Embrace Your Strokes

A few days ago, I went to Spirited Art with some lady friends from my neighborhood. It’s a wine + design type deal, and while I was super nervous to try it out [I have no artistic ability what.so.ever] I was intrigued.

The instructor was a super cute girl who obviously had more talent than everyone in the room combined, but she was so genuinely encouraging to everyone. Like, she almost made me believe I was doing a good job. [Key word: almost] She was one of those beautiful artsy people who wears no makeup and has her hair tied back in a messy bun. Someone who is gorgeous because she is oozing passion.

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I fumbled my way through class, often frustrated with myself because my painting looked nothing like the instructor’s painting. And, because it was difficult. Ugh – my love/hate relationship with difficult things. There were moments I wanted to quit, because, let’s be honest – I’m a shitty painter.

But, quitting is for losers.

At the end of the class, most participants had dispersed and my group was hanging around finishing up and taking pictures. The instructor and her assistant were asking us where in our homes we would hang our paintings. I practically snorted.

I think our crawl space is in need of some decoration. 

I went on to say that while this was a fun class, painting is obviously not something I’d consider a talent of mine. Then the assistant responded in a way that’s resonated with me for days.

You know, the owner here has unbelievable technique, and it’s almost impossible for me to recreate her delicate, fine lines. If I compared my paintings to hers, I’d always come up short.  I’m a bold painter who likes thick lines and defined edges. We all just need to learn to embrace our own strokes. 

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That totally rung true to me for some reason. Yeah, we all need embrace our own strokes. What works for me, really might not work for you – and vice versa - but the beauty in life is in embracing our own strokes.

Whether it’s going after your dream job or finding a new hobby, getting married at 23 or staying single until you’re 53, being a size 4 or a size 14 — as long as you’re embracing your own strokes, who cares what everyone else is doing?

You do you. I’ll do me. And no comparison shall there be. ;)

Taking Back Vanilla


Growing up, I remember going to get ice cream with my family was always an exciting treat. Everyone would order ‘fancy’ flavors like cosmic cotton candy, chunky chocolate chip, and chocolate lovers dream. When asked what I was ordering, I would confidently say “vanilla.”

The response was always the same: plain vanilla?! 

As if ordering ‘plain vanilla’ was on par with saying I wanted to slap a baby and kiss a priest.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a vanilla defender. I freaking love that flavor.

So it makes sense that on more than one occasion when I’ve been described as “vanilla” I consider it a compliment, rather than a subpar jab.

Yeah, maybe ‘the shopping cart’ and ‘the sprinkler’ are my my go-to dance moves, and maybe I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, and maybe my life can be reduced to several excel spread sheets – but if being ‘vanilla’ is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

I today’s world, when everything needs to be OVER THE TOP to be worthwhile, I find the simplicity of vanilla is so comforting. Vanilla isn’t a fad flavor. It’s classic. It’s confident. It’s the Audrey Hepburn of flavors, if you ask me.

And who wouldn’t want to start their day feeling like Audrey Hepburn? I know I do, which is why I start my mornings with Coffee-mate’s Classic Vanilla and French Vanilla liquid creamers.

vanilla

My coffee time in the morning is my “me” time. I scroll through blogs and read my email at a leisurely pace. I know for most people, “leisure time” is comparable to unicorns; like it’s some mythical creature that you hope exists, but know deep down it really never has (or ever will.)

Which is why “being vanilla” and having a routine is essential to my functioning like a professional adult. I mean, what professional adult doesn’t take selfies with their favorite coffee creamer? Exactly.

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Please tell me I’m not the only one with morning rituals. Well, I know I’m not the only one because I’m married to someone with intense rituals. But, you know what I mean.

“Do you love Classic Vanilla too? Snap a photo of your own vanilla moment and share it with the hashtag #TakeBackVanilla (on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) for a chance to have your photo featured on Coffee-mate’s social channels.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

[Also, I totally appreciate your support as I continue to work with sponsors. Girlfriend likes to get manis and pedis.]

Better Than a Blue Ribbon

Some women were born to be moms. Like, it’s in their DNA to just be amazing, selfless beings. I normally get weepy when I talk about MY mom, because she’s pretty much the center of my universe. I mean, I wouldn’t be a functioning adult if it weren’t for her.

mom1

Being anxious and putting pressure on myself to succeed is apart of my DNA. My parents were NOT the type who pushed me to be the best/fastest/smartest kid on the block. They knew I did that for myself ;) The one thing they were strict about was making sure my brother and I were kind and considerate. They wanted us to do well, but being a good person trumped A’s and blue ribbons.

I remember that in grade school, running the mile in PE class was the most stressful event of the year for me. I’m a bad runner, I have always hated running, and I hated the mile because it showcased the fact that I wasn’t perfect.

Not surprisingly, the week of THE MILE, I would cry every day, begging and pleading with mom to let me skip school the day of the mile.

Kate would’t budge. I’m sure it would have been so much easier to let me stay home and not participate. To give in and give me what I wanted so I would just shut up.

But she didn’t. She’s one tough cookie [can't you tell?]

tough

One year, after days of crying and having child-anxiety attacks, my mom said to me: Colleen, how do you think A. feels this week?

A. was a shy girl in my class who was overweight.

Do you think it’s going to be easy and fun for her to run the mile? Stop being so concerned about yourself and think of someone else. Stop wallowing and put your energy towards making someone else’s day better. 

And that’s what I did.

The morning of the mile, as the class headed out to the track, I found A; and I asked her if she’d like to run together. I’ll never forget her smile as she accepted. We jogged and walked and jogged and walked and we both hated every minute of it. And when we were finishing the final strides of our last lap, I let A finish in front of me.

I was the last one to finish the mile.

Seeing A being proud of herself, confident about finishing, and not finishing alone made me forget how scared I had been.

That night at dinner my mom asked about THE MILE, and I told her what I had done. My mom smiled and said, Now just think about how A feels tonight as she tells her Mom that she wasn’t the last one to finish. 

That’s a perfect example of how my mom molded me into the person I am today. She’s taught me how lift others up, to examine what’s important and what’s not, and how to make people feel good about themselves. 

She’s never cared if I was perfect, and even when I come in last, I know my mom will be proud of me and have my back. People routinely ask me where my confidence comes from. And the answer is simple: it comes from my mom.

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Do I still get stressed over stupid things? Uh, absolutely. But my go-to remedy for stressful energy is molding it into confidence by doing good for someone else.  Rather than telling me, my mom helped me experience [on a million occasions] that you can be the fastest or the smartest or the best, but if you’re not the kindest, none of it really even matters.

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Like a good neighbor,  StateFarm is there

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by State Farm via Mode Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of State Farm. 

I appreciate your support as I continue to work with sponsors.

 

Take Off the Cape

I don’t know about you, but I rarely learn lessons without sobbing. It’s like, situation/stress + tears = lesson learned.

I mean, it goes back to grade school. I can remember weekly Friday spelling tests. Spelling word quizzes were routinely part of dinner table conversation in the Whitney household. Without fail, by Wednesday night, I would be sobbing into my spaghetti because I couldn’t spell communion or some other equally Catholic spelling word.

My mom would let me get it all out. She’d agree with me: Yes, Colleen, the world is a cold, hard place. Maybe you’ll never get communion right. Maybe you’ll never pass 3rd grade. Maybe you should just quit. 

And because my mom knows me better than I know myself, she knew if she said the q-word, my sob-fest would end and I’d get it right. I don’t like to brag, but sobbing resulted in many a 100% on my spelling tests.

Recently, I may or may not have needed a good cry. You must know what I mean. A good, hard I-can’t-handle-this-shit kinda cry.

Except now, I’m not dealing with spelling words. And mom can’t tell threaten me to quit.

Because you can’t quit life.

But you can take off the Cape. The Wonder Woman Cape that makes you feel like you need to be everything for everybody. A happy face, a positive point a view. A good friend, a supportive spouse, the perfect mom. A hard worker and a dream chaser. A hostess with the mostest, a Doer Of ALL THE THINGS.

But sometimes, it’s okay to be an asker of help, a napper and a cryer. You’ll be surprised that the sky will not fall & the people who love you, won’t love you any less.

But the one thing I don’t want us to be, what we can’t be is quitters.* Ya dig?

Now, go have a good cry and then proceed to kick ass and take names.

 

[*Quitting something because it's hard is not okay. Quitting something because it's unhealthy or dangerous is a totally different story.]

Woman Crush Wednesday

My #wcw goes out to a pretty cool gal.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think she was pretty at first, but she’s one that’s grown on me.

 She’s imperfectly perfect, I think that’s what I like so much about her.

She makes people, including herself, belly laugh,

& she’s never afraid of looking dumb for the sake of humor.

She used to be fantastic at getting bent out of shape over the littlest of things, but she’s mellowed with age.

When I think her,

She’s not just a number on a scale,

Or a number of a pair of jeans.

She’s a sarcastic and witty and charmingly weird.

She’s a lover and a fighter  [it just depends on the topic.]

She’s somebody who tries to make everybody feel like a somebody.

She changes her mind [often.]

She forgives, but doesn’t necessarily forget.

She loves love.

She’s not cool, and that suits her.

She makes mistakes. She forgets to call you back. And she sometimes acts first and thinks second.

But she owns it.

She also loves fiercely and loyally.

She’s never met a stranger, and she doesn’t forget a name.

She’s naturally nervous, a lover of curse words, and unapologetically herself.

She’s worked hard to be exactly who she is,

which is why she deserves to be my woman crush every Wednesday day.

She’s me.

Stenciled Powder Room

Bragging is unbecoming, #humblebragging is obnoxious, yet modesty can be disingenuous. I don’t know where this statement falls, but: my husband is so freaking handy, I can’t even stand it [yes, I can.]

He built our deck.

And our morning room table.

And he put crown molding up in Emily’s living room.

And that be built that really cool Rotunda for our Longwood room. [House Hunter's episode link, btw]

projectsGuys, he watched a YouTube video to teach himself how to build a deck. As someone with no craftsmanship ability whatsoever, this totally blows my mind. He’s such a badass, IMO.

This weekend he added another house-beautifying project to his resume: painting and stenciling our powder room. When we first moved in, Cutting Edge Stencils offered to send me a stencil of my choice, and I was stoked.

It’s taken us* this long to complete the project, because when you build a house, you have a 12-month “check up” so to speak where the builder will come in and fix anything and everything – including nail pops. If you’ve painted and they come to fix a nail pop, they simply cover it back up with the horrific “builder beige” - and I think we can all agree, that would totally screw up a fancy stencil.

Thankfully, we’ve made it through the 12-month review, so stenciling can commence! And I must say, I think it looks awesome.

zoom out

This is the Nagoya All Over stencil

We happened to stumble upon these two prints when we stopped by Tweed on Sunday, and I don’t they could be any more fitting [both with the color scheme & my personal philosophy on life in general ;) ]

tweed

From Cory’s feedback, the stencil was super easy to use. From my feedback, I love everything about it. We have a tray ceiling in our bedroom, and we’re both convinced the stencil would be so cool up there. Not so convincing…actually doing it.

*When I say “us” I mean Cory. While I am an awesome “project manager” my contribution to these projects is, well…nothing.

 Just because I’m curious: Are you handy? 

When Self-Confidence Isn’t 24/7

Last week, I took a few steps backwards in the self-confidence department.

Cory, the odd bird that he is, must take his blood pressure every time we’re in a drug store or grocery store. You know those higi machines? The ones where you sit down in the middle of a store, stick your arm in a cuff, and a nice robot lady tells you to breathe slowly.

Cory has no problem doing it, but I’m always fixated on the people around me; wondering if they’re wondering why the hell two young people are getting their blood pressure score whilst grocery shopping.

Cory closes his eyes and goes to his happy place, just as the robot lady directed him. I scanned the crowd but avoided eye-contact with shoppers.cory

When he finished, he bragged about his blood pressure reading [see? odd bird] and I wanted to see if I could ‘beat’ it [god, we're nuts.]

After the test, as I was about to stand up, the robot lady told me to put my feet on the bar located under the seat in order to get an accurate reading of my weight.

So, I did. Confidently, I might add. In a this-girl-loves-herself-and weight-is-just-a-number, kinda way.

In two seconds, my weight showed up on the screen. My heart dropped into my stomach, my face became hot, and I was fighting back tears.

I had never seen a number that high on my scale in my entire life.

I tried to bargain with myself – maybe the scale was a defect [although Cory's weight was spot on, hope is a powerful thing to cling to while on the verge of tears], maybe it was because I had on clothes, or maybe it was because we had just eaten. I told myself that the scale at home, the one I’d sworn off months ago, would vindicate me.

When we got home, I threw the grocery bags on the counter a little more dramatically than intended, ran upstairs and hopped on that GD scale.

The robot lady had been right. 

I met Cory in the kitchen and lost it. I cried. And cried. And cried. And, then called my mom to cry some more [duh.]

She echoed Cory’s sentiment: don’t you preach self-love to thousands of people? aren’t you the girl who’s FINALLY happy in her own skin? 

Yes. Yes, of course I am.UFH

But, I’m also a human being. A human being who happens to have bad days moments. A human being who still slips up and has moments when she takes two steps backwards and falls into the black hole of self doubt.

The thing that’s different now, is that I bounce back to reality relatively quickly; I don’t let myself wallow in self hate for days or weeks anymore. I let the wave crash over me, I tumble around, and then pop back up to the surface.

So, yeah, I preach self-love and positive self-esteem and self-confidence, but I also preach reality.

I can’t tell you to never have bad moments, all I do is encourage you is to not allow yourself to stay there. 

Because self-confidence isn’t about being self-confident 24/7. It’s about showing yourself grace and loving yourself despite the bad moments.

Things No One Tells You About Post Wedding Blues

The morning after your wedding, the sparklers have fizzled, the guests have gone home, and the train of your wedding dress is probably stained on the underside.

I never thought about that. I was almost shocked when I saw how dirty my dress had gotten on my wedding day. I was disappointed for ruining THEE dress; but I was even more disappointed when I realized it didn’t matter. I’d never, ever wear it again.

[Well, sort of...]

dress

The dress that had been tried on and tailored more than anything I’d ever owned was obsolete after one, eight-hour wear. Like, driving a brand new car off the lot, my wedding dress had lost an inordinate amount of value almost instantly.

No one tells you that you’ll experience a sense of mourning soon after your wedding. For me, it was literally the morning after my wedding.

Being a bride is fun. Everyone talks about your big day. They want to know every detail. They want to see the ring. And then see the ring again. Everyone is planning parties for you and you’re the belle of the ball for your entire engagement. You feel special. 

Then, the day you have planned for for months and months comes, and it’s over in what feels like a blink of eye.

The morning after our wedding day, I felt a heavy sadness. I was ecstatic to finally be married to Cory, but I was sad because the hoopla was over. We weren’t special anymore. Needing to feel special is not apart of my DNA, but I had certainly gotten caught up in the wedding magic.

The next morning, as we loaded the car and prepared to head home as Mr. & Mrs, it hit me that I wouldn’t be going home with my family. My mom, dad, and brother were to go in one car, while Cory [my new family] and I, were to leave in another. It was a bittersweet reality that I hadn’t given any previous thought.

I felt homesick all morning.

just married

I never, ever contemplated if I had just done the wrong thing by getting married. Never. I was wildly happy and excited to start my new life with Cory; the gravity of the situation just hit me differently than I had expected.

Thankfully, this weird post-nuptial depression didn’t last long at all. I’m talkin’ 24 hours, TOPS. But I felt guilty for experiencing it, because NO ONE had prepared me for it. Had I been tipped off, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much.

So, take it from a former bride – if you have some post-wedding blues, it’s okay! Marriage is the most wonderful thing of my every day life. It’s exciting and challenging and work and SO MUCH FUN, but it’s a big life change, and a little bit of aftershock is to be expected :)

Love Yo’self

Brace yourself for a sweeping generalization:

We ladies are all kinds of crazy.

I know I sure am.

I know I’m not the only one who brushes off compliments like they’re unwanted charity work, yet holds on to negative comments [and thoughts] like they’re the golden gospel written and hand delivered by Jesus Christ Himself.

Am I right? [I know I'm right.]

Why do we think it serves us to dwell on the negative? Surely, we can’t think it will help with self-improvement. Can we? That sounds like a sick, sadistic form of motivation if you ask me.

[I've been guilty of it, for sure.]

BUT!

The good thing, I’ve learned, is that we’re all in total control of how we feel. Sure, it might not always feel like it, but I assure you – we’re the sole Conductors of our own crazy trains. We’re the only person responsible for driving ourselves straight towards Negative Nancyville.

But what if we switched gears and did something even crazier than holding onto negative thoughts and energy that don’t serve us?

How about we love ourselves?

Dare I suggest: embrace ourselves?

I’m not talking about just the pretty parts of ourselves. The parts that we Instgram or blog about. All parts. The parts that make us feel “less than” or “weird” or “self-conscious.” Normally those aspects are the ones that other people admire about us; we’re just too weird to see it.

So, I’m challenging you.

Yes, you, to turn that crazy train around and do something positive for yourself. Not to sound all zen and tree-huggy, but if we only harbor the negative, that’s only what we’ll receive.

And you know what? I think you deserve all the love and happiness and positivity the world has to offer.

Really, I do.

Transformation Tuesday

Last night, I sat on the floor in an empty bedroom of our house and read through over 20 of my old journals. My handwriting morphed from huge bubble letters, to heart-dotted i’s and loopy y’s, to awkward cursive [that made me feel sophisticated], to the penmanship I recognize today.

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I cringed as I read the recount of a 6th grade pool party. That summer day came flooding back almost instantly. I had felt so confident in my new tankini [the kind with boy shorts - so hawt] only to end up feeling like I needed to die, because I laughed so hard that a piece of sausage [which had been lodged in my pallet expander] shot out of my mouth and hit one of the cutest boys ever, right in face.

I haven’t eaten sausage pizza since. Come to think of it, he probably hasn’t either.

I laughed and felt an odd since of playground pride as I read about the time I stood up to a bully who stole my best friend, Lauren’s, lunch money. Or about the time she got left behind after a school assembly in 4th grade. After voicing my concern, the teacher retraced her steps and found her locked in the lobby of our gym. With a purple gelly roll pen, I berated myself for not going to the bathroom with her, because “at least we would have been forgotten together.”

She was my perfect opposite, so goofy and delicate and shy, which is why I think we fit perfectly together for so many years.

It makes my heart hurt, in a bittersweet sense, to remember and appreciate a former best friend. A friendship that disintegrated not because of any malice or ill feelings, but only because we let life happen. I don’t regret much, but not keeping in touch with her tops that short, short list.

I stumbled across a saved letter from Danielle, a girl who probably doesn’t even remember me, telling me she looked up to me. Why? Because she thought I was pretty, I had met N*SYNC and because I stood up for people.

This proves that in 6th grade, mature priorities are almost developed.

danielle

I came across letters that I wrote to “my future husband” and even now, I’m still debating if I want to show them to Cory. But maybe I will, because they’re proof that he’s who I’ve been waiting for my entire life.

Last night I received a beautiful, bittersweet lesson. Unknowingly, I’ve taught myself that it’s the mundane things, the small moments which may never receive a second thought, that mold you into the complex, fascinating person you are today.