Life Changes & Taking Risks

Exactly one year ago today, I took a risk and made a big life change. At the time, I was beyond terrified about it and overanalyzed every possible scenario it might have on my future.

March 12, 2013, marks my last day at a prior job. I know leaving a job in general isn’t that big of a deal, but for me, in that job, at that time, it was huge. I was at that job for a little over four years. It was my first full-time, post-college professional job in the field I wanted to be in. I loved the work I was doing and was incredibly fulfilled and proud of what I did there. In fact, I had hoped it could have been my career for many many years to come.

But at some point, I knew it was time to go. Out of professional courtesy, I shouldn’t go into any details, and those are beside the point anyway. I had very mixed feelings about it, and a part of me was really sad to be leaving; another part was excited about new opportunities. I bit the bullet and put in my notice though, with a new job on the horizon. It. was. terrifying. It was risky. It may not have worked out! What if I regretted it?! But I made it through, and here I am now!

Hindsight is usually 20/20, and now looking back, I know I did the right thing. I’m very happy with what I’m doing now and think it’s where I was meant to be. It’s so interesting to look back at your life choices and see how everything was weaved together and all your experiences lead to what you are now. I’m thankful for every good and bad choice I’ve made.

Some say that without risk there is no reward. I think I mostly agree with that. We take chances everyday, some big and some small. I truly do believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, close your eyes and jump feet first into life.

What risks have you taken in life?

 

The Value of Friends

This past weekend, a good friend of mine came to visit. Amy and I met in college freshman year when we had a few of the same classes together. After two years in the dorms, we moved into a real apartment together and she was my first real world roommate. We get along grand. Since she moved away, I only get to see her a few times a year, and when we do get time together, it’s really nice. We’re both low-key people and prefer to stay in and hang out and drink wine and just catch up on each other’s lives. This time, though, I wanted to go try out a new restaurant in town that’s all the rage, a German-themed pub called the Wurst Bier Hall (clever, right?!). The drinks were pretty good (this beer wussie loved the pear cider), but I thought the food was a little overrated, but who cares. It was the company that was best.

with my friend at wurst bier hall

I’ve never been one to make friends easily. I’m incredibly shy, and opening up to new people is really hard. Many people would label me as a snob because of it, which can be hard when someone doesn’t give you a chance and judges based on an assumption. But over the years, I’ve learned to let that go. If you don’t want to get to know me, fine. You’re not worth my time then. I’d rather focus on the small handful of people who have gone beyond the surface and made that effort to get to know me.

I’ve never understood how some people can just talk to anyone they meet like they’re old friends. The funny thing is that nearly all of my friends are like that though! They are mostly exactly the opposite of me. They’re friendly, talkative and outgoing. They can easily swap life stories with the checkout lady. At social gatherings, they’re the ones telling jokes and hamming it up while I sit awkwardly in the corner observing. And that’s how I like it.

Give me a chance though, peel back some of the Amanda layers, and I will start to open up … and eventually never shut up. In those small setting with my closest friends, I feel so comfortable. That’s the real me that comes out. Few people get to really see it, and I guess in a way, I treat my friendships as gifts that I don’t just give to anyone. You have to earn me!

Life’s sort of this funny journey where along the way you pick up people who stick around. Some others come and go, and that’s OK. But those few that stick are really special.

I met my best friend Amanda when I was probably less than a year old in the church nursery. Well, technically, our moms met because of the nursery and they became friends, so naturally, we grew up together and stayed friends too. For 28 years, almost my entire life, she’s been in it, and that makes it so special. We have tons of memories and experiences together, and we saw each other through every single awkward and awesome moment.

The Amandas on our first day of school

The Amandas on our first day of school

Years later she was my matron of honor

Years later she was my matron of honor

Even though Amy and Amanda are some of my very best friends, for some reason, since they both live far away from me, we tend to not keep up while we’re apart. Maybe it’s because we’re busy, maybe we’re lazy, maybe there’s no good reason and that’s just how things are. The thing is, the second we’re together again, it’s just like old times and it goes right back to where we left off. We have Facebook to keep us updated on some of the daily life events, but we’re always there for the big events now. Maybe that’s strange, but it works for me.

I then met Meredith at what I consider to be my first “real” job. At our local Fargo newspaper, I got hired to write obits and do some of the other odd newsroom jobs, and she trained me in on that job as she was moving on to copy editor there. We found out pretty quickly that we had lots in common, and it all snowballed. I don’t think there’s been barely a week we’ve gone without hanging out since then.

with mer

She pushes me to do cool, fun things. We’ve gone on many road trips to concerts and even back to Indiana, and we love going out to the movies or for margaritas. It’s pretty crazy stuff, I know, but otherwise I’d be sitting at home, so I appreciate this. She’s the one I’m constantly emailing back and forth with, often while also texting and IMing, and talking to for endless hours about who knows what. She now is engaged, and it’s so fun to help her plan her wedding since she was such a rock to me when I planned mine.

These days, I count my mother as a friend too. You know, once you get past those angsty teenage years, you start to see how cool your mom is and actually want to be around her more! And now that she lives 800 miles away, I miss her so much. Like my girlfriends, when we get together now, we giggle uncontrollably, and then she looks over my paperwork to tell me which 401k plan I should choose. I spend hours on the phone with her every week, and no one is more excited about hearing about my life than she is. That’s what moms are for though, right?

But my best friend above all now is my husband. He may not know about all those embarrassing things about me from when I was 14 (thankfully), but he has become my confidant now. He knows everything I worry about, everything I love, everything I want. He knows what I do when I get home from work and he knows what makes me tick. And that’s how it should be, I think. The relationship with your husband has to go deep. You have to love being with that person every single moment and tell them every single thing. To be close, to stay connected, to have a solid marriage, I think they have to be your best friend.

That being said, even the husband will never really fill the gaps of your girlfriends. They can’t dish on how cray cray the last episode of The Bachelor was, they can’t understand how much you friggin’ love cupcakes, they can’t tell you that new skirt is adorable and try on 20 of them with you at the mall, they can’t spend hours at a jewelry party and love every second of it, they can’t giggle uncontrollably with you about the cute guy over there, they can’t debate Ryan Gosling versus Ryan Reynolds, and they certainly can’t understand what’s going on with you that time of the month.

All of these people in our lives round us out, and we need all of them to be our best. We’re not really complete without them. Sure, it’s great to be a powerful, independent women, but it’s also great having people you can’t live without.  I’m sure I’ll feel the same if and when I have children, too. It will be one of those blanks I don’t really know I have now, but is added on my journey through life that becomes something I couldn’t have expected would mean so much.

What do friends mean to you?

My 2014 Resolutions: EFFORT

I’ve been working on this post for well over a week. It’s been a draft that I just keep adding to and tweaking till it felt right. Finally, 14 revisions later, the big reveal!

If 2014 wants to be nearly as awesome as my 2013 was, it’s got a lot to live up to. But, I have high hopes and want to use every day to work toward changes. I’ve read articles that suggested making much smaller, achievable goals like giving more hugs or eating more leafy greens, but I decided to go big this year. I want to be ambitious. I may not achieve all my resolutions, and that’s OK. I at least want to put forth that effort to try.

I was inspired by Charlene’s blog post about picking one word to define your goals, your year, and for me that word is effort. Because I need to make much more effort in each of the areas below that I’ve made resolutions. Here’s to effort in 2014!

Financial goals

GET OUT OF DEBT!  I am already working hard on paying off my credit cards, and just instituted Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to help me get there faster. In just 6 months, I think I can eliminate half of my credit card debt, and I WILL stick to that plan. I’m very motivated for this one. Because otherwise, no house for me, and I badly want to be in a house. And be able to comfortably afford it without living paycheck to paycheck. Once my cards are in a much better spot, we will…

Build up savings. We need to be saving for a house and an in general emergency fund. I have some in savings already, but I’ve dipped into it for bad reasons, and that also has to stop. With proper budgeting, meal planning, couponing, checkbook balancing and planning ahead, I should never ever have to touch my savings again except to put more in or take some out for that house or major emergency.

Pet-related goals

Last year, I had a resolution to walk my dog more often, and while I succeeded a little bit, I still didn’t do it nearly as often as I should have. I blame the combination of laziness and frantically planning my wedding, then the summer and fall to follow with more commitments than I’ve ever had and a seriously busy year. Anyway, no more excuses! This year, I’m carrying over that resolution again: to walk Brick more often, and if I can’t because of whatever reason, he at least deserves more play time and training.

My other dog-related resolution is working on ways to keep Brick from jumping on guests when they come in the house. I knew it was a nuisance, but just never took the time to really correct the behavior. I would use “band aids” by physically preventing him to jump and holding him by the collar as guests entered, then letting him loose once they were settled. But this just builds his excitement even more. I’ve made some small steps already to work on it by using common sense and basic training techniques, but I know there has to be even more I can be doing.

Relationship goals

Always put effort into my marriage. Like I want to give 100% in my job, I need to give even more to my marriage. I need to be more patient in general, but also with my husband. I need to stop interrupting and really listen. I need to be there more, like emotionally present and understanding.

I also really want to do regular date nights. Not too often, because we have a house to save for, but if we can find cheap way to dedicate to connecting on a regular basis, I think it will do us a lot of good. Now that I’m meal planning for us to save money, we haven’t actually gone out just the two of us, for a long time. And I miss it! Some days we can stay in and have a planned activity, or do free activities like picnic in the park, but we also really enjoy eating out, so we’ll fit in some of those trips as long as we can afford it and do it wisely (i.e., with coupons, gift cards, during happy hour, etc.).

Personal goals

Work on my punctuality and time management. One of my biggest flaws, in my opinion, has been that I am perpetually late. I rarely am on time for most things. It annoys me and I hate that about myself, but I just can’t seem to find ways to fix it. It’s not intentional by any means; it just sort of happens. I lose track of time. I get caught up in XYZ and realize all of a sudden, ‘OMG, I need to be there NOW!’ and rush out the door. That leaves me feeling frantic and upset that I let that happen, and I hate that I made people wait on me. I’ve got to find some ways to fix that. Anyone got some tips?

Be happier. I have a bit of a temper. I have anger issues. I have little to no patience when it comes to certain things. The dumbest part is it’s usually over really small, stupid things. I think the root of it is that I’m not very understanding of strangers’ situations. The biggest issue I have is with people that I think are inconsiderate. Most any time I go to the store, I rage about someone who is blocking an aisle and seems oblivious to it. I get upset that a child is screaming and stomping around next to me. What a waste of emotion to get worked up about that! Maybe the person is just really sidetracked about something in their life, or is intent on reading the label on something to make sure it’s a good product and simply didn’t see me. So instead of steaming that they’re jerks, I should step back and give them some slack. And maybe that screaming child is simply acting out because he’s sick and doesn’t feel well but doesn’t know how to contain it, or maybe he’s neglected or dealing with his own issues and is simply acting out to get attention from his parents. Who knows, but it’s not worth me self-sabotaging my own shopping trip because I can’t handle a few people who are doing something I think is annoying. Get over it and move on! Really, what I think I need to do is notice all of the good in the world around me, not the bad.

Worry less. I have a tendency to overanalyze. Many tasks I have to do I obsess over. And anything that happens in my life I obsess over. Every little thing gets me worked up. If I overdraft in my checking account, I think that I’m doomed and will end up homeless soon because I can’t manage my money. If my husband doesn’t text me back within a couple minutes while he’s out at band practice, I think he got stuck in a ditch and is dying.

I have to consider every scenario. Which made planning my wedding particularly hard. I thought that if I didn’t give my bridesmaids awesome gifts, they would hate me and not be my friend anymore. If I had to choose a caterer, I contacted every single caterer in a 30-mile radius, stalked their websites and Facebook pages, picked out my theoretical menu and calculated the cost at each. Because if I didn’t have the perfect menu at the right price, obviously my guests would be disappointed in the wedding and never speak to me again. What a waste of time and emotional energy! Let’s focus on the things that truly matter. Otherwise do a quick, rational analysis and move on.

Kick butt at my job and other commitments. Now that I’m in a job that truly fulfills me, where I feel appreciated and respected, I want to do my absolute best to reassure them and myself that I am the right person for this job. That means trying to not get sidetracked, staying on task, doing things ahead of schedule and putting 100% into everything I do.

I need to apply these same principles to my volunteer and freelance work. Because why bother with any of it if I’m not going to be doing my best at it?!

Eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been surviving off junk food and couch potatoing for years. It’s got to stop. I have already been doing significantly better with my meal planning, but I need to be even stricter about it. I have meals planned now, but not snacks, so I still reach for those chips far more than I should. I’ve found that healthy food CAN be yummy too, so I want to keep trying and discovering new things that are better choices. Similarly, I’ve found some cool beauty and household products that are organic and natural, and I’d like to  be more conscious of the things I put ON my body and use in the house, too.

I also need to be more active. I used to do sports in high school, then pilates around college … but then I got lazy. We have a free gym at my new workplace. I should use it. I should dust off those pilates DVDs and do them on the weekends.

Maintain the house and organize more. I do a pretty good job at basic home maintenance, doing a few things every single weekend like sweeping and Swiffering, wiping off the counters and cleaning the toilet (and my husband vaccuums every weekend and does the dishes every day, bless his heart), but there are some areas that I let accumulate too much stuff. The kitchen table is absolutely awful, and the day after I get it looking presentable again, it’s messy once again. I need to come up with some kind of better filing system or a mail organizer or something to keep the clutter off the table. Our spare bedroom is also a disaster zone and the dumping ground for anything we can’t find a good place to put otherwise. We clean it up if we expect company soon who will be staying in there, otherwise, some days it’s like an episode straight out of Hoarders. Not even kidding.

Likewise, I need to tackle small spaces that have too much “stuff” too. I’ve done a couple closet clean ups, but I want to do a massive overhaul. I still have things in there I know I’m never going to wear again. And you don’t even want to see the magazine rack. I literally have magazines piled up on top of it feet high from 2007 and on. I will stop subscribing to new magazines, even if they are free (that’s been my downfall. A free subscription to Oprah, Brides and Better Homes & Gardens? Don’t mind if I do! But I never read them. I throw them in the corner.), until ALL my current ones are gone, and I will slowly start getting through the ones I have. Goal: Read one old magazine a week. Bring it to work to flip through on breaks.

My bookshelf is organized neatly, but has far too much in it. I recently came to the realization that of all the books I own, there are only a very small handful I actually ever intend to read more than once. So after I offer the ones I have read and won’t again, or never have and never will, to my friends, what is left over is going to Goodwill. End of story. On a kind of similar note, the recipe board in my Pinterest is overflowing with the same thing – stuff I’ve tried and won’t make again, and some things I pinned for fun that I never really plan to make or do. I will organize my pin boards and delete pins that aren’t useful. Who wants to scroll till the end of time trying to find that one recipe that I did actually like? Of the probably 100+ recipes pins, there’s only 5 or so that I have made and were successful enough I would make again.

My email is also full of clutter. I need to unsubscribe from newsletters that I just scan and delete anyway and work at getting my unread count to 0. I have 500 unread emails in my box right now. That’s down from 1,100 I had about a month ago when I did one round of purging. Don’t worry, I do scan it every single day for things from friends, coupons, blog related or other important things, but 90% of the junk I get I don’t care about. Arby’s has a new sandwich? Who cares; I haven’t been there in years! Unsubscribe please.

Be more fashion conscious. I’ve been working on my style more in the past yearish, but I can be even better. I have too many slept-in-too-late-throw-on-the-first-thing-I-see days. I saw a pin that had a weekly outfit organizer – it was a shallow, long storage tub that had cubes for each day of the week. I’d like to try each Sunday planning my outfits for the rest of the week so it’s one less thing I have to think about in my morning haze. After my closet is more cleaned out and I have the money to, I also need to add more staples to my wardrobe. I need more versatile pieces like plain T-shirts and tanks, cardigans, jeans and boots that I can rewear and accessorize in many different ways. Plus a few statement pieces for days when I feel a little wild. Rawr.

My faith. I grew up in a religious household in a religious family. But since I’ve been on my own, I’ve let my religion slide. Granted it has changed a little bit – I question some things and just don’t think I’m ever going to be a super religious person in general, but a few core basics of religion in general I miss. I used to pray, all the way through high school. Then in college I stopped. Who knows why. No good reason. I didn’t prioritize it. But now that I’m an adult and may have children on the horizon, I want to take some time for reflection and remember what values are important to me. I still won’t go to church every Sunday, read the Bible frequently or pray over every meal I eat, but I should fit in SOME aspect of faith back in my life. Which is pretty much nothing right now, which makes me feel really ashamed. Praying when there’s something worth praying about is something I want to do again. And maybe even expanding my horizons and reading up on other religions, or just spirituality in general, would benefit me. Remembering and trusting that something out there is bigger than me. I lose sight of that a lot.

Read more. I read about one book every other month for book club, but I have so many more books I want to read, some of which I already own. Set aside some time each week to read for fun too.

Blog goals

Schedule time in my day/week to devote to posting, as well as reading and commenting on other blogs. I was beating myself up for awhile because I felt like I was starting to fail already, but thanks to the advice I received, I realized that I can only do what’s achieveable, am inspired to write and have the time for. The goal will be at least one post a week, but if that doesn’t happen, that’s OK. If it’s more, even better!

I’m considering making a blog calendar so I have set goals and topics I should be posting about. I’m not sure if that will work for me, but I like the idea of scheduling that time. Of course, I can switch it around, but having some kind of outline might make me feel better about this whole thing.

Accountability

If I want to have greater chances at success at these goals/resolutions, I need to make a plan how HOW I will try to achieve them. My first step  will be literally penciling some of them into my planner. I live by my planner and setting deadlines for myself, so if I see that next Tuesday I’m supposed to organize the closet, I will. Simply saying, “some day” doesn’t work for me. I need to define specific times I’m going to work on tasks.

Some of them aren’t things I can schedule though, like being more patient and listening more, so I’m going to print out my resolution list and post it on my fridge, maybe even in the bedroom, bathroom and my work cube, so I see all the time the things I need to be focusing on. Maybe I’ll fit in some blog posts about it too!

Again, to me, making resolutions is about acknowledging areas in which I can improve upon and making the conscious effort to work toward those things. It’s self-awareness. Even some amount of effort or small success is worth it. I’m not setting out thinking I will accomplish all these things, because I probably won’t. But I will try! That’s the promise I’m making myself. Wish me luck. We shall see!

The Truth About Marriage Is

The other day, my bestie who is engaged showed me an article she came across called “5 ways to secure your happyish ever after.” I found it refreshing and it slapped me in the face a bit. Here’s why. This line: “Invest in your marriage, not your wedding.”

Wow. I mean, it’s common sense, but why on earth did I not apply that thought to my own wedding?! Before we were engaged, we both had debt, but that sure didn’t stop me from overspending on my wedding. I used the logic, ‘It’s the biggest day of my life’ as an excuse to buy every little thing that struck my fancy. I also wanted to have lots of small personal touches that I thought would make my wedding stand apart. But now that that day is gone, did it really matter that I had personalized napkins? No. Even though I bought them on sale, no one would have been upset with me if I didn’t have them. Because napkins aren’t what makes a wedding awesome. It’s the people who are committing their lives to each other.

It’s hard to realize that every little expense adds up really quickly, and impulse purchases did me in. I’m now literally paying the price of my frivolous spending when it came to my wedding. And I HATE myself some days when I realize that the money I’m using to pay off my credit cards with ridiculous interest could have all been going toward a down payment on a house or a new car for my husband who badly needs a more reliable vehicle. It could have started a savings account for our future children. It could have been used wisely. Instead I’m throwing hundreds, more likely thousands, of dollars into paying off my wedding and other purchases that I really didn’t need to make. But there’s no use in dwelling in the past, and the best thing is to move forward and make better decisions from now on. Which I am trying really hard to do. Changing bad habits is really friggin’ tough. If I can curb unnecessary spending, I’m going to be setting better examples for any future children and set up a better foundation for our marriage and lives together. Not to mention cause less stress for both of us!

This article had some other really solid points, like this one: “The truth is that cleaning up socks and trying to get someone to really listen to you IS marriage. It’s less sweep you off your feet and more sweep the kitchen four times a day.”

The point is that marriage is most of the time not glamorous. It’s work. Hard work.

When I got engaged, I thought to myself often, ‘I got this. I’m going to be an awesome wife. It won’t be hard. Nothing’s going to change.’ Wrong. I thought that just because Cal and I had dated for eight years that I knew everything there was to being married because it wouldn’t be different than dating. But it is! It so is!

That’s the one thing that has surprised me the most about being married. It is very different from dating or even being engaged. Because it’s so much more serious now. It’s locked in. I gave my commitment that I am going to be with this person for the rest of my life, and we have to make it work. I mean, if we want to have a happy and healthy relationship anyway. We have to combine two totally separate lives into one. We have to make decisions together. We have to manage money and the household together. Not to mention potentially raise children together! That one is terrifying. But that’s another blog post in itself.

I think that it’s incredibly hard to be a good wife and live up to the expectations I thought I had about marriage. I often compare myself to others. I think that other couples have no issues. I think that I should be more like so-and-so. Or even worse, I put unfair standards on my husband. ‘I wish he were more like so-and-so.’ But that is toxic thinking. He is not anyone else but himself, and I am myself. I married him and I accepted everything about who he is by doing so. Sometimes when I hear stories about husbands who do X for their wife (start their car in the morning, rub their feet every night, buy them unexpected gifts and shower them with kisses 24/7, whatever it is), I get jealous. But it is so unfair to put that kind of unspoken pressure on someone. I need to focus less on what my husband doesn’t do and instead on the things he DOES do. It’s not like he does nothing for me. He does so much! And I need to be more grateful of that.

As humans, we’re naturally selfish. Seeing the big picture is hard. Especially for people like me who tend to overanalyze everything. But we all have self doubt, jealousy and strange emotions that make us human. Reminding yourself of that and taking the time to realize that, then fix bad behaviors, is important. And that’s what makes us good wives and husbands, I think. Remembering to accept each other as is and work together to deal with life, to be a team and have a happy and healthy relationship.

I also read an article that a friend shared on Facebook about how Brad Pitt even considered divorcing Angie when times got tough. But instead of throwing in the towel, he tried. Putting our own needs aside to help our spouse can be hard too, because often we get so wrapped up in our own individual lives that we forget there’s another person we need to consider. That makes me respect their marriage much more, though it’s hard to compare to a Hollywood A-list couple. But the lesson is universal: Be considerate, be there and TRY.

I’m sure that I’m going to learn so much more down the road about marriage, relationships and life, but if our foundation can stay solid, we’ll make it through whatever comes our way. To stay solid though, we have to keep making that effort. I think that’s most important.

What lessons have you learned about love? Any surprises? Advice?

2013: What a Year!

Seriously. WHAT A YEAR. 2013 was crazy. It was without a doubt, the busiest, biggest year for me, probably ever. So far anyway.

To start with, I got married, had amazing bridal showers and a bach party, honeymooned in ‘Nawlins, had a second reception in my hometown in Indiana, and did all sorts of exhausting yet fulfilling tasks the whole way, from changing my name (post coming soon just about that process!) to planning the whole darn thing.

Thumbs up for my bridal showers

Thumbs up for my bridal showers

I got married! Whee!

I got married! Whee!

Honeymoonin' 'Nawlins style

Honeymoonin’ ‘Nawlins style

And that was just the wedding-related stuff! Yes, there’s more! Much more!

I also changed jobs. Twice. In a year. While I don’t like job-hopping, it really was all for the best. In March I left a job that I loved but had been at for many years, and for various reasons, I needed to leave. I took another job doing social media for about 7 months, where I learned so many cool new skill sets and had tons of fun going to free concerts, but my heart was longing to be a writer again, and so just before Thanksgiving, I started as an Internet Copywriter and Proofreader at a vitamin and health food company. Which I LOVE by the way. I really think this is where I was meant to end up, and I hope to be here for many moons to come.

Outside of the full-time work, I also took on freelance blog writing for a local custom dog products company, which gave me so much fulfillment in those months doing social media when I just had to be writing more. But even though I do that for work now again, I love it too and have no plans to give it up. (Shameless plug: Read my blogs here if you so wish!)

Oh, and you know, I also started THIS BLOG! Best decision ever!

My Ups (Besides getting married and starting new jobs, of course!)

-I became a bridesmaid for my bestie in Fargo who got proposed to in an epic way (flash mob in the park!), and we’re now planning her wedding and shower, which is so much more fun than planning your own wedding, dontchaknow.

-I became an official aunt to four nieces, one nephew, and now one more on the way! I also gained some new sibs, which is totes cool since I’m an only.

My new family! Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography.

My new family! Photo courtesy Lori Anne Photography.

-We vacationed several times. In February, we celebrated our 8-year dating anniversary with a trip to St. Cloud and dined so much we waddled around uncomfortably full but so happy. In August, we met another couple at a campground for a weekend retreat of grilling, beach time, campfire hanging and general laziness. In September, we visited friends who had just moved to Canada and had a housewarming/board game playing/eating lots of food party. And in October, we went to our first professional sports game and saw the Vikings play the Panthers.

-Book club continued and we gained one new member. In all, I think we read four books this year (hey, don’t judge, we’re all busy people) — Malala, Gone Girl, Lean In, and the Snow Child.

-We combined car insurance and saved so much money!

-I couponed much more, watched sales more, started using money-saving apps like Cartwheel and ShopKick, made weekly meal plans, donated old stuff and decluttered the house. That makes me feel like such a good wife.

-I was interviewed in the paper about my extreme phobia of needles.

My Downs

I wrecked my car. Three times, technically, according to my insurance claims, though none were my fault! The first time was right when I started my first new job, and we had a big blizzard the day before, so roads were awful. I slid and my brakes locked up as I came up on the car in front of me at a stop sign, so rather than hit them, I turned into the snow drift, which turned out to be more of an ice cap than soft stop that dented Leslie good (yes, I name my car! Leslie the Legacy – she’s a champ). Then a month later, the day before my bridal shower, some jerkwad plowed into me going around a corner because he was too busy texting to look and see me coming and caused almost $5,000 worth of damage! Thank God I had good insurance, though I still had to pay my deductible and over a week’s worth of car rentals because said jerkwad didn’t have his own insurance (grumble grumble). Then lastly, on the interstate a semi truck in front of me kicked up a nice-sized rock, which hit my windshield, cracking it and nearly giving me a heart attack. Again, thank God for insurance because that time I didn’t have to pay a dime. Progressive, I am so thankful for you this year.

Leslie got a little beat up this year, poor girl.

Leslie got a little beat up this year, poor girl.

My Firsts

-With my upcoming wedding as an excuse, I treated myself to some new beauty treatments for the first time. I got my first brow wax, facial and professional dermabrasion. The facial was relaxing and amazing. The microdermabrasion was kind of terrifying. It was like one of those rollerball perfumes where the ball was sandpaper and was rigorously pushed into and around my face like a jackhammer. Ouch.

-I did one of those restaurant tours, both of which were themed around bacon, so I ate some amazing baconified dishes around town with my foodie friend.

Baco, aka taco with a bacon shell

Baco, aka taco with a bacon shell

Maple bacon cupcake

Maple bacon cupcake

-I went to the county fair in Fargo for the first time and saw another free concert (Hinder, which was just like listening to them on the radio. meh!) and ate so much fried food on a stick.

Fried mac and cheese.

Fried mac and cheese.

Deep fried banana with sugar and caramel. The highlight of the fair, for sure.

Deep fried banana with sugar and caramel. The highlight of the fair, for sure.

-We started our home search and took a homebuyer’s education course, met with a realtor and looked at two houses.

-I joined a professional group that meets now and then to talk ab0ut our trade. I went to a few Meetups so far and find it so inspiring and helpful, and it makes me feel grown up and connected.

-I took control of our finances and made a real financial plan to tackle our debt and save for that first house. Thanks to Amberly for the inspiration! Blog post about this coming soon too. What a process, but so worthwhile. Wish I had done it sooner.

-I became more conscious of my style and finally took to heart that looking good makes you feel good, so I try harder now at having a nice appearance. This included buying into some trends and purchasing my first fashion scarf (cat print, of course), cool yet practical boots and skinny pants. Having a friend that’s a Lia Sophia advisor helps a lot too since I get awesome jewelries from her.

New Fave Things I Discovered

-Belvita dunked in coffee. I had been eating Belvitas for awhile, but one time this year I dunked it in my coffee on a whim, and my world changed. It’s been my breakfast at least three times a week now ever since.

-Quinoa. How had I missed out on this for so long? I think I thought it was “hipster” or “healthy” so never bothered, but now with my new job that’s made me more health-conscious, I gave it a whirl, and it is just so amazing.

-HGTV. Again, how did I missed out on this so long?! I’ve never been inclined to tune to this channel before, but once we started talking about getting a house, I thought what the heck and recorded some House Hunters and My First Home. I was hooked. Apparantly my husband is too because he discovered Property Brothers just recently and we watched about five episodes of that in a row.

Things I Learned

-It’s important to be open and honest with your feelings to those you love. When you hold back, all it does is enforce poor communication and unclear expectations. I learned this during wedding planning, my wedding itself, and many times after. It’s something I have to try hard at, but I’ve found it makes a world of difference and makes you closer to those you love and enforces bonds.

-I don’t like tea. I have been trying to like tea for awhile now, and gave it another shot very recently, but I find myself choking it down every time. The bigger moral of the story is it’s OK to admit something isn’t working. Give up and move on so you can focus energy on the more important things. This means I need to bring my new box of tea to a friend who does sincerely like it. Present coming your way, Jenna!

Wrap Up

Again, what a year. I have no clue how I made it through. I’ve never felt so busy in my whole life. But, I did it, and that makes me feel good. I can tackle anything now, right? We’ll see, because I have some lofty resolutions for 2014, which I shall reveal soon!

My Weekend

Well, I had the best intentions of writing this on Monday … but then TV happened. I get sucked in every time.

Anyway, what a great weekend I had! I love those weekends when you feel super accomplished and actually cross some things off your to-do list.

I made homemade bath salts for a few friends’ Christmas presents from a post I found on Pinterest. I had set aside about an hour of time to do it … and it only took 5 minutes tops! I was astounded how easy it was! Seriously, ridiculously easy. All I did was mix together Epsom salts, sea salt, peppermint essential oil and some red food coloring, then divided it into a few different jars and wrote my own labels. Of course it’s not nearly as cute as the pin itself, but I still feel super proud of it. I’m putting the salts into a “spa day” basket along with some fizzy bath bombs, lotions, lip and eye masks, lip balm, etc. This is the first year I had the desire to make my own DIY gifts, and now that I know how fun and easy it is, next year I’ll do even more!

I also did some major house cleaning. There was a nice layer of dust forming along the register and in the crack between the dresser and wall in the bedroom, and it was really grossing me out. We ended up pulling the bed all the furniture out and vaccuming along the entire wall and in between every crevice we could find, and dusting every ledge that was icky. I reorganized the top of my dresser where I keep my jewelry, deodorant, perfume, etc., and just those few touches made the bedroom feel so nice and new again.

Then there was the kitchen table. The table that daunts me every time I come in. I seriously stare at that table and just feel dread. It was piled high with pieces of mail, magazines, stamps, books, coupons, bills, phone books, gloves, keys, pamphlets, folders, to-do lists, and who knows what else. The dumping ground every time we come in the door. Pretty much ever since we got married 6 months ago, I’ve been meaning to clear it off and clean it up, and I just kept saying “next weekend.” Finally, I had it, and I had some motivation from cleaning the bedroom, so I said, “today’s the day!” It wasn’t even that bad once I started. Less than an hour later, the table was clear and oh so pretty again. I do want to go buy a cute mail sorter some day to prevent that from happening again. Now I look at that table and smile. Ahhh.

At my company's holiday party

At my company’s holiday party

Then Saturday night was the holiday party for my new work. Man, was this an affair! They rented a big venue (we had 500 employees plus their plus-ones to accommodate, after all), had an open bar, giant buffet line of awesome food, DJ and dancing, and giveaways every half an hour. They gave away stuff like iPads and KitchenAid mixers, and I even won a portable grill! Woohoo! This was far more than any other Christmas party I had ever been to. It. Was. So. Cool.

We took a coupley photo to remember the night, but I wish we had taken it right away when we were fresher instead of halfway through, but oh well.

Then, my best friends’ parents were visiting from Maine, so we met them for brunch, and it was so good. It was a buffet brunch, and everything was delicious. Even the coffee was so good. And they brought it out on a cute little platter with a mug, teeny stirring spoon and a little creamer pourer thingy. Made me feel fancy schmancy.

Then we went back home, putzed around the house some more, watched some TV and called it a night.

What’s the coolest Christmas party you’ve been to?

Friday Feelings and My Big Reveal

In a previous post, I hinted that I was happy about things yet to be revealed. Well folks, here’s my reveal … drumroll please … I have a new job, and I start on Monday! Originally, I was going to wait to post about it until I had officially started, but then I thought, you know what? I have feelings about it now, and it’s close enough. Plus, now I can compare my pre-first day thoughts to after I do start.

I’m going back to writing full time. Yes, I truly enjoyed my job in social media marketing and learned SO MUCH here, but I miss writing and editing. A lot. It’s part of the reason I started this blog! It’s what I’m comfortable doing and what I think I’m good at. It’s my comfort zone. My warm bubble of happiness. So going back to doing that in a new place with an awesome manager and a few friends already there, I think it will be just what I needed. One thing I’m most looking forward to is decorating my new desk. What will it look like? I can’t wait to find out. Oh, the small things.

This is how I feel about change.

This is how I feel about change.

As the day is getting closer, I’m getting the usual jitters. Change is hard. The unknown is scary. I’m 99.9% sure I’m going to LOVE my new job. But what if I don’t? What if I regret leaving where I am for it? What if I don’t do well at it and my new boss and co-workers hate me? What if the building catches on fire the day after I start, and they have to shut down the company, and then I’m out of a job. I’ll probably become homeless, obviously. You see, this is what I do when something new is coming. I overanalyze and start fearing the worst. It’s never as bad as it could be, so maybe that’s why I do it. By expecting the worst sometimes, you’ll never be disappointed. That’s kind of a bad attitude to have, and it’s something I have to try to consciously change. I’m envious of people who are happy about everything all the time, even new things and the unknown. How do they do it?!

How can you say no to this?!

How can you say no to this?!

I wanted to go out on a great note on my last day. But, I wasn’t watching the clock close enough this morning, and Little Girl was snuggling me all cute and stuff, so I spent far too much time petting her and playing with her before even getting out of bed. So, I had to hurry up and get ready, and really wanted to look nice and do my hair purrty, but that didn’t happen. Oh well, what’s new.

I tend to be late for a lot of things, especially in the morning. I am awful at getting out of bed most days. It’s one thing I am going to have to figure out how to change at my new job. Ugh.

On another note, it’s snowing here right now, and it’s actually really pretty, dusting the ground and floating down from the sky. I know it won’t last long. It’s the start of real winter here, and before we know it, it’s going to be treacherous. Every winter I question why I continue to live in the North Dakota tundra. But as much as the weather is a nuisance, I love this city. It’s the perfect size with plenty of things to do. It’s got a small town feel in a large city.

Wow, I’m really getting off track here, huh? Then again, it is Friday. Isn’t that what Fridays are for? I’m really looking forward to my weekend. I have to do laundry so I have nice clean clothes ready for my first week at the new job, and I’ll probably plan out every outfit for each day so I don’t have to think about it in the mornings. I’m going to finalize my Thanksgiving menu and start shopping for ingredients. Our mall is also having this event Sunday evening where you pay $5 to get in, but then each store has lots of sales, so we’ve gotta get some Christmas shopping started. Most years by this point, I have almost everything purchased and wrapped already, but the holidays really crept up on me this time. But then again, this is the busiest year I’ve ever had, and there’s lot of other things going on.

Our kitchen table is a complete disaster zone, piled high with our homebuying guides, bills, magazines and who knows what else, so I hope to get that under control. And while I’ll be going through bills, it seems a good time to set up a new financial system for our shared bills, which is something I’ve been meaning to do ever since we got married. At least all of these to-do’s will keep my mind off of worrying about the new job. Fingers crossed I love it as much as I think I will. And there isn’t a freak disaster that shuts the place down and makes me homeless.

October Reflections

Well, I’m many weeks late on this, but October was a really lovely month for me. Actually, 2013 has been a great year, but I’ll share more on that near the end of it:)

In October, it was my birthday, yay! I had friends over for board games and snacks. Low key and fun, just how I like it.

I went to two concerts (and for free – perks of my job!). At both, I was far more into one opener than the main act, but it’s still fun to see live shows no matter what. Miss May I and Black Veil Brides were the highlights for me. Love those bands, and they are so good in person! I had seen each before at Warped Tour, but this time they were in my town and had longer sets.

BVB rocking it. Pardon the poor photography.

BVB rocking it. Pardon the poor photography.

I went to my first-ever professional sports game. It was my wedding gift to my husband – two tickets to see his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, and his sister and brother and their spouses joined us. I’m not much for football, but enjoyed the whole experience anyway. We played the Carolina Panthers, and lost. Like, really badly. Truth be told, the biggest reason I selected that game to go to was because the other team’s mascot was a kitty. That was for real my logic.

Go Vikings!

Go Vikings!

Afterward, we had dinner in the funniest little restaurant called the Friendly Buffalo. Gotta love small-town, local joints. It was amazing food. I had a french dip with chips, and they even make their own french onion dip.

The Friendly Buffalo was a win after the Vikings loss.

The Friendly Buffalo was a win after the Vikings loss.

I had a book club meeting with my gal pals and we discussed what was probably my favorite book we’ve read so far, “Gone Girl.” Talk about a page turner! I couldn’t put that thing down!

I went to a meetup of content professionals in the area to discuss video strategies for businesses, and it was so incredibly interesting and helpful. I took so many notes.

I went to a friend’s Halloween/birthday party where the theme was celebrities and red carpet. Most everyone else went as cool young celebs like Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and the birthday girl as Adelle, but my husband and I went as oldie but goodies Betty White (though I really think it turned out more Barbara Bush) and Mister Rogers. It was so fun.

Betty White and Mister Rogers - our Halloween costumes.

Betty White and Mister Rogers – our Halloween costumes.

I tried a brand-new restaurant in town that everyone’s buzzing about. It had a cool, hipster decor, and the food was really good. I had the cutest mini margarita, my friend and I shared fried chicken skins (sounds weird, but it was incredible), and had tacos. Mine were far too spicy for my tastebuds to handle, so the husband got to enjoy my leftovers.

Trendy tacos

Trendy tacos

We met with a financial advisor as the final step in our first-time homebuyer education program. It gets us one step closer to buying our first home, and we have some good ideas from him to tackle reducing our debt, raising credit scores, getting a loan and picking a home.

And now that Thanksgiving is near, I am so excited. It’s our first big holiday together as a married couple. I’ve already started planning the menu, and will be cooking for some of our friends. Plus our Christmas photo cards are in, and it’s taking every ounce of effort I have to not send them out now! Wheeee!!

Finding My Style

My Catfeats shirt that I absolutely adore.

My Catfeats shirt that I absolutely adore.

You know how when you buy a new piece of clothing you become a little bit obsessed with it? You wear it the very next day after you buy it, and as much as you want to wear it every day after, you also don’t want people to think that’s all you own or that you’re a weirdo. I’ve had a few things I bought recently that I am still pretty obsessed with. Now, here’s the disclaimer: I am not a fashionista by any means. Fashion has never come easily to me. I wear what I like and what is comfy (usually), but I do have a little bit of a desire to look nicer sometimes. A few friends of mine are super cute and trendy, and I envy how easy it comes to them. When I want to look like that, I have to try hard.

One of the things I wanted to do as a married woman was try harder when it comes to style and fashion. It just didn’t seem wifely to wear my Hello Kitty and Spongebob T-shirts anymore. I had been hanging on to some clothes that I’ve owned literally since junior high. I rarely, if ever, wear them anymore, but sometimes I can have hoarder tendencies and keep things out of sentimental value. But then one day maybe a month or two ago, I just decided to overhaul my closet and dressers and get rid of the things I have that are stained, don’t fit anymore, or that I just simply don’t wear for whatever reason.

My most recent fave find at Target.

My most recent fave find at Target.

It felt soo good. I donated about three bags worth of clothing, which felt good in itself, but I also felt proud that I tackled it. I felt more confident about the items left that I like more and wear often, and treated myself to some shopping for a few replacement items like new tank tops and shirts that seem to better fit my style and my life right now.

On that shopping trip when I was browsing at JCPenney, I started out in the juniors section because, well, that’s where I shopped for about 10 years or more and was simply pure habit. I was specifically looking for some basic black and white solid tees that I could pair with cute jewelry and scarves. I wasn’t having much luck, so I just kept wandering around till I found things that I liked and needed. After awhile, I finally looked up and realized I had circled the store and was in the middle of what I used to think of as the “old lady” section. But, know what? I loved that clothing and picked up a few items there without even realizing it.

That was the moment I realized I had grown up (fashion wise, anyway). I was no longer the teenager trying to fit in by shopping at Wet Seal. I don’t like anything that store sells anymore, but 16-year-old me loved it. I had graduated from junior’s to women’s and was completely happy with it.

These days, nearly all my clothing is from Express or Target, and I recently discovered a love for New York & Company. Wet Seal is completely behind me, and my old fashion is now sitting in the thrift store, and that makes me really happy.

Kitty face flats

Kitty face flats

One thing that I don’t think I’ll ever give up is what my friend calls “cat couture.” Yes, I am a crazy cat lady, and I love to show it. I have cat calendars, photos and knicknacks all over my desk at work and at home. I love my cat clothing too. Well, to be fair, all animals, because I also got the cutest flamingo print shirt at a local boutique. But my kitty face flats and flowy cat print shirt I just can’t get enough of. By the way, Catfeats is the greatest website ever for cat enthusiasts. I love everything they have. I’m like a kid in a candy store on that site. I also love the Animal Rescue Site because they have great gift ideas, and every time you purchase, you help animals!

Well, I got a bit sidetracked there, but the point is that in my new life as a wife, I’ve embraced my style, whatever it is right now. I don’t hang on to old items that no longer represent me, and I try to dress nicer because when we look good, we feel good. And that is good.

Writing and New Passions

Well, here’s the first ramble from me, but it’s what was on my mind. I just have to say how incredibly much I am enjoying this blog thing. Confession: I used to dislike writing, despite my degree in journalism. I had always considered myself more of an editor than a writer. I was that person in high school who corrected my classmates’ incorrect grammar (“No, you mean you SAW that at the store, not seen.”). I kept a diary in jr. high and part of high school, but I was awful at it. I rarely wrote in it, and when I did, it was just about the boys that I had crushes on.

I always loved English, which I credit to my dad’s side of the family. My dad loves literature and reading, and my grandma on his side encouraged my spelling abilities by giving me quizzes, and she was so proud when I placed second in my third grade spelling bee (I’ll never forget the word that took me down!).

Later in high school, I considered going into broadcast and went between radio and TV. Neither worked, really. So I settled on a degree in English at college. Being forced to read about a book a week that you hate, then write paper after paper on, stifled that ambition. But I knew I wanted to be in journalism somehow. I applied for the student newspaper, but was denied due to lack of experience. ‘Umm, it’s college, no one here has experience!’ I was so distraught about it that I transferred to a nearby college that gladly let me on as an editor at their paper, and I was so excited about it. I LOVED it. I got to be a copyeditor, and eventually a columnist.

See, I figured out the problem pretty quickly after my transfer. I only hated writing when I was forced to write something on a subject I didn’t care about. But give me free reign to write about what interests me, and I can’t stop. So, in my previous jobs at the local newspaper and a trade magazine, I got through writing because it was my job, and some assignments I liked more than others, but I got through them.

And then just a few months ago, BOOM! Blogging came into my life. I started as a blog contributor for a local company that makes and sells custom dog products like collars and bowls, and it was fantastic. For the first time, I LOVED writing. I got to use my journalism skills, but apply it to writing on topics I cared about, and suddenly this passion for it came flowing out of me.

Hence my decision to start this blog. I had so many thoughts and emotions and lessons I took away from my recent experiences planning my wedding and being a newlywed, that I couldn’t contain them, and I had to get it out there! A diary wouldn’t do; I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. That wouldn’t be safe though, and I can be clumsy, so this blog is my answer.

After that long ramble, the point is that I feel so fulfilled and so happy just to be sharing what’s on my mind with the world. I want to make connections, and I want people to take away something from this, but also, I just really want to share, and sure, sometimes ramble. Between my doggy blogging and this personal blog, I am incredibly happy, and I wanted everyone to know that!

So … what makes you happy? What passions have grown on you?