back to where it all began.

Matt and I are heading down to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited! I went to college in D.C., and a lot of my closest friends from school still live there. Earlier this year, one of Matt’s best friends from college (who I’ve since stolen HAH!) and her (new!) husband bought a house outside the city. I can’t wait to check out their home and to catch up with some of my very favorite people.

Sometimes, I really find myself doing a double take when I remember that my friends and I are now in our mid-twenties (creeping up into that late-twenties category, too, yeesh!) and spread across the country in different cities, living our crazily different routines and digging roots in new places with new people. It’s always a treat to get a little glimpse into what those lives look like, and to be reminded of the fact that time and distance are really not a factor in your most significant relationships. Plus, you know I love any excuse to jump in the car with Matt, put on a great podcast, and drive down some new roads. (And maybe — just maybe — I’m also kind of planning the weekend around getting my favorite s’mores milkshake at a diner near my friend Gail’s apartment…)

D.C. was such a special place to go to school. While I wasn’t always crazy about my college specifically (that’s a topic for another post!), it was a pretty incredible experience to “come of age” (that’s a weird expression, but it fits here) in a city that was so vibrant and alive. When I think about the fact that I was 17 years old in my suburban hometown one day, and the next was set loose in Washington, D.C. among cabs and motorcades and inaugural crowds and a seemingly infinite number of bars and clubs, I can’t help but laugh. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I firmly believed then that I did — and, luckily for me, I found the most amazing friends to explore it all with.

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Thinking I was the coolest on a night in D.C. senior year (at least then I had four years under my belt!). Doesn’t everyone have totally humiliating pictures like this?

Going back to Washington is also meaningful for me and Matt because it’s the place where our love story really started. We went to middle school and high school together, but it wasn’t until he and a mutual friend of ours came to D.C. for the Fourth of July the summer after our freshman year of college that we really even got to know each other (picture a high school of 2,500 students, a super cool soccer player, and the well-liked — but pretty introverted — editor of the newspaper)! It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was something more than friendship between us, and since I was working in Washington for the summer, Matt made a bunch of trips down to visit so we could figure out if that “something” could sustain long-distance once the school year started again. (Spoiler alert: we decided it could, and it did!)

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Our last visit to D.C. together… in 2013! So long ago!

After that first year, we spent most of our time together in Pennsylvania, where Matt’s college and my family’s house were just a few miles apart. Still, D.C. is where it all started, and since it’s been a long time since Matt and I visited the city together, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the Washington milestones where we have some of our earliest memories. Here are a few of those places…

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The very first picture I have of the two of us — and I’m so happy it’s in D.C.

  • The Lincoln Memorial: On that first Fourth of July, my friends and I took Matt to watch the fireworks from just under the famous monument. We try to go back (or at least drive by) whenever we’re in town, even though I know it’s kind of a tourist-y move for someone who lived there for four years.
  • The Kennedy CenterI really wanted Matt to think I was a total Washington insider, so on one of his first visits, I took him to the Kennedy Center late at night. Fun fact (for my non-D.C. pals): even if you’re not going to a show there, you can go up to the very top of the building. It’s my favorite view of the city.
  • Good Stuff EateryOne of my best memories from that first summer is when Matt drove me back to Washington after our “official” first date at a Dave Matthews Band concert closer to home. I knew that four hours in the car together would be a make-it-or-break-it moment! Happily, we learned then that we love taking road trips together. When we got back to D.C., I told Matt that I’d been dying to try a milkshake from Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill, and since he loves ice cream even more than I do, it was an easy sell!
  • The National Mall/World War II Memorial: Said milkshakes in hand (I think mine was Toasted Marshmallow), we walked down to the National Mall (can’t you tell I was trying to show Matt that I was so not a tourist? L-O-L) and wandered around. It started POURING rain and we (of course) didn’t have an umbrella, so we just hid inside the World War II Memorial. We were the only dummies out there in the downpour, so it was just us tucked into the beautiful monument late at night.
  • VapianoIn college, my friends and I thought this place was the. absolute. coolest. You could go there and customize your own pasta dish — and we did… often. That September, my mom and my grandmother were coming down to visit me in Washington for my birthday. Matt and I were barely “official,” but he so wanted to spend my special day with me that he coordinated with them and caught a ride to come see me. He spent the weekend with the three of us (keep in mind that this is a guy who’s one of three boys and was very much a fish out of water with three ladies). To this day, it’s one of my favorite things that my now-husband has ever done for me. I took Mom, Nana, and Matt to Vapiano for my birthday, and later that night, Matt told me he loved me for the first time. : )
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For my 19th birthday, my mom got me Lehigh-themed presents so I would be ready to cheer at Matt’s soccer games.

Thanks for indulging me in these memories! It’s always fun to think back on that special time — and to dig up these photos, of course. We look like SUCH babies. I can’t wait to get back to D.C. this weekend and feel even more sentimental. Hopefully, I’ll have pictures to share (newer ones, with better fashion)!

…AND don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a necklace from The Shine ProjectAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Monday 7/31, so get those entries in ASAP!

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vacation values.

Friends! I missed you! I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since the last time I posted! That’s a new record, and I’m not sure I ever want to try to beat it : ) As nice as it was to be away, this blog is super near and dear to my heart, and I don’t like the way it feels to get too far away from it (even if other projects are set aside temporarily).

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First of all, let me just tell you how hard it was to keep last week’s vacation to myself! As you already know if you follow me on Instagram, I spent the holiday at a resort in Turks + Caicos with family, but since my sisters didn’t know that Matt and I would be joining them until the morning of our flight, I had to keep it totally under wraps. I’m not always the best at keeping secrets (even though I love a good surprise), but since the vacation was planned about a year ago to celebrate my sister’s recent high school graduation, we thought it would be fun to create a whole story about how Matt and I couldn’t get away from work and would have to miss it (adulting, amirite?). Typically, we’re not able to go on big vacations like this, but since the dates fell around the Fourth of July, Matt only had to take three days away from the office, and I was able to plan my schedule around it, too. The whole thing fell into place perfectly and we were able to be part of it, which was really special. We surprised my sisters at 7 AM Saturday morning in the gate at Newark airport wearing crazy patterned visors and pineapple-shaped sunglasses (I wish I had a photo, but I was too excited. Bad blogger, bad blogger!). From there, it was seven days of sun (too much), drinks (also too much), reading, and relaxing. And that water!

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As I mentioned in my little out of office message, this trip was the first time since last September that I actually unplugged for more than a day with absolutely no work. I didn’t even bring my laptop with me! The WiFi at our resort ended up being really spotty, so I wouldn’t have been very productive even if I’d tried. Now that I’m back in the swing of things, though, I’m so happy that I decided to be proactive about setting that down time for myself. There’s so much value in taking a real vacation, and the past few days were an amazing reminder of that.

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Ever since I went out on my own and started working for myself, I’ve been harboring this (totally unfounded) guilt about taking real time off. Honestly, I’ve felt kind of undeserving and insecure about the whole thing. This isn’t a cue for anyone to jump in and tell me that I do deserve it or that I have been working super hard. It’s just a little dose of real talk that I’m ready to share with you more openly now that I know how wrong I was.

Managing vacation time is always going to be a challenge for me. I felt guilty about using my vacation days even when I was working for a huge company (where taking advantage of that time was part of a great culture of work/life balance), so it should come as no surprise that I haven’t been jumping at the idea now that I feel this additional pressure to perform and prove myself — and, quite frankly, to earn money! Now, more than ever, my time equates to a dollar value, and since I’m pretty competitive, I don’t like the feeling of walking away from hours I could be spending developing my own business. Even more than that, I like to be present. In my corporate life, I hated the idea of missing out on things at the office, or of my team realizing they could function without me. I prefer to be engaged, to be knee-deep in a million different things.

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BUT, here’s the thing. It’s just as important for me to be present in my personal life. I need to be engaged with my relationships and with myself. I need to be knee-deep in a good book, a great meal, a hilarious conversation. And while it’s impossible to be on vacation all the time, taking some real time away from work reminded me how good it feels to do those things. I prioritize my family and friends year-round (sometimes to the point where I’m totally exhausted), but taking some time for myself this past week helped me restore a little balance and made me feel like I actually can handle the many moving pieces I’m working with. Doesn’t it feel good to remember that you can actually do it?

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Everyone deserves a vacation. Whether you work for someone else, or for yourself, or for your kids as a kick-butt stay-at-home mom, you’ve earned it. I want to be the kind of person who can learn to see the value in time spent outside of the usual routine, the kind of person who doesn’t feel guilt about doing it.

Who’s with me????

first anniversary trip to Maine.

This weekend, Matt and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. (WHAT??) I’m sure it’s hard for any couple to believe that a full 365 days has passed since they got married, but with all of the changes we’ve gone through over these last few months since I started writing full-time, it feels like the time has flown by especially fast.

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I think Matt and I were both feeling a little anxious about whether or not we would be “anniversary people.” A few months ago, we planned a road trip up to southern Maine for the occasion, but we’ve been traveling so much lately that I personally was nervous that it would just feel like one more long stretch in the car! Guys, we were so wrong. We are totally anniversary people. I honestly loved my anniversary weekend almost as much as I loved my wedding (and if I’d been able to wear my dress again and dance around to old school jams with my best friends for even an hour over the course of this past weekend, I think it would have been a tie!).

It was so nice to get away from the city as a couple and to explore a place that was totally new for both of us. We spent time in three sweet little beach towns — Kennebunkport, Wells, and Ogunquit (which was our favorite!) — and loved them all. Even better than the beautiful sights we saw and the delicious food (and cocktails) we had, though, was the chance to actively reflect on the last twelve months and how much they’ve meant to both of us. Marriage has been such a gift. Even though Matt and I were together for almost seven years by the time we tied the knot last June, there really has been something so special and distinct about this past year. I loved kicking back at our little rental cottage to go through our wedding album, watch all of the footage from our wedding day (you can check out our trailer here!), and swap favorite memories. I also made a playlist of songs from our past eight years together, so we even got sentimental with our soundtrack.

Here are some photos from our anniversary weekend!

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Checking out the beach (and this guy) from the rocks in Wells.

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Dinner (and a ridiculously strong and delicious strawberry lemonade cocktail that knocked me on my you-know what) at Barnacle Billy’s in Perkin’s Cove. This may have been the highlight of the trip for me! 

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So much lobster!

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Ice cream excitement at The Scoop Deck. (All those flavors!)

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Boozy strawberry lemonade was the theme of my weekend.

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Walking on the beach in Oguinquit. The water was so cold — the Jersey shore girl in me wasn’t ready for that.

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Dinner at Earth in Kennebunport.

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Walking on the beautiful Marginal Way in Ogunquit before we left on Sunday morning. 

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When we got back to New York on Sunday night, we cut into the top layer of our wedding cake (which had been waiting in the freezer since last year) and exchanged cards and gifts. It was nice to have one more thing to look forward to after our getaway was over, especially since we sat in three extra hours worth of traffic on the way home!

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I still love the way a ring looks on that man! 

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I’m not a huge fan of cake, but I was happy to finally get a chance to try a few bites, since I only got a taste at the actual wedding. It held up almost perfectly in the freezer, so I’m glad we stuck with the tradition.

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Since it was our paper anniversary, Matt got me a full-year subscription to the New York Times, which is something I’ve been talking about for ages. I’m so excited! He knows me well (and he loves a theme). That candle is the same one we had burning when Matt proposed, and we only take it out for special occasions. : ) 

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I didn’t stick to the paper theme, but I did have this box made for Matt. For months before our wedding, he was on the hunt for a special box for us to keep our keepsakes, and he never found anything he liked, so I thought this was the perfect way to celebrate our first year. I worked with an amazing Etsy shop on it. I also had something carved on the inside, and the finished product is beautiful. 

 

So grateful for our weekend away, and more excited than ever to see what happens in year two of our marriage! xo

ALSO…

…don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a bracelet from The Shine Project! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Thursday 5/29, so get those entries in ASAP!

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love rules.

How was your weekend? Ours was pretty magical. As I mentioned in my last post, Matt and I road tripped up to Mystic, Connecticut to celebrate the wedding of two of our very best friends. Taryn was a college friend of Matt’s when he and I started dating in our sophomore year, and she and I quickly bonded — and not just because I was desperate to make some girl friends among his group!

Over the years, Taryn and I have become super close, and when she met Steve the summer after graduation, it was almost like a match had been made in heaven between the two couples. We’ve loved hanging out with these two over the past few years, and I was so excited to be a bridesmaid in their wedding!

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The setting couldn’t have been more beautiful (seriously, did someone order that gorgeous sunset?), the live band had all of the guests singing and dancing like crazy, and the whole weekend was an amazing reunion with friends who we love and don’t get to see nearly enough. As if the festivities couldn’t get any more perfect, Taryn and Steve got a quadruple rainbow during their rehearsal dinner. These two don’t need any luck, but if that’s not a good omen, then I don’t know what is. We’re sending the new Mr. + Mrs. so many good wishes for may years of health and happiness ahead. YAY! You did it!

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Recently, a reader responded to my latest blog survey (it’s not too late to share your input here!) with some questions about my family, and how I maintain positive relationships with them. First of all, thank you so much, wherever you are, for sharing your own story so openly, and for all of your kind words. In the interest of privacy, I don’t want to get too specific here about my amazing family and how me make all of our craziness work, but I am happy to share some general “love rules” for how I approach relationships with all of my loved ones — friends, family, and husband.

1. Take people from where they are. You know your loved ones better than anyone, so you should know that the ways in which they communicate and show love — as well as their capacity to openly do either of those things — is unique and specific to them. I try not to hold my friends and family members to equal standards, because each one of them is different! It’s unfair to expect everyone to build their relationship with you in the same way, and if you do, you’re in for a lot of disappointment. Take people for who they are and love them just like that.

2. Figure out your special “thing.” love having elements to each of my relationships that feel really specific and personal to “us” — an inside joke, a shared love for a certain type of food, a standing date to do the same thing together every month, or even just a weird facial expression that we flash to each other across the room if a situation gets weird. I think that finding this “thing” is really helpful, especially when you’re struggling to find common ground with someone you care about at any given time.

3. Communicate. Ohhhh, if Matt had a penny for every time I’ve dropped this word over the past eight years, we’d probably own this apartment (and maybe even a house in the suburbs, too) by now. I don’t communicate with all of my loved ones in the same way (see #1), but I do try to keep open lines of communication open with everyone as much as possible — and I’ve learned that the ways that I interact with people evolve, too. Maybe it’s time, or maybe I’m just getting wiser as I get older (yeesh!), but I find that — in most of my relationships — communication improves over the years. That brings me to my last suggestion…

4. Relationships evolve! You and your friends and family members probably don’t interact with each other now the same way you did five years ago, which means your relationship still probably has a lot of changing to do over the next five — or ten, or twenty! — years. If you’re not totally comfortable with how things are going with a specific person in your life, don’t be hard on yourself… and try not to be hard on them, either. Relationships aren’t static, and as long as you’re actively working to figure out how you and that person can treat each other more lovingly and respectfully in the future, you will get there — even if it’s a process.

I hope that’s helpful! I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below, too.

teeny tiny space entertaining.

There’s a lot out there about “small space hacks,” for everything from storage to decorating to entertaining. Let me tell you though — when you’ve been living in less than 700 square feet for over two years with a 6’2″ man and all of your combined stuff, this idea of “small space” starts to feel a little like an understatement. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing apartment, but it is definitely cozy, and as happy as I am to have been able to stay here into a third year (who wants to deal with a move???), there are days when it feels like the walls are closing in on us a bit, because no amount of obsessive cleaning and organizing (guilty!) can stop your life from growing over time — which is what it’s supposed to do!

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Even with the limitations of our teeny tiny space (yup, I’m not even calling it “small” in this case), I absolutely love opening up our home to friends and family. We’ve actually hosted people here at the apartment four of the last five days! Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up to help make teeny tiny space entertaining easier and more fun:

  • Get through your backlog of dirty dishes before your guests arrive. Whether you have a dishwasher or are the dishwasher, make sure you’re starting with a clean slate of plates, cups, and cutlery before your friends and family walk in the door. If your teeny space is like mine, your sink is practically IN your living room, so the more you can do to avoid an overflow situation at the end of the evening, the better off you’ll be. Plus, you’ll free up dishes to use, so you won’t have to wash as you go!

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  • Food-wise, don’t try to do it all. Even in an average-sized kitchen, serving your guests appetizers, a main dish, sides, and a dessert is a hefty undertaking — so don’t expect to do it and make it look simple in your smaller kitchen. I like to focus my hosting plan to make prep and clean-up easier, and to avoid running out of room in the apartment! Earlier this week, we invited friends over for fresh berries, homemade whipped cream, and champagne. Last night, I simply put out meats, cheese, veggies, and a tray of frozen Trader Joe’s appetizers (guys, these are lifesavers — and even if you pride yourself on your cooking, there’s no shame!). One of my favorite things is to invite people over for a simple bagel breakfast. Don’t do too much!
  • Keep it casual. When you’re moving furniture around to accommodate extra bodies and squeezing past each other to find a seat, you get over the formalities of entertaining pretty quickly. Early on, this kind of embarrassed me, but I’ve now embraced it! I find that it makes my guests feel comfortable in my home really fast, and I love that my friends feel free to grab their own glass from the cabinet or to kick their shoes off at the door without asking me first.
  • Consider a solo clean-up. always appreciate it when my guests offer to help pick things up after we’ve spent time together, but given the size of my kitchen, I’ve realized that it’s often easier to gracefully turn down the extra set of hands and just handle it myself. When my apartment gets too cramped with people trying to tidy up (as nice as that can be!), it tends to get me a little overwhelmed and stressed out. (I’m also a control freak, so admittedly, this may just be a weird personal preference!)

Do you have any tips for entertaining, regardless of the size of your space? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

…and don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a Charcoal Cleansing Bar from Beautycounter, a product I’ve been loving over the past few weeks. Even with so many guests in and out of the apartment recently, I’ve been totally makeup free! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Tuesday 5/30, so get those entries in ASAP!

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a random fact for every mile.

I never hit “publish” on a blog post in the middle of the night, so by the time you’re reading this, it will probably be a perfectly acceptable hour on Friday morning… but, for the record, it’s currently 1:16 AM.

Until now, it’s actually been a really great week for me where sleep is concerned (a cause for celebration over here!). It should come as no surprise to any of us, though, that the insomnia that I so love to hate is back at it so close to tomorrow’s half marathon. I have to check in at the start of the race at about 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, which means I am now about 28 hours away! Please cross your fingers right along with me that I’ll be able to wind down for a solid night of sleep later tonight. (Tomorrow night? It’s unclear. But you catch my drift.)

In honor of the 13.1 miles I have ahead of me — and also because it’s fun — I’m sharing 13 random facts about myself below. I bet even my close friends and family members won’t know them all : )

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Don’t mind the man lurking behind me. I’m just hangin’ out in my favorite hat.

  1. It took me a truly embarrassingly long time to learn to ride a two-wheeler. By the time I had it down, I was probably closer to seven than six. Even then, I refused to turn left, and instead rode loops in one direction for hours at a time in the parking lot of my dad’s high school (which was the place where, after months of hard work, I finally figured the whole thing out).
  2. The fact that our guests weren’t allowed to shower Matt and I with rainbow sprinkles as we walked down the aisle after our ceremony was one of the very few things about our wedding that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Believe me, I asked. More than once.
  3. I played Kim MacAfee in a Girl Scout camp production of Bye, Bye Birdie circa 2003. It was the single highlight of my musical theater career.
  4. Since moving to New York, I’ve developed an irrational fear of falling down the stairs. I blame all of the frantic trips down the subway steps.
  5. It took me three tries to get my driver’s license, but I haven’t so much as scratched or dented a car since then (knock on wood).
  6. I know every word to “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights,” thanks to a loooooonnnngggg family road trip to Canada a few years ago during which we listened to an old Meatloaf CD and little else.
  7. I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.
  8. Halloween is my absolute least favorite holiday. I know this is a highly controversial opinion, but I hope we can still be friends.
  9. Disneyworld commercials make me cry. Ever since our honeymoon to Antigua, ads for Sandals all-inclusives have the same effect.
  10. As a teenager, I was one of those girls who thought it was super cool to wear cheap stilettos from Payless and the Macy’s double clearance rack to school. I felt totally fabulous, but believe me, it didn’t really match my image. Ironically, I could probably count the number of times I wear a heel annually as an adult on my fingers.
  11. When I was in third grade, I started a class newspaper.
  12. On the rare occasion that I go on a YouTube binge, I typically stick to videos of Jimmy Fallon’s Puppy Predictors and clips of “Hot Topics” from The View.
  13. I’ve always hated coffee, but now that so much of my work life revolves around meetings and work sessions in coffee shops, I’m learning to drink it. I have to admit that in the hot temperatures we’ve had in New York for the past few days, an iced coffee feels pretty good.

Happy weekending, everyone! If you’re feeling inspired by my random confessions, feel free to leave a random fact about yourself in the comments below. In case you couldn’t tell already, this is a judgement-free zone.

And don’t forget to check back in early next week… Tuesday is giveaway day! I can’t wait to share this month’s prize with you! 

 

lessons from the mothers in my life.

One of the biggest blessings of having grown up as a child of divorce is the fact that, compared to most, I’ve had (quite literally) double the family: double the people to laugh with, double the people to cry to, double the people to learn from, and double the people to hug through the good times and the bad. With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I feel especially grateful to have been inspired by so many amazing maternal figures in my almost-27 (eek!) years of life.

I have a mom who’s been my very best friend for as long as I can remember, a stepmom who totally accepted me as her own daughter when I was three years old, and grandmothers who have given and loved me with all that they have every single day. These women are the foundation of everything I am and everything that I believe, and I am endlessly, humbly grateful for their influence, generosity, and love. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d love to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from the mothers in my life over the years:

  • Don’t wait around for other people to define you or give you permission to be yourself.
  • It’s OK to be sassy sometimes.
  • Always do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
  • You never know who you’re going to run into. (I know this one means I shouldn’t leave the apartment looking like a mess, so I’m sorry that I don’t follow it all the time).
  • Your friends are a reflection of who you are.
  • Keep a healthy perspective. There are always people in the world with struggles more serious than your own.
  • Eating ice cream for dinner is allowed in the summertime, and cake for breakfast is required on your birthday.
  • Take good care of your skin.
  • It’s never too late to start over, or start again.
  • You are the only one responsible for your own happiness.
  • There’s no shame in doing things that other people don’t understand.
  • Doing well is important, but doing good is even more important.
  • True kindness is about doing something nice for someone else and not telling them about it.
  • Staying in bed too late is a waste of the day.
  • There is always more you can be doing with your time. Use it, because you’re capable of more than you realize.
  • When it doubt, go to the beach. Or find a puppy to hug.
  • Don’t let anyone or anything break your spirit.
  • Make your home a place where people know they can find good food and a good listener.
  • Never be a quitter.
  • Being kind to everyone isn’t the same as allowing others to be unkind to you.
  • Celebrate every last little thing.
  • Family comes first, always.

I could probably spend three more hours adding to this list, but I’m starting to tear up so I’m going to stop : ) How lucky am I? These women in my life are wise and loving rock stars, and I hope I can grow to fill even a fraction of their shoes.

One of my favorite parts about my wedding was having a chance to take photos with some of the most special people in my life. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day, of me with my mom, stepmom, and grandmothers. It broke my heart that one of my grandmothers wasn’t there with us, but I was wearing her bracelet in her memory! I know she was there in spirit.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing mamas out there. You make us who we are! I hope your weekend is full of homemade cookies, family hugs, and sunny weather. xo