Sincerity – Lost In This Online Era

We live in a unique time.

The internet has become the center of everything, from business & commerce to communication & relationships. We essentially live online – Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, Pinterest, gossip and personal blogs, and the list could go on (and on and on and on).

Social media platforms have become so common that you’d be hard-pressed to find a person without an account of any kind! They’ve become a focal point of our lives, allowing us to creatively share our personalities and unique outlooks, family updates, accomplishments, struggles, opinions, daily activities, our everything with the world. And we in turn consume everything everyone else shares, too.

But it seems a shift has happened. In having these platforms to learn and communicate with others on a large scale, we’ve slowly begun presenting virtual lives that don’t always reflect our realities.

I’m not going to exclude myself from this! We all want to share pretty pictures. We want to capture attention. We want to have impact. We want likes, follows, comments, compliments, and for people to think of us as successful, capable, and fun humans! We want to feel seen, heard, respected, and even envied.

We pick the perfect image out of 100 takes, spend a considerable amount of time trying to write a good caption, and highlight the most amazing stories of our lives. You’ve heard it before – we share our highlight reels. Sure, we give glimpses of struggle. We say, “I didn’t want to go to the gym, but I went anyway! Push through your ruts, friends!” And maybe we add some awful cliche quote about greatness. (*insert eyeroll here*)

Unfortunately the desire to share our lives, increase exposure, and project confidence and success has transformed into sharing perfection – and perfection doesn’t exist. Instead of just adding a filter to our pictures, we’re adding filters to our entire existence.

So what about the days when we don’t feel like going to the gym and then DON’T? What about saying, “I didn’t want to go to the gym today, and I didn’t. I know I should’ve pushed through, but I didn’t. I feel crappy and guilty and like a failure, but I’ll try to find grace and give myself a break.” THAT’S real.

It’s a balancing act, really.

Share the pictures where you feel beautiful, edit the lighting of the photos, tell everyone your stories of accomplishment and new journeys. But upload those photos where your pimples show, too. Upload the photos of you with your kids at the park where your hair was blown into a rat’s nest. Share the picture of your crying baby, and share that it’s hard to come home from a long day of work to a whiney child. SHARE YOUR REALITY, which may not necessarily be deemed Instagram-worthy by society!

Don’t get lost in sharing only the highlights. Allow people to relate to you! Do you want impact? Allow people to see that you’re JUST like them. They’ll feel capable when you succeed, resilient when you recover from life’s difficult moments, and understood when you share your raw and vulnerable truth. Allow people to encourage you and cheer you on when you need it!

Sharing Through A Lens of Perfection Hurts Us Too

We don’t just alter others’ views of our lives by sharing our highlight reels, but our views of others’ lives are also altered.

We’ve all done it… we scroll through our Instagram search feed and see beautiful pictures. Ocean sunrises that make us feel like we need a vacation. An Acai bowl that makes us wish we lived in a bigger city where we could easily access healthy fast food. A perfectly styled Instagram influencer that makes us feel like we need to drop everything and give our closet a complete overhaul. Like seriously, would Goodwill even accept these clothes?! “NO, these aren’t armpit sweat stains on my white t-shirt… I’M CLEAN!” (Yes, people, white shirts make me feel like a dirty, dirty cave woman who hasn’t taken a shower in 33 weeks.)

We compare. We feel left behind. We feel like we’re not as accomplished as we should be at this age. We feel like we need to be better at doing makeup. We need more friends. We need to be funnier, more determined and focused, more positive, more grateful, more confident. We’ve all had our own versions of these thoughts. But in the words of a wise pastor I grew to love church from, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Steven Furtick, you truth-teller, you!!

Spending too much time online, whether it’s Instagram scrolling or gossip column reading, can be incredibly detrimental. We develop a warped view of the world and come to believe that we’re not enough, we need to be better, and that everyone else in the world was dealt a better hand than us. What we consume influences our energy; if we’re constantly ingesting information and media that make us feel less than, we will view our lives as less than.

It makes me think about what I share, and how I share my life. I want to be more transparent, which this blog helps with so much. I want to be honest. I don’t want to share only from a place of happiness, peace, and love, but also from the places of sadness, stress, anxiety, and plain pity (we all throw pity parties, and let’s not pretend it doesn’t feel damn good to feel sorry for ourselves!). I seek to inspire and encourage people to own who they are, believe in their dreams, and fight the good fight every day, and I want people to know how much I truly mean what I say and what I share. It is my absolute top priority to post authentic content and sincere encouragement that comes from a place of experience and love, not just “pretty words” or “content fluff.”

I want you to know my deepest heart, goals, fears, successes, insecurities, and personal journey, and I want to share it with vulnerability, authenticity, and honesty. NOTHING deters an audience/following more than insincere and empty words. I know how uncomfortable I feel when I read a caption that feels fake, forced, or cliche.

It’s okay if some people don’t like this blog. It’s okay if some people don’t like my Instagram feed or read my Facebook posts. It’s okay if people don’t like me. Those who do will make up my tribe, and I want to filter out the ones that won’t stick up for me, cheer me on, or celebrate my accomplishments with me.

I’m set on throwing out insincere crap and showing up as flawed and as human as I am. Let’s work on this together!

My Blog: A Path to Healing and Purpose

I’ve been reflecting on this blog and my writing the past couple days. Why does my blog feel so precious to me, regardless of followers/popularity? I think we can all admit that there are very few things in life we’ll joyfully spend a ton of time on without expecting anything in return. But this blog? It feels so valuable and wholesome, like something I’m willing to go so far to develop, share, and spend hours writing for every week!

After some serious reflection, I’ve figured out what makes writing so special to me.

Writing Heals Me

Writing gives me a creative outlet, where possibilities seem endless and my innermost struggles can reveal themselves. I’m able to tap into my deeply held beliefs, long-standing assumptions, and subconscious fears that influence every single one of my thoughts and actions. Writing allows me to explicitly identify what I feel, from both subjective and objective standpoints, and to work through my emotions to gain sight of the bigger picture. Writing is my therapist; I can walk through solutions, restructure my thoughts and beliefs, and deal with confusing emotions in a healthy way. Put simply, I heal through my writing.

Writing also helps me organize my otherwise chaotic thoughts. I’m able to focus on one thing – the task at hand (writing) – instead of being bombarded and then distracted by 100 thoughts and stimuli around me! My brain tends to hop from task to task, memory to memory, thought to thought, and before I know it, hours have passed with me feeling like I lost out on precious time living in the moment. Writing prevents that by anchoring me to a moment in time, to a single thought train. Writing stops time for me. And honestly, when my mind is calmed, my body follows. You might say that if writing is my cheaper therapist, it’s also my anti-anxiety medication!

Vulnerability & Strength

So much vulnerability and truth can come from our words, and through that vulnerability and honesty comes strength and confidence.

I have no interest in painting the prettiest picture that others can hope for but not relate to. In this space you get the good, the bad, the ugly, the sad, the weakness, my faltering, self-doubting truth, and the liberation that comes from recognizing and standing up to it all. I don’t write to tell a pretty story; I write to free myself from what society tells me needs to stay hidden and suppressed. And through this honesty, I’m able to connect with people who struggle staying afloat in the same waters. In my opinion, not one person on this earth is exempt from them. Every human can relate to at least one thing in this blog, and the variety of my visitors lends support to that theory.

Did you know I’ve had blog visitors from Italy, China, Denmark, Nigeria, Russia, Columbia, Australia, Thailand, and more? Its’ incredible! That breadth of audience allows me to relate to men & women, middle-aged adults & teenagers, corporate professionals and stay-at-home parents, Christians and atheists, Americans and Thais – literally every kind of human. Because the thing is, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you label yourself as: the deepest human emotions are universal. They transcend language, nationality, gender, race, socioeconomic status, and all other socially-recognized and geographical barriers. Regardless of our differences, we all experience happiness, sadness, fear, hunger, tiredness, loneliness, heartbreak, and self-doubt.

Think about it. Do you wade in waters of self-disgust because your ex-boyfriend told you you’ll never be able to do better than the abusive relationship you were in with him? Maybe your dad grew increasingly absent after your parents’ divorce, so abandonment and insecurity is the beat you march to every day. Listen, your circumstances may be unique to you, but the basic human emotion is not.

Chasing My Passion

Writing for this blog makes me feel like I’m actually chasing my dream of writing for a living. Like, I’m actually sharing my thoughts with the world, which 7 months ago, TERRIFIED me. I don’t think I was scared of failing, because how could I fail at writing a blog? If I stick with it, there’s no such thing as failure. If I ultimately decide after a while that it’s not for me and I don’t want to continue on with it, then I gained a lot during the process: I learned about building a website, promoting a product/service/content, that there’s confidence in vulnerability, and that I can overcome a fear and GROW! So no, I wasn’t scared of failing.

Do you know what did terrify me, though? I was scared of people knowing my hand – reading about my fears, insecurities, and dreams – and then believing I’m a fraud who can’t see that I don’t have what it takes. I was scared of people seeing me as a failure.

Something I’ve always struggled with, and will always have to fight against, is the belief that others’ views of my worth and ability determine my worth and ability. At best, that’s silly, and at worst, soul-crushing, destructive, and demeaning. If the world’s most renowned and successful author told me I don’t have what it takes, it wouldn’t matter. Truly, it would mean nothing. That world-renowned author? They’re a human, and humans are wrong all the time. They don’t see everything I’ve experienced, the passion I have to learn, grow, and reach my goals, nor do they know the plans God has for my life. They aren’t psychic, and I know that no one has the power to derail or guarantee my success except for ME and GOD.

What I have to repeatedly tell myself is that unbelief from other people doesn’t disqualify me from success. That means that I don’t have to fear others perceiving me as a failure! With every published blog post, I feel closer and closer to reaching my ultimate dream: publishing books! I know that my writing CAN be how I earn a living and live out my dreams. I know that my writing WILL be how I earn a living and live out my dreams!

So, friends, come on this journey with me! Learn with me, cry with me, dance weird with me, be scared with me, find happiness and utter peace with me, fight back against limiting beliefs with me! I’ll share what can otherwise be a very lonely place: my mind. You’ll get to know me, get to know your mind, and maybe you, too, will begin writing to free yourself from the chaos that fills your spirit!

Goal-Setting for 2020!

2020 is here, y’all!!!

There’s such an awesome energy and excitement for what feels like a bit of a fresh start! 2020 in particular feels bigger – it’s a whole new decade of happiness, good living, soul-enamoring gratitude, and opportunity! Guys, some of the most incredible moments of our lives haven’t even happened yet! Does that make your heart burst and soar like it does mine?! Goodness gracious, I am SO EXCITED for this year!!!

I know a lot of us look forward to our futures in general, whether it’s catalyzed by the new year rolling around or not. We have dreams, ladies and gents! We see this new year, our futures, as a clean slate, full of opportunity, elevated mindsets, new experiences, increased income, and more fulfillment and happiness than ever before. So many of us have high, high hopes (cue Panic! At The Disco) and celebrate that along with the turning of the new year!

But for some, recognizing and celebrating a new year feels overrated, pointless, and even a bit dreadful. Like, “Another new year is rolling around, and I’m still where I was at a year ago? Another year, but still no closer to the life I want or hitting the milestones I envisioned?” Or how about the more bitter comments like, “My life is what it is; I’ve been dealt the cards I have and dreaming for bigger and better is simply a fantasy that I’m too old and experienced to get caught up in. I know what this world is. I know what this life is like. My life won’t magically be better this year; it’ll be the same crap.” Let’s not exclude the things we tell ourselves when scrolling through Facebook and Insta, either: “If I see one more person post ‘new year, new me’ I’m going to freak. New year, new you? Maybe strive to find some originality this year, Karen, and let your actions speak for you.

Yiiiikes. Was that a bit intense? Too negative? Well, I’ve thought these exact thoughts before. Add in “New year, same single/lonely life” and “why would my life be any different this year than it has been in the past?” and you have my precise thought pattern at the end of every year. I know I’m not alone in this.

Your Outlook on 2020

How you view the new year says a lot about how you view your life. Maybe you are excited and you’re looking forward to all of the growth you’ll achieve!

Maybe, just maybe, though, you’re in the latter group. Maybe you feel angry at life because it just doesn’t treat you well. You think it beats you down, chews you up, and spits you out. You think it keeps you trapped in your circumstances no matter how hard you try. You’re not looking forward to the new year because you didn’t find happiness in any of the other years.

You wake up exhausted, stuck, and numb, and when you do feel something, it’s irritability and anger. I know your pain because I’ve lived it. You think the unfair, difficult world is the reason you’re not happy. But please let me speak to you from a place of kindness, grace, and love: You’re wrong. You have a victim mentality, and your mindset is the reason your current life is the way it is.

As much as we refuse to believe it, and as “out there” as it may seem, we manifest what we believe – about ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and our futures. We define our realities. If you believe you’re a victim and that life is always against you, you’re going to find every reason in life why that’s true. When something goes wrong, you’re going to blame the universe. When you’e exhausted, you’re going to blame your husband and your kids. When you feel overwhelmed, you’re going to blame your job and society for fueling the expectation that you have to be a career woman and a supermom and a good wife and an individual.

The problem with all of this, though, is that you come to believe that you have no control over your life, and you in turn take no responsibility. By victimizing yourself, you take away your power, put yourself in a position of constant defense (as opposed to being on the offense), and allow your circumstances to determine the quality of your life. You allow misery and helplessness to expand into every nook and cranny of your heart and mind until all you see, all you feel, is mental and spiritual suffocation.

Friends, it doesn’t have to be that way. Please read that again. It doesn’t have to be that way.

You can reframe your thoughts and live an entirely different life. If you strive to see every obstacle and difficulty in life in a positive light, you’re never going to let any bumps in the road slow you down, derail your progress, or define your worth. You develop a tenacity, a drive, that makes incredible things happen for you! You come to believe in yourself, that things will work out for the best, and that you’re capable of achieving every goal on your heart. And guess what? Your stars align; the universe comes into harmony with you. Things begin to happen!

I know it feels impossible to go from a person who feels pummeled by life to a person who believes in positivity, manifestation, and self-efficacy. You think that you are the way you are and that’s just how you’re made. But I promise you, it’s possible. It won’t happen overnight, but little by little, you’ll become the person you never knew you needed. Even if you’re weary, get a piece of paper, a pen, and ignore your hesitations. We’re jumping into 2020, y’all!

Building the Framework for 2020 Success

If 2020 is going to be your year, then you MUST tackle it with intention and focus. It’s super important to define exactly what your goals are for the year ahead, which is why I set aside time to make a list of my own goals! With a pen and paper in my lap, I asked myself: What do I want to happen this year? What steps am I going to take to get closer to my huge dreams? When I envision a successful year, what do I see myself achieving?

I anticipated this exercise would go quickly because I’m a huge dreamer and goal-digger (Jenna Kutcher reference – check her out if you have no clue who I’m talking about!). Like, I definitely know what I want in my future: Making 6 figures, owning my own brand and business, having the freedom to live life on my terms, owning condos in Hawaii (near my mommy) and down south (near my sisters), and starting my own non-profit.

But y’all, I sat there and wrote nothing, because my mind went BLANK!

Seriously, I couldn’t identify what I wanted to accomplish specifically in the next 365 days. I know clearly what I want down the road, but I struggled to break those huge dreams down into smaller steps that I could work toward now! How could I work towards something if I didn’t even know what “something” was?! How could I have a productive year, a breakthrough year, if I didn’t even know what I wanted to happen?

THIS is the reason this exercise is important! THIS is the reason I’m writing about this!

Friends, I want you to do the same thing. Sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself what you want for 2020. Write down the first things that pop into your mind, the dreams that don’t make perfect sense, the goals that you think you don’t have time for. Write it ALL down!

Half the battle is simply allowing yourself to dream and resisting the “Well it’s never gonna happen so what’s the point of thinking about it” attitude. Take your dreams and begin breaking them down into smaller steps.

  • Do you want to buy a home? Save for your down payment. What can you aim to save this year?
  • Do you want to own your own bakery? Take a cake decorating class this year!
  • Do you want to find happiness? Buy a top-rated self development book and get to work!

No matter what it is you dream of, there are things you can do this year that will get you closer to your end-goal. Make your list, narrow your focus, and harness your power! Work your butt off to achieve your 2020 goals, accept nothing less in the process, and they will happen for you! Your mind and energy are too powerful for the universe to ignore! Cheers!!!

Christmas 2019 and Trusting His Truth

How is it that Christmas has already come and gone?! Christmas was yesterday, and it was such a beautiful day! Both literally and figuratively. Like, it was actually 55 degrees outside in WISCONSIN (insert “shocked but thankful but kind of worried about global warming and altered seasons” emoji here).

It’s been a whirlwind of a holiday season, and although it’s not over yet, my heart is so full! But, if I’m being totally honest, I wish I was better at soaking in huge moments like this. I know how magical Christmas is, both as a Christian and as a momma, but I still seemed to get distracted by other things that didn’t really matter. My mind kept returning to the cleaning that needed to be done, the last-minute wrapping of friends’ and family members’ gifts, the dishes, laundry, the vacuuming of the pine needles and small rips of wrapping paper on the floor, the preparation to return to work the next day, and so on. So, to refocus and realign myself, I turned to writing this blog post!

Although so much fun has come from anticipating Santa’s arrival, finding our prankster elf, Collie, seeing the bright, twinkly lights of our real Christmas tree, and opening up our most-wanted Christmas gifts, I needed to remember that Christmas is celebrated because of the greatest, most merciful gift that could have ever been given: Jesus.

Yesterday, I prayed: God, I am more thankful that I can even feel right now. I’m sorry that my emotions don’t always reflect what I know to be true. I know I am blessed. I know I am protected. I know I am bigger than my to-do lists, than my worries, than this life. I know that You give me this day and the freedom to choose what I focus on. I know that I live the life I do – protected, loved, in fellowship with You – because of Your eternal gift of Jesus. This day is so clearly about You, our Savior, and Your will, and even knowing all of that, I am feeling more anchored to my physical life than I am my life in the Spirit. God, I ask that you remind who I am in You. I ask that the Holy Spirit rise up within me to connect me to You and Your righteousness. Lord, place Your hand over my heart to steady its pace and armor it with Your truth.

My day was perfect in so many ways, and yet my mind struggled to feel what I knew to be true.

I provide no magic, quick-fix to this problem in this post, and I refuse to lie and say that after I prayed, I received a miraculous emotional overhaul and peace. I didn’t. What did happen, though, is that I accepted that my very human feelings and emotions can’t always inform my thoughts or my outlook on life; sometimes what I feel doesn’t make sense and isn’t based on reality or truth. That’s one messy part of being a human in a broken world.

While I wish I could have been more focused on God and present in the moment than I was yesterday, I want to share some of the magic and love that made this Christmas so special! Take a peak at the pictures below and share in the joy! Happy Holidays!!

My sweet daughter, Natalie, with all of her gifts! That smile shows nothing but pure excitement!!!
Grandma and Papa in Hawaii sent her so many awesome Discovery and National Geographic gifts! Science exploration and building is definitely a mom-approved gift theme!!
After two years of having a cracked tablet that she used all.the.time….
She got a new one in blue!
She’s been wanting an Echo Dot (an Alexa) for so long – Santa delivered! Yay for jamming Justin Bieber and listening to whatever music she wants in the shower!
Okay, this one is from me. The book? It’s “I Need a New Butt” by Dawn McMillan. It is literally about a kid discovering he has a crack in his butt and therefore needs a new one. Haha! So cute!
Natalie was gifted Heelys (yes, these still exist) by Grandpa Dwayne and Grandma Christine!
Natalie was surprised to see her Uncle at Grandpa and Grandma’s, and it made her Christmas even more special! He used to have Heelys so he spent time teaching her how to skate in them!
Momma was treated to some gifts too, like this unbelievably soft pajama set! Hallelujah for matching PJs… normally I just wear some old sweatpants and a ripped T-shirt! #unashamed

Taking Control of Your Mind

Have you ever woken up, and within the first few seconds of consciousness, been bombarded with hundreds of thoughts at once? From the moment you open your eyes and look at the clock, you calculate how many minutes you have to get ready before you head out the door. You mentally review your schedule for the day: 4 clients, two meetings, finishing the excel spreadsheet your boss requested, and dealing with that difficult staff member. You need to make coffee, set your child’s clothes out, pick up milk on the way home from work, pay three bills this week, try to find a babysitter so you can work late Thursday night, and the list goes on. You haven’t even gotten out of bed yet and your mind is absolutely cluttered. “How is this possible?” you wonder. “How did I literally JUST wake up, and already my mind is running 1,000 mph? I’m supposed to feel well-rested, but I already feel overworked, stressed out, and exhausted… and my day hasn’t even started yet.”

A few years ago, I woke up to this automatic thought vomit every day. My mind was utterly flooded as soon as I opened my eyes. I remember one particular morning that I woke up, stepped in the shower, and just succumbed to the mental war that was my life. The hot water poured over my face while, completely unintentionally, I started singing the song that was stuck in my head from the day before. I then remembered my ex-boyfriend and how much he hurt me. I thought about the time we were out getting drinks and he refused to let me dance because he said it was embarrassing. And the time he said my psychology degree was a joke and that I thought I knew everything because of it. The recollection continued, and I became completely lost in the toxic memories of a relationship that made me feel small, unlovable, and needy. “Maybe I really wasn’t good enough. Maybe he really will find someone better than me, and I’ll still be alone. Maybe no one can love me.” I felt the same sting, rejection, and shame standing in that shower that I did back when it happened. I tilted my head to the side to allow the water to cover the rest of my body.

I then thought about my day ahead at work. I could feel my heart rate quicken and the dread of my day intensify. “I really am doing the best I can, but every single day I leave drained and frustrated. There’s so much work and not enough time, staff, or resources.” My mind continued to swirl and the anxiety grew as I listed off everything I needed to do. “Maybe I’m just not smart enough or organized enough for this job. Is this how the human services field is? I got my degree in psychology, but maybe I’ll just add to the number of people who don’t work in the field they received their education in. I feel like I’m failing.” I thought back to all of the mistakes I made on the job, and remembered the meeting I completely forgot about the week prior. My heart sank, and again, I felt the shame and guilt from that day. The fear of making more mistakes that confirmed my feelings of inadequacy further cluttered my mind.

“Oh gosh, I’ve been in the shower too long and haven’t even put shampoo in my hair yet. What has it been, probably 4 or 5 minutes? Shampoo, rinse, conditioner, wash face, wash body, rinse conditioner, turn the water off. How much time will I have to get lunch today? I have no leftovers to bring with me… I’ll have to stop somewhere. Oh I hate the winter, I’m going to be so cold when I pull back the shower curtain.”

My mind darted from thought to thought, stringing together any memories it could pull from the archives – a memory from 15 years ago to a memory from 2 days prior. So many thoughts ran rampant in my head – sometimes two or three at once – with no understanding of the consequences. I wasn’t controlling my mind, it was controlling me. I was being dragged along the ground by this thought train, and felt whiplashed mentally. I bet you do too, just from reading thus far!

The Truth

It’s no wonder I was exhausted at the start of every day. It’s no wonder I felt trapped. It’s no wonder I found myself asking if this is all there is to life. It’s no wonder I couldn’t find inspiration, passion, or creativity anywhere, no matter how hard I tried. My mind was stuck in a loop, thinking thoughts that reinforced my deepest insecurities, as well as the lie that my value was determined by what others thought of me. I allowed my thoughts to run freely and get tangled in my head, at arguably the most crucial and life-giving part of my day: the morning! I was the one responsible for “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”. I was starting my day out in a panic, in chaos and depression, and it put me in a horrible mood. I was smothering myself.

What’s sad is that I had no idea that this hijacking of my mind was happening. Truly, there was no awareness that I had a choice. My thoughts were just there, like my fingers were. I didn’t wake up and become cognizant of my fingers and what they were touching. In the same way, I didn’t wake up and think about what I was thinking about. I had no idea there was any other way to be.

Please allow me to speak truth to myself and to you: Our lives don’t have to be this way. Our lives aren’t meant to be this way.

When I became aware of my tendencies to reflect back on memories that didn’t uplift me, and to work myself up into a frenzy regarding the day that lied ahead, I set out to very intentionally take control. I decided that I would refuse to entertain any thoughts that only served to keep me trapped in my past; I would refuse to stress about something that hadn’t even happened yet. Every time I caught myself doing so, I literally said, “You are not thinking this. Think about something else.” Of course, when we try to avoid thinking of something, we actually can’t think about ANYTHING other than that sworn-off thought. So, I learned to not only stop my thoughts in their tracks, but to replace them. I’d say, “These aren’t life-giving and positive thoughts. Let’s think about (insert subject here).” One morning I literally thought about bears! “Baby bears are so cute. Polar Bear cubs are probably so happy rolling in the snow. I wonder which species of bear lived first.” Those thoughts may seem silly, and they were. But they were also positive and served to take my head out of toxicity! Once you become more comfortable switching topics of thought, you can plug in self-affirmations like:

  • I am not my job. I am a human and have an entire life outside of what I do for pay!
  • Some of the best days of my life haven’t even happened yet!
  • Others’ inability to see my worth DOES NOT mean I have none.
  • Today is going to be an awesome day!
  • There is only so much a human can do in one day. I will do my best to get a lot done, but if I can’t finish it all, I will NOT feel bad.
  • I am created to be exactly who I am, down to my fingertips. I have purpose exactly as I am!

I practiced this every morning, and then throughout every day. I became so much better at thinking about what I was thinking about. Weeks went by and I realized, in that very same shower, that I hadn’t thought of my ex-boyfriend in weeks. Thoughts that plagued me and made me feel pinned down suddenly weren’t there. I was anchored in the present moment, and I felt so light; I felt as though 300 pounds were lifted off of my shoulders.

Over three years have gone by since I started taking control of my thoughts, and I’ll admit that some days I fail. But my life changed from the moment I realized that the quality of my thoughts determines the quality of my life. Most days I’m in control of what I focus on, and I’m no longer sitting on the sidelines of life while trapped in my head.

Controlling your thoughts, especially in the morning, is crucial. Your experiences in the morning set the tone for your entire day. If you start your day with self-deprecating thoughts, memories that make you feel awful, and panic about the day that lies ahead, how can you expect to have a good day? These days I’m talking about – they add up to your life.

Your thoughts won’t completely transform over night. After all, you have decades worth of thought patterns to re-program. But I promise you that with every thought you cast down and replace, you gain more control over your mind. You will get better at choosing right thoughts – positive, affirming, hopeful, and uplifting ones. Be gentle with correcting yourself when your thoughts revert back to their old patterns; you’re a work in progress, friends!!

Worthlessness, I Don't Want to Forget You

There’s something I never want to forget.

The more I reflect on my journey to happiness, my blog, and the impact I want to have on people whose paths cross mine, the more I hear the words in my head, “Don’t forget where you came from; don’t forget who you once were.”

I feel tugging on my heart to share my bare, honest, vulnerable truth. And I’m honestly hesitant/anxious because I don’t at all want people to think less of me or view me as weak. But it’s important to me that I share the dark times of my life, which I still experience some days, so you know that it’s possible to rise above it and come out on the other side.

Just a few years ago, I was a mess. I was broken in every sense of the word. Sometimes I think back and get embarrassed that people likely remember me as that girl, but right now, I wish you would’ve known me. You would see how different I am today compared to then.

I was so unhappy. I was so lost. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I felt isolated, forgotten, easily replaceable, and unimportant. Every rejection I experienced – from a boy I liked not feeling the same to a lower grade than expected on a paper – made me feel so worthless. I took every single “no” and “not yet” personally and internalized them as a reflection of my value. I had no sense of self, no anchor, no faith or trust that life would work out for me. I didn’t feel like I would ever find happiness, peace, or success, and I don’t think I really even felt like I deserved it.

Those emotions and thoughts extended into my body image. I felt hideous – truly so ugly. I hated my teeth. I hated my differently shaped ears. I hated my small boobs, my toes, my smaller upper lip. I hated my narrow nose, how wide my ribs and shoulders were, and my forehead. I was disgusted and ashamed of so many little things about myself. I felt like no one would love me because of my physical appearance but also because of how shattered I was on the inside. Sure I hoped for it, but I didn’t think it would ever actually happen.

I felt embarrassed to take up space. I felt like an imposter in my college classes and on campus. I felt like any compliment or praise I received, or any good thing that happened in my life, was because people just didn’t know how worthless I was. They just didn’t know me well enough. In this moment, I feel every ache and every bit of shame that I did back then.

The Shift

About two years ago, I was reading a Christian self-help book called “You’re Already Amazing” by Holley Gerth. In one of the chapters, she prompted me to write down the lie my heart still hears about myself. Do you know what I wrote?

“You are trash. Trash. No matter what degree you get, how many people you help, what prestigious role you hold in your lifetime, you are nothing. Nothing more than your past. You are trashy and broken. You may be confident and happy now, but you won’t be next week. You will be broken again. That is your default place; you are your default.”

I finished writing that on the page, read it over, and just burst into tears. I was trying so hard to change, to feel better, and to take control of my life. I cried then and I cry now because that’s the inner dialogue I was feeding myself. I cried because I know that in stripping away the facade, the smile, the fake confidence, and the accomplishments, that’s truly what I thought of myself. Everything I felt, thought, or did was filtered through that lens, which allowed those feelings of self-hate and depression to become cyclical and thrive.

I lived every single day believing that lie just a few years ago. But today? Today I am changed.

I pulled myself out of the raging waters that were drowning me and clawed my way to happiness. I now use God’s truth – that I am loved, valued, perfect just as I am – as my inner dialogue. God purposefully and intentionally stitched together every cell in my body, so who am I to say I’m not worthy? My daughter is half of me – I would never in a thousand years want her to view one single fiber of her being through that light. I now appreciate and love who I am and what I look like, because it truly takes less energy to accept yourself than to hate yourself. Listen, friends. Do you want to feel freedom? Let go of all the lies pinning you down and holding you back, and you will fly!

Today I wake up excited, grateful, and HOPEFUL for everything I’m able to do and for all of my blessings. I know my life has a sense of direction; I feel a steady, calm sureness about it. I wake up with God on my side, who is excited to lead me through my life. I know He has plans for me beyond my wildest dreams; I know in my soul that some of the greatest moments of my life haven’t even happened yet!

Why I Refuse to Forget

I understand the damage that a broken soul can yield. I understand that we’re all trying our absolute best, and that we’re so flawed, fickle, and fragile. I know that we experience more pain in this life than we ever should, and I know that it’s nearly impossible to spread love from a heart of shattered pieces. For that, I am more forgiving, more nurturing, and far less judgmental. Life is messy, and I won’t for one second pretend that I have it all figured out.

There are days I revert back to that old belief; 24 years is a long time to believe something. But most days? Most days I live loved. And that allows me to love others in a way I never knew possible.

I want you to know that I’ve lived in dark pits of despair, depression, irritability, and worthlessness, and even if you’ve never experienced a life other than that, you CAN. I won’t ever forget my feelings of worthlessness because through them, I can relate to others living their lowest lows.

I challenge you, friends, to write down a lie you’ve believed about yourself for far too long. Challenge that belief every day. Write down reasons it’s NOT true. Repeat, over and over, the opposite until you begin to believe that it is indeed a lie. You are worthy. You are loved. You are seen. ❤

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

The day before yesterday was Thanksgiving, and while I initially planned on publishing this post then, I decided to spend Thanksgiving Day living fully in the moment and reflecting on everything I’m thankful for!

In line with my morning journaling (check out “My Early Morning Routine” post from earlier this month!), I believe there is so much power in taking the time to identify our many blessings. It takes the focus off of never-ending to-do lists, our daily responsibilities, and the tendency to constantly seek the “next best thing.” So, this post is my recognition of how plentiful my blessings are; it is a list of what I’m most grateful for, along with an appreciation for how far I’ve come.

I will admit that when I sat down to write this, I struggled with knowing where to begin. How can I convey my thoughts and feelings in a way that really reflects the emotion that’s been sitting inside me for the past two days? Words so often fail to adequately describe the deepest of emotions. Well, ladies and gents, put horns on my head and call me stubborn, because I’m going to try! (My horoscope is a bull… too cheesy of a Taurus reference? Anyway…)

Forever Thankful

My daughter; my mini-me; my sidekick; THE most magical part of my life – I’m so thankful for you. You came into my life quite unexpectedly at 19, and you helped me grow in ways I’ll continue to discover every day. You taught me to live life bigger than my emotions. You taught me to push through trying times. You taught me that giving up is never a choice. You taught me to model the life I want you to have, to honor what somebody deserves rather than what I feel like giving, and to wake up and see each day as the opportunity it is. Parenthood has taught me to prioritize happiness and self-care, because I simply can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s taught me to teach through actions, not just words. It’s taught me that the most magical and important thing in life is love.

I’m so thankful for my home. My daughter has her own bedroom, we have a backyard, and we have our own washer and dryer! In my adult life, I’ve lived in a home infested with fire ants, a studio home with a mini fridge and microwave as its kitchen, and a duplex with neighbors that threatened my life on a number of occasions (yikes!). This home we have now? We’re warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We have wonderful neighbors and live in an awesome neighborhood. We’re safe and protected. We’re blessed.

I’m thankful for my two kitties, Otis and Josie, who bring so much joy to mine and Natalie’s lives. They are lazy but needy, they obsess over food/eating (perfect match!), and they are so protective over both of us! Otis and Josie both sleep in Natalie’s room, and when she crawls into my bed at night (unbeknownst to me), they follow right along! If I’m brushing my teeth, you better bet your bottom dollar that Otis is sprinting with all of his might to leap onto the sink and stand between me and the water. And who needs a dog when you have two cats who greet you at the door every day?! They’re goofy and unique, and they’re so adored by us!

I’m thankful that even though my sisters, niece & nephew, mom, step-dad, and little brothers live far away and in scattered states, we’ve all found happiness exactly where we are. It sometimes hurts to miss people you love so much, but to know that each person feels that they genuinely belong right where they are makes it all bearable.

I’m thankful that I have friends who are like family. These friends support me and encourage all of my crazy ideas. They see my goofiness as fun, my dreams as attainable, and my un-showered self as beautiful. Spending time with theme quite literally refreshes my soul and makes me feel like a carefree teenager again. They remind me that while “Mom” is my most treasured role, I am more than that – I’m a woman, a friend, an individual. When I lived in Hawaii, I missed these ladies to the core of my being. I just couldn’t find people I had a strong bond with. As isolating and lonely as those few years were, it has allowed me to see how crucial a tribe is for my well-being and happiness.

I’m thankful for even more:

I’m thankful that my daughter has access to free education.

I’m thankful that I have a safe and reliable vehicle.

I’m thankful that I have an income from a job that I genuinely enjoy.

I’m thankful that I had Thanksgiving Day off of work, that I got to dance in the kitchen with Natalie while we mixed the ingredients for our cornbread casserole, and that my family came together to share a delicious and bountiful meal.

I’m thankful that I get to dream – I get to strive for more, work for more, and be expectant of more, whatever I want “more” to be.

I’m thankful that I live in a time where there are unlimited resources that allow me to create my own website/blog! Having Google at your fingertips? It’s extraordinary! At what other time in history was information and knowledge so readily available? Never! I’m so blessed to live in this era.

I’m thankful that I’ve experienced genuine happiness and peace, and not just for a few minutes in a day. I’ve experienced living on Cloud 9 for months at a time. I’ve felt happiness despite my circumstances and joy beyond what I ever thought was possible. Who do I have to thank for that, you ask? God.

I’m thankful for God and all He has done and has planned for me. He loves me at my lowest, no less than when I’m at my best. He is by my side when I feel so alone and overwhelmed with life. He cares for me enough to hear my desperate pleas for what I feel I need for my life, but to not give into anything that is not in line with His wonderful plan.

This list could continue on forever, as there is no shortage of blessings in my life. That’s the beautiful thing about gratitude: once you recognize what it is and practice it enough, you realize the list of what to be grateful for reaches to infinity.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful reminder to stop and simply sit in gratitude for the way your life is. I am blessed. I am so so blessed. What are you thankful for this year? Comment below!

Gratitude for Living the Life We Do

I have a question for you: Do you ever think about how blessed/lucky we are to live the way we do?

Earlier this Fall, I drove past an older woman kneeling down in her yard pulling weeds from her flower beds. I looked up at the sky and thought about what a perfect day it was to do so. The sun was shining without a cloud in sight, the temperatures were in the upper 60s, and the breeze was light. Life felt calm. I felt peaceful. And I knew the woman weeding probably did too.

And then I had a realization: How blessed are we to live in a place that allows us to spend our afternoon simply pulling weeds?

There are people living underneath the same sky and being warmed by the same sun, hearts beating in the same rhythm as mine, that spend their afternoons fetching contaminated water for their family to drink and bathe in.

There are people who smile as big as I do when woken up by the cuddles of their babies, and whose hearts drop when they see their kids hurt. But they’re forced to leave their children for months on end in an effort to find work and send money home.

There are loving, kind, hard-working people who shelter their entire family in one-room buildings with cracked walls, dirt floors, and leaky roofs. And these people? They have more than some of their neighbors.

These people are no different than me – no less worthy or deserving. They deserve what I have: Safety. Health. Opportunity. An income. A voice. A fighting chance. But they don’t get that.

Okay, okay, so maybe you’re thinking that you’ve heard this bit before. Living in a third-world or war-torn country, or on the streets of whatever city you live in, would suck and you should be thankful. But have you ever really spent time reflecting on how blessed you are compared to others who inhabit this same Earth? Or are you, like many others and myself, so distracted by your routines and to-do lists that you fail to see beyond the walls of your own perceptions?

I can speak for myself when I say that I don’t have to spend my afternoon watching my siblings suffer from lice and mites, or watching my family struggle with malnutrition because the gardens aren’t producing enough crop to feed everyone. I am abundantly blessed.

Floods? Very scary and potentially costly, but I can go to higher grounds to stay out of harm’s way. I don’t have to worry about my livestock – my families’ food and only source of income – floating away along with my shelter. I am so safe.

I don’t have to hide my books, concede to male authoritarianism, or worry about harboring a faith in God that differs from my country’s ruler. I am independent and honored as a human being.

I am blessed. I get to work outside of the home as a woman, oppose a man’s views, wear what I want without the fear of imprisonment or death, and shop at the grocery store for clean and fresh food. I get to snuggle up in a blanket with hot tea while I listen to the rain pour down my windows. I get notified via email by my daughter’s teacher if there is a case of lice in the class, and can take a 10-minute trip to my local pharmacy for treatment.

I can spend my day pulling weeds, or reading, or drawing, or binge-watching Netflix (the latter is the most likely, shhh!). I can spend my afternoon doing something purely for my own pleasure, based on my mood entirely. This is mind-boggling, yet I rarely even think about it.

I saw the woman pulling weeds, but I also saw so much more: my privilege. In my all-wheel-drive crossover, in a safe neighborhood on paved streets, I realized what we need.

What We Need

We need perspective. We need to see the reality of our situations. We need to practice gratitude for all that we have. We’ve grown so accustomed to our blessings and rights that we actually believe our inconveniences and struggles are unbearable.

Traffic from road construction? Higher tax bill because of a new school referendum passing in your city? Spotty cell phone coverage? Have to shovel your sidewalks and driveway? Long line at the bank? Slow wi-fi that infuriates you? You fill in the blank with your frustrations, and then remind yourself that despite all of the inconveniences you experience, you are BLESSED. We have a life of so much luxury but still focus on all that we don’t have. We need to expand our minds and remind ourselves that life exists beyond our backyard!

Gratitude, when truly possessed, leads to a happiness and love for life that few ever experience. When you learn to shift your focus to everything that you do have in life, you develop a desire to pass on your blessings to those less fortunate. The love and gratitude you have for your own life quite literally overflows onto everyone else around you.

There is no telling why I was born into a life of many blessings, when another mommy of a 7-year-old girl across the world was born without her basic needs for survival being met. But I don’t have to take it for granted, and you don’t have to take your blessings for granted either.

You don’t have to go on a mission trip tomorrow (although if you want to, invite me!), but I ask you to use your privilege for good. Donate food to your local food pantry. Drop off a wrapped toy at a Toys for Tots drop-off location. Send $15 to a charity of your choice. Gather your old clothes and drop off them off at a homeless shelter. Sponsor a child’s education in Uganda. Honor the life God gave you. Spread love and stop complaining. Let’s all be better together!

{Note:
Don’t get me wrong, there is suffering in this country that no person should have to endure. It’s not as easy as saying, “Well you have rights, live life and stop complaining.” But it’s the majority of us who are safe, protected, loved, and who have opportunity, that develop a warped view of our lives.}

We’re All A Work in Progress

“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress – which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.”

I saw this and knew instantly I wanted to write about it. This is something I’ve struggled with a ton, and I know so many others do too!

I’m 27 years old, and I don’t own my home; I rent. I’ve always wanted to own a home, but they’re no small investment. There are so many pieces to consider: a down-payment, private mortgage insurance, yearly taxes, home owners insurance, maintenance and upkeep, and of course the price of the house itself! (I’m sweating just thinking about it!)

Although I have a safe place for my daughter and I to live, I too often feel bad about not owning my home. Sometimes I feel like a failure, and it doesn’t help that as a kid, I thought my adult life would be all figured out by the age of 24 (ha!).

I face the same struggle with self-growth and development. I work so hard to practice gratitude and focus on everything I have in my life. I want to be a light to everyone I come into contact with. I want to inspire people, help them believe in magic and miracles again, and to see the world for everything good in it. But I have bad days, y’all. I wake up in a cranky mood, complain too much, and seem to wear a scowl on my face. I realize it, and then I feel horrible. “Who would want to be inspired by someone like this? Who would take my advice, or read my posts, or feel motivated to be their best selves when I’m a negative person myself?”

Consequently, I feel like a failure.

Why is it that we expect an immediate change within ourselves – an instantaneous, complete, and finished product – and when we don’t experience that, we feel shame? Why is it that we expect our growth to be a steadily increasing slope, free of valleys, stumbles, and low points? It’s not realistic, and it’s unfair to hold ourselves to that standard.

Consider This

It takes roughly 4 years to receive a degree; we don’t expect it to be awarded to us overnight. Do you know what we do? We feel pride with each assignment that we submit, and we feel so relieved with each course that we complete. We do poorly on some assignments and great on others, and our course grade reflects the average of it all (NOT just the lower scores). We accept that we’ll struggle at some points. We accept that our education is a work in progress.

If an author decides she wants to write a book, she doesn’t throw in the towel when it doesn’t happen overnight. What does she do? She fights through writers’ block, knowing full well that some days will be more productive than others. She sends her work to her editor, and based on the feedback, scraps some paragraphs, re-writes her ideas, maybe considers never writing another word again, and then submits it again. Little by little she works toward the end result. She feels relieved with each page and chapter that is written. It’s a process, and there is no published author that has ever avoided it.

The things we want in life take time to come to fruition! Why is that so hard for me and others to accept? I hold myself to the standard that happiness and success should come instantly, and that my path toward a goal should be free of obstacles. I take my low points, my valleys, as a reflection of my ability and my worth.

Well, I’m saying, “No!”

I’m saying, “You’re wrong!”

I’m calling BS!

Do you know what I should instead believe? Nothing in life worth having comes easy. No great accomplishment comes free of a backstory of struggle and perseverance. The journey between having a goal and achieving it should never be considered a failure.

I should NOT feel like a failure because I’m not exactly where I want to eventually be. I should not feel like I’m incapable or weak because I am a work in progress. I will forever be one. You will, too.

Life isn’t meant to be lived waiting for the next achievement to feel happiness. Life isn’t meant to be lived as a race to the finish line. Life is meant to be soaked in – every minute of every day. We’re meant to find meaning not only in achievement but in the journey to get there, too.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Sweet human, don’t hold yourself to that standard! I invite you to challenge your thoughts! What is something you feel like you’re failing at because you’re not yet there? Leave a reply below! ❤

My Early Morning Routine

I have a new morning routine, and it is AMAZING! 

No, stop. Stop right there.

It’s actually incredible. I really mean these adjectives… so much. 

Anyone who knows me well knows two things about me: I love sleep, and I love food. For the point of this post, we’re going to focus on the former.

(Dangit, now I’m thinking of cheese curds.)

(And tacos… help.)

I’ve loved sleep for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten, we would have nap time after art, and immediately following nap time was story time. Some kids chose to color or read, but each and every day, I would sleep right through nap time AND story time. 

When I was in middle school and my mom would wake us up in the morning, I would get dressed, brush my teeth and hair, and then go back to sleep until the minute we had to leave to go to the bus stop. We’d get on the bus and guess what? I’d literally sleep on the way to school, too.

Now at this point you may be thinking I struggled with narcolepsy. I promise I didn’t; I just always loved sleep! In fact, up until recently, I only gave myself 25-30 minutes to get my daughter and myself ready every morning. That’s it. If I got to go into work an hour later than normal, you better bet your bottom dollar that I used that extra hour for sleep, not leisurely morning time. My point is, it’s how I’ve always been. 

I recently finished reading Rachel Hollis’ book “Girl, Stop Apologizing” and she touted the importance of being intentional about your mornings. She insists on waking up earlier than her kids and using that time as self-care time. She prays, reads, and writes down her dreams and goals to help her focus on and manifest them. I felt so inspired from each and every page in her book that I decided to try it for myself!

You?” you say? Yes, me! Nap Katrina, sleep anywhere and anytime Katrina, rather-have-frizzy-hair-and-sleep-than-spend-extra-time-straightening-my-hair Katrina! Me!

So I set my alarm clock for 5:50 the next morning, and guess what? I frickin’ did it! I pressed snooze twice, but I woke up! I started my coffee maker, climbed back into bed, and cracked open my bible. I read several verses, reflected on them, prayed, and just spent time with Jesus. {This part may not apply to you, and that’s okay. Continue on!}

I fetched myself a cup of coffee, complete with a sprinkle of sugar, and moved on to my then-current read, Rachel Hollis’ aforementioned book. I spent 20 minutes reading and just GOT. MY. LIFE!

With so much inspiration, passion, and can-do attitude coursing through my veins, I pulled out my journal and listed 5 things I was grateful for. I also wrote down 5 things I wanted from my day. Before I knew it, it was 6:45am and time to begin getting ready for my day.

You guys. This new morning routine? It changed me. Let me tell you WHY!

Naturally, with only 30 minutes to get myself and my daughter ready, my mornings felt rushed. I didn’t have a minute to even think about my day or try to mentally prepare myself. I used my car ride to her school and then to work to chug coffee! I woke up each morning feeling like I was being led by my day – not me leading my day.

By waking up earlier, I was able to slowly and calmly wake up, and focus on my thoughts immediately. I connected with God’s truth and started my day with Him leading my heart. Writing down what I’m grateful for? It kept things in perspective, and knowing I’d write a new list the next morning meant I was looking for good things to happen throughout the day.

Now when I wake up to complete my morning routine, I feel inspired. I find calmness and gratitude at the start of my day, which sets my heart and my mind in the perfect position. I go to work wide awake. I leave my home feeling refreshed and excited to make an impact wherever I can.

Sure, morning me-time wasn’t my original idea, but that doesn’t mean I can’t support it and shout it from the rooftops! Eating carrots may not have been my idea either, but damnit people, I stand behind this concept firmly! Morning journaling and carrots, hoo-rah!

I can’t recommend adopting this practice enough. You have the power to shape your thoughts, and your thoughts shape your life. Take them seriously and do all you can to set yourself up for greatness every day!