2015: Year to Strive

♥ Happy New Years Eve, y’all! ♥

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What comes to mind when pondering the beginning of a new year? Resolutions? A fresh start? A second (or third, or fourth, or one-hundredth chance? For me, it is all of these things. What has always been funny to me is that when the clock strikes at midnight, nothing physically changes. My circumstances are the same. I am the same. Yet somehow, the idea of a new year is an inspiration for so many to be better and do better.

Resolutions are a strange thing as well. In and of themselves, they are great! I mean, who wouldn’t want to vow to themselves to lose weight, to eat healthier, to spend more time with their kids, to travel, to meditate, to take more time for themselves? What’s strange is that at the beginning of a new year, motivation is high and the resolution is fresh in our minds. But year after year, its March and my resolutions that I was so dead set on accomplishing are forgotten. Ang and I watched our gym go from astonishingly crowded in January to ghost-town in April. It happens, people! And I am sick of not achieving goals for myself and for my family that I know would be such a lasting benefit and experience. I have come to think that perhaps the reason resolutions fall by the wayside is because they are unattainable. At least, for me they have been. Cutting out sugar completely? Yeah, right. Get my ass to the gym 4 times a week? HAAAAHA. ha. Perhaps, resolutions aren’t so much about doing a complete 180, perhaps they are about simply doing better than what you are now. And there is certainly no harm in that.

This year, I am renaming “resolutions”. I have decided to call them “perfectly attainable year-long mini-journeys towards self betterment”. 

This year, I will strive.

I will strive to spend one on one time with Mason daily, even if it is just to read books together. No cell phone, no emails, no interruptions No exceptions.

I will strive to eat breakfast every morning. A chocolate bar at 6am during my morning commute is not breakfast.

I will strive to save my money. Because one day I may need it. Or want a new bathtub. Whichever.

I will strive to de-clutter. I’m done holding on to things “just in case”. I probably won’t need 20 blankets in my home for any reason. You know, unless the polar vortex hits again and sticks around this time. And I have no heat. This is no longer making sense.

I will strive to make time for things I enjoy. I do not enjoy laundry. It can wait.

I will strive to follow my dreams and follow through. This means you, Etsy shop!!! It also means you, unfinished Shutterfly photo books!

I will strive to enjoy the little things.

So, 2015?! Bring It! We got this! xo

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Overcoming Worry and Fear

Worry

Good evening, friends!

When I became a new mother, I experienced emotions I didn’t even know were possible. In my exhausted state, all I could think about was that I had no clue what I was doing, and how I hoped my new little lovebug was warm and felt loved. I knew that I loved him very much, but sometimes that love was overshadowed by an emotion sometimes more powerful than love itself. Fear. And, its ugly sister, Worry. I became completely suffocated by feelings of worry; worry that I was not feeding him enough, worry that he was cold, worry that he would get sick or die in his sleep… I’m telling ya, they don’t lie when they tell you becoming a new parent does some strange things to you and awaken new feelings you didn’t know you could have!

I’m here to also tell you that I have not stopped worrying or being afraid, though it is not all the time. It does not seem to be a side effect of parenting that goes away or calms with time. In fact, each day it seems there are MORE things to be worried about, and I can just imagine the way parents of teenagers feel! Eeek.

However, I’m not here to talk about worry or fear associated with parenting. I wanted to write it all out so that other parents like me know that there is someone else out there dealing with the same struggles and I get it. I understand. And it sucks.

In my mind, I separate fear and worry as such: FEAR to me is being afraid of something that will happen with all certainty. I am afraid of loved ones passing away, because someday they will. I am afraid of the day Mason goes to school, because someday he will. I am afraid of getting older, because of course, I will. WORRY on the other hand is all of the nonsensical bullshit that I conjure up in my head. WORRY comes from media, it comes from a vivid imagination, and it comes from negativity. Worry is what I do when I think about all of the things in my life that could possibly go terribly, horribly wrong. Entire days have been ruined for me due to unnecessary worrying.

And that is what this post is about. Worry is an ongoing struggle for me, and I am sure there are many others dealing with the same battle. If not controlled, worry can completely take over your life. There have been days where I have been so dragged down by worry that all I have wanted to do is to curl up on a couch and stare at a wall. Not good.

Whether a legitimate fear or a worry of a made-up scenario I have put together on my own, I first and foremost need to trust in God. I have also learned to:

  • Keep busy. I find that on weekends, when I have more time to think, I am more likely to feel down and defeated.
  • Talk to someone. For a long time, I kept things to myself, and more often than not, when I talk to someone they have a story to share illustrating how they can relate. It always puts my mind at ease.
  • Play with Mason. How could I possibly worry when I am so distracted with keeping up with that little boy?!
  • Blog! Even just writing my feelings down is therapeutic and has helped tremendously in the past.

To anyone struggling with intense feelings of fear or worry: you are not alone! I think we could all benefit in the knowledge that everything that will be, will be. xo

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination” – Dan Zandra

Plant Based Skincare

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing afternoon.

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I take great pride in my skin! I go to great lengths to care for it, and have been asked many times what products I use in my daily skincare routine. While it varies from season to season, this post will focus on my winter skincare routine, as skin requires extra moisture in the cold weather.

I want every woman to delight in healthy facial skin! The skin is the bodies’ largest organ, and there is no one-size-fits-all product, so with that said, I will describe my skin type before I list the products and their benefits. My skin tends to be normal to dry during the winter months, with the drier areas being my forehead and cheeks. I still tend to be a bit oilier on my nose and chin, so these would be the areas I may have a breakout or two. My skin is also a bit on the sensitive side, and it can get blotchy-pink and irritated easily.

I worked for Aveda in 2010 and fell in love with all of their products, but was especially drawn to their moisturizers. It wasn’t until I became more familiar with naturally derived plant based skincare that I realized its importance. Naturally derived ingredients are defined as those for which more than 50% of the molecule comes from a plant, non-petroleum mineral, water, or some other natural source. I have noticed a tremendous difference in my skin after I had switched to a strictly plant based skincare routine! It is brighter, supple, and less ruddy. I believe there is a natural skincare regimen for every woman!

I use Aveda and Origins products- Origins is a sister company of Aveda. Below is my routine:

Products are explained left to right and starting at the top.

Products are explained left to right and starting at the top.

I cleanse my face morning and evening with Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics purifying gel cleanser. They offer a cream cleanser as well within the line, but I find that the gel cleanser keeps my minimal oiliness under control. After cleansing, my skin feels refreshed and cool.

Aveda’s Tourmaline charged exfoliating cleanser is a scrub I use every other day to remove dead surface cells and increase cell turnover. It leaves skin feeling extremely soft.

I use Origin’s Drink-Up intensive overnight mask once a week to deeply hydrate my skin. It goes on clear, and I leave it on while I sleep.

I use two eye creams- one for morning and the other for night. Origin’s Plantscription anti-aging eye cream is a great daytime option because it is rich yet works great under both liquid and mineral makeup. Aveda’s Green Science eye cream is a great evening option because it is thick and absorbs will I sleep.

As with the eye creams, I use two moisturizers as well. For daytime, Origin’s Plantscription anti-aging cream is wonderful because it has SPF 25. At nighttime I use Aveda’s Tourmaline charged hydrating cream (on the nights I don’t use the Origins mask). It is slightly tacky until you rub it in, and then it is velvety smooth, and skin feels baby-soft in the morning.

So there you have it! These products are worth every penny. What are some of your favorite products?

xo

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

My lovely sisties and I

My lovely sisties and I

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Mason learning how to use his new Magna Doodle on Christmas morning. You guys, they were not like this when we were kids!

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Mason’s song

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He was having the time of his life! “Open it? Open it? Open it?!”

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Groth/Smith Family on Christmas Eve

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014 – Love my boys!

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Dashing husband and myself

Sparks Family!

Sparks Family!

It was a wonderful Christmas! 

Laughter, love, memories… and 2 full days with no naps and late nights for one sleepy 2 year old!!

The new year comes quickly…!!

xo

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I am the type of person who embraces change, yet feels uneasy any time something isn’t the same as what I pictured it to be. Over the years, Christmas celebrations have played out in the same general fashion: it is a holiday spread out over two long days in which we see as many family members as humanly possible, and travel from place to place without stopping to really ENJOY the time we have at each stop, as there is always pressure to leave and make it on time to the next get-together.

Each year the same, yet different.

Each year the same, yet different. Note the plaid shirts in the upper right picture (my Dad’s contribution to the Chinese gift exchange one year).

Sisters stay the same through the years, no matter what else changes.

Sisters stay the same through the years, no matter what else changes.

No matter the year, there has always been 4 destinations in mind when planning our Christmas attack: my Dad’s family, my Mom’s family, Jeremy’s Dad’s family, and his Mom’s family (and if we are looking back further than 4 years ago, past boyfriends’ familie’s homes). Recently, the Sparks family has created a tradition of getting together the Saturday before the Christmas week, something that has come to be a beloved event by all. Our family being as large as it is, it is always a challenge to get that many people together in one place at the same time. 3 cheers to us for making happen for the past 3 years! After all, no Christmas season is complete with a full-on Chinese gift exchange war between 60 people, baking and cooking contests, and my Dad’s yearly rummage sale gift wrapped in-what else?- newspaper. Ah, family.

This year I have taken it upon myself to host Christmas Day for my Mom’s family. Since Grandma passed, we have tried to keep everything the “same”, perhaps to make ourselves more comfortable, or to keep her memory alive. But in the past 2 years I have learned that it is never possible for things to remain 100% the way they have always been. I have faced the fact that Grandpa is getting older, and he does not have the energy or ambition to decorate a big house and adorn a large tree with hundreds of ornaments. This year, instead of feeling emotional over the fact that we will not be gathering at Grandpa’s for Christmas Eve, I am excited for a new tradition: hosting Christmas Day for my family. It is a strange feeling, growing from someone who up until recently just went along with whatever the “adults” were doing to someone who sets all the plans in motion. I feel that it is now my turn to be the one to coordinate the food, the festivities, and the one to open up my home for everyone to be together. There will still be plenty of love to go around, no matter where we are on this crazy journey.

Cheers to new traditions.

xo

What I wish I knew when I was 16

Over the weekend, Jeremy gave me an early Christmas present. He asked whether or not I would be upset if he told me what he was getting for me, and of course I was not! He surprised me with a trip to Office Depot to pick out a new desk and hutch for my home office. Since we moved in I have been going back and forth with how to decorate and set up the third bedroom, and I have decided that along with the desk, there will be a couch (with a pull-out bed for anyone who may spend the night), file cabinets, bookshelves, colorful throw rugs (thanks to my Mom!!) and soft lighting. I am excited for a place where I can clear my mind and feel calm.

And, seeing as how there won’t be any “little additions” to our family any time soon, a girly office is just what I had in mind. Win.

So anyway, the desk. We went to pick it up and on Sunday I started the process of re-organizing my files, craft supplies, and old journals. Now, I know better than to pick up those journals on more than a rare basis. The journals, dating back to when I was 10 years old, chronicle all the ups and downs of a young girl going from elementary school, to awkward middle schooler, to lost and confused teenager with big dreams and unrealistic expectations of what life is. The very essence of who I am comes out in those journals, because as I knew even then, why lie to myself? I just wasn’t thinking back then that one day I would be a woman in her mid twenties who would both laugh and cry (even cringe!) at the words written in them. They document good times, too numerous to even count. Years and years of family get togethers, funny memories, births, meaningful conversations with friends, starting a new school, and what is most crazy to me is that I can literally SEE all these experiences in my head, and I am so grateful that I was as dedicated as I was to writing it all down in great detail. However, there are bad times written there too, and in some of the journals, sadly this is the majority. I remember it all, the struggles of my sisters and I as we coped with a broken home. The sheer DESPERATION in my writing breaks my heart, as now I view the situation through the eyes of a mother. I forgive my parents for all we went through as a family (arrests, neglect, violence between each other, and no schooling for 4 years), but if I learned anything from dealing with adult situations at such a young age, it would be what I don’t want for Mason or any future children.

It wasn’t all bad, though. The high school journals are the hardest of all to read, because what was so important to me then is now just a distant memory, and I wish I could go back in time and impart to that girl what I know now. I thought I had it all figured out. Still don’t, but at least I have no trouble admitting it now!

So, 16-year-old Rachel, listen up! Here is what I WISH you knew:

There will always be someone who doesn’t like you, no matter how hard you try to alter your personality to fit whomever you are around at that time. It is NOT your job to make everyone happy, and those bitches? They are the way they are due to their own insecurities, and only they can help themselves. As long as you like yourself, you are doing just fine. Please just be YOU. Do not change who you are to be like THEM.

Boys are not everything. Yes, it’s true! Stop feeling like you need that boy to be complete. YOU are enough. You will have heartache, and that is just part of life. But instead of focusing all of your time and energy on making that boy notice you and laughing at all of his jokes (even if they aren’t funny), strengthen your bond with your girlfriends. They are the ones that understand what you are going through, and there is a good chance they will be the ones that are there when your children are born, when you get married, etc.

You don’t look THAT bad. Ok, so maybe we could do without the slicked back ponytail and the pencil-thin brows, but beyond that, knobby knees and flat chests are all a part of transitioning from teenager to woman. I wish you would stop comparing yourself to other girls, they are just as awkward as you. It pains me now to look back at pictures of these girls, because now I wonder what I was so jealous of (they look just as awkward as you). So next time you’re in the dressing room looking for shirts that show off your “cleavage”, just keep in mind that you are only able to wear tight t-shirts for a while, and someday you won’t be able to pull it off anymore (Your boobs grow 4 cup sizes bigger. *happy dance*).

Stop trying to rush the minutes, hours, days, years. Time only flies faster the older you get, and when you are 16, you just want to be 18. When you are 18, you wish for 21. Stop it!! Enjoy where you are in life RIGHT NOW. You won’t get it back. One day your life will be so full it will be difficult to find time for yourself. You wish for confidence, for stability… it will all come. So for now, enjoy the weeknights alone in your room with nothing else but a book. Those nights will one day be rare, girlfriend.

And lastly..

Stop worrying about the future! You have a good head on your shoulders, a kind heart, and all the time in the world. But just to put your mind at ease, it all works out. You will work hard, and one day be a leader of a large group of people. You will make mistakes (BIG ONES), and be very hurt. You will lose friends and people who were practically family. You will meet the perfect boy (who is hot, btw), and he will love you so much he will marry you. You will own a home and cars (and have anything you want, because you have learned to work hard). You will have a darling little boy who loves you with his whole heart. YOU ARE CONFIDENT, BEAUTIFUL, and SUCCESSFUL! So rest easy, and focus on being the best you can be.

xo