Seven – Memories

I haven’t wanted to write very much lately, but at the same time I’ve been writing more for myself than I have in months. So much has been going on lately and I’ve written six different blog posts that I didn’t feel were very good, or were far too personal to share. This is number seven, and I’m going to post the draft when my fingers are done playing on the keyboard.


I dyed my hair brown this weekend. Well, actually, my best friend who is the most talented hairstylist on planet earth dyed my hair for me, but my point being, I went from having a 29 year streak of being a blonde to turning into a brunette for the winter. I just needed a change and it was a semi-permanent hairstyle versus a very permanent tiny tattoo on my wrist, so the hair won by a landslide.

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Hair and makeup both by Audrey!

Sometimes when I feel like life is getting away from me and I can’t control things that are happening, I will find little things I can do that offer choices. I love doing my makeup when I feel anxious, or going out and meeting new people. I love learning, cooking, or honing in on a new skill to keep my mind busy.

This year I have a lot on my plate. Some things are exciting, others are not so great, but 2020 is definitely setting itself up to be a whirlwind. I thought a lot about choosing a word for the year. The past 2 years I had the same word — “fearless.” The year before that I chose “strong.” It didn’t look like I chose a word in 2016, but if I were to have picked one at the end of 2015 for that year it would have been something along the lines of “giddy,” “bright,” or “beautiful,” because that was the year I really fell in love.


Maybe it’s because it’s my time of the month right now, but I’m feeling pretty nostalgic, so I am turning back the hands of time by reading some of the old blog posts I stumbled upon. Writing is a cool thing because you see just how much you change over time. I’ve kept journals ever since I could write. I have dozens of books filled with incredibly boring entry after entry like,

“Went to school today, then got BBQ chips and a Slurpee at 7-11 after. Great day!”

or,

“Went to Nicole’s birthday party and they gave me a hamster to keep! I’m not good at holding him, though, because his feet tickle my hands too much.”

These journals are some of the most boring reading material of all time, but they make me smile because I remember a lot of the feelings I had behind the entries. I highly recommend writing down things that are on your heart, because in the words of Andy Bernard, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

We spend so much freaking time wasting our lives worrying or putting off loving others because we are too busy with the unimportant details. Life is so short, and my biggest fear has always been not having enough time to show people how valuable they are, how loved they are, and how big of an impact they make on the world just by being here. I truly think that there are so many people in the world who feel confused or lonely, and I wish we could all just come together and realize how not-alone we really are.

Back to Andy Bernard, though. I am quite certain the good old days haven’t come and left for me, but the sentiment I like behind the statement is that you need to enjoy every single moment of life, because you never know when that chapter of the book will close for you, and everything left is just a memory.

Some of my old blog posts make me cry. I get to go back and read about the third date I went on with my now-husband. I can read about funny moments we had together and remember the way he looked when I knew he was falling for me. I can read about how free I felt getting over a breakup, how much my family and friends mean to me, and all the really silly things I’ve done just to make other people laugh. I can still remember the pain of deployment without having to read about it, but my body feels numb when I read about pulling to the side of the road to catch my breath after seeing a blue F-150 on the road on a particularly difficult day.


This year I want my word to be “present.” I struggle with anxiety, so this is not an easy word to choose, but I want to learn how to appreciate little things in the moments where I feel like I can’t breathe because my mind is a million miles away worrying about something else. I want to give the best parts of myself to the people I love, and I want to give myself the best version of me. This is going to be a year of finally learning the things I’ve been dying to do, it’s going to be the year of reading books that make me a more dynamic person, and I’m going to try my absolute best to enjoy even the littlest things in life instead of letting the little things get me down.


Thanks to my writing I will always be able to pull up a little visual of what it was like falling in love, and remind myself that you can never appreciate a moment too much because one day it will just be a memory. This year I want to have stories that are worth remembering, but even more than that I want to have beautiful feelings to write about — whether or not that will be on here.

TJ’s Tuesday feat Cotton Candy Grapes

Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been going since I was a kid, and I think just about every single one of my friends in college was forced to try one thing or another from this divine grocery store.

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I text friends on a pretty regular basis what all of my new Joe’s finds are, so I figured I might as well make a weekly blog post about it. This week we’re in for a real treat too, because they happened to have my favorite fruit in the entire world. You guessed it:

1. Cotton Candy Grapes
I tell everyone about CC grapes. They literally taste exactly like what you would get at the circus or the fair, but aren’t unhealthy! The coolest thing is that they are still organic, despite being some sort of weird hybrid grape. I eat them by the pound, and hope they’ll still be around in a week or two so I can get another giant box.

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Protip: Freeze them for an extra special summer treat!

2. Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds
That name is a mouthful, and you’ll definitely want to take one of these dark chocolate almonds once you try them. I got hooked on these when I was in college, and they were a great breakthrough to how amazing dark chocolate can be. Even my husband — who hates dark chocolate — eats these by the fistful. They have a perfect sweet and salty mix, and are wildly addicting.

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3. Movie Theater Butter Popcorn
Speaking of college, you could always find me studying with a snack, particularly the perfectly buttered bagged popcorn from Trader Joe’s. It’s almost as good as the real thing, and is way too easy to eat an entire bag in a sitting. I still always keep a bag or two in our pantry because my chocolate lab, Jax, and I enjoy splitting it while watching Big Brother or a goofy Hallmark movie.

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4. Sparkling Watermelon Juice
PLEASE make this a staple, TJ’s!! It breaks my heart that this is a seasonal item because I would like to have these year-round. There came a point where I stocked up on 6 boxes of juice, but sadly I am down to one can now. Hoping they’ll bring it back soon, but if not I’ll be stocking up a lot better next season so they’ll last me at least a few months.

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5. Vitamin E Oil
This is a very recent discovery, but I’m already obsessed with it. You can get this serum for about $5, and it’s amazing to create hydrated and smooth legs after shaving. It felt really great and I would never use it on my face, but it’s really nice for a little extra body shimmer. Just be careful about how much you put on, because it becomes a little greasy quickly.

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Well, that’s all for now, friends. Next week I’ll be posting five new pumpkin things to try at Trader Joe’s, in honor of them bringing out their fall collection. Last year I bought a bunch of pumpkin pancake mix at the end of the season so we could enjoy them year-round. You never know when seasonal items at TJ’s might sell out, so it’s always good to stock up when you can.

Am I Worth Less?

One of the hardest parts about having a chronic illness is feeling like I have less value because I am not contributing as much to the community as my peers. Before I got sick I was working toward pursuing a career in journalism. I took internships, worked part time at a newspaper, and was excited to continue my journey working at Seventeen magazine to hopefully impact young women in a positive way. I have always felt that words are one of the most powerful tools we have, and all of us have a wonderful opportunity to lift others up and make them feel less alone in this big world.

I always dread the question, “So, what do you do?” when I meet someone new. I hate explaining right off the bat, “Well, I got sick when I graduated from college, so I’m trying to get back on my feet and am working on getting my health in line.” Over five years later now I have made leaps and bounds in progress, but I still am figuring out how to manage what I’ve begun to accept as my new normal. Not only is my answer incredibly awkward, but I also just feel so lame not having a cool job or anything to show for my life. I worked so freaking hard before I got sick and have absolutely nothing to show for it anymore. The internship I had at a national news company isn’t relevant anymore, and my job at Seventeen wasn’t able to materialize into what it could have because I couldn’t even walk down the driveway to the mailbox when I first got sick. My illness didn’t just take my body away from me; it took away every sense of normalcy I had ever worked to create. I have nothing to be proud of, and feels like I can’t make an adequate contribution to society anymore. I have relied on others to take care of me, when all I have ever wanted to do was be able to take care of others.

If anyone who had a chronic illness told me they felt worthless, my heart would feel completely broken and I would try as hard as I possibly could to show them what an enormous, ugly lie that was. People shouldn’t feel like they don’t have worth in this world just because their body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Our value does not reside in what we do — or don’t do — for a living, and people can still change lives when their bodies don’t work properly.

Whether or not you are a Christian, I think the Bible has a really beautiful sentiment about our worth as human beings. Psalm 139: 13-14 says, “For You [God] formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” This doesn’t say that we have value because of our job or what we do; it says we were born having value. We are made in God’s image, and He only creates beauty for the world. I think it’s very powerful knowing that even before ever doing anything in the world we have irreplaceable value. Just ask a mother of a newborn baby; she will say that her child means absolutely everything to her, and that is merely for existing, it isn’t anything he has done to make her feel this way.

I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose in the world and can make a difference in a way that no one else could. Just because you are bedridden or need to be taken care of absolutely does not mean you don’t have value in the world. You have qualities to offer people that make you absolutely irreplaceable in their lives, so we need to stop telling ourselves the lie that we aren’t as valuable because we are different.

On the other hand, I understand the ache that is in your heart for the opportunities you have missed and feeling like some of life has passed you by. I don’t have the resume I would have had if I hadn’t gotten sick, and there are a lot of experiences I missed out on. It’s weird listening to my friends all talk about what they’re doing at work and how comfortable they are there. I still remember working at the magazine’s office like it was yesterday, but I also think that experience was so different because you’re the lowest on the totem pole. Dealing with an illness does teach you what is important in the world, though, and gives amazing perspective people often don’t have until much later on in life. It teaches you to hold on to all the amazing blessings you are given, because sometimes they can be fleeting, and to be thankful for the people closest to you. It teaches lessons of patience, hard work, and resilience. You learn what it’s like to be empathetic with people, rather than just offering sympathy, and you are given an opportunity to be a light for others who go through the exact same things you deal with on an every day basis. Chronic illness builds beautiful warriors who have such important lessons they need to share with the world.

I understand questioning your worth as much as anyone else with a chronic illness, and I am right there with you trying to find my own purpose. The words I wrote on this page make sense to my brain and I know that my life has incredible value, but my heart sometimes has a hard time making the connection. I feel lost in a big world that doesn’t understand me, and I am getting swallowed up in the lies I tell myself at night. Being sick has taught me I’m a fighter, though, and I’m not going to stop searching until I figure out what I’m here for. Deep down I know I have an important role in the world. I just might take a little longer to figure out what it is and that’s okay.

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5 Things My Husband Doesn’t Know About Me

Yesterday Robert grilled some hot dogs for lunch, and he actually asked me if I wanted mustard on mine. Gross! How did he not know I am not a fan of condiments, particularly bright yellow mustard? It got me thinking about how funny it is when you learn new things about someone you know really well. I really racked my brain to think of a few other things he might not know about me, and here is a short list:

  1. When I was a preteen I had a bright blue bellbottom tracksuit. No, bell bottoms were not in style or cool in the 90s, but I loved the comfort and style of this getup, and it would be a miracle if I dodged getting pictures in this, because it was seriously my favorite thing ever at the time. This is to date my worst fashion faux pas, and I’m certain I’ll never be worse off than I was back then.
  2. I. Will. Not. Try. Cottage. Cheese. I’m sorry, but the texture freaks me out so much that I cannot bring myself to try a bite. Why are there lumps in it? Is it more like cheese or yogurt? I’ll try pretty much anything, but cottage cheese is a no-go. I’m borderline scared of it. cheese.png
  3. I won the school science fair twice — once in elementary school, and then in the bigger pool of competition in high school. The first was testing out properties of bubble gum which were, in hindsight, not all very scientific, and the second was an experiment with photosynthesis. I don’t even remember what all the findings looked like, but I still have a medal from it.
  4. Ryan Seacrest was my first celebrity crush. I thought he was charming and funny on American Idol, my favorite show at the time, and thankfully this was before social media so I didn’t have to be a Ryan stan defending him against Internet trolls.
  5. I was a weird little kid. I’ve always loved the English language, but I also have made up words since I could talk. A name for something I love? Teedlehopper. That little dip that’s right below your nose and above your lips? Well, I’m glad you asked, that’s a Parison!

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Now I’ll have to post this and wait to hear back from Robert if he knew any of this, or if I’m correct in thinking we’ve never discussed any of it before. I honestly can’t think of anything else he doesn’t already know, particularly about me now, but I’m sure there will be plenty more mustard moments in the rest of our lifetime together. ❤

Friday Favorites

Man, it’s hard keeping up with writing on here! Not because I don’t have the time or even the energy, but more so because everything I write I end up wanting to keep private or don’t have the heart to finish. Today I figured I’d go back to writing about a few of my favorite things. I was tempted to post five different dogs, but I thought this list would be a little more helpful.


Tony’s Chocolonely. I honestly haven’t had anything better, and they’re a really cool company because they focus on making chocolate humanely. Did you know that slavery is still a huge problem, particularly on cocoa farms? It’s crazy to me that one of my favorite foods is actually hurting others, and I love that Tony’s is committed to making all chocolate become slave-free. Go get a bar of the milk chocolate sea salt caramel today. It is a new necessity for me “that time of the month,” and I’m happy to add it to my survival kit.

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Jax is obviously my favorite chocolate thing on earth, though.

Billie Eilish — specifically “Bad Guy” featuring Justin Bieber. I didn’t know if I should put him as a favorite too because honestly his lines are so darn catchy and remind me why I liked the Biebs so many years ago. Billie is an interesting entertainer because she totally breaks the mold of anything we really see in the pop music world. I like that she seems to be unapologetically herself and hasn’t conformed to what Hollywood thinks sells albums.

 

Colorful flowers. I love having them to brighten up our home, and Robert got me some really bright and fun ones from a summer collection a few weeks ago. I used to always say Gerbera Daisies were my favorite kind of flower, but now I like pretty much everything under the sun.

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Crime Junkie. I am a huge fan of podcasts, and Crime Junkie happens to be one of my favorites. Granted, it’s made me a little wary every time I go to the basement to do laundry, but overall the mild paranoia is worth listening to Ashley and Brit tell us about famous — and not so famous — cases. It’s a great thing to listen to during a commute or while doing household chores; just don’t listen late at night when you’re by yourself unless you want to be up all night listening for intruders.

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Finally, Taylor Swift released her song “Lover” last night and I am OBSESSED. She’s back to writing her beautiful love songs and I couldn’t be more here for it!

Tyrion’s Steak Dinner (Filet Mignon with Homemade Garlic Butter)

No, this is not going to be a normal recipe post like I had been getting into before. I am linking it to Game of Thrones, once again, because I just crammed so much in to such a short period of time that I’m probably going to be overly-obsessed for a little while.

Anyway, I really wanted to make a fun dinner for the night of the premiere, but I was catching up on season 7 until the very last minute, so that was an unrealistic goal. It was too late to order anything GoT related, and I’ve looked all over for the themed Oreos with no success. On Monday, though, I did make a new steak dish, and it reminded me of something the Lannister’s might have had. I cooked some filet mignon with garlic butter, roasted potatoes, and carrots. It was so easy but tasted even better than filet I’ve had in restaurants, so I figured I would share. As always, I’m not going to give amounts of what I used, but I’ll describe it well enough that you can just make everything accordingly with how much food you’d like to make.

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Garlic Butter Filet Mignon with Roasted Carrots and Potatoes
I got all of my ingredients at Trader Joe’s. You will need:
Steak filets – I like organic grassfed beef.
Butter
EVOO
Salt
Pepper
Garlic cloves
Fresh rosemary
Fresh thyme
Red potatoes
Carrots

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 415°F. I found a bunch of different temperatures to make your steak at, but settled in the middle at this. Take out the steak and butter from the fridge, and bring it to room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

Step 2: Chop the carrots and red potatoes and put them on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with EVOO, salt, and pepper, then stick them in the oven to begin roasting while you prepare the butter and steak.

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Step 3: Chop the rosemary and thyme finely, and mince a few cloves of garlic. Mix it all together with the butter until you’re happy with the proportions, then stick the butter back in the fridge to firm a little.

Step 4: Dry the steak with paper towels, then put a generous amount of salt and pepper on each side. Note: Apparently the smell that hits you when you open a container of raw steak is normal. I was not prepared and thought we might be getting a legit medieval experience. YIKES. 

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Step 5: Drizzle some EVOO and melt butter in a frying pan, or, preferably on a cast iron skillet. I did the frying pan because we don’t have an iron skillet to use, but plan on investing in one now!

Step 6: Sear the filets for about 3 minutes on each side, until they have browned a bit.

Step 7: Move the iron skillet to the oven, or put the steaks on foil on the cookie sheet with the veggies. I poured the excess juice over top of the steaks so they’d be nice and juicy.

Step 8: Google how long to cook your steak in the oven. I am not a professional, and I know it’s a crime, but I like my steak medium-well. I cooked it for about 6 minutes in the oven, but it will obviously depend on the thickness of your steak and your preference for how red you like it. I think a Lannister would likely just eat it after searing lightly in the pan, but Joffrey might have just gone for the raw meat.

Step 9: Take out your steak and vegetables when you’re happy with the way they look, put them on a plate, and top the steak with the garlic butter. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on it all and enjoy! If you really want to feel like Tyrian, you should help yourself to a glass of red wine — or maybe three.

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Photo Credit: HBO

Game of Thrones Season 3

Spoiler alert: don’t read this if you don’t want to know anything that happens in the series. 

I am currently on season 3 of GoT, and I have a million different thoughts about it. I will save why I think this series is also problematic for another post, but today I want to just enjoy it and talk about why I like it so much so far.

It’s difficult trying to get caught up before the final season’s premiere. It’s almost like being given an enormous chocolate cake and being told, “Here, you have 24 hours to eat as much as you want, then we’re going to throw it out and you’ll never have a cake quite as good again.” I don’t want to completely binge and gorge myself, but at the same time I want to be able to watch it while it’s still unspoiled. I want to be able to enjoy the premiere the way everyone else will, and absolutely cannot jump ahead and then go back to watching. Too much happens in this show, and I already regret watching part of season 7 when it was premiering. I watched a couple of episodes of season 7 when it was going on, so I already have a hunch about a few things I can remember from that. It ruined some of the giant surprises like at the end of season 1 when Daenerys holds her baby dragons. Everyone was shocked when they initially saw this, but I saw the giant dragons in season 7, so the babies really aren’t that impressive. Same goes for seeing the white walkers for the first time. I think I remember Jon Snow, Arya, Daenerys, and Tyrion are in the seventh season, so I don’t believe any of them are going to die. I could be wrong, as I forget a lot from television shows, but I’m pretty confident about this at least. I really don’t remember Jamie Lannister or Robb Stark, my favorite character, so I think they might not make it. Those are the only guesses about people, but still — I know GoT is notorious for getting rid of really big characters, so it’s a pretty big spoil if I know 4 of the main characters do make it.

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Photo Credit: HBO – Robb and Talisa are literally the cutest and I’m obsessed with them. 

Here are some of my predictions of things that are going on right now:

First, I think Margaery is going to kill Joffrey. Towards the beginning of this episode she said to him, “Would you like to see me kill someone?” If this isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. One spoiler I got was that I’ll be able to watch Joffrey’s death. I close my eyes or put my hands up to the television any time there is fighting, so I never watch when people get killed (When I can help it). I think he’ll be poisoned. I speculate it will be Margaery, and I think it will be because Joffrey mistreats Sansa. If that’s not what happens, I think Sansa kills Joffrey for mistreating Margaery. I don’t know if it’s their slight resemblance or if it’s because they both seemed to get along well when they ate lemon cakes together, but something tells me they’re going to be unlikely allies. My final theory is that Margaery’s grandmother is the one who poisons Joffrey, but that’s the third likely one in my mind. We shall see; please don’t spoil it for me! I have already been told this king does die at some point, so I don’t want the entire thing to be ruined.

I was also told that there would be a character I will dislike more than I dislike Joffrey. I think I met that man today. He kidnapped Theon, and something is really off about him. Edit: I watched more after writing this post, and it’s definitely Ramsay. He SUCKS. 

Throughout all of this, I’ve been texting my dear friend Danielle. She’s seen the series many times before and thinks a lot of my theories are funny (I am really good at predicting some things, but also have some really terrible predictions). I’ve been shocked at how almost everyone I talk to about this show has seen it. For something that’s not on regular programming, almost everyone I know watches — and loves — the series. For many reasons, I can see why, but that doesn’t mean I love every single thing about the show. The story line is amazing, but I think a lot could be cut and it would still have the kind of flow a show like this needs. I’ll probably do a few posts about my thoughts as the seasons go on, so feel free to check back in if you’re a fan and want to see some bad predictions and theories. In the meantime, I need to get ready for all the different weddings that are coming up!