Feature Friday: Play Now, Pay Later

Here is something written by my lovely mother about getting diagnosed with skin cancer. I wanted to share her post because I think it’s really important for people to know more about the dangers of the sun. I hear so many of my friends say they are going to the pool to “tan,” and I understand wanting to have nice color, but it can come at a very high price. I’ll do another post soon about a few of my favorite products (self tanner, bronzer, vitamin D tablets, clothing items, and a few other things) that keep you healthy and make you feel like you have a nice, summery glow. Without further ado, though, here is my mom’s message about skin cancer.


One of the biggest fears most people have when getting a diagnosis from the doctor is hearing the “C” word, and in March that’s exactly what my dermatologist told me I had.

As a child I spent most of my summer days in our backyard pool or at the beach.  My mother always insisted I wear a t-shirt over my swimsuit since I was fair-skinned, and thankfully she always kept me in a sun hat.  As I got older I admired my sister and friends who could get a deep, golden tan, which is when I started using concoctions like baby oil mixed with iodine to attract as much sun as possible.  My best friend and I would sit out in the midday sun when the rays were their brightest in hopes of looking like the model on the Coppertone ad.

As a young adult, I discovered that nearly anyone could get a “healthy” looking tan by going to the tanning booths that were popular in the early 80’s.  It seemed like they were everywhere, and everyone was doing it.  Looking back I am so happy that I only purchased one package, as I hated the strange smell and the claustrophobic feeling they gave.  The beach was still my favorite place, so whenever I had an opportunity to travel I chose somewhere with lots of sun and sand.

I have always been interested in health and wellness, which is why I decided to become an esthetician many years ago.  By then I knew that any kind of tan is considered sun damage. I did whatever I could to avoid having sun on my face and always used a good amount of sunscreen.  My kids who were avid swimmers never left the house without being slathered with sunscreen and an SPF shirt.  I lovingly nagged all of my clients about the danger of too much sun exposure and my “platform” was reinforced when a sweet young man treated his mom to a relaxing facial with me. He had driven her straight from the hospital.  To my horror, when she removed her hat she had a giant scar from one side of her scalp to the other and had received the diagnosis of terminal melanoma.  Her sweet son was treating her to something he hoped would make her feel better.  That poor lady and her son will be forever ingrained in my mind, so you can see why this has always been one of my most important platforms when educating my clients.

This leads me to my doctor’s appointment this past March. I have always been diligent at getting my annual skin cancer screenings.  It’s never fun sitting in the paper gown knowing that someone will be scanning every part of you from head to toe, but the alternative of not being checked could always be worse than the embarrassment, so I bit the bullet and went into the office.  “No changes, you look fine,” the doctor said. I showed him a very tiny dry patch of skin just below my throat that I had been concerned about.  “Oh that’s nothing,” he assured me, so I left feeling confident and proud of myself for being able to cross the annual appointment off my “to-do” list.  A couple months later I accompanied my daughter to the same dermatologist for one of her appointments.  Before the doctor left the room I asked him if he would mind taking a look at that tiny patch of dry skin again that he had dismissed as normal before, and told him I had tried exfoliating it but that it kept coming back.  Again, he took a look with his doppler glasses and said casually, “Nothing!”  I felt relief, because in the back of my mind I kept thinking of that poor lady and her sweet son who had visited my esthetics office some years back.

About three months passed and I went to my family doctor for my annual checkup.  During the exam, I showed her the tiny patch below my throat and she said she wanted me to see the dermatologist she refers to, so I went to see him that Thursday.  I showed him the dry patch and he biopsied it right then and there in the office.  He told me if it was positive, someone would call me within 3 business days.  Tuesday rolled around and no call.  Great, I thought!  I’m in the clear.  Another week passed, then another. Several weeks later the phone rang.  “I’m calling to tell you that your biopsy was positive for cancer,” I heard on the other end of my phone.  Wait, didn’t they say they would call within three days?  Now my mind was racing back to months before when I had first asked my dermatologist about the cancer I now realized had taken residence in my body!  When I asked the bearer of my news why she didn’t call me sooner she simply said, “Ma’am, we have a stack of calls to make every day.”  I asked her what my next step was and she said the doctor would do the surgery to remove an inch around the area.  My first concern was getting these rogue cells the heck out of my body, but realizing this scar was going to be significant and unable to hide above any neckline outside of a turtleneck I said I would get back to her to make the appointment — I wanted to check with a skin surgeon I knew of who was also a plastic surgeon. Then she informed me that by law I needed to let her know within a few weeks that this procedure had been completed.  Why then did it take the dermatologists’ staff three weeks to let me know I had cancer in the first place?!

Due to the busy demands of the doctor, yet another three weeks passed before I was able to reluctantly go in for the surgery.  The surgeon performed what they call MOHS surgery, which is a procedure in which they take as little tissue as possible and test it for cancer cells right away.  They continue to take more if necessary until it is all gone.  I was so thankful that it only took one “pass” until I was told they had gotten it all.  They stitched me up, put dressing on the wound, and told me they expected to see me again as most people who have these types of carcinoma become “repeat customers.”  That was the last thing I wanted to hear.

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Shortly after the procedure I was talking with my friend and described my cancer patch to her.  She grew quiet and said she had the same kind of thing just above her eyebrow.  “I’m sure you are just overly-concerned because of what I just went through,” I reassured her, but knew there was always a chance, so suggested to get it checked — just in case.  She phoned me a couple of weeks later to let me know that her doctor had found bad cells!

My platform for maintaining healthy skin now feels even more important and I am asking you to thoroughly check yourself. Get on the phone and make that yearly dermatological appointment to get yourself checked head to toe.  A good exam includes the doctor checking your scalp, behind your ears, between your toes and even inside your mouth.  If you have a strange feeling about a mole or a freckle or a dry patch of skin that just won’t go away, get to the doctor as soon as possible.  If you feel that someone might not be right about your diagnoses, it never hurts to get a second opinion.  Early detection is your best friend.

My scar is healing well.  A couple of weeks ago I knew that my incision was healed enough to use my needling roller to smooth out the scar.  I honestly can’t believe how much that has helped!  I’m guessing there will always be a small scar but I will wear it proudly as a reminder for myself and others to take precautions when outdoors, and to always get your annual dermatological skin screening.

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After using the roller for a few weeks.

Feature Friday: Capturing Beauty

“Tilt your head, you are gorgeous when you look at the camera like that!”

I laugh as my best friend cheers me on from behind the camera. It’s so ironic that she is a photographer; Audrey is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever known, and it’s funny that she found a passion to showcase others’ beauty. After doing two photoshoots with her I decided I had to take a picture or two of her every time we went out; after all, she should totally be in front of the camera too!

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Audrey is blessed to be outwardly beautiful, but it’s her heart I love most. She is one of my very best friends, and that has absolutely nothing to do with looks and everything to do with character. Audrey is someone who has been a fiercely loyal friend since I met her, and even though we both want to do similar things in the world, we support each other and push each other to be better, rather than choosing to compete. I can always count on her to make me laugh when I want to cry, and be a great friend even when she has a million other things going on.

I have so many different stories I could write about Audrey, but today I wanted to focus a little on her journey to DC and how she has handled being a grounded twentysomething.

Krista:
You moved to DC without having a set plan or a job lined up, but everything worked out. This is a great example of your faith in God providing for our needs. How did you feel when you made such a big step?

Audrey:
At the time I decided to move to Washington I was attending college in a really tiny, snowy college town. I’m from Las Vegas so even just the idea of being cold is so upsetting to me — I don’t do snow! I remember thinking, “I would absolutely love to get out of here, but don’t see how that’s a possibility right now.” The thought of a few semesters left in my little college town also seemed a little daunting to this solar-powered girl.

I can’t describe why, but I sincerely just felt so good about moving. I had no plan, so even though I felt direction-less I applied for three internships — one in Texas, one in California, and one in DC. It was November and I was somehow hoping to score a last-minute winter internship. I have always been a firm believer that in life, we get what we are willing to work for. I think a lot of the time we sit back and wait for signs in life or big things to happen when really God is saying, “What are you waiting for? If you want it, go for it!” He can’t guide us if we aren’t willing to take that first step in the dark.

I was in class one day and got a call from a man who was the owner of a pretty prestigious company I had applied to in Washington, DC. He didn’t hesitate to tell me how under qualified he felt like I was for the position, and needless to say it was pretty intimidating. Nevertheless, he agreed to meet with me in person and two weeks later I found myself driving across the country.  Needless to say, that door closed and the next six weeks I felt like I was totally in the dark, but I kept applying, networking, and most importantly, I never stopped praying. I am now working at a job that is so perfect for me at this time in my life and I am tremendously grateful the internship didn’t work out. It is amazing how when a door closes it is often a blessing in disguise, and I think God blesses us when we keep our faith even if we can’t see the bigger picture at the time.

K:
Are you still happy with your decision to move here?

A:
I am so happy! And I mean, I get “Krista time” so what is not to love about that?! I think happiness is something we create, not something we magically find. Although I would be happy anywhere, the way things fell into place once I got here has seriously been so inspired. Since moving back I have had people come into my life in such incredible ways that I couldn’t imagine life without.

K:
What is your favorite thing about the DC area?

A:
I am from Nevada so growing up if we wanted to go to another state it was often an all day road trip. I love that I can get in my car or catch a train and in just a couple of hours I can be somewhere else entirely. DC also has such a contagious energy about it that I love but it also transforms at night and is so peaceful. You can spend a lot of money and go to an elaborate show and dinner or spend absolutely nothing at all walking around the monuments or in a museum and still have such a rewarding experience. The history and diversity here never cease to amaze me.

K:
You are someone I really love because you’ve never let a relationship, a job, or a busy schedule get in the way of your friendships. Have you always been like that? What advice would you give to girls trying to juggle a busy life?

A:
For me, life is all about finding the balance. I think in this area especially, everyone is busy but some people wear it as a badge of honor and I am just so not that way. I try to give everyone the best of me throughout the day and put my best face forward but then there are times when I just need to unwind and be with girlfriends and unwind over Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Factory over a good vent sesh 😉 Ya feel me?

K:
Umm, of course I do!

We haven’t ever really been single at the same time, but our interactions never change when either of us gets a boyfriend. Do you think there’s a reason for this? What makes you value “girl time” as well as quality time with your boyfriend?

A:
Growing up my family didn’t communicate a ton. I was raised with a single mom who worked so hard to make a living for my brothers and I, but she was spread thin so my girl friends became my closest confidants. I think a lot of girls lose their identity in their boyfriends. A lot of the time people see relationships as the whole cake instead of the icing on the cake of life. Having a relationship with someone you love and trust is a beautiful thing, but you are both still individuals. At the end of the day most people are likely to go through a couple of relationships before they end up with the person they will marry, and when those relationships end you shouldn’t be calling up your girl friends like, “Hey… Remember me?” I think it is totally healthy to spend some time apart in relationships — it keeps you both satisfied and allows you to miss each other instead of having to do everything together. I also have the most fiercely loyal, hilarious, and loving friends in my life that just seem to get me. Who wouldn’t want girl time with friends like that!?

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K:
Something I find really cool about our relationship is that we both want similar things in life, but build each other up and share successes, rather than competing. What advice would you give to others in remaining supportive of their friends, rather than competing with them?

A:
When I was in high school I was really insecure. I had this small mindset that I needed to prove myself, but the only person I wasn’t good enough for was myself. As I got older I realized that I was really self destructive and then embarked on a journey where I was trying to be more self-aware. Once I shifted that way of thinking I learned that I not only found joy in my own accomplishments but also the accomplishments of those around me. Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish your own and I wish more women understood that. I remember having froyo “girl time” dates with you all the way back to my first year in college and we always wanted the same things, but I was always so impressed with this about you as well! Having humble but accomplished women in my life makes me want to be better — not bitter — and I wasted a lot of years being the latter. I would tell girls that felt this way to learn to genuinely be comfortable in their own skin and then start vocalizing to others things you genuinely admire about them instead of trying to lead with your own accomplishments. I am so uncomfortable around women who constantly try to make themselves look better than others. None of my girl friends are this way. It’s a shallow and small way to live. If you are threatened by someone else, look inside yourself. What is it about them that you are intimidated by and what is really triggering these emotions of insecurity and jealousy in you? Be honest with yourself and then face that head on.

K:
As I mentioned in your introduction, I always think it’s funny doing photoshoots with you because you are clearly someone who cameras just adore! What got you interested in photography?

A:
Haha oh man, I don’t see it that way, I just genuinely love doing it! I have always wanted to photograph people’s love stories and when I was little I remember looking through bridal magazines and being at weddings thinking how that would be my dream job — to capture those beautiful moments. I still have a long way to go but luckily we live in an era where you can learn absolutely anything and thanks to YouTube it is a lot easier to get a head start in something you don’t know a lot about.

K:
What is your favorite thing about photography?

A:
It is so fun to live in the moment but then that moment is gone and photography is something that helps us remember some of life’s sweetest moments forever. I wanted to be able to create something people can hold on to — whether that is a candid moment of two people dancing or a picture someone can look at that makes them smile because they feel beautiful or see themselves in a new light. I love creating that!

K:
If you could choose anyone in the world to photograph who would it be, and why?

A:
My nephew because he is such a sassy little stud. He’s like Bieber and is a little high maintenance about his crazy paparazzi aunt these days! I am not the kind of person to get starstruck or anything like that, so that’s a tough one. I seriously can’t think of a single celebrity I would really want to photograph over one of my friends or family members, but that’s just my personality. A couple of months ago I was doing a woman’s hair and makeup who was a single mom and had never really been pampered like that before. Afterward she looked in the mirror and got teary eyed and couldn’t stop smiling. I seriously live for moments like that with hair/makeup/and photography where I can help someone feel beautiful and see what I already see in them. I don’t see being a girly girl as something shallow or worldly but rather as something I have a knack for that I can use to help others smile and I love that.

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This is one of many times Audrey did my hair and makeup for a little photoshoot. I am one spoiled girl!

If you’re interested in getting a photographer for something in the DMV, shoot me a message and I’ll connect you with Audrey!


IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I’M MOVING!

In just a couple of weeks I will no longer be on this website. My dating life changed a loooong time ago, so I am finally taking the time to make some changes that reflect this and moving my site to KristaLauren.com (As I have mentioned before I would have done this a lot sooner, but I am technologically challenged and 10 times out of 10 prefer to write instead of work on my site). Make sure you sign up to receive emails for my posts, like my Facebook page, or bookmark my new site if you want to stay a part of my Single in The Suburbs family. 🙂

Feature Friday: One Fierce Female

I have known Emily for years now, and seen her go through several life transitions with grace and poise. Whether it’s a breakup, a new job, or falling in love, Emily is always classy while choosing to never settle for less than she deserves. Frankly, I think she’s the “real girls’ Beyoncé.”

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One thing I’ve always loved about Emily is how great she is at balancing life. She’s one person I’ve never seen ditch her friends when she got a new bae, and she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known, but she never lets work get in the way of a healthy social life. She sings at church every Sunday, attends alum events for her sorority, celebrates her girl friends, spends quality time with her boyfriend, and manages to see her family on a regular basis. Basically, I am pretty sure Emily is some sort of superhero, and I haven’t seen any sort of Kryptonite yet.

Single in The Suburbs:
Emily! Would you please introduce yourself to my readers?

Emily:
My name is Emily, and as you stated, Krista and I met and became friends during our to time at GMU! I earned my Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance there. I am currently the Lead Administrator at Robert Half’s DC office. I’m also a voice teacher and resident singer at a local church.

SITS:
You are fiercely independent. Do you think you were born that way or is it something you developed?

Emily:
Thank you, that means so much! I really think it was something I developed. Many people don’t know this about me, but I was born with an auditory-language processing disorder. It took me a long time to even learn to talk. I began taking some special education classes as a toddler, and teachers weren’t sure if I could succeed in our school system.

However, in the transition from elementary school to middle school, I truly began to understand the value of hard work. I studied all of the time and sought out help when I needed it. Soon enough, I was out of special classes and taking AP and Honors classes. I went to the top of my class in middle school, and that continued throughout high school and college. Those years were pivotal for me in helping me understand the value of perseverance. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to put in the work.

SITS:
You go girl! I didn’t know that about you, but it makes me love your story even more.

Here’s something I think a lot of people struggle with when they get into a new relationship. Why do you think it’s important to maintain close friendships even when you have a great guy?

Emily:
You have to have balance! Jarrod and I have to make time for our friends together and separately. I’d like to think we’re pretty good about that. We encourage each other to spend time with our friends, and invite them out so our friends can meet each other. It’s important to devote time to your friends, just as it is with your partner. If you claim to have some kind of relationship with people, you need to take the time to be there for those people.
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SITS:
You seem to have a great work/life balance, as well as being able to juggle your time between the important people in your life. How do you do that? Do you sometimes have trouble choosing how to prioritize?
Emily:

Honestly, I have to work at this every day. Some days, I feel like I have this balancing act down. Other days I feel like I am completely out of whack. I work extremely hard at everything I do and sometimes I can give too much energy to one thing instead of keeping a balance.

I do think I’m improving every day, though! I make sure I take my full lunch break now, leave work on time instead of staying late, work out, and fit in time with the people I love — even if it means putting a reminder on my work calendar. The other day, I came upon this quote:
“If it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes upset by it.”
That stuck with me. It’s so easy to let the little annoyances of daily life get to you, but they just don’t matter. At the end of the day it’s not so much about making a living as it is about making a life.

SITS:
Those are great tips, Emily.
What kind of advice do you have for single girls who are currently looking for a relationship?

Emily:
DON’T SETTLE. Seriously. There’s nothing wrong with being single. Even if all your friends are married. So what? If you’re waiting for a partner to be happy, you’ll never be happy. Make sure you have a good relationship with yourself first. It might be a cliché, but it’s true. 

SITS:
What do you think some perks of being single are? What about being in a relationship?

Emily:
Disclaimer: I don’t want to go back to being single. I’m very happy with Jarrod, but…

When you’re single, you only have to be concerned with your schedule, which is convenient. You can go on dates if you want, or if you don’t want to, then don’t! I went through periods where I dated, and then times where I didn’t. It really helped me focus on accepting and loving myself for who I am. I feel like that really prepared me for being in a relationship.
Relationship pros include: having a best friend who’s always there, someone to share your life with, having someone there that helps you grow as a person. The important part of these pros is that you have the right person there as your partner, and that can mean different things for different people. Everyone has their own idea of what a relationship should look like, and that’s great as long as it works for them! Jarrod and I challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves in every way, and we teach each other how to love better.
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SITS:
You recently got a pretty sweet promotion at work because you took initiative and asked for it — congratulations! How did you feel before you asked? What kind of advice would you give for other twentysomethings in the work force?

Emily:
Thank you so much! I hadn’t really done anything like that before, but I felt confident going into it, which I think really helped. Preparation is absolutely key. I did all of my research on my position, compensation, and the marketplace, and then I presented my business case.

SITS:
What is the biggest dream you are working towards right now?

Emily:
My biggest dream now is moving on to grad school. I am looking at programs in Speech/Voice Pathology, so that I can use my knowledge and study of the voice to help those who have speech and communication issues.  However, I have a couple different programs in mind, so I’m continuing to gain experience in the workforce and research different schools until I am sure which specialization I want to pursue. I continue to teach voice and sing on the weekends to keep up with my vocal studies.


If you would like to be featured on Single in The Suburbs, send me a message and we’ll see if we can come up with a fun story to share!

Feature Friday: Kalika, Ben, & Trina

Kalika and I have been good friends since my freshman year of high school and I feel so incredibly blessed to still have her in my life today. She is one of the most creative, empathetic, bubbly, and thoughtful girls that I know. Kalika loves dogs as much as I do, and is currently the mother of one adorable crooked-tailed pups out there.

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Single In The Suburbs:
Where did you and Ben meet? What were your first impressions and how might they have changed over time?

Kalika:
Ben and I were both interns with Campus Special during the summer of 2012. We met at a training conference in Atlanta while waiting for the elevator. I immediately thought he was handsome and particularly liked his blue eyes. His nametag showed that he was the University of Delaware rep, and I know a few people that went there (thanks, Kate!) so I struck up a conversation.

We went to my first NBA and MLB games that weekend where I learned pretty quickly about Ben’s schemes, like sneaking down to better seats that were still available on StubHub right before tickets are taken down before the game (he’s only gotten better at scheming since I’ve known him).

My first impression of Ben was that he was shy and quiet, but that is not the case! As we got more comfortable with each other, he’s shown his true colors as SUCH a goofball. He makes the most ridiculous faces, sings along to songs with the wrong words or in goofy voices, wears collared shirts with sweat shorts in public, and makes me laugh all the time. When we had been dating no more than 2 weeks, he showed me a video of him singing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz that he made for a high school class. It was so ridiculous (and a little cringeworthy) – I couldn’t believe he showed it to me that early in our relationship!

I should note that it was not all sunshine and rainbows and dates immediately after meeting. I visited Ben and my friend/his sales partner Eva at the University of Delaware a few times during the summer and liked Ben more than he liked me. We fell out of touch during 4th year (that’s UVA speak for “senior year”). Ben moved to DC after graduating in 2013. Eva was visiting me in northern VA while I was home for a month before moving back to Charlottesville to start my job. We were at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan when Eva suggested we meet up with Ben. I was reluctant since it had been a while and he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with me but thankfully, Eva insisted.

Ben met us at Maddy’s for drinks and we hit it off again. Surprisingly, we continued to hang out after Eva’s visit, going to a few Nationals games and on our first real date in Arlington. In September, Ben came down to Charlottesville for the first time to attend the annual Top of the Hops beer festival. Once we arrived and started seeing many of my friends and coworkers I asked Ben, “How should I introduce you?” He replied with a smile, “You can introduce me as your boyfriend.”

SITS:
When did you first know Ben was the one you wanted to spend your life with?

Kalika:
I can’t think of an exact moment but I’d say sometime in the first half of 2015. I was already in love with Ben and really excited for him to move down to Charlottesville in May. I knew that living together would confirm that we would never be apart again!

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“One thing that affirmed that Ben was ‘the one’ is the way he is with Trina. He is such a great dog dad and I love how he snuggles with her and loves her so much.”

SITS:
What is your favorite memory with Ben?

Kalika:
Oh gosh, I definitely don’t have just one: our first first kiss on a bench at the University of Delaware when he finally opened up to me; our second first kiss after our first date in DC; relaxing in romantic hot springs in Costa Rica; hearing him say “I’d be down to come back next year” on day 2 in India; enjoying Valentine’s Day dinner that Ben put so much work into (see below); waking up next to him (which I really appreciate after 2 years of long distance); and feeling so at home while snuggling on the couch with him and Trina.

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Also, this isn’t a memory with Ben, but I love how he’s made friends with my friends and can hold his own with my family without me present. When Ben lived in DC, he didn’t have a car, so he would ride down to visit me in Charlottesville with my friends and get to know them one-on-one. He stayed an extra day in San Fransisco with my cousins and has gone out to dinner with my dad without me. He’s come a long way from the “quiet” guy I thought he was in 2012!

SITS:
How has your life changed since you got engaged?

Kalika:
1. Our day-to-day life is pretty much the same but with the addition of wedding planning!  In the spring we took venue tours, and now we are going to meetings and doing vendor research (and bugging Ben to fill in his addresses for the save the dates). I think we’ve done a good job of splitting responsibilities, for example, Ben’s managing our relationship with our caterer while I’m working on save the dates and photography.

2. We talk about our future more often and talk about long-term plans now that we know we will always be there for each other.

3. I get scolded if I forget to put on my ring (I don’t sleep with it on since that’s when the chance of a stone popping out is highest, and it doesn’t happen often, I promise!).

SITS:
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT CELEBRATION IN INDIA!!

Kalika:
What a whirlwind of a day… First let me explain that I had been expecting a pretty casual ceremony at one of my relatives’ houses, just involving a quick blessing by a priest. After traveling for over 20 hours, we arrived in Jaipur the morning of our engagement celebration and immediately went to my aunt’s house for mehndi. We were greeted by a loud traditional drummer and thrown into a dancing circle with several of my cousins. We had lunch, got our mehndi done and relaxed until it was time to get dressed. My dad and uncle whisked Ben away to get his outfit while my aunts dressed me up like a “Rajput princess” (warrior class), in an outfit very similar to what a bride would wear for an Indian wedding.

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Photo credit: Erin Kwon

We all drove together to the venue (an event lawn outside my uncle’s restaurant) but the car stopped on the side of the road before we were quite there. We were instructed to get out of the car, and into a horse-drawn carriage! After making a dramatic entrance, we were seated on a throne/couch/bench? in front of all the guests. Traditional dancers performed for us, spinning around with jugs of water then flaming pots on their heads. A CRAZY guy danced on nails and swords sharp side up with jugs of water on his head. He also breathed fire while Ben and I looked on in disbelief. I asked my dad if this performance was planned to ensure we stayed awake! After greeting many, many relatives, the night ended with dinner and fireworks. Ben said “if we had to turn around and go home right now, I’d be OK with it, but I’m glad we have 7 more days.”

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Photo credit: Erin Kwon

SITS:
How do you manage having time for your calligraphy, work, a relationship, and friendships? What tips would you give girls for creating balance in their lives?

Kalika:
This is not easy. I still struggle with this all the time. I’ve learned to not try to do everything every day; balance is much easier for me when I allot one evening to grilling with friends, one evening to riding, and one evening to calligraphy, for example. I’ll even use my Google calendar to block off time.

Ben is really good about helping out around the house when I’m hustling to meet a deadline, but encourages me to make sure it doesn’t happen too often. So, after a few stressful nights, I’ve learned to give myself more time to complete a calligraphy order than I think I’ll need.

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Can’t get enough of Kalika? Neither can I!! Check out her amazing calligraphy work on her Facebook page or Instagram (She designed the Single in The Suburbs logo on my Twitter and Facebook!). Check out her website for beautiful wedding invitations, decorations, and pretty much anything paper-related you could ever dream of.

If you’re like me and love dogs more than anything, follow her pup Trina on Instagram. She is one of the most adorably quirky gals I know. 🙂

Feature Friday: In Sickness And In Health

This week’s feature is about my dear friends Danielle and Pat. They have been married for just over three years now and known each other since high school. For as long as I’ve known Pat and Danielle they’ve been a package deal. They have many of the same friends, love spending time with their extended family members, and even work for the same company. One thing I really love about their relationship is how they both look out for one another and take turns leaning on each other.

I asked Pat if he’d like to do a feature about his beautiful wife to surprise her, and he was quick to oblige. Talking to Pat about Danielle made me tear up when I saw the clear adoration he had for her. Here is their story about how special marriage can be and getting through hardships together once you’ve committed your life to someone.

Pat and Danielle got married in April, 2013. They had a beautiful outdoor wedding in the Virginia countryside with their closest friends and family, then honeymooned on a cruise ship and traveled to a handful of tropical islands to celebrate their marriage.

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Six short months after their wedding their fairytale came to a hard stop. Danielle woke up with intense chronic pain and after weeks of testing learned that she had something called fibromyalgia. Neither she nor Pat had heard of the illness, but he quickly began researching everything from different doctors to take her to and dietary changes that might help manage the pain. He kept his full-time job and took on a new one — fighting fibromyalgia with his wife. They made all of the lifestyle changes together to make things as easy on Danielle as they could possibly be in such a tough situation. They ate all of the same meals, worked out at the gym together, and went to her appointments hand in hand. He told me,

“Marriage isn’t about the husband and wife as individuals. Everything you do, you do together.”

Pat knew Danielle was in constant pain and felt helpless. He couldn’t do anything to fix the woman he loved and vowed to care for. He said that he would take all of the pain and exhaustion in a heartbeat if it meant Danielle would be better — this, friends, is the definition of selfless love.

“The most difficult part is not being able to do anything about her illness. There is no tangible ‘thing’ to go after and treat, as it is an illness diagnosed purely based on symptoms. It gets exhausting when you see doctor after doctor who are all blindly chasing after ten different symptoms and prescribing ten different kinds of medications which all have their fair share of side effects. You feel defeated. The fact that I can’t fix this for her is the hardest thing I’ve had to come to terms with.”

I was surprised to learn that fibromyalgia hasn’t really changed their relationship. Pat told me that the only major difference is that he has become more in tune with how Danielle is feeling and when she might have to take it a little easier one day. They also somtimes have to cancel plans on friends and can’t go out as much, but they’ve learned to adapt to this new lifestyle by enjoying one another’s company in the comfort of their own home. Thier favorite activities include snuggling with their Boxer Bentley, watching movies together, or relaxing outside by the lake. It isn’t a typical life of a twentysomething, but they are truly, genuinely happy together.

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“You’ll have to excuse my language, but Danielle in my mind is THE most badass woman I know. I don’t know anyone who can have their world turned upside down and make such a remarkable recovery. She is one of the most headstrong people I have ever met. Any time we found a new way fibromyalgia was trying to put a damper on our life plans, that woman would stick the proverbial middle finger to it and just truck along. As a husband watching your wife kick ass and take names is the most humbling and honoring experience. Whenever I have something go wrong in my life I look to her and remember how much work she has done and how far she has come — it reminds me to stay grounded. It reminds me that no matter how hard life gets or how hard you think your life is, in the end it really isn’t that bad.”

Anytime Pat talks about Danielle you can tell how much he loves her by the smile on his face. It makes me happy to know that these two wonderful people met each other, fell in love, and made their relationship work — through thick and thin.

I don’t think there is a word that exists to describe my feelings for my wife. She has been there for me and with me through my darkest of days and has been there through my brightest. She has corrected me when I was wrong, and accepted me when I was right. She is my best friend. She knows everything about me, and I her. We keep each other’s darkest secrets and share our greatest triumphs. This woman is the quintessential definition of a perfect wife, a perfect partner and a perfect friend. I never knew I could love someone as much as I love Danielle. I just hope that other people find the kind of love to where you sacrifice everything you are to your spouse.”

Feature Friday: The Face Behind 100 Selfies

If you didn’t catch my feature post last week, go check it out and then come back to this!

We saw how much Stephen cares about his fiancée… But how did she feel about being the center of attention every day for 100 days? I sat down with Kylie to find out and had the pleasure of learning what a sweet and wise young lady she is.

Single in The Suburbs:
It seems like there is a lot of positive feedback from friends about the Kylie selfies. How does it feel being featured every day for 100 days in a row? 

Kylie:
I have loved the 100 Kylie selfies! Initially I was so surprised — my friend was actually the one that showed me the first post and I cried at how sweet of an idea it was. Stephen’s thought that went behind the posts is very special to me. I knew he had been collecting them, but I never knew how he would end up using them. A lot of the selfies I took certainly were not meant to be on social media so they are not as flattering as what I would normally post myself, but that makes it funny and real and meaningful. I love reading the messages that go along with each selfie and seeing how many pictures have been posted — because each day I’m getting closer to marrying him!

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“I love sharing about my day with you after work. ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬

SITS:
What is your favorite thing about Stephen? 

Kylie:
There is so much I could say about Stephen! I’ll name a few favorites. First, he has a quirky sense of humor filled with sarcastic jokes and puns that I absolutely love. Second, he is incredibly passionate and hardworking at everything he does. Third, he loves music just as much (or more) than I do. I love being able to share that with him.

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“I love figuring out chords and harmonies to new songs with you. ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬

SITS:
How many selfies do you think you have sent to your fiancee?

Kylie:
Ha! I could not tell you. I didn’t even realize I had taken over 100 on his phone, but I definitely think I’m below the 150 mark. I don’t know. I think selfies are weird and funny, especially when they go unnoticed in your photos for a while! And I definitely have forgotten about some of them. It’s cool, though, because I’ve mostly been able to pick out when and where each selfie was taken!

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“Thanks for your grace in my failings and the constant support to be a better man. I love you. ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬”

SITS:
How does it feel that even strangers (like me!) are happy for y’all and following your “100 Selfies?”

Kylie:
It’s great that people are enjoying the posts and are happy for us! I think it is funny that my face is on all of our friends’ newsfeeds each day and all of a sudden. We have even had some friends call him out on their expectations for this series! Honestly, I don’t mind whether or not the selfies receive a lot of attention on social media. This is something that I personally look forward to and enjoy because it is from Stephen. When I see the selfies, I see us, and not so much of everyone else that is liking and commenting on them.

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“You are more beautiful than the roses you sometimes hide behind. Can you spot Kylie in this picture? ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬ ‪#‎camouflaged‬

SITS:
Are you doing anything as a countdown until the big day? 

Kylie:
I have considered doing a 30 day countdown with Stephen’s selfies and doing the same thing (things I love about him, things I look forward to in the future with him, etc). I am not the only one who sneaks selfies — his are just less consistent! However, I really will have to see if I even have 30 of his. I may be short a few.

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“I love spending my weekends with you. Unfortunately this isn’t a weekend we get to spend together. But the good news is that this two week stretch will now be the longest time we spend apart until we get married! ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬

SITS:
You and Stephen seem to be very happy together! What kind of tips would you give my single readers for finding someone who is a good fit for them?

Thank you! We really are. Stephen and I were friends before pursuing a relationship.  When I started crushing on him, I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it and I did not let it affect who I was. I would say that being comfortable with yourself and who you are is absolutely the most important thing. Everything else just happened to fall into place for me. Then at that point, reflect on yourself and who you are. If who you are as an individual aligns with who you are with that special someone, I would say you’re on the right track. Nothing is more special than someone loving and appreciating you for exactly who you are (all the quirks and faults included)!
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This is the first of several “Feature Friday” posts to come. If you ever want to be featured, send me a message or leave a comment on any of my posts; I would love to share the story of you and your boo!

Feature Friday

I am a huge sucker for romance.

That’s what makes running a dating blog such a joy for me. So many people have reached out asking for dating advice or just to tell me about a great date or love interest in their life. I genuinely love hearing about it all, so please keep writing me!

Anyway, I had noticed a friend of mine from high school got engaged and started a countdown of 100 Kylie Selfies dedicated to his fiancée until their big day, so naturally I had to reach out and see if I could hear their story — it must be great, since it was clear he just adored her.

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Kylie and Stephen met about three years ago at a Christian organization called Cru at James Madison University. They both played in the worship band and started dating shortly after they became friends.

Single in The Suburbs:
How did you come up with the idea for “100 Kylie Selfies?”

Stephen:
Honestly, I’m not sure how I came up with the idea. I have been saving these selfies basically as long as I’ve known Kylie and figured that one day I would use them or go back through them. About two months ago I was thinking about how she and I are close to being under 100 days until we get married and the idea just came to me as a funny way to celebrate the countdown.

SITS:
Did she know that you were going to do the countdown or did you just start posting the pictures?

Stephen:
It’s funny because when I came up with the idea I was really excited about it, so I texted her something like, “I just the had the BEST idea!” Then I realized I didn’t want to tell her what it was until the countdown began.

She was upset with me because I teased her with that text, but I was just excited and wanted to share the idea until I realized it would be more fun to wait. On the first #100KylieSelfies post, Kylie was actually playing with the Cru Band (which she took over leading after I graduated). At the end of the meeting her friends showed her the post and she loved it.

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“Over the last few years Kylie has taken my phone when I wasn’t looking to leave surprise selfies for when I would next look through my photos. I’ve been collecting those pictures for a long time but haven’t been sure what to use them for until now. Today marks 100 days until I marry this beautiful woman and to celebrate the countdown, I’ve decided to post some of my favorites from the collection along with reasons why I love her. Here’s to ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬. I love you, Kylie.”

SITS:
What is the sweetest thing you have ever done for Kylie?

Stephen:
I suppose the sweetest thing I have done for Kylie is proposing to her. I am really particular about the word “love” and actually waited until our engagement to tell Kylie that I love her. I know that withholding might sound extreme, but to me love is not a feeling, it’s a choice. I feel like saying “I love you” is as strong and committed as saying “I will choose to love you no matter what.” So getting to propose and finally say, “I love you” was the biggest/sweetest thing I can think of in our relationship.

That said, I feel like the sweet things we do for each other aren’t necessarily big, stand-out things. For example, I call her every morning on my way to work to wake her up and say hi. That’s a small thing, but it means a lot to her. She always just says “Mmmm” because she’s half asleep and I tell her that I hope she has a great day. I think it’s the little things that add up in our relationship.

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“These just get better and better. Kylie is persistent and extremely hard working. She is equally persistent in leaving selfies on my phone. I love her. ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬”

SITS:
That’s adorable! What is the sweetest thing she has done for you?

Stephen:
Kylie does a lot of little sweet things for me… Things like surprising me with my favorite coffee — triple tall americano black — or sending me funny memes over Facebook. She is also just generally an awesome supporter.

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“I love the notes you leave behind. #100kylieselfies #notaselfie”

SITS:
Do you have a favorite selfie?

Stephen:
Man, I’m not sure if I have one in particular, but my favorites tend to be the sillier ones that capture our goofiness in small ways. Like the post I made yesterday about Kylie’s obsession with pillows — we have had serious conversations about how we need to limit the number of pillows on the wedding registry because we don’t want to end up with all the pillows we are asking for, haha. When we go to Target together I have to steer her out of the bedding section or we’ll get lost in it. I like posts like that because they remind me most of the quality time she and I spend together — especially when it is a fun, not overly serious thing like exploring the pillow section in Target.

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“I love your strange obsession with pillows. On our wedding registry, I have put a thousand unnecessary coffee-related things and Kylie has put a thousand unnecessary pillows. Your excitement over different colors, textures, and fluffiness has not gone unnoticed. I love you even though we won’t have enough room left to sit on a couch at this rate. ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬”

SITS:
Describe as best you can how excited you are to marry Kylie.

Stephen:
Kylie is truly perfect for me in every possible way. I feel that we are perfectly compatible with each other in all the big ways as well as the small ones. Everything this year has been building up to when we will finally get to be together and continue our relationship into some exciting life changes. The anticipation is huge and I am excited for just about everything that is to come very soon.

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“I love our adventures ‪#‎100kylieselfies‬”

Come back next Friday to hear what Kylie thinks about being featured on her fiancées Facebook every week.


This is the first of several “Feature Friday” posts to come. If you ever want to be featured, send me a message or leave a comment on any of my posts; I would love to share the story of you and your boo!