Friendship Red Flags and What to Do About Them

It seems that nearly anything I read about motivating yourself to work out suggests working out with a friend. This makes perfect sense: working out with a friend makes exercise more enjoyable and keeps you accountable. However, healthy relationships, whether romantic or platonic, are important to your health for much bigger reasons. One of the biggest ways you can improve both your physical and mental health is managing your stress effectively. Many people, especially women, turn to their social network when they’re stressed. Of course, with the wrong people in your social network, you could easily become even more stressed. While you can’t pick all the people in your social network (family members, colleagues etc.), you have complete control over who you call your closest friends and spend the bulk of your free time with.

Protect Your Mental Health- Friendship

Last month, I got the chance to see Alexis Jones from Survivor speak at my university. While everything she said was fantastic, one part in particular really stuck out to me. She said, “You are the sum of your five closest friends” and went on to explain the kind of people you should surround yourself with. This quote from her book, I Am That Girl, sums up what she said perfectly, “We need a shoulder to cry on when we are sad, encouragement when we are down, accountability when we stray, strength when we are weak, a calming voice when we are angry, and grounding when we’re too proud…Begin bringing into your life a group of like-minded women [and men] who support you and your dreams no matter how different they are.”

There are certain things you should never have to put up with in any relationship, romantic or platonic, and certain things you are entitled to (assuming you are willing to do the same for them.) I racked my brain and while this certainly isn’t an exclusive list, I think it’s a good start to analyzing the relationships in your life.

  • You should never have to put up with someone who consistently puts their needs before yours and expects you to do the same.
  • You are entitled to honesty and trust in all of your relationships.
  • You should never have to put up with someone who is petty and vindictive. If you find yourself uncomfortable or tired of constant gossip, you can speak up or remove yourself from the situation.
  • You are entitled to respect and support. While a true friend will watch out for you and gently advise you if they believe you’re making an unsafe or hasty choice, they will ultimately support you in your decisions.
  • You should never have to put up with someone who makes you feel judged or like you have to put up a façade. You should feel free to be yourself around your friends and they should never criticize any part of you, including your appearance.
  • You are entitled to friends who are capable of empathy and can be there for you in tough times. While not everyone expresses sympathy well and you certainly shouldn’t expect your friends to be your therapist, a good friend will always acknowledge that other people have problems too and lend a listening ear from time to time.

I hope you take the time to analyze your friendships and make sure you’re spending time with people who build you up. While some people are simply toxic and should be removed from your life as much as possible, you don’t have to cut everyone out that doesn’t live up to these standards. I’ve found most people are pretty reasonable and will listen if you tactfully approach them about the problem. It’s also important to realize not everybody’s perfect: sometimes the friends who are good to go shopping or running with aren’t the best to spend time with in other situations, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop shopping or running with them. Finally, it’s also good to analyze your personal behavior in relationships. There’s always room to improve and become the kind of friend you want to have. :)

4 life lessons cancer taught me

Receiving treatment for cancer at the age of 12 definitely taught me a few lessons about life. I have spent a lot of time wondering why cancer chose me; why the tumour grew on my ovary, and tried to take my life away. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I will never completely understand.  However, I have also thought a lot about what cancer taught me, and that’s what I want to share today.

Cancer is a part of life that we can’t ignore.

So many people are affected by cancer.  Everyone knows someone who has received a diagnosis.  There is a huge community out there who are going through cancer on a daily basis; they could be receiving chemo themselves, grieving over a loved one, or supporting someone through treatment.  Knowing that cancer touches so many lives inspires me to share my own experiences in order to help others.  I learnt that cancer does not discriminate and anyone can be touched by it.

Cancer makes you grow up, fast.

Before cancer, I was a 12 year old girl, much like any other.  During and after cancer, I was a different person.  I had aged beyond my years.  I had been through so much surgery and treatment, lost my hair, and thought I would die.  After that, I never quite fitted in with my peers and it was a cause of great turmoil to me in the years to come.  However, I also knew that I was strong and mature and that was something to be proud of.

Life is a precious gift.

Nothing makes you appreciate life more than fearing that you are close to losing it.  I feel blessed to have learnt how magical life is at a young age, and it is something which I carry inside me every day.  I am beyond lucky to live a life which is cancer free now and it is something which I am grateful for and constantly meditate on.

We have so much potential to create good in the world.

I never would have believed that my young body could go through such a traumatic process as cancer, and heal.  I felt that a deep strength had unlocked inside me, and I knew that I could go on to build a successful life for myself.  We as humans have fears and doubts but we cannot let them trap us.

What has life taught you?

 

 

Creativity and Self-Expression Through Zines

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I believe that everyone has a story that they need to share, a story that will benefit others, that will inspire people, that is just waiting to burst out into the world, and one of the easiest ways to share your story is by creating a zine.

If you’re not sure what a zine is, it’s basically a self-published, small circulation work of text and images. Zines have been around for decades and vary in design, style and content. Because they are self-published they can be about anything from politics, to music reviews, to personal stories and more.

And because of the nature of zines, I knew it was the perfect way for me to share my own story based on my pregnancy experience from when I was 17 years old. I also think that you should share your story, too.

To create your own zine, I recommend the following:

  • First, pick one topic, one part of your life or one idea you want to express. Maybe you want to share a difficult situation you went through? Write about your favourite bands? Share horror movie reviews? Or share a self-love letter? As I mentioned before, I chose to share my teen pregnancy experience.

 

  • Next, write your story without editing it. Write it out, keep it raw and honest, and don’t be afraid of what other people will think. Only after you’re done writing the entire thing should you edit it. You can share your zine with the world or keep it all to yourself. Writing out my zine was the most difficult part because of how honest it was and it brought out a lot of old emotions and memories I hadn’t thought of in a while, and because of that I could only write it when I was home alone.

 

  • Then, draw your pictures, cut out your images and select your photos. I loved digging through my old photo albums with my daughter and selecting pictures that reminded me of the stories I wrote. Not to mention, getting out my sketch book and pens was a lot of fun, too!

 

  • Finally, you get to put it all together! Zines are typically a big cut-and-paste project, but it can also be done on your computer – photocopy and print it, or publish it as a PDF and you’re done!

Creating a zine was such a personal and amazing experience. It’s full of heart and heartaches, old photographs, journal entries and doodles, and it shares a story I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Have you ever created a zine? Will you?

Your Story Matters // Meet Michelle

Welcome to the first installment of Your Story Matters. It is a once a month look into the lives of others. The main point is to be encouraged by someone else’s story. Learn from the wisdom they share from lessons learned. At the same time be reminded of the fact that every person’s story matters. Your Story Matters :) This month I had the opportunity to interview Michelle from Look through My Lens.


Short Autobiography // A twenty something trying to figure out life and never does anything in the expected way. I’m an INTJ who loves the color blue, chocolate, Baz Luhrman films, the 1920’s, and feminism. As a photography enthusiast, I’m always trying to look at life through my lens in a new way, thus effecting how I always view the world.

Q // What are you passionate about?

A // My purpose in life is to lead change and growth, to make life better for people all over the world, and rid the world of injustice and discrimination.

Q // What are the achievements you are most proud of?

A// As of recently, I wrote a blog post about Red My Lips, which is a campaign to fight rape, domestic violence, and victim blaming. It has had the biggest response of all of my posts, which is amazing because it’s introducing the world to a fairly new cause with a great story.

Q // What are you most grateful for in life?

A // I am most grateful for my parents and brother, because I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and loving family.

Q // What are the biggest things you’ve learned in life to date?

A // As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I have learned that you should NEVER let anyone make you feel unworthy or awful about yourself. Don’t let bullies control your self-esteem, self-worth, and happiness. And don’t let other people make you change to fit their needs. You are perfect exactly how you are!

Q // What advice would you give to yourself 3 years ago?

A // Three years ago, I was a high school senior a few months away from graduating. The advice I would give my younger self is to honestly just keep going, because the end of high school is really just the beginning of a whole new adventure.

Q // What inspires you, motivates you, or gets you charged up?

A // I am motivated when I have a goal. If there is an end goal, I want to achieve it and do it to the best of my ability.

Stay in touch with Michelle through these avenues.

Blog | Twitter | Instagram

Throughout the day, week, month, be sure to remind those around you that their story matters.  Each and everyday there is an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.I can tell from experience, and you can gather from Michelle’s experience, making a difference can be as simple as reminding someone they are loved. Sometimes that means making time by dropping other things to have time to listen to someone else’s story. While you are at it ask questions because you never know the wealth of experience you could stumble upon.

 

Have a great day!

 

WQ: Meet Emerald

I absolutely love doing the Warrior Queen of the Month features! Today I’ve got a wonderful blogger to introduce you to in interview form! If you’re interested in being featured as a Warrior Queen of the Month click here. You have the option of a guest post or an interview.

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1. Give us a little background about you and your blog.

My name is Emerald and I am 25 years old. I began blogging in 2010 and became established as Sweettartbeauty.com in January 2012. My blog originally started as a way for me to share my love for beauty with like minded people. But after becoming ill in the fall of 2010 I wanted my blog to be something more. I wanted it to reach the disabled community and show that people with disabilities are just like everyone else. We love fashion, beauty and more just like you. We just have to do things a little
differently.

2. What have you overcome that changed you the most?

Having an illness that affects my muscles forced me to see the world differently. I went a long time without the ability to speak well. Then the muscles in my legs became weak and I had to begin using a wheelchair and walker to get around. Going through this has changed me a lot. Prior to becoming ill I was focused on my appearance and pleasing others. I wanted so badly to be liked but I couldn’t see how I needed to change my personality to attract the friends I wanted. Now looking back I can see things that I needed to change. I can truly say going through this illness has forced me to mature. I still have a long way to go but I can see that I have made positive changes.

3. What advice do you have for others who may find themselves in your position?

Never give up. Things may seem hard but with prayer anything is possible. Find a support system and cling to those you can trust. Also, remind yourself everyday that you are beautiful and strong. It can be easy to feel down or feel sorry for yourself and that’s okay. Just don’t allow yourself to sit in that depression. I wish I could share everything I’ve gone through but just know this isolating yourself is the worse thing you can do. Force yourself to be around others and you’ll see just how fast your mood will rise.

4. When do you feel the most like yourself? What about the most beautiful?

I’m still struggling with this. I feel most like myself when I’m with my family. They still treat me like nothing has happened and that warms my heart. They also make me feel beautiful. Since becoming ill I have put on a lot of weight due to depression and medication. When I look in the mirror I see a monster but my family and friends remind me that I am beautiful each day and this keeps me going.

5. What makes you feel brave?

I’m not brave in my own strength.  Prayer and my trust in God helps me to feel brave at my most darkest times. I know in my heart that I can not accomplish anything without putting God first in my life.

Get to know Emerald more here: Blog // Twitter // Instagram

raewyn

 

Proud Dog Mom

Excuse me while I have a proud dog mom moment. I totally had to share. Bella’s special. The story of how we adopted her and her two brothers is a special story. Seriously, I truly believe it was one written out of heaven to save these crazy puppies. Bella is anything but an angel, though.

Crash course in how these puppies came to live with us: we rescued them off of the streets at 9 months old. We truly believe they had never been inside of a house before. We found them the day our family dog passed away, the day before my mom started chemo and two days before my grandfather passed away. 

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Rascal is on my lap, my brother is putting on Bella’s collar, and Chief is making a weird face.

When the puppies were first at my mom’s house, I went over and visited a lot…as in every other day. I was working less at the school and I knew these puppies needed some human interaction. Plus my mom was going through chemo, of course I was over there checking on her.

Iman and Jimi would go over occasionally as well, and eventually after about a month we brought Bella to live with us. I didn’t know it but I was probably pregnant. Enter a fiercely protective dog…of only me.

To list Bella’s “bad behaviors” you’d think she was a horrible dog. For starters, she was definitely the alpha in her pack with her brothers. She has: fear aggression, a mild case of separation anxiety and is fiercely territorial. (Let’s just say I’m not allowed to pet any other dogs at the dog park, and she and our black cat fight ONLY if I’m home.) She is also very, very instinctually wild and it can be tough to get her attention when she is in primal mode.

From the start we crate trained her. It’s been mostly effective. After that, we took her to basic training at PetSmart. As a terrier, she’s a quick learner, when she wants to be. We have her trained for sit, stay (unless she gets distracted), come, down and other basics you learn in puppy class. We’ve also trained her to get her leash when she has to go outside.

If Bella meets someone outside of her territory, she can become their friend. She makes friends at the dog park all day long (again, unless I try to pet them) and made friends in her PetSmart classes. Yet, if there is someone or another dog in or near our apartment she goes ballistic. This always made me sad because our old family dog didn’t like other dogs but loved people.

So, any chance we get, we work on her. We make her get used to people being over – she’s officially become okay with two or three of our friends – and we try to get her to dog socialize as much as possible. For the record, she’s a complete angel at the vet and groomers…as long as I’m not there. Bella has two dog best friends that are our neighbors. Seamus and Bella were puppies at the same time and she met him one of her first days at our apartment before it became HER territory.

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When Bella met Seamus, she was bigger than him.

Enter a new beagle puppy who is now friends with Seamus and Bella went crazy. We recently purchased a muzzle for her, hoping it could help out in a way the thunder shirt did not. (Maybe it was too big for her? Maybe she doesn’t care?). Whenever she goes outside, she now has to wear her muzzle. Through this she was able to sniff the new beagle.

That was it, sniff him. He wanted to play and you could see alpha Bella trying to get him. But I was persistent, and eventually we got the two to play with each other with her muzzle on.

Last night, she heard Cooper, the beagle, outside our apartment and she ran to her leash, tail wagging. I thought this was a great sign so I brought her out and let her sniff him. As her tail wagged more, I decided that it was a good time to take off her muzzle and see what happens. Oh my lanta, that dog was the happiest.

I seriously felt like jumping up and down because MY DOG MADE A FRIEND!!!!!! Best day EVER. Seriously, I was starting to lose hope. I’d love to take her to a rehabilitation center so she’ll like kids and other dogs, but so far it’s been too expensive.

Last night was a reassurance that we are doing something right. It’s easy to get discouraged in raising an animal that doesn’t fit the “cuddly puppy” norm, especially when your dog trainer is telling you your dog is spoiled. Yet, I discipline her as much as I can without getting close to crossing any animal abuse lines.

Of course, she is spoiled with toys. Bella’s got a ton of them all over the house and it’s particularly fun when she wakes us up in the middle of the night squeaking her favorite Easter egg. Toys and treats can get expensive though. Luckily, I found Chewy.com, a website with the motto “where pet lovers shop.”

This website is so awesome, and as a blogger I’ve been able to receive their newsletter and a free gift each month. Although, for the two months I’ve done it, Bella’s free gift has actually been two gifts. The first month she got Orijen free-range bison freeze dried treats that I would imagine are absolutely delicious. I say this because my cat has woken me up multiple times in the middle of the night trying to get Bella’s treats and breaking dishes in the process.

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She also got a flossy knotted rope bone from Mammoth. She loves to play tug of war with her brothers with it, and it totally helps with dental hygiene.

In April, we were given the option of a gift that was not a toy or a treat – but a grooming brush by FURminator. I opted for one since Bella’s only grooming usually comes at the groomers once every few months. I love this brush, AND that it has a brush cover / case so that it doesn’t get damaged. Bella was indifferent about being brushed, especially because she found a Kong in the box as well.

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Crazypants took the Kong out of the box to play with it before I could unwrap it. Of course, she already had an identical Kong a few feet away, already opened. She doesn’t like the old Kong as much, though.

I absolutely love Chewy and the products they offer! Everything seems much more affordable and has a wider variety of healthy treats available for Bella. I can’t wait to see what is coming in our May box…and for Bella to continue to make new friends!!

Do you have a dog with any bad habits? I’d love to hear how you broke those habits, and how you reward your pooch.

raewyn

Never Sell Yourself Short

Anastasia is one of my favorite bloggers. I’ve written about her and her blog before, and I am so excited to have her sharing a tidbit of her life with us! 

I was 13 years old the first time that a guy implied that my intellect was undesirable. I remember it vividly, and it’s something that will probably always stay with me.

I was discussing drama with my classmates and we were debating the playwright’s intention behind the scene that we’d just performed. I had an alternate interpretation to the rest of the group, and never one to by shy of my opinion, I shared it with the group. Most of my group mates didn’t necessarily agree, but understood where I was coming from. But one group member… well, he had a problem with it.

No wonder you don’t have a boyfriend,” he said, as he looked at me all wide-eyed with a disapproving stare and a shake of the head, his perfectly gelled hair staying motionless as he did so.

If he’d been anyone else, I would’ve just let it go, but he wasn’t just anyone. He was the guy that I’d had the biggest crush on for the longest time. I wanted so desperately for him to like me, and I was willing to do almost anything to get him to want to be with me. His comments got under my skin, and I remember going home and crying into my pillow. Was I too “brainy” to date? I’d always been told that I was smart, always tried hard in school and always got good grades, which I assumed was a good thing. But was it really?

Maybe guys didn’t want smart girls. Maybe guys wanted girls who were dumb but hot and willing to agree with everything they say and look good on their arm. In my teenage brain, it made sense.

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I wanted him to like me so badly and so the more time I spent with him, the more I suppressed my opinions, thoughts and knowledge. I purposefully pretended not to know things so that I could “learn” them from him. I acted ditzy. I flipped my hair and batted my eyelashes and giggled when he told a terrible joke. I misled myself to believe that it was my own mini social-experiment, but it wasn’t. I was changing myself for him. And sure enough, as I’d hoped, he began to warm to me – it seemed that I was far more likeable when I dumbed myself down.

We ended up dating for 3 years (which actually turned out to be a horrible and emotionally abusive relationship, with him encouraging my anorexia).

When we stopped dating, I was still under the impression that dumb girls get the guys, so I kept up this pattern across several relationships. I pretended to be ditzy, bubbly, airy and vacant, as so many women’s magazines had been telling me to do. “Don’t talk about your ambitions”,  “Never correct your guy when he’s wrong,” and “Always let him be your intellectual superior” were the key takeaways.

The feminist in me that had always been there wanted to scream, but the hopeless romantic in me wanted to do whatever it took to get the guy, and as far as I could tell, dumbing myself down was just what I had to do.

I let boyfriends who were far from my intellectual equals believe that they were infinitely superior; I built up the mental prowess of every guy who gave me the time of day at the expense of my own intellectual worth. I worried that their egos wouldn’t be able to handle the fact that they were dating an intelligent woman. After all, they didn’t start dating me for being smart and ambitious and driven – they started dating me because I made them feel smart and did whatever they wanted me to do.

I was a pushover. And I hated it.

“But at least I’m a pushover with a boyfriend!” I told myself, not realising that being held down and diminished was a far worse off fate than being alone.

All that my attitude ever achieved was ensuring that I dated people that were completely wrong for me. There were times in these relationships where I let parts of the real me slip; corrected partners on misinformation or voiced my fairly strong opinions. Experience taught me that this didn’t work in my favour. I was berated, belittled and told to stick to what I was good at (insert crude sexual jokes here). It made me feel worthless.

At the time, I assumed that this was because a strong and smart woman was undesirable. But it wasn’t me that was the problem – it was who I was pretending to be. Hindsight is a powerful thing.

I never felt intellectually satisfied in any of these relationships, and bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t seem to find a guy who respected me for more than just my appearance. Then it hit me – I’d never tried putting myself out there including my intellect. I’d been putting myself out there as a girl who was agreeable, easy and vacant; nothing more than a “pretty girl”. I’d taught myself to keep my intelligence, fire, hopes, dreams and passions hidden away like a shoebox of forbidden memories in the back of a closet.

I didn’t want to date someone who couldn’t handle the real me. I didn’t want to just be arm candy. I didn’t want my purpose as a partner to be making my partner feel like they’re superior to me. I wanted someone who wanted all of me; confidence, intelligence, weird hobbies and useless trivia included.

So one day, I made a conscious effort to stop. I stopped dumbing myself down. I let the real me be fully exposed. I didn’t care if it scared some people off. If I’m honest, I probably did scare some people off – I was no longer concerned with appealing to every guy, so there were bound to be some people that weren’t wholly on board with everything that I was. And for the first time, I was okay with that. To finally stop selling myself short was liberating and to my delight, the people I was matched with all shared similar interests and life goals.

The man that wasn’t scared off? He respected me for my opinions and knowledge and accepted even the strangest and most flawed parts of me. After 4 wonderful years together, we’re now happily engaged and planning the rest of our lives together.

* * * * *

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At the end of the day, you’ll attract the type of person that you try to attract. If you pretend to be something that you’re not, the person that you’re dating will ultimately expect you to be that fake person for the entire relationship, and is likely to be disappointed when the “real” you happens to emerge. The major flaw in the plan is that you’re diminishing your own needs in the relationship.

Never sell yourself short. Never dumb yourself down. Never diminish your own worth. Own your fire. Breathe your passions. Live the life that you want to live.

You are capable of being so much more than something pretty to look at.

The Craig Family Adoption

In the midst of all of these other guest posts and contributor posts, this post speaks to me the most. I’ve always dreamed of adopting or fostering a child. Like Kayla and her husband, it has always spoken to me. Please join me in supporting her family in their adoption!


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 Every morning, I stumble out of bed, grab my Coke-bottle glasses, and shuffle my way across the hardwood floors into the kitchen. Our four-year-old waits patiently for his oatmeal, and his hand always seems to find mine as I make breakfast in the early morning hours. I pour myself coffee as our two-year-old, his bedhead just as wild as his little heart, comes hustin’ out of his room.

Motherhood, you guys. It’s chaotic and sleep-deprived and sweet and 100 kinds of awesome.

 

I became a mom in a fashion that only God could create. I was a young, twenty-something newlywed learning more about the world, and more about its creator, every day. We were stumbly and we weren’t perfect, but we couldn’t help but sense that God was leading us both down a path to parenthood that, in the world’s eyes, was a bit unconventional.

My husband and I both started to feel the tug on our hearts for children who didn’t have families. We both grew up in safe and loving two-parent homes, and we couldn’t shake the idea of little ones not growing up without the structure and nurture a family provides. We knew we couldn’t do everything, but we could be open to doing something. We prayed, and asked God to lead.

One billion “only-God” stories later, and we were getting off a plane, welcoming our incredible one-year-old son into our arms, forever. Joseph joined our family via adoption from West Africa (you can learn much more about that here), and our lives have been so radically blessed by his presence. We grieve for what he lost with his fist family, but we praise God that he writes beautiful stories from brokenness.

Fast forward two years, and we welcomed a second son into our lives, this time the old-fashioned way. Asher fits into our family perfectly, and it’s a joy to see my sons grow and learn and play and explore life together.

And now, our hearts are open to more. And we continue to believe that God will form our family once again through adoption. There are children here and abroad waiting for safe and loving homes, and it’s at the core of our heart that we might have the privilege of being a family for another little one (or ones). Due to logistics, this time our process will happen in the U.S. instead of abroad. We’re not quite sure what this adoption will look like, though we know we want to be a family for a waiting child.

Over oatmeal and apple juice in sippy cups, we talk about adding a new brother or sister to the mix. “I know, Mommy!” Joseph says, scooping in another mouthful of breakfast. “We’re going to have two sisters! And name them Mommy and Daddy!”

So, there’s a tiny glimpse into the big story God is writing. It’s a humbling, profound privilege to parent a child or children not born to me, and it’s not something I take lightly.

As we walk into the unknown and trust God that he will form our family in the ways only He can, we go through all of the paperwork and processes to ensure everything is done correctly and ethically.

We have just completed our home study, the giant 500-billion-page document written by a social worker who has poured over every detail of our lives to ensure that we are approved to be an adoptive family.

Adoption, as I’m sure you’ve probably heard, can be costly. Social workers, attorneys, agencies — each are compensated to ensure things are handled the right way. We’re a young family that has been saving for a second adoption since we completed our first. Every Christmas gift, every extra bit, has gone into a special account for “someday.” And someday is here!

My husband is a pastor who took on an extra job as a high school speech coach this year, and I’m a freelance writer/editor who has taken on extra projects to make this adoption a reality. We are also trying to think of creative ways to tackle the fees.

Here’s where the fun part comes in: We’re hosting a GIANT shop-our-closets sale this coming Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m.

  • I gathered more than 10 of my most stylish friends of all shapes and sizes, and together, we cleaned out our closets.
  • We have around 200 gently-worn items in quality brands (think J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Free People, Anthropologie, Sevenly). Basically, my basement looks like an amazing women’s boutique right now. You’re going to want this stuff!
  • We’re selling it ALL (think 25+ dresses, 75+ tops, skirts, ethically-made jewelry, scarves, heels) in a HUGE Instagram auction-style fundraiser to combat adoption fees.
  • To join in on the sale: Follow us at @craigsadopt, and get those bidding fingers ready!
  • Each item will have a fairly low starting bid price, though we hope you have fun and bid generously! The sale will go on for 24 hours.
  • To bid, you must have a PayPal account. If you don’t, go sign up here!

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These shop-my-closet sales have become so popular on Instagram, and I love them! (I love scoring thrifted treasures — you can have on-point style on a budget!)

Think of this sale as us doing the dirty work for you — all you have to do is sit back and bid away — knowing that 100 percent of all money is going directly to our adoption account. You’ll get some crazy-awesome deals, and you’ll be entering into the work God is doing to provide waiting little ones a permanent, loving family.

We want others to know that adoption is worth it, because at the end of the journey, there’s a child who is going to feel a family’s love and there will be a family whose lives are changed by the love of a child.

Giveaway time:

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We’re giving away this gorgeous Santa Fe necklace, ethically handmade from women in Haiti through Vi Bella ($35 value). Share about the sale on Instagram with the date/time (Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m.) and tag us in the status (@craigsadopt) for an entry, and tag friends for more entries. (We’ll draw a winner Tuesday, April 28 – no purchase necessary, U.S. residents only.)

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Need reminders of the sale? Let’s connect on Facebook. Questions? Shoot me a message — I’d love to hear from you! If you feel led to give, you can make a donation to our adoption here.

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10960035_841100916952_3073347325596949958_oKayla is full-time journalist turned work-at-home editor. She lives among the Iowa cornfields, where she’s hitched to a shaggy-haired pastor and they’re smitten with two wild + free boys: Joseph (4) and Asher (2). Kayla sips strong coffee, likes pretty things, and believes there’s beauty in the broken. She writes about faith, motherhood, and style at Many Sparrows, encouraging women to find worth and live a story worth sharing.

 

Dread at the Nail Salon

My husband came running into the house and stated, “You are getting your nails done!” He said it like a cheerleader might cheer at a sports event! He continued that him and his mother were already scheduled at a nearby nail salon. We could just drive the two-minute ride over! We were visiting the Seattle area for the weekend, and we would be attending a Farewell/Happy Retirement Party for dear friends that Saturday evening. I had been complaining about my nails for the last few days. But, I kept putting it off.

As I entered the nail salon, that familiar anxiety washed over me. The petite Asian owner told me to pick out my polish. I explained that I only ever request shellac for my hands; otherwise, the polish goes off in minutes of exiting the salon. I was asked to rummage through their shellac bottles of polish. I found this a little strange. Usually, you select your color from a shellac color nail chart. Suffice to say, I felt a little frustrated trying to determine the precise color from the actual bottle. Finally, I selected my color. It was a soft, baby blue. Then, I walked over to the wall of regular nail polish to find a color that closely matched my shellac color. I would have them paint my toes this blue, regular color as part of my pedicure. Once I selected my toe color and sighed a breath of relief, I turned to look behind me at my mother-in-law and hubby. They were sitting comfortably in their massage chairs getting pedicures. They looked so happy and relaxed. I was constructing nightmare scenarios in my mind’s eye.

BlueShellac_Naills

So, why do I have a love/hate relationship with beautifying my nails? I was born with mild Cerebral Palsy (CP). Technically, it is referred to as Spastic Hemiplegia, meaning that movement on one side of my body is affected.You would not know it by looking at me. But, the left side of my body is smaller, tighter, and weaker. As I write this, my left hand is tightening into a fist. It is also impossible for me to turn my left wrist without help. Don’t even ask to see my palm (this makes it very difficult to have an accurate palm reading by a psychic – something I always wished I could do! He/she only gets half of my life story! ). I might be able to loosen my hand and my wrist on a day where I engage in constant stretching exercises. As you can imagine, this is pretty cumbersome.

Having CP, by itself, is not my main issue. Communicating my unique problem to someone who typically only speaks English as a second language is my concern. Moreover, most nail technicians have not worked with people with disabilities. It really is the luck of the draw; some people recognize my difficulties. These people figure out a system that works in the fastest most effective way possible. Others are not so ingenious. They actually make it worse. One way or the other, I always need extra time and attention. And, I tend to feel apologetic for my situation.

Given my circumstances, the process involved in shellacking my nails makes an already complicated situation more complicated. Here is the process:

In order to put shellac on, your nail technician applies the polish; then, you put your hand under a really hot UV Lamp. After a minute or two, your nail technician applies a second coat and places your hand back under the lamp. You get two coats of polish and one top coat that seals the nails.  As you can imagine, this process runs smoothly with my right hand. It gets pretty complicated with my left hand.

…back to the nail salon…

For some odd reason, the nail technician decided to give me a pedicure first. I already said my previous nail polish (shellac) had to be removed. I also said I was not your average customer. But, the technician did not listen to these warnings. Off I went to get my toes done. The process seemed to take longer than normal. No worries. I relaxed into a back massage and felt the warm water wash over my feet. “I’ll just go with the flow,” I thought to myself. After, what seemed like an hour, the technician was done with my pedicure. She asked me to move over to a nail station. I did. “Oh, now it begins,” I sighed inwardly. I was remembering the last time I got my hand nails done. The technician was anything but sensitive to my needs. She really did not listen or work effectively. I had an unpleasant experience. I was feeling anxious that this would just be another repeat.

I did my best to explain my situation to the technician. To her credit, she seemed to take note and do her best to accommodate me. I suggested that she work on one hand at a time. This always seemed to work the best in my past experiences. By now, the technician was heading closer to closing time. She was concerned it would take too long to follow my suggestion. (“I tried to tell you earlier, I thought.” ). I reiterated the problem. I began to sound a little frustrated. I said, “I hate this. I always have to go through this!” I regretted blurting that out. It was not her fault. I was really fighting myself – not her. She responded, “Don’t hate me, we’ll make it work. It will be okay.”  To which I responded, “It is not you, It is me and this process.”  That is when we chose to do one hand at a time. We also called hubby over to assist with my left hand. When my left hand went under the lamp, he held it down to ensure it would not curl up. We may have had only one incident where polish needed to be reapplied. I made a few more comments about my anxiety. Each time my hand went under the lamp I would say something to the effect of, “I don’t know…I hope I don’t tighten or curl up.” Each time hubby and the technician responded, “It will be okay. Look, you are doing so well!.”

BlueShellac_Nails2

Eventually, my shellac nails were done, and I felt a sense of gratitude. I also felt a sense of humility due to all my complaining and anxiety. But, I DID get through it! And, I had awesome nails for the party that night!

In some ways, I know I brought a lot of angst upon myself. Attitude is, at least, half of the battle. A positive attitude may have really helped me out, in this case. All I can say is that I’m working on it. I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles in my life. I’ve learned to adapt and walk around a lot of roadblocks. If I enjoy this type of grooming, then I need to find a way to adapt and honor myself in this context. It does not help to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or apologetic. It does not help to get angry, frustrated, or cynical.  Every now and then, I have the thought that my physical challenges are meant to teach me some important life lesson. It is not some awful curse from a Higher Power. Somehow, I believe that my disability has helped develop  my compassion,  my purpose to serve others, my high value towards people and relationships, and my purpose to inspire through writing and sharing my story. In the end, my disability is something to honor, respect, and appreciate for how it has shaped me and create my strength of character.

College Experiences

Hair/MUA - Erika Syverson Photography/Wardrobe Stylist - RaeylnTofte Model - Abbigayle Rashae Pope

Hair/MUA – Erika Syverson
Photography/Wardrobe Stylist – RaeylnTofte
Model – Abbigayle Rashae Pope

If college has taught me one thing, it’s that it opens you to experiences you never thought could or would come to you. One such experience of mine came about a month into my first semester of college. September of 2013, a few months after I turned sixteen.

I was in the main building, working on some reading when I noticed a table set up, raising donations. I glanced over and noticed that a few students in the photography department were selling sweets. I wouldn’t have given them a second thought, but one of the guys kept throwing out hilarious one-liners, so I was glancing over every couple of minutes.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I got out a couple bucks from my wallet, closed my book, and somewhat stalked over to their set-up. I looked them all in the eye and said,  “I wouldn’t have come over, but I kept laughing at your comments. I don’t want a sweet, but here you go,” then handed the money to the specific man.

They told me to take a sweet anyways, so I did. As I was starting to walk off, one of the women, I later learned her name was Raelyn, stopped me. She started complimenting me and expressed that she would love to shoot me. Everyone else at the table joined in, as well. I was embarrassed, but it was really sweet. Raelyn asked if we could swap numbers and said she’d get in touch about a photo shoot for me soon.

As I went about my day, I didn’t think much of it. But later I received a text from Rae and she was sharing images about a high fashion shoot she thought I’d be perfect for. Within a few days everything was set up and I was asked to meet her in the photography building at my college.

I was terrified when I pulled up; I had no idea what I was getting into. Raelyn was ridiculously sweet and made me feel very comfortable. She introduced me to some of her photography friends, showed me the clothes I’d be wearing, all of which came from her very own closet, and had a friend drop in to do my hair and makeup for the shoot.

I’ve always been interested in modeling, so this was a great learning experience for me. I was in crazy high heels, the most comfortable of which was the pair of Jeffrey Campbell’s with a wedge cut out of the heel. Some of the poses were very hard for me to do, but Raelyn, who’s done a lot of modeling herself, told me “If you’re not uncomfortable you’re doing it wrong.” Everyone in the studio was laughing, but I think that sentiment is true, at least to an extent.

We only got to shoot three of the four outfits planned, but it was a wonderful time regardless. I got the finished photos back quickly and they were all beautiful. They didn’t go into print, it was for a project at the college. I ended up doing another shoot with her a month or so later.

Through my choice to go over to that photography table I met wonderful people, got beautiful photographs and memories I’ll never forget. It helped me mature and break out of my shell.  I encourage all you ladies (and gents!) to get outside your comfort zones to try something new. Regardless of what happens, you will learn from your experience and it will guide you through life.