A letter to my 18-year-old self

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Dear 18 year old self,

Happy Birthday, sweet thing. You’re about to turn 28 and — surprise! — almost nothing has gone as planned. Well, to be fair, you do have that adorable house and dog you always wanted, but not the accompanying husband or 2.5 children.  That’s right. You didn’t end up marrying your high school sweetheart. You stayed together until the very end of college. You missed out on meeting new people and trying new things because of your relationship. Things got ugly and you both did really hurtful things that you still regret. The good news is that you had enough courage to walk away from the situation. The bad news is that being in an unhealthy relationship is a trend that will follow you into your late-twenties. These relationships will hurt you and mess with your head. But, there’s a light at the end of the long and dark tunnel. Remember that when things feel hopeless. Okay?

Oh, and you didn’t become that well-known photographer.  In fact, you followed the majority of your family into the field of education—something you swore you wanted nothing to do with. How ironic, huh? Parents sometimes do know what’s best for you. But, you know what? Becoming a teacher will feel so rewarding. You will meet some of your best friends through it and have experiences that will truly alter how you see the world around you. That being said: don’t stop taking photographs. Feel the weight of that camera in your hands and keep capturing those moments. Explore the world around you through your lens. You have a unique perspective to share and will regret giving up on it. A lot.

Another thing: you are unspeakably beautiful. Stop it. You are. I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to admit it. Even writing it now is bringing me to tears. Quit looking in the mirror and seeing a distorted reflection of yourself. And, for the love of all things holy, quit relying on men to affirm your beauty before you believe it. Please, please, please be able to see it all on your own. This is so important.

While we are on the topic of men: let’s get this messy part out of the way. Fresh out of college, you’ll meet another man and he’ll move in with you almost immediately. Things will be good for a while. He will buy you things just because and cook for you almost every night. God, can the man cook. He’ll treat you like a princess and you’ll lap it up like a dog. The attention he gives you will replace your need to deal with your own internal lack of self-worth. You will put too much of yourself into the relationship. You will depend on him for everything—physically and emotionally. You’ll pressure him to commit to you fully. Eventually, he will give in and ask you to marry him. The proposal will feel hollow but you will say yes anyway. You will begin planning your wedding and looking for a home together even though a voice inside of you is telling you something doesn’t feel right. Don’t ignore that voice.

It will happen not even a week after you move into your new home together. You will find out what he has been doing behind your back. It’s not worth going into the details here, but it’s an unforgivable act in your eyes. Your entire world will crumble in a matter of seconds. Your plans are derailed and you are immediately left to deal with the fact that you are alone for the first time in years. Instead of stretching your wings, you will begin ferociously trying to fill that void with someone new. But, the wound is too fresh. You aren’t ready. Give yourself time to feel the pain. It’s like trying to run a marathon on a broken foot. You won’t heal properly if you don’t give it time. Learn to be alone again. Learn how it feels to walk into your home and cook dinner for one. Learn how to enjoy your own company. This period of time is necessary in order for you to ever make someone else happy.

That brings us to the present day. I wish I could tell you that we had everything figured out by now. But, we don’t. You are still struggling to figure out how to find worth in yourself. After possibly too short of a break, you are dating someone new. He is kind and understanding. You love him. But, you are constantly fighting the urge to sabotage things because you’re scared of hurting again. You’ve got major trust issues, darling.

Just, please be good to yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Sometimes it’s okay to look foolish. Even—gasp!—in front of others. Make the most of every moment and try to do things just for you. Don’t build such a private world for yourself. Reach out to others. Make connections. Feel alive.

Most importantly, I love you. I do. I know that sometimes I say or do things that convey the complete opposite. I know that sometimes it feels like I’m your worst enemy. But, in the end, you are worth the world and deserve every good thing that comes your way. Don’t fight it. Accept it.

Sincerely,
Present-day me

P.S. You totally started the owl trend. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

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Welcome, Tessa Rose. You are loved already.

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It’s been a week filled with love for me. On Wednesday at 10:47 in the evening, my sweet niece Tessa Rose came into this world. She is beautiful & I’m already completely smitten with her. I’m also so proud & in awe of my sister! She is such an amazing mother already to my nephew Elijah.. She simply exudes  grace & patience. She is most definitely one of my biggest role models in life.

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Sometimes, it’s easy for me to get caught up in my head. I retreat & fall into a pattern of feeling very “woe is me” whenever things don’t go exactly as planned. However, seeing & experiencing this new little life renews my faith in …well, everything. I’m so hopeful. I think that’s the best way to describe things. Welcome to the world, Tessa Rose. You are so loved already!

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What’s at risk.

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” – Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been listening to the podcast RISK! quite a bit recently. If you’ve never heard of it, here is a brief description from their website: “RISK! is a live show and podcast ‘where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.’” The stories that people tell are often jarring. They cover just about every topic you could imagine— death, love, heartbreak, abuse, sex, depression, and the list goes on. These people stand alone on a stage in front of a microphone and completely spill their guts to a room full of (I’m assuming mostly) strangers.

Sometimes, their stories are hard to stomach. I commute a decent amount for my job, so I typically find myself listening while behind the wheel. I’ve missed an exit or turn several times because I’m engulfed in these brave individual’s stories. I’ve gasped and cursed and cried and laughed and paused and rewound and fast forwarded.

Amongst the wide range of emotions that this show elicited from me, there was one in particular that consumed me entirely: jealously. Why wasn’t I brave enough to tell my story so unapologetically? Why was it so hard for me to risk being exposed as my authentic self? I was jealous of the raw, imperfect edges of these storytellers—of the way they were able to look their audience square in the face while admitting these private (and at times extremely painful) things about themselves. The podcast was certainly aptly named because these people were truly taking a risk.

I wanted that. I wanted to expose myself and share my story. I wanted to make people gasp and shake their heads. I wanted them to laugh at the absurd parts and blink away tears at the painful, unfair parts. I wanted acceptance and affirmation and that cathartic, relieved feeling that they surely had to feel afterwards.

But, then, I realized I was nowhere near ready to risk telling my story. Even as I write this sentence, I can honestly say I don’t even know where I’d begin. Does this all have a point? Not really. Am I going to leave you feeling inspired and empowered after reading this? Maybe not. But, I guess I’m okay with that. I take small risks every day. Like writing this very post or wearing a dress with heels when I really just want to put on a sweatshirt and jeans. I live every day as bravely and authentically as I can.  I make mistakes because I’m human. I put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable. Because I’m human.

I hope that some day I will be able to stand in front of a microphone in a room full of strangers and shout at the top of my lungs, “Look! This happened! This is me and I’m totally okay with it!” Until then, I carry on humbly and risk getting out of bed to live another day.

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I was an English Teacher at an Inner City School for Two and a Half Years

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I was fresh out of college and had just completed my student teaching at an excellently rated suburban high school within a close-knit community. During my student teaching experience, I had technology and resources and administrative support! The kids thought I was cool (in a nerdy way)! They did their homework (most of the time)! I created these awesomely creative projects! I was officially the best English teacher ever (seriously a student gave me a mug on my last day to prove it)I was so ready to go out into the world and SAVE ALL THE CHILDREN BY FOSTERING IN THEM A LOVE FOR THE WRITTEN WORD!

Shortly after I finished my student teaching, I stumbled upon an English teaching position that was posted for a local charter school. I remember thinking, “Wow, there are a lot of charter school positions open! Whoever said that there were no teaching jobs out there was full of it.” I knew I was going to be “working with a different student population” than I had been during my student teaching experience. But, I mean, I’d watched Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers. How hard could it be?

After my first day, I quickly realized why there were so many charter school job vacancies. To put it bluntly, it was rough. I could tell you story after story about the fights I witnessed and the verbal abuse I experienced and the lack of administrative support I was up against. Honestly, my skin simply wasn’t thick enough nor my heart hard enough.  I had students from broken (more like shattered into oblivion) homes, students who were literally homeless, students who were fifteen and pregnant, students who came to school hungry.

Yet, I was supposed to make them give two shits about A Tale of Two Cities and proper MLA citation? I was supposed to prepare them for state testing? It all felt like some sort of cruel joke that I wasn’t in on. These kids needed so much more than I was capable of giving them. I drove home crying many days. Sometimes, I drove to school crying.

The day I decided I was going to finally give my two weeks notice, a particularly volatile young man in the 11th grade threatened me. “Man” is definitely the best way to describe him. He was at least two heads taller than me. He pushed a desk over and had to be escorted out of my classroom by school security. I was visibly shaken. This student had not liked me from the beginning. Maybe I reminded him of someone in his life who had hurt him. I had tried everything and failed to gain his trust. It destroyed me and I knew I couldn’t handle anymore of the stress or anxiety.

So, I gave up. I did. I quit mid-year and it was one of the most selfish things I have ever done. I left them. Because I couldn’t do it. I felt like I was doing them as well as myself a disservice by staying. But, honestly, I just couldn’t handle it. My heart hurt too much every day when I got home.

That is not to say that I didn’t experience moments of brightness. My students touched me in ways that I still am figuring out. They were so resilient. They opened me up to an entire world that I’d heard existed. However, to see it first hand is an entirely different story. Teaching also taught me a lot about myself as a person. It revealed both positive and negative qualities within myself.

I still stay in touch with some of my students. I had one of my seniors who is now attending college message me recently on Facebook to tell me that they were reading and discussing a book  that we had read together in class. She told me she felt confident and thanked me for preparing her. I teared up.

Would I go back? I never say never. I could see myself— years down the road—- going back. Sometimes, I miss it so much. But, right now, I’m just thankful for the experience and all that it taught me about myself.

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Ten Books That Changed Me

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There’s no hiding my love for the written word. Books have an uncanny ability to pull at my heart strings. Although this is not necessarily a complete list, I have chosen ten books that have changed me for one reason or another. They may not all be great works of literature; however, they all came into my life at the perfect time & served a purpose. I could write paragraphs on each of these books. But, I won’t do that. Not yet anyways. I’ll just list them. What books have changed you? I’d love to know.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  7. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
  8. About a Boy by Nick Hornby
  9. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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My first attempt at fancy DIY nails!


You know all those crazy fancy nail tutorials you constantly see all over Pinterest & the blog world? Well, I decided to finally try one instead of simply staring at them in open-mouthed amazement. I used Keiko Lynn’s “Moon River Manicure” tutorial & I’m beyond pleased with the results! The secret to the clean lines are those round reinforcement labels that I don’t think anybody really ever uses (except for sweet manicures, of course). You can buy them  anywhere office supplies are sold. I’m not going to go through a long tutorial because Keiko Lynn’s is already amazing & needs no improvements.

Here are few tips I’m going to keep in mind the next time, though:

  • A base coat & a top coat are essential to getting your nails looking much more polished & finished at the end.
  • Make sure the first coat is completely dry before putting the reinforcement labels on them or else it gets messy.
  • Make sure to peel off the labels before the polish dries– which means doing them one at time (it really doesn’t take very long).

Let me know if you try this tutorial yourself! Seriously, if I can do it & make it look half decent, anyone can!

{EDIT: Looking at this picture of my little ampersand tattoo made me realize how badly it needs touched up. So, please ignore how wonky it looks in this picture. Perhaps this is just the motivation I need to actually grow a pair & get the retouch done! Alright, carry on.}

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Gardening in the City.

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One of my favorite things about our apartment is our lovely patio overlooking downtown. Yeah, it’s probably seen better days & needs a little work (ahem! landlord, if you’re reading this, I’m looking at you). But, I still love it to pieces. It’s our tiny slice of the outdoors in the heart of the city. It’s no yard, but we’re doing the best with what we’ve got. So, we finally got around to buying a proper (albeit inexpensive) patio set & have been trying our hand at gardening this summer!

Our first attempt was a bit of a failure. We didn’t do our research and ended up buying the wrong  kind of flowers for the amount of sunlight we get. The issue is that our patio gets full sun basically all day long. So, our poor little flowers fried. This time around, we decided to ditch the flowers. Instead, we bought some herbs and a couple tomato plants! I’m eager to see how they do on our patio. I’ll definitely keep you posted!

Do any of you with a green thumb have any tips on patio gardening? Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Things I’m Afraid to Tell You.

I saw this amazing blog project originally on Erin Loechner’s blog. I followed the link & read Ez’s blog on Creature Comforts. I immediately felt humbled & inspired by how brave all of these individuals were. I’m not very good at writing about my feelings. My boyfriend would find this ironic because I always like talking to him about my deepest thoughts (he’s such a patient guy). But, my fears are private & generally heard only by my closest confidants. The internet seems like such a scary place to expose yourself. However, with the staggering number of individuals who were willing to respond, I thought I’d like to share as well. Better late than never, right?

So, here are some things I’m afraid to tell you:

1. I was brought up in a fairly conservative home. My family went to church every Sunday & are still deeply saturated in their faith. But, I always felt like a sort of black sheep. They didn’t treat me differently. I adore my family & have never felt as though they labeled me the “black sheep”. It was something within myself; something I couldn’t put my finger on. I never quite fit in at church. I just never felt comfortable when I was there. Now, I’m not going to church. I know it hurts my family & I know they worry about me. I will say that I still believe in God, but I don’t know if that means I have to go to church every Sunday to a place that makes me feel really, really awful inside. Basically, I just am admitting that I don’t know. And, not knowing scares me.

 2. On a work-related note, I often fear that my students will be woefully unprepared for life after they graduate from high school. Certainly, as their English teacher, I know that I am not solely responsible for their success once they go out into the real world. However, I can’t help but fear that I haven’t done enough. It’s something I worry about quite a lot actually.

3. I have body image issues. I’ve never been able to look in the mirror & feel good. I am an average size & have never rocked a two-piece swimsuit in public. When I go places, I see woman larger than me wearing two-pieces & looking just fine! But, I know I could never do it. It’s something inside my head that keeps telling me I’m too big & that everyone will stare. I fear that I’ll never be able to accept my body as it is & celebrate being a woman. I fear that I’ll try my whole life to get to a certain weight & never be satisfied.

4. I fear failure. More than mostly anything else. I fear not accomplishing anything noteworthy in my life. I want to write a book.  I’ve always wanted to. However, I haven’t really done anything toward this goal & I don’t think I will accomplish it. Honestly, I’m too afraid to try because, if I fail, then what? I have to admit to myself I’m not good enough? That’s freaking terrifying. I’d rather not try than fail.

5. I often look around my apartment & feel disgusted. Honestly, I’ve done pretty well with my income. I have a nice flat-screen TV, cable, internet, decent furniture, & I’ve decorated it fairly well. But, I’m often not satisfied. When I look around my apartment, I see the clutter, the pet hair, & the laundry that is very rarely put where it should be. I feel shallow because I worry so much about what my place looks like. I want it to look like the magazines & the blog photos. I know it never will. I wonder if anyone’s home actually looks like that.

Wow. That was extremely cathartic. I am very tempted to just delete this entire post. Pushing the “publish” button is much harder than I expected. I also realize that, compared to some of the other posts I’ve read, my “fears” might seem shallow. But, that’s alright. I’m hoping you won’t judge me too harshly. If you want to join in, leave a link to your post below.

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Yum! Gourmet Cupcakes.

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I literally stumbled upon Yum! Cupcakes today while I was out running some errands & I knew I had to stop in for a cupcake. I mean, how can you pass up such an adorable looking place? So, in the summer spirit of exploring new places, I promptly turned my car around, parked, & went inside.

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I am so glad that I did! I was a little too shy to take any pictures inside, but it was such a cute place. The friendly woman at the counter explained all the different flavors, but I already eyed out my perfect cupcake. It was one of their special flavors for the day– a Red Velvet Cupcake with a candy raspberry lovingly placed on top. UM. YES, PLEASE. The woman told me that, if I wasn’t going to eat it right away, I should refrigerate it. I smiled & said okay. Little did she know, it wouldn’t even make it out of their parking lot! Unfortunately, it looks a little messy in the picture above because I accidentally flipped the box upside down before opening it. Silly me. But, let me assure you, it was still absolutely DELICIOUS. Check out their website for all their delightful creations. It’s definitely worth of stop if you’re in the Cincinnati area! They’re also only $2 which (although I’m no cupcake expect) I think is pretty fairly priced.

When was the last time you were surprised by a hidden gem in your own city? Isn’t is just the best?

Yum! Gourmet Cupcakes and More on Urbanspoon

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My First Summer DIY: A “No Sew” Workout T-Shirt!

 

Before I begin, I just want you to know that I am the opposite of crafty. So, when I saw this tutorial for how to make a a workout shirt (with no sewing involved!) on Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth‘s blog, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it! But, I DID it! I wish I would have taken a before picture of the t-shirt. It was just some old t-shirt that I never wore. I didn’t want to start with a nice t-shirt in case I messed up royally. But, it turned out so cute! I plan on going to the thrift store to find some cheap t-shirts & do it to several more in the future. It’s perfect for working out. All I have to say is that if I can do this, any of you can! Below is the t-shirt from Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth’s blog. She has step-by-step directions that make it really easy. If you try it, let me know how it works out!

(Above image & tutorial via Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth.)

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