweet, and easy to talk to. I enjoyed swapping emails with her and talking about life. She is going back to school and I think that is just amazing! I loved hearing about her goals...she has such a sincere heart.

Dawn is from Wisconsin, which made us perfect swap partners because I'm from Florida and the differences in our states are drastic. I was getting panicky just reading her emails about negative degree weather...I can't even imagine! I sent her some virtual warmth though, so hopefully they are seeing some higher temperatures up there. I will admit though...I'm a tad jealous of the snow that she gets to see. I wouldn't mind living in the snow for a day or two, just to give it a go!

Wisconsin is a state that I really didn't have much knowledge about, and Dawn did a great job of sending me bits and pieces of it in her package. Local products are so intriguing, and the diversity of them from state to state is mind blowing!



Dawn must have known I'm a foodie, because I opened up a box full of yumminess! Underneath the plastic I pulled out a giant hunk of cheese, two packs of meat sticks, a dip mix, and some chocolate cows. I felt like I was opening a Thanksgiving feast. She also included a sweet note and a list of everything she sent me, complete with URL's for me to read up on the products. I thought that was such a cool touch!

I'm not going to lie...as soon as I took these pictures, I ripped open those meat sticks pretty quickly. The pepper cheese ones were to die for. They put Slim Jims to shame three million times over.

I can't wait to try the dip mix. Dawn recommended eating it with pretzel sticks, which sounds like it's right up my alley. And the cheese? Who wouldn't want a giant wedge of cheese? Enough said.

My favorite thing though? The chocolate cows. Really...how adorable are they? And, Dawn said in her letter that the man who creates these confections is actually blind. People never cease to amaze me with their talents and passions. I thought that was such a cool fact! I had a difficult time getting a clear picture of the little cows...but hopefully you can still see how precious they are.


Dawn, thank you so much for everything! I love my little taste of Wisconsin, and I will enjoy every last bit of it!

Now, it's your turn to share your swap goodies! Grab a button, add your link, and show us how you were able to experience a part of a new state through good old fashioned snail mail. I can't wait to check out everyone else's experience!

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Letters from Benji, Volume 2

Technology update: my computer is still being repaired. However, I have been borrowing Amber's computer this evening to draft a post for tomorrow, so I thought I would go ahead and throw a quick one up tonight.

Amber and I received new mail from Benji last week, so of course I have to share the cuteness.



This letter is extra adorable in a couple of ways. First of all, I think it is precious that he is asking us to pray for him to receive wisdom. He is only four years old! Most kids that age have no idea what wisdom is. He has such an amazing little heart. He also tells us about his cat, which is named Love. I can just imagine him and his siblings trying to decide on a name for their cat, and deciding on Love. He tells us that Love likes to be touched and enjoys eating fish leftovers. This kid makes my heart melt.

He also drew us a picture of a tomato. Last time we got a drawing of a car, but I think the tomato is my favorite. Our refrigerator is being taken over by Benjamin, and I don't think we would want it any other way. Looking at his pictures and his sweet little face never fails to brighten our moods.



Are you interested in learning more about my experience of sponsoring a child through Compassion International? Feel free to send me an email with any questions you may have!