Green Week

Here we are, about four months after the conception of this blog, and I think it’s time to examine the data! (That sentence sounds a lot more exciting if you imagine Howie Mandel reading it)

As some of you might have seen on my blog, I’ve made my very own version of goal setting and keeping in my Erin Condren LifePlanner – A small box to add to my monthly dashboard that keeps a record of my calories. For the last two and a half months, I have labeled every day I’ve had as either a GREEN day, a YELLOW day, or a RED day.

The idea is that if I got my calories around 1500, then I had a GREEN day. 1500 is the number I’m using because I am mainly sedentary at my job, and I only work out two or three times a week. I still count a 1700 calorie day as a GREEN day.

A YELLOW day, then, is a day where I ate about the same amount of calories that I likely expended, meaning I had no change. I estimate this around 2000, though a lot of calculators might suggest that would be closer to 2400 if my metabolism were to increase.

A RED day is a day where I definitely ate more than I expended. This is a day when I had a second piece of cheesecake, or a day where I was around family and we mindlessly grazed together. (You might see a couple of those around my Labor Day Weekend)

For now, I’m using MyFitnessPal to track the amount of calories in the foods I am eating, but it really is becoming intuitive now. I can usually estimate by the end of the day whether I have had a green, yellow, or red day. That is the hope by the end of this experiment – that I will intuitively know what kind of day I had by thinking back on it, rather than spending my time obsessively adding every ounce of olive oil I put on my toast.

So DATA ANALYSIS TIME > > >

Both July & August I had a near even amount of Green and Red days while being somewhat conscious of my eating. If I were to have eaten recklessly, those green days would not exist at all. So with a slight change, I’ve managed to stop my weight gain (Since I was still working out in the meantime and have been going on walks, some of those yellow days may have counted as green days, but also some of those yellow days may have really been red days in disguise).

In both July and August, I lost 0.4 lb, but as of September 1, have lost:

  • 1.5 inches at my bust
  • 0.5 inches at my waist
  • 0.5 inches at my hips
  • 0.5 inches on each arm

Slow progress is still progress!

#ALLROADSGREENWEEK

So an idea: since my every day has been by-and-large successful, let’s jump start my progress for just one week. For one week a month, I will log every meal on my Instagram story and get Green Days every day.

Then follow that Green Week (patent pending) with a Yellow Week. This is to give my metabolism a chance to catch its breath. Then back to normal for two weeks.

There are tons of pros to the system that I can think of and I’ve outlined them below.

What are your thoughts? Is this a terrible idea? A great idea? Do you want to join me?

#AllRoadsGreenWeek if you do, I’d love to see it!

Here’s how mine went!

Fairy Tales & Fathers

This was written January 20, 2013 in Montana, while in missionary training. Unedited.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany

Once upon a time, in a far away land, a princess lived with her father in a beautiful white castle, overlooking a deep forest. Her father, the king, loved her very much and would lavish her with gifts and love, but she longed for a prince to come. He reassured her often that a prince would one day come for her that he had picked out, and to wait patiently. She sat at his feet and would listen to the loving words he bestowed upon her.

When she was still very young, she became aware of a man who stalked the castle in a dark cloak. He came to the princess and told her that her father was lying to her, and then the man would hide in the shadows when others came around. He would point out the things that people did around her to tell her that she had no one. He would make her feel worthless, and only more words from her father would help her ignore the evil things the man would tell her.

She held her hands out to every young prince that came to her castle. Sometimes the men would take them, and spin her around, but they would leave quickly, leaving her falling in the dust, hitting the wall, and sliding to the floor. Then the man in the dark cloak would swoop down upon her, telling her that it happened because of her and that it was her fault – because she wasn’t beautiful and she didn’t deserve a prince.

The princess ran to her father crying, telling him of the man in the dark cloak. He reassured her, “Yes, child. I know he’s out there, but you can’t believe his words; He’s a liar and a thief.”

“What does he steal?” The girl asked.

“He steals innocence. He steals purity. He steals youth.”

The girl feared the man in the dark cloak, and would yell for her father when he came near her.

More princes came to the castle, but her father promised her that if she were patient, the one that would hold her and not let her go would come, and that for now she should stay with him.

But one day as she was walking the castle alone, wishing that the prince that her father meant for her to be with would come, a boy stepped onto her path.

He took her by her hands, and twirled her around, holding her close, and brushing the hair from her face. She stared into his eyes and thought, “This must be the prince that my father meant for me,” They danced often, his leading sometimes painful and strange, but she believed that the boy meant only to help her learn how to dance with him better.

The boy would retreat into the woods for long periods of time, and the princess would stand at the edge of it, calling for him to come out. Often he would sing to her from within, hoping to entice her inside. She would sometimes wander in, glancing around in fear, and he would attempt to drag her deeper and she would flee back to the castle, avoiding the presence of her father, because he would surely know where she had been because of the dirt on her dress and hair.

This same cycle happened again and again, as she delved deeper intot he woods each time – the boy entering the castle and leaving it, enticing her and her fleeing. One day, as she waited for the boy to leave the forest, an arrow came flying through the foliage – and then another and another. As she ducked in fear, she saw the boy she had thought was her prince leading the charge. Many of the arrows pierced her limbs and as the fake prince rode off without a word, she lay gasping at the foot of the castle, on the edge of the forest.

This time, the man in the black cloak came to her and simply stood over her. He didn’t even need to speak his words of poison, for she knew what it was he meant, and truly believed it. It was her fault, because she wasn’t beautiful enough, or important enough – because she didn’t say the right words or dance correctly. It was because of her blind love and the way she opened her heart so willingly. She laid there, gazing into the man’s soul-less eyes, absolutely positive that she meant nothing to anyone at all, not even her father whom she loved so dearly.

She ran away from the castle with the man in the dark cloak, seeking her worth – but only finding death and emptiness at every turn. Every dark tree that passed hid more arrows that flew, and she received more wounds and scars, becoming more and more battered and torn.

In a moment of desperate and panicked clarity, she saw that the liar and thief had taken just the things that her father had warned, and she tried to run from him, but he grabbed the back of her dress and pulled her back. He hissed in her ear, asking where she would run to. The once-princess stared into the man’s eyes and said, “Back to my father,”

The man laughed in her face. “Why would your dear father take you back? He would never forgive you for the pain you’ve put him through. Nor for the betrayal you’ve made him suffer.”

The girl pushed the man away, and ran as fast as she could back through the forest to the white castle, her dress and hair snagging on every branch that stood nearby – but as it rose into view, she shrank back – fearing her father’s wrath. After pacing in fear, she decided to sit on the edge of the forest, just to see if she could see his face again, but the servants of her father noticed her. They called to her father, saying, “Your daughter wants to come home, but she is afraid of coming in the gate!” The king quickly stood from his table and ran to the wall, staring out at his torn and ashamed daughter.

The princess stood up, ready to run back into the forest, but she saw the loving tears on her father’s cheeks. They propelled her forward as her father ran to her and held her tightly, carrying her back to the castle, and telling her lovingly that he missed her and would take care of her always. He listened to her apologies and he brushed back her hair, held her face, and told her that she shouldn’t have run away and that he had been waiting for her to simply call on him and he would have run to her at any moment, just as he did by the forest.

Her tears fell down her face into the beautiful robe he wore as he held her, telling her that she didn’t have to be afraid. For a long time, he cradled her in his arms. He would wash her wounds every day, reducing the scars and erasing the pain, and telling her that the prince was still on his way, still preparing for her.

While sometimes the girl thought back on the old arrow wounds she had received, and though they twinged during bad weather, her father knew her and loved her – and would always be there to prevent them from reopening, if she let him.

And so she waited patiently in the presence of her father.

Stirring Up

What a week I’ve had… and it’s only Tuesday.

I have felt insanely anxious and on edge since the middle of last week, and I think it started with having to cancel on a friend and I’s walk on Thursday. I had completely forgotten that I was leaving work early for a DMV appointment and that I wouldn’t be able to walk with her at 5pm. Even now, I’m staring at the big red X on my planner across it and feeling that familiar pang of guilt.

I took on the troubles of a dear friend as if they were mine that same night. Then I forgot to call someone about an opportunity for writing. I skipped my workout on Friday, I forgot to listen to a podcast over the weekend, and I binged on cereal on Sunday.

My anxiety comes out as guilt (this is a new revelation for me). I blame myself for ev-er-y-thing. You can imagine how this last week has felt for me. Only now, my therapist has pointed it out. The glass has shattered, and now I see it.

Yesterday, I was overwhelming myself:

  • I pushed a walk with a friend to the weekend to give myself space and then she responded that she would be out of town for the weekend. Immediately, I felt guilty and rude for assuming she’d be free.
  • I left work at 5:02pm and felt guilty for leaving so quickly every day.
  • I realized that a friend and I haven’t talked for four months (since before quarantine) and felt guilty that I hadn’t reached out again (even though the last text was a question from me that she didn’t respond to).
  • I sent an email to the woman I was going to have that call with about writing and she never responded, so I felt guilty and stupid for forgetting to call last Friday.
  • I felt guilty that I asked my brother to do all the dishes when I knew about half of them were mine, but I had been feeling overwhelmed at the time.
  • I felt guilty and sick because of all the cereal I had eaten the day before.
  • I felt guilty that I was already imagining finishing the bag of pasta that I had made (which easily had three servings in it).
  • I berated myself for not apologizing to someone when I know I had nothing to apologize for.

On and on.

So I worked out yesterday, hard. Then I sat in the hot tub at the gym with my husband. I went home and ate the whole bag of pasta (because imagining myself doing it made me do it, I’m sure). I felt anxious and guilty so I took a hot bath, read a self-help book – and then tossed and turned in bed until almost 12:30am.

I finally sat up and told my husband that I was anxious. That all this stuff was getting stirred up and I didn’t know what to do. He asked what he could do and I realized that the dumbest thing was bothering me… my watch.

My Fitbit Versa 2 is a dream, I swear. I love it for my workouts, for my heartrate, for my steps… the problem was that it was at 20% battery. Meaning it had enough charge to last the next day, but it was close enough to dying that I kept thinking about it dying on me. The band was wrapped around my wrist and bothering me, but I knew I should wear it to track my sleep. I told my husband all of this, and he went and got the watch charger from the living room and put it by my bedside. I took the watch off and fell asleep in five minutes.

I found the best stock photo site, y’all. I have not been photogenic this week, so this is what you get. Lol

I can tell I have a long way to go. This stuff is so ingrained in me, and all this change is stirring it up, bringing all that gunk that’s been sitting at the bottom of my tank to the surface. Let’s hope I can siphon it out.

Do you guys experience this? That things get worse before they get better? Let me know in the comments here or on Instagram so I don’t feel so crazy!

The Tortoise Wins Again

Why must we learn the same lessons over and over again? Why do silly moral stories stay so important through generations? I’d say we just need reminding again and again.

When the heat of quarantine was going on, I remember seeing post after post about how we’d learn to slow down like we had been during quarantine and we’d learn to spend some time for ourselves, our hobbies, and our families. Yet, now, I feel I’ve filled my time and my capacity back to its limits – and I’m not the only one.

Life has done yet another number on my family. While we figure out our finances and make plans for the future, I’ve left my blog and my Instagram nearly to rot. See, I’m doing that thing I always do – trying to make Superman leaps and bounds instead of little pieces at a time. I’m trying to grow a community on Instagram in a few weeks, I’m trying to make myself write a personal blog once or twice a week!

It’s a constant flaw of mine to try and go the entire distance as quickly as possible. See, I tell my bosses this – but I expect such perfection out of myself that it comes off like I can’t take correction from my bosses. Truly, it’s that I can’t take the correction because I expect my first try to be the only try. This is an anxious flaw of mine (probably tied to the way I manifest my 2-ness and how I think I need to earn love and respect).

So a blog and an Instagram? I wanted everything to be perfect right from the start.

So here’s to breathing and scaling back. Learning that not everything has to be perfect right away. That only half a pound of difference is okay. That meditating only once a week is okay. That posting only once every 2 or 3 days is okay. That making a blog only once every week or two is okay.

Yes, I know scaling back means that progress and growth will happen at a slower rate, but to be honest, I know myself by now. If I don’t take it slow, then it won’t happen at all. So if I have to choose between inching-by progress and not changing at all, I choose the tortoise.

So deep breath, my friends. Keep your head up. Remember to forgive yourself for mistakes. Remember that small changes are better than none. Remember that life isn’t always going to go the way you imagined it. Remember that everything really will turn out okay.

Onto the second half of 2020, what do y’all think?

Shoot me an email if this speaks to you, or comment and let me know what techniques you use on your perfection to allow yourself space. How do you keep margin in your life?

You Are Your Own Charge

Sometimes I feel like I’m babysitting myself.

“Jessica, remember to wash your face again before bed.” “Jessica, you have to go workout, it’s good for you, you feel better when you do it.” “Jessica, there isn’t time to play a game of Apex, you need to prep some food so you don’t run out of time tomorrow.” “Jessica, you’ve been doing so good today, don’t mess it up.” “Jessica, you can have that avocado toast but that is it until tomorrow.”

It’s exhausting! I feel like I hardly have any time to just relax and enjoy myself. I keep telling these coaches who reach out on Instagram that all I want is for healthy Jessica to be normal Jessica, and that process of change is so stinking hard. I feel like I’m constantly trying to put myself back on the right path.

Lenexa City Center – pretending that being out of focus is trendy.

One of my favorite lines in Bojack Horseman (y’all that show is a miracle, you gotta watch it) is when this runner passes by the titular character and stops to help him up. He says,

“It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part… but it does get easier.”

Bojack Horseman

I feel like I might need this engraved on my skin… or you know, a watch or something.

Being Intentional

Something I’m finding is that when my margin gets smaller, I have to be more and more intentional about what I do with the rest of my time. If I don’t use it on purpose, then it will get used, but heck-if-I-know what I did. I’ve started to plan my days and my weekends with purpose so I don’t lose the time or spend it wishing to dive head first into a half-gallon of Blue Bell.

Being intentional keeps me from going buck-wild when I have a good reason. If friends are coming over, I put out both chips for them and carrot sticks for me. You’ve gotta plan ahead or there would be no carrot sticks and someone would have to rip that bag of chips out of my hands.

Ready-Made Fun

When you’re babysitting, it can sometimes be helpful to have a go-bag. If you bring coloring books and paint and hula hoops, with a game or two up your sleeve, you can usually avoid cries of boredom (which leads to whining or fighting, usually). When I get bored, I eat. Hence, I should treat myself like a small child and have ready-to-go fun.

Here are some of the things I try to make sure are always have in my go-bag for when I’m bored:

  • A spare canvas or two and paints.
  • Crocheting
  • Bubble Bath and/or Bath Bombs
  • Nail kits
  • A game on my phone I like at least a little
  • A book I have been meaning to read
  • My walking shoes
  • A swimsuit
  • A DIY project I’ve been meaning to get to.
  • Coloring Books & Nice Markers
  • A polaroid camera

Understand that you are in charge. While a disorder or mental health can get in the way, you can always control how you react. React well. Babysit yourself. Be prepared and know your triggers. It’s so important.

Much love as always, and thanks for reading!

When It’s All Too Much?

Written June 2020

I like to think I’m a lot stronger or better or braver than I am. I heard once that we always expect our “tomorrow” selves to do much better than we do today. We expect higher motivation and generally assume that after a night’s rest, we’ll be doing great. Kind of reminds me how it seems like every 20 year old my age is constantly saying “Well, after this one crazy week, everything should slow down.” It doesn’t. It never does.

I expect myself to be more in the mood to workout tomorrow. I assume that after the bowls of cereal I had tonight, that tomorrow I’ll be ready to eat nothing but Kale and pineapples. When someone asks me to do something in a week, I always assume I’ll be ready to hang out with people by then.

I also like to think that I am more in the know than I believe, or that I am tougher than I look. I like to say to myself, “Well, when it comes down to something real, I’ll have the balls to deal with it.” To be honest, after the week I had last week, I’m starting to think I relate more to quitters.

Last week was tumultuous for all of us. We all are slowly coming out of our homes again like Punxsutawney Phil, testing our shadow for COVID’s end. Then we saw some terrible things in the news. We saw some of our population rise up in outrage, and we saw movements begin. We saw all-black instagram posts, and then all of a sudden, we saw Facebook posts. THOSE Facebook posts.

Remember how I thought I was stronger?

On Wednesday, I began experiencing anxiety attack symptoms. I was starting to lose focus, lose sleep, and I had spinning thoughts I couldn’t control. By Friday, I had a tension headache the stretched down my shoulders, tremors I couldn’t control, was dizzy, couldn’t eat, and was sweating profusely. I left work early saying “sick,” because I didn’t know how else to explain what was happening.

This weekend, I deleted Facebook from my phone. I deleted Twitter from my phone. I took a break from it all because I felt like I was losing control.

I hope this is communicated clearly: I believe strongly in the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe that my reprieve from posting on Instagram was important because people need to hear the voices that have been ignored. No one needed to see a post about my Pumpkin Lasagna Rolls this week, they needed to hear and be uncomfortable and it needs to continue happening.

Please understand that as I continue my blog, my self care, and the accountability of making posts on Instagram, I am not ignoring the situation. I am still here for all who need to be heard/seen/understood. I am still signing petitions, donating, and keeping up in the news.

Distractions Needed?

I think we all could use some anxiety-deflecting techniques. As I prepare to go into the fray of another week, I have compiled a list of some calming techniques. Here’s some of the one’s I’ve been doing just this weekend to calm down:

  • Long walks
  • Going to the pool/gym
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Cleaning
  • Video Games
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Inviting friends over
  • Dungeons & Dragons (make fun, I have no pride)
  • Cleaning
  • Taking a bath
  • Coloring
  • Petting/Playing with my cat
  • Painting my nails
  • Getting a smoothie
  • Going on a drive
  • Cleaning (seriously cleaning makes me feel more in control than anything)

Here are a couple of other quick resources with techniques for calming.

18 Ways to Distract from Anxiety

Distraction Techniques for Panic Disorder

12 Ways to Calm Anxiety

15 Ways to Calm Yourself Down

Tips to Manage Anxiety & Stress

The world doesn’t seem to be “getting back to normal” any time soon, but it could be for the best. Let’s continue to fight the good fight, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well as your neighbor. Remember, put on your own mask before helping others put on theirs.

Love you all, wish you the very best.

Don’t forget to see the Black Lives Matter movement website, here.

Painting for the Non-Artist

Creativity can be such an outlet and distraction for the anxious mind (and who can binge eat with a paintbrush in their hand?). I think a lot of our generation is figuring this out. Not only are the felt posters of days passed coming back, but adult coloring books, or coloring apps are being advertised as stress-relievers. There is definitely something about making something pretty, even if you know it took little-to-no skill to make it. It calms the mind.

But for all the coloring book people I know, I know very few people who paint. Painting was always something I thought took a lot of skill to do well, but I’ve learned through the past couple of years that you don’t need a lot of skill to relax your mind in front of a canvas.

I am no Bob Ross, trust me. Typically my best work requires the urge. I have to feel that need to make something creative. I call it the “artistic seizure.” I paint, draw, craft, doodle, even sculpt, but usually they come out sub-par, more for me than for the observer, unless driven by that seizure. It’s only been recently that I’ve felt I’ve been able to recapture a love for the creative, even without it.

My family used to make out like I was some hot-shot artist with tons of talent because a doodle of mine was accepted as a front-cover for some Kidz magazine way back in the fourth grade. This doodle was just a pen drawing that we were taught in art class – like a strange concept on Van Gogh’s sunflowers, and I had added this puzzle-squiggly background with different colors and submitted it. From that day on, I was “the creative one” and I felt a lot of pressure to be really, really good.

It got to the point where I didn’t want to draw or try anything in high school because it wouldn’t be up to the standard I felt that I had been put at. Writing was where my focus was, and it took awhile before I felt comfortable creating anything else.

I got to college and there was this girl who talked about painting as her outlet all of the time. Painting was pretty foreign to me at the time, something that skilled artists could do but that was it: they could take these random colors and smoosh them together… and then ta-da! Something recognizable.

This girl in college, though, she didn’t paint scenes or things or people. She painted backgrounds and words and hung them up all over her room. So I tried it with her, and then I bought my own paints and tried it myself. Soon, any time I had an “artistic seizure,” or even when I just wanted to relax, I turned to a canvas.

Painting is not nearly as taxing, as hard, or as expensive as I always thought it was.

Setup/Supplies

I’ve been painting for about 5 years now, and I can tell you that unless you’re going for gallery-quality, cheap paint is just fine! I actually just use Apple Barrel paint you can get from Walmart for 50 cents a pop. You can also go with just your primary colors and a black and white if you’re skilled at mixing. I wasn’t then so I still have tons of left over colors I can mix now.

I like to paint the cap of the paint bottle with the color so I don’t have to pull the bottles out to check, and it immediately shows me what the color looks like on white.

Now get yourself an old sheet, some plastic palettes, and a cheap set of paint brushes in different sizes. **Fun tip: you can also use Q-tips, sponges, your fingers, or anything else you can clean paint off of after to paint with!** Lay out your canvas (these also can come cheap from Walmart), and sit yourself down in front of it.

My Process

You’ll notice that my paintings typically have a colorful background, and something on top. My process goes the same way: background, then I decide what to put on top of it. If I could paint and mix backgrounds all day, I would. Here are some tips for making something simple if you’re looking to start somewhere.

Pick your colors! I usually go with one color and make a gradient, but here I decided to go with a pastel color scheme. Drop the colors on the canvas and just smear it with your brush. Make it blend by crossing the colors over each other. If you start to blend a color you didn’t intend (like some of the accidental brown in mine), wipe the brush and add a new color!

You can sprinkle some flecks by dipping the brush into a pool of the color desired and flick it onto the canvas. I threw some green into the corners and added some white flecks on mine.

At this point, you should let your canvas dry while you figure out what you have the inspiration to put on top of your background. I’ve done a purple background with pumpkins, or a green background with a Christmas ornament. You can practice on a piece of paper before you put paint to canvas if you’re nervous.

If you decide on a quote, you’ll have to think about spacing and make sure you don’t end up having to squish the end of the quote on the bottom of the canvas, so sometimes using a pencil on the canvas lightly will help you space your words correctly. I used the phrase “Dream Big” because my family is big on it, and I feel like a lot of what I’m doing right now requires some pretty big dreams.

I always over-decorate my pictures. I add too many little touches, too many flairs or sparkles or swirls. The funny part: THAT’S OKAY! I already knew getting into this that this wasn’t a picture I was going to frame and have in the living room. This might be a picture to put in my future art studio or in a creative space… and that’s ALSO OKAY!

How many times have you colored in a coloring book and thought “Well, if it’s really good, I’ll hang it up over the fireplace!” (Hint: You haven’t. No one does.) Let yourself enjoy the silliness, let yourself over-embellish or make a mistake. Try a weird technique, use a weird tool. It’s more about the process than the product.

Heck, if you hate it in a month, you can always paint white over it and make something brand new.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this let’s you explore your creative side that you might have never known existed!

This article is also going to publish on City Lifestyle! Check out my page here.

How I Spent $2,500 on my Wedding

My one year anniversary is coming up next Monday and I feel like the story of my wedding day is coming up in conversation more and more often. I wanted to take a small break from my normal topics and give a more fun, informative post about it. Matthew and I are eating the top layer of our cake in just a week, and I wanted to make sure I celebrated in more ways than one.

Here is my favorite thing to tell people about my wedding: I spent less than $2,500 on the entire wedding day. The looks of incredulity people give are simply delicious. I’m hoping to tell you how I saved and prioritized to get there, but there’s something I did first that led me to the rest of it.

June 1, 2019

The very first thing I did was find out what was the most important for the day of. My fiancee’s request was easy; he said “I just don’t want to see you before the ceremony. I don’t care about the rest of it, as long as I’m married to you at the end of the day.” Brownie points for days, am I right?

So what was important to me? I wanted to make the day have hints of my fiancee, Matthew in it. I wanted it to be mostly family. I wanted to see my late father in hints around the room. I wanted my grandpa give a toast during the Rehearsal Dinner. I wanted to dance to “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel. I wanted to have a silly dance with my bridesmaids. I wanted to take a shot with the bridal party before the reception. I wanted to go to a fast food place after the reception while still in my wedding attire.

You’ll notice right away that these important moments all didn’t cost me anything, or cost me very little. I found that any time I started to freak out about not spending money on something more expensive… well it wasn’t in the top moments anyway. It was okay. So if having fresh cut flowers at your wedding is really important to you, then go ahead! If it is super important that you’re wearing a brand name wedding dress, then do it. I just found that all of my central moments required nothing extra, only time.

All these important things happened. I found cupcake toppers that were tiny light sabers and put them in the boutonnieres, and then the cake topper was a silhouette of Han Solo and Leia. My step-mom brought an old pin my dad used to wear on his hat, and I had a spare flower with ribbon set aside for my dad. The bridesmaids and I spent most of the night before the wedding practicing the line dance for “Footloose” so we could do it at the wedding. My husband and I went to a Starbucks before going to the hotel so I could wear my dress out.

So now for my tips and tricks and how I spent $2,500 on my whole wedding.

Small Town Weddings

We decided early on that we wanted most of the wedding attendees to be family (We ended up with about 120 people total). A lot of my husband’s family all lives in the small town of Argonia, KS, about 45 minutes from Wichita, KS. When looking at Wichita locations we quickly realized how much money we could save by doing it in Matthew’s hometown of Argonia.

We used the Community Center in Argonia, which happened to be right next to my in-law’s house and only cost $150 for the entire weekend.

This brings up a couple of hitches: What about those traveling from the airport? What would guests get to see or what places would they go before and after the wedding?What about those who became inebriated and then needed to travel? All these questions needed to be answered if we were going to have a small town wedding.

We stayed in close contact with our guests and ended up having very few people actually need to fly in. If we had more, we would have made a carpool system for those. We also decided to have a morning wedding and afternoon reception, so that our guests would have plenty of time to do something in the evening after driving back into Wichita. Finally, we decided to forgo having drinks/alcohol at the wedding so that everyone could drive back to where they needed in the afternoon safely.

We also decided on having an After Party with our Bridal Party and our siblings. After the reception, Matthew and I took a small recess at the hotel and then headed to the party at 7pm. I had rented an AirBnB in Wichita so that those that lived 45 minutes or farther away had somewhere to stay that night and that’s where we had some drinks, some pizza, some dancing, some great talks. Matthew and I headed back to our hotel that night and left for our honeymoon the next morning. The entire After Party was only about $300 out of pocket for us, as we asked everyone to bring one drink and one mixer or a six-pack.

Use your Friends and Connections

This sounds heartless, but you’ll truly be surprised how many people are excited and willing to be a small part of your big day. If you do it right, it takes nothing but a small favor, or a small piece of their time and they’ll feel like they were a huge piece of it all working out.

Food/Catering: My family are big on smoking meats, and their best friends are awesome helpers. My parents happily offered to do the meat the day before as a wedding present and their best friends helped with getting food cut up, opened up, and put into crock pots as well as serving on the day of. As a wedding present, my parents paid for the food as well, though they said the total only came to around $500.

*NOTE: Our small town venue was, of course, fine with outside food, though some bigger venues will not allow you to serve food that isn’t being cooked by a licensed professional. Yet another perk of a small town wedding!

Cake: Matthew’s aunt used to be a professional wedding cake designer. She actually asked early on to make the cake. We paid for the ingredients and she did the labor. This cake turned out to be the only hitch in the whole day and I had no idea until I arrived at the Reception that anything had gone wrong.

We had asked for raspberry filling/flavor in a chocolate cake, the raspberry filling she used made the cake unstable and it fell overnight. That morning, they salvaged the pieces and we ended up with one large sharable cake (which was more than enough), and our cute top layer in the picture from above. The cake was still delicious beyond all reason and it didn’t bother me at all that our cake wasn’t three tiers like we had originally talked about.

The Church and Sound: My husband’s dad is the clerk at their hometown church, so we got the use of the church building for free. I also sent a long thank you note to the sound guy of the church, Bob, who was very willing to run our sound cues for us through our ceremony. He also played the slideshow I had made of Matthew and I – some pictures of us dating and some of us when we were small.

This was extra special to me, because the church was always welcoming to me when we would visit, and now every time we visit his family we are reminded of the day we got married there.

The rehearsal the day before, all set up and pretty. Hand-cut white hearts for aisle scatter.

Music: One of the things Matthew and I did in our year-and-a-half engagement was go to weddings and scope out the things we liked or didn’t like. We found that a DJ is definitely not a guarantee that the music and sound of your reception will be perfect. We also noticed that a good DJ is one you don’t really notice. Our families are no dancing fools either, so my Maid of Honor and I created a Spotify playlist the week before the wedding. We listened through it two or three times, and made sure that a good line-dance appeared occasionally and a slow dance appeared between.

Surprisingly, I still saw plenty of people dancing and the schedule I provided for everyone involved was plenty cue enough for our toasts and introduction. My sisters-in-law did the music cues for our Father-Daughter, Mother-Son dances as well.

Day Planner: Speaking of schedule, I had a binder I used through all of my planning that included an extensive schedule of events, budget, thank you notes for the day of, present lists, and honeymoon documents. I did all of the planning until the day of, when I asked Matthew’s aunt (a wonderful lady who is as organized as me, if not more so), if she would be willing to be the day planner. She did an amazing job of keeping everyone on schedule, and without her, I am sure the day would have gone astray.

Photography: This is the one I can see most people disagreeing with. We actually used friends and family for photography. We had our engagement photos done by one of the groomsmen, who loves photography. I loved the way the photos turned out, as Matthew and I are not anyone’s fancy-men.

We paid a college-friend and amateur photographer for the day of, and Matthew’s mom is great at editing photos. His aunt also took a lot of photos and I love the casual feel of the photos taken by our families. I don’t think we lost any value by doing so, but I can see the fear of not getting good enough photos of the day of.

Thrift, Used, DIY and Patience

This is probably the biggest thing that contributed to the success of our wedding: our long engagement (that I did NOT originally want, by the way) which meant that I could take my time and wait for the best deals on everything.

The biggest and best example of this is THE DRESS. I found it a year early in a thrift store. It had no brand name tag on it and some stains I was originally worried about. I brought the ticket price from $100 to $80 at the thrift store. Then I got it cleaned for $83 and altered for $200. My dress altogether cost only $363.

It wasn’t like the dresses I had pinned on Pinterest, but it honestly fit me so perfectly and Matthew still raves about how much he loved the dress and how it was perfect for me. It turned out to be one of the biggest blessings and his favorite memory of the day.

The first thing a bride wants to do when they return from their honeymoon is figure out what to do with all their decorations from the wedding. If you can wait through a summer before your wedding, you’ll see tons of Facebook marketplace posts of wedding decorations. Lucky for me, I already wanted a Vintage Rustic wedding – which meant white wood, burlap, twine, and lots of flowers. These are all common household decorations (especially right now), and they are pretty cheap from most craft stores as well.

Like I said before, we had gone to some wedding before ours. One wedding was also rustic vintage, and I actually chased down the maid of honor and then messaged the mom of the bride a little later and asked if they were selling their decorations. She quoted me a great price of $400 for all the flowers, pine cones, table scatter and burlap at the wedding.

All of the flowers are fabric flowers, so I collected as many pink, white, and blue flowers as I could find on Facebook and from thrift stores. I then created the boutonnieres, the corsages, my bouquet, and all of the table settings.

I bought all the wine bottles that were navy and pink from someone else’s wedding, and then wrapped twine around them to cover the scratches in the paint. I then added all the white bottles and wrapped those in twine to match. I made the party favors from some free cinnamon jelly hearts. I bought small paper bags, wrote a personal note on each and filled them with the hearts. I then stapled each and set them on the table settings.In fact, the most expensive part of the table was the blue M&M’s that I thought would bring out the blue of the flowers.

I created all the programs, order of events and invitations with Word and bought the card stock and printed on a friend’s color printer. I cut out every individual white heart from the leftover card stock for the aisle scatter. I also created the set up for the photo backdrop.

Don’t forget to borrow! Another perk of having the wedding in the same town as so much family: we borrowed a lot of serving dishes and serving tools. We found so many crock pots around town, and some decoration. We also were surprised with the original cake serving tools that Matthew’s parents used on their wedding day. The piano was already a setting in the community building that they at first wanted to put away, but I asked to keep it out. A vintage screen that my mother-in-law used in her house made a great prop for setting up some old pictures of Matthew and I.

Our wedding day ended up being exactly what it should have been. As any bride or groom will tell you, the day flew by; I only remember the small important pieces of the best day. The best advice I can give any couple getting married is to worry about just the most important things and know the rest of it will hardly matter at the end of the day.

The Actual Real-Life Budget:

  • FB – Decor – $15.00
  • Cardstock – $35.00
  • Cake Topper – $18.00
  • Decor Supplies, Wal-Mart – $25.00
  • Light Saber Cupcake Toppers – $8.14
  • 4 Barn Windows – $60.00
  • Photography Deposit – $50.00
  • Wedding Dress – $80.00
  • FB – Tea Lights – $20.00
  • Large wooden lantern – $8.00
  • Other Wedding Decor – $400.00
  • Dry Cleaners – $83.37
  • Garage Sale – Vases $12.00
  • Reception Venue – $150
  • Refurbishing Shoes – $28.00
  • Ties for Best Man/Groom – $40.00
  • Envelopes for Invites – $28.22
  • AirBnb – $214.88
  • Bridesmaid Gifts – $66.00
  • Hairpiece – $16.41
  • Stamps – $33.52
  • Guest Book Sign – $54.20
  • Dark Blue M&M’s – $67.99
  • Marriage License Fee – $85.50
  • Marriage Counseling/Pastor Fee – $85.00
  • Groom’s Outfit – $67.75
  • Cabin for 2 Nights Before – $249.37
  • Bridesmaid Necklaces – $54.77
  • Wedding Arch – Amazon (FB one broke) – $27.99
  • Photography – $50.00
  • Cake Ingredients – $100.00
  • Dress Alterations – $202.31

Total: $2436.42

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you got something informative or a cool idea for your wedding. I wish you the very best!

This was also published on City Lifestyle! Check it out here.

Creativity and Anxiety

High School Journals, starting June 22, 2009.

Say hello to my sanity from High School. These journals are filled with tears, with ripped pages, with pen and pencil, with history, with frustrations, with pretending, with texts, with passed notes… and so much more.

My first journal started when I was about to be a freshman. I had gone on a mission trip to Montana and was in a small town writing about the stars and how they made me feel small. I wrote about how home didn’t feel real when I was out there, and while I knew there was drama going on, I didn’t have to be apart of it there. I wanted to stay there forever and escape it all and I wrote and wrote about that.

Then about an hour later, a friend had some drama about a boy that we both liked and I had to write about that. Then the rest of the mission trip (and hence the journal for that week) was filled with petty B.S. – focus on boys and girl drama. A game of hot seat. Seating in the car rides. Just goofy stuff.

Then I got home and *ish* hit the fan. Family drama and fights that happened while I was gone. In the aftermath of 2008, my step-dad had lost his job. We were evicted around a week later and lived with a family from our church for three months. When those three months had finished, we moved in with another family from our church, a foster mom and her adopted kids – running the total number of people in her house to 12. I turned 15 while we were in that house.

It’s hard to talk about that time because there were some fun days, and it wasn’t all terrible. It’s also hard to talk about without feeling ungrateful or feeling like I’m airing dirty laundry. The screaming fighting of our family (and families), the tears, the constant fear, the anger I still harbor… it’s all almost too fresh to talk about. I dreaded going home. I hated being around the people in that house. I hid in the closet more than once. The one month where I self-harmed was in my most desperate time of living there.

On top of the fear, the lack of security, feeling the need to be strong for my parents, and so on – I was 14, going on 15. I had enough struggles just figuring out my place. Figuring out how to be a friend, how to like boys. I had some of the most serious family struggles among my friends, who had no idea how to talk to me about them. So I ignored them with my friends. I focused on whatever boy I liked at the time or the drama that my friends were having with the “other side” of the youth group. I know at times I came off boy-crazy or obsessed (sorry about that, by the way!), but it was my coping mechanism. I pretended. It was the only way I knew how to survive.

What got me through the hardest year of my life and the hardest years of growing up were these journals. For perspective, 3 and 1/2 of the 8 composition notebooks I used as journals I made in high school, covered that one year.

More than once I would cover pages in scribbles, incoherent rambling, or screams.

When I went to college, I started seeing the on-campus therapist. I originally went because I had learned some new information about my dad who had passed when I was 10. The new information had messed with the image I had of him so much that I felt like I was re-grieving, bursting into tears at the oddest moments for example, and I needed someone to process with. However, the experience, of course, became much more than just about my father.

We talked about growing up and the loneliness I had. We talked about the insecurity of my age in high school and the need to hide the problems I was having. Sometimes I would tell her things that would make her eyes go wide. She would marvel and say a comment like, “I’m impressed you are who you are today.” Eventually, I mentioned the journals. She dug in, and asked how many, how often.

Everything seemed to click for her. “Those journals might have saved your life,” she said. Then she told me the importance of a safe space where you feel you can be yourself, even if no one reads it. Even if you are completely vulnerable and it’s embarrassing to read later, the honesty can be so cathartic. What was hidden and unknown and unclear… is now on paper and can be judged to be serious or not immediately.

A friend of mine has been super encouraging through the last month of starting this blog and the Instagram. She sent me a message today reminding me that being as raw and real as I am is important because people need to know they aren’t alone. Even if it comes off like you’re looking for sympathy or if it’s a little **too** real sometimes, it’s important.

Both she and a reader/commenter on a previous post agree: writing is good for us. you can diminish the fear of the thing. You can see an old thought pattern and change it. If you publicly blog, you get the feedback, the reminder that you’re not alone. Just knowing there is someone out there who might be reading what you’re writing can be comforting by itself.

A writing/drawing space in my house, with a sneak-peek kitty in the hallway.

And if writing isn’t your thing? That’s okay. There are so many other ways to be real, to release emotions in a positive way. Something I did in college was doodle – I would cover full pages with doodles and really try to find the right symbol or shape to express an emotion. I then covered the pencil in sharpie as a focus technique. I would make sharp lines to express anger or passion, and swirls for confusion. Curling shapes took the place of thinking and pondering. I took peace in knowing the pages meant nothing to anyone else.

Most here are from January 2015.

I also sometimes use crafting as a way to simply ignore the world. The world fades away during a DIY. You spend too much time considering how a thing looks or what to do next to ponder and sink. Sometimes all we need is a distraction.

Whatever you choose to do to cope with the world around us, make it a healthy habit. Scribbling can be a healthy habit. Crafting can be. Painting… building a house. Drawing. All of these are habits that let you feel like something is being created. Something is coming into form. Don’t let your life waste away while you cope with the problems around you.

Feels a bit hypocritical, coming from the girl who ate two bowls of cereal after a stressful day at work this week. I have not learned this lesson. But I am trying to take my own advice.

Love y’all. Hope this finds you well. Thanks for reading.

For some new recipes, check out this new page!

Not Every Day is the Same

Sometimes… I am KILLING it. Two weeks ago, I had my Thursday 5k, I ate about 1350 calories – some of it in the delicious pasta recipe I had seen. I didn’t go back for seconds, and I crocheted and watched This is Us instead of late-night snacking.

Delicious Pasta Recipe I got from @conditionedbykaty on Instagram.

Some days, I do great – even on the weekend. I do everything I am supposed to – I work out! I go to bed at a good time! I even clean! …And there have been a lot of days where this doesn’t happen. I wake up late, I grab a sugary granola bar for a snack, I dump some creamer in my coffee, I make a peanut butter cheesecake and have a second piece.

I made an Insta post this week with the caption: “Anxiety, you don’t go away overnight – but I am trying to pack your bags.” I don’t know how to go about making everything better all at once, and it drives me crazy. I’m still trying to climb that mountain in one, single, Superman-esque bound.

My therapist says I do not forgive myself easily, and I see it. I tend to always find a way to put the blame on myself, no matter what the circumstance was. I should have tried harder, I should have gritted my teeth – it is within me to make the change or to fix the relationship… even when I know that not everything can be controlled or fixed with such determination.

In fact, just today, I realized (in a session with the glorious Michelle of course) that a lot of my fear stems from this idea that when I fail or mess up, it causes people to leave. I fear that those who love me or care about me are pretending or that I tricked them somehow – so the idea of messing up? That’s terrifying. Messing up breaks the spell I put on them, or is the straw that makes someone not care enough to pretend to like me. I think somewhere along the line I decided that I was only beneficial/loveable to people if I did my very best.

One of my professors in college used to sit me down and say “Jessica is enough,” and the words never sunk in. I thought “Well, I am not enough if I don’t do what is right, if I don’t do the right things to keep people around.” These thoughts are hard to get rid of, because in some ways, they are true. We have to be good people, we should be helpful, but worth doesn’t come from our actions.

I struggled this past week with getting the nerve to write another post because I was afraid I would come off like a hypocrite who was trying to teach the world to be better when I had nothing together. I also didn’t want an emotional post that gave no one any benefit. Here’s my concession for both: I don’t have anything together. I am fighting all of the time against my anxiety and my fears. I am constantly reminding myself of reality. Here is what I am doing to get through the valleys and the days I don’t do what I am supposed to do… and maybe it helps someone else.

Grounding

I am learning to ground myself – not to my room, but to the environment and reality around me. It reminds me of a book (that I am afraid to spoil the ending of) where the main character, after trauma unfolds in her life over and over again, learns to be okay by reciting every good thing she had ever seen someone do.

I am married to a husband who loves me and chose me. I am working at a company that chose me to work for them. I have friends who choose to hang out with me and talk to me about their lives. I remind myself of these things over and over again. This keeps me from sinking into my mind with uncontrollable thoughts of not deserving the things I have, or this weird impostor syndrome I seem to have developed.

Concessions

I cannot fix all of me at once. This I must remember. I have so many anxiety-ridden habits and poor health habits.

I love to eat, as referenced in my Emotional Eating post. I bite my nails and the inside of my mouth. I pick at scabs. A lot of my favorite hobbies involve sitting still. I love carbs, and I love late night eating… and every time I feel like I am cracking the whip on one bad habit, the others swing to the forefront again.

I have to focus on one thing at a time and let the others lay where they lay for the moment. If I have to get a manicure to cover my nails, that’s okay. If I have some pasta dishes more often than not, but I am not binging at 11pm anymore, that’s okay. If the only workout I do for the day is a short walk, that is okay.

It may be possible as well that we can re-frame those days where we’re not as productive, and even do them on purpose. A friend of mine, Jess, describes these days as “Expand Days.” These days are for when you need to refresh or reset. The point is to allow your mind to expand to new ideas, avenues of thought or ways of doing things. You achieve it by just chilling out and “being,” not actively doing anything but enjoying the present moment. Having “Expand Days” or even just good-old rest days on purpose may help me feel like I am not slipping up, but being intentional.

Personal Progress

In 7th grade, I dreaded gym class. I was your average gym student – not the slowest or the fastest – but mannnn I hated it. I heard we were going to have the 20-minute run in the Spring and I would have sworn to you that my stomach turned to lead. The day of came and the gym teacher said a phrase that sounded like heaven: “Even if you granny-shuffle the whole thing, I will be happy and you’ll still pass.”

You best believe I did just above a granny-shuffle. And I even found a way to pass the time as we ran around the football track: I pretended I was on the field and dodging other players. I found out what the minimum was, and because I am that kind of person, made sure I did better than at least that. I knew I couldn’t be the best, but as soon as I found out I didn’t have to, I felt so much better.

I am not your skinny Instagram fitgirl and blogger. I am focusing on small successes and personal progress. I am becoming more full with smaller meals. I am making better choices on dinners. I am feeling better in my clothes, even if the scale hasn’t changed much yet. Personal Bests are all I can get right now, and it still feels pretty good.

Personal Progress

Thanks for reading y’all. Let me know what solutions you use for ignoring that voice in your head. What do you do when your progress doesn’t feel like it’s enough?

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