Life

This week my family suffered the loss of my cousin Anthony. He was a senior at Texas A&M and a member of the Corps of Cadets, with a promising future ahead of him.

I've received tons of messages of love and support from many of you, and I want to say thank you. I've read them all, and they've meant more to me than you know. I will get around to responding, promise.
I don't know why things happen the way they do, but I do know that we are given only ONE precious life. It's up to us to do something great with it.
At the end of the day I know I want to be remembered as someone who truly loved others as much as myself and lived with an enormous amount of faith and compassion. I know that I want to do something great with this one precious life I've been given.
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Carolina, You Keep Calling Me Home...

I just got back from spending the weekend in Charlotte, and I was once again reminded how happy being there makes me. I grew up and learned more about myself during the four years that I lived there than I ever have before.

When I first moved to Charlotte I knew no one. I had a blank slate, and was able to create a life based on my passions, on what I loved. I formed friendships stronger than any I've ever had, and chased my dreams wholeheartedly. The city became a place where I flourished, I became independent, and for the first time in my life felt like I was doing what was best for me, not what others thought I should be doing.

While there I discovered the things that I love and have become a firm believer in holding on dearly to those "things". These loves define us, they become our passion, or driving force, our happiness. Once you find these loves, don't let go, but embrace them, use them to flourish, to continue growing into who you are, and who you're supposed to be.

Charlotte will always be dear to me, because of these things I discovered I love. Things life four distinct seasons, including red and yellow leaves in the fall and dogwood trees in the spring. The small town charm where people still say darlin' and drink Cheerwine, intertwined within a growing metropolitan city. The tree lined highways that can take you to both the beach and the mountains without ever having to leave the state. The people who make you feel like family, because they too are from somewhere else, but have found their new home in the Carolinas.

I love the city, and am so thankful for the opportunity to have discovered myself while I lived there. Discovered the things that make me truly happy.
1: waiting at the airport // 2: ran into two boys from high school in downtown Charlotte // 3: Brunch with my friend Stephie and her doggie Pearl // 4: One last shot of Lake Norman before heading back
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Daydreaming

I've found myself daydreaming a lot lately.
Maybe it's the Pisces in me, or my adventurous spirit just waiting to come out. 
Maybe it's the effects of sitting in a grey cube for hours, or denial about the fact that I'm growing up. 
Regardless, it's been happening, and the more I try to focus on other things, the more these dreams take over my thoughts. 
Dreams of adventure, opportunity, risk...and this is what they look like... 
I'll leave you with some food for thought...
What do your dreams look like?
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Also, I'm being featured on Bailey's blog right now, she's a fellow Texan, a previous guest poster on "Just Bri", and an all-around amazing girl! Go check her out.
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Weekend Update

I hope y'alls weekend was just as fantastic as mine.
I went go-karting, celebrated the best granddad in the world's birthday, ate plenty of sweets (french macarons and birthday cake), and got a mani/pedi with my mama. Essie Tart Deco is my new FAVORITE color.
 
What have y'all been up to?
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Easy Bathroom Decor

Since I moved to back Houston a few months ago, I've spent a lot of time trying to make my apartment feel as "homey" as possible. I would love for my house to look like the amazing "pins" I stumble across on Pinterest, but let's face it, I don't have that kind of budget or that kind of time to spend decorating. Maybe one day. For now, I'll share what I've done to decorate my bathroom...

First, this super cheap, super easy, D.I.Y. I bought the vases and decorative stones at Ikea for next to nothing, some cute twine at the craft store, put it all together, and it turned out like this...
I bought these two prints on Etsy and put them in cheap dollar store frames. The one on the left says "Love is how we got here" and the one on the right is a map of NC with a heart. I bought Tyler the same print with a map of Texas. 
I went with a brown and blue paint scheme and I just love it. Here you can see how it all came together, the prints, the D.I.Y. vases, and the blue and brown shower curtain to bring it all together.
My next project is going to be my living room. I'll post pictures when it's done!
I hope y'all are having a fantastic weekend!
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Friday Favorites (and a nasty oyster)

This Friday I thought I'd do something a little different. I'm not going to share my favorite things of the week, but my favorite things of all time. Just so y'all can get to know me a little better.
 
Before all that though...I have a story to share...
 
Last night I went to dinner with my parents, and decided I would be brave and try an oyster. I know I've had one when I was younger but I just couldn't remember if I liked them or not.
Well...my dads advice was to just let it "slide down my throat" so what do I do? I threw that oyster back like a shot of tequila.
As soon as I gulped it down I heard my little brother yell "did you just swallow that whole?!?"
Ummm that's what I figured I was supposed to do when someone tells me to let it "slide down my throat". Next time someone needs to clarify that you do indeed need to chew it a little. I spent the rest of the night feeling like a I had a ball of Play-Doh floating around in my stomach, ugh.
 
Now on to my all-time favorite things (oysters would not be one of them)...
 
My favorite city in the world would have to be Buenos Aires, Argentina. I love how perfectly the Latin American and European cultures combine to make it the most unique city I've ever visited.
The best book I've ever read has got to be "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell. It's one of the few I could read more than once.
Now, don't judge me on this next one, but my two FAVORITE movies of all time are Clueless and For Love of the Game. I'm a sucker for Kevin Costner, and those Clueless girls where the shizz when I was little.
If I could only have one beauty product, it would be Carmex hands down.
The food that I crave the  most often, and could probably eat every day is sushi. Yummmm.
and lastly...the way to my heart, peonies (well that and brunch and mimosas) but I love me some peonies!
Happy Friday Ya'll!
What are your all-time favorites?
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My Weekend With Bloggers

The cool thing about meeting other bloggers IRL (in real life) is that most of that "first meeting awkwardness" is gone because you already know so much about them from reading their blog.

I filled this past weekend with blogger get-togethers, and made some great new friends! On saturday I had lunch and went shopping with Sarah from Life of Love and Whitney from The Observant Turtle. Both of these girls are AWESOME, just as sweet as they seem to be on their blogs, and I can't believe how much we all had in common.

On Sunday we had our monthly H-Town Blogger Hotties meet-up, this time at J Blacks for brunch. It was amazing, I had brunch and a mimosa for under $12, can't be beat!
I am so thankful for all of these ladies, they've been such great friends to have since moving back to Houston.
I've really enjoyed getting to know Whit @ The Observant Turtle, Jenn @ Contemporary Harbor, and Meg @ O is Me
I also met two awesome new ladies on Sunday, Artee a super talented makeup artist from Artista Loves Art, and Tania from The Mama Mantras.

I love the power that blogging has to bring people from all walks of life together, connecting us all through our passion for writing, pretty pictures, and good food.
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Long Distance Lovin' - Bailey

Hello, friends of Bri! My name is Bailey, and I blog over at Let Birds Fly.

As you know, Bri is in a dedicated long-distance relationship right now. And man, do I feel for her. I've actually been in 3. But only one of them worked, and was a healthy relationship, at that.

As of right now, I am married to an awesome guy, Mark, and have been for a little over 3 years now. Awww. Yeah, we're cute.
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Told ya. :)

Anyway. Mark and I dated for about 9 months before he popped the question. A little quick, I know, but we had been friends for 2 years prior to dating. So it's okay. :)

He asked me to marry him on June 19, 2008, about a month after I finished college, and a month after I had accepted an internship at a hospital in Hawaii that was to start at the end of July. Yes, Hawaii. And we were in Texas at the time. I would return to Texas at the beginning of January.

That's SIX months. SIX months of being apart. WHILE engaged.

YIKES!

I remember the last day I saw Mark before I left for Hawaii. It seriously felt like something was ending. I was genuinely scared for our relationship. Not that it wouldn't work, but just that it would be such a challenge.

While in Hawaii, I had a hard time balancing my weird life. I was newly engaged and wanted to talk to my fiance every moment. I worked 40-50 hours a week. I wanted to see and experience everything Oahu had to offer.

Everything was easily attained except the talking to my fiance every moment bit. Kinda hard with the 5 hour time difference, the working full-time, and exploring the island. :)

It was terribly hard at first. Not getting to be with Mark, yes, but also just missing him. But by the grace of God, Mark and I developed a system, and I stayed busy so I didn't get lonely. It totally worked!

I read books about marriage on the bus to work every day. I e-mailed Mark during my lunch breaks. I called him when I was done with work. I worked out every day after work. I called Mark on the way home from the gym. I wrote him more e-mails. I called him before bed. We skyped at least once a week. I prayed for him and us constantly. And on the weekends, I did my touristy stuff.

It seriously worked. Staying busy and developing a system. And knowing that at some point, we would see each other.

And in October, he flew to Hawaii to visit me for a short 5 days. He came to work with me on one of the days, and I took a day off. I was overjoyed to see him and to show him the island. We packed in everything we could, and just had fun together. We didn't really talk about sad stuff or how short his visit was. We just loved each other and had fun. It was awesome.
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But then I dropped him off at the airport. I think that was one of the saddest moments of my life. He just stood there waving while I drove off. It was heartbreaking.

After that, we started a countdown. "Only 64 more days until we see each other!" we would say on the phone. I loved seeing those numbers drop.

When my internship ended, I had about 4 days until I was to fly back home. Those days went by so slowly. I remember being on the beach listening to my iPod, and the song "Home" by Michael Buble came on. I started crying. On the beach. By myself. Fun, huh?

That song, which is about being in amazing places but it not mattering because your love isn't there, wrecked me for those 4 days. (Oh, Michael Buble.)

When I got back home, my mom and Mark were there to pick me up. Poor Mom. I'm pretty sure I ignored her the whole time. Haha! :)

I learned a lot about my long-distance experience. It was so hard, but I wouldn't change a thing. I was able to grow as an individual, but still be in a loving relationship. Because of those 6 months, I learned to feel strong, confident, capable, and worthy of marrying such a great guy.

If I was to give any advice to other girls in long-distance relationships, I would give the following:
  • Stay busy. You will grow as an individual, and that will, in turn, help your relationship to grow.
  • Develop a system with your significant other. Be aware of when are good times to call/talk, so that you don't get worried if you can't speak with him or not.
  • Communicate in any way possible. E-mail, skype, and the phone are all good things.
  • Pray for your significant other. That simple gesture will comfort you.
  • Start a countdown. Is he visiting you in 3 weeks? Start saying, "Only 21 days!" Seeing those numbers drop is so exciting.
  • When you DO visit each other, HAVE FUN! Don't take time out to argue, "have a talk", talk about the future, etc. You can do that on the phone! Don't do that in the few hours you have with each other! 
  • Don't regret or be bitter about your time apart. It WILL make you grow. As individuals, and as a couple.
I'm living proof that a long-distance relationship can work.

When I got back from Hawaii, Mark and I planned our wedding in 3 months. And then we got married on March 28, 2009. Yay!
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We still love each other to pieces, and still have adventures and hardships that help us grow, even if those hardships aren't long-distance relationships.

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Long Distance Lovin' - Miranda

Hi ya'll!  I'm Miranda!  Don't be fooled by the ya'll, I'm from Wisconsin.  I just think ya'll is a great time saver.

First I'd like to thank Bri for having me!  I think this a great idea and can't wait to read all the other guest bloggers stories.  Anyways,  here is my long distance lovin'  story. (I always imagine the Law & Order guy saying this followed by the *dun-dun*)
This is my husband Guss & I on our wedding day.  July 22, 2006.
        Six months into being newlyweds?   Here I was.  Studying abroad.
Good ol Germany.
I thought I would share some tips on how to survive (or how my husband and I did) a long distance relationship  for a semester abroad. (or if you are apart for just a few months)

 Prepare: 
- The biggest thing I would prepare for?  The phone bill.  
I didn't really do any research...all I knew was that my phone worked in Germany.  
The first month I was gone?  $400 cell phone bill.  Uh oh.

Thankfully we could text, email, and I could use my host mom's phone and pay her.  It was definitely a lot cheaper.  I would recommend adjusting your phone plan whether the distance is 1 hour away or 10 hours away.  (Of course international is going to be much more expensive.)

- Also to prepare I set up a little folder to give my husband.  I had reminders, my information, important phone numbers, schedule for my TV shows (if you know me, I'm addicted).  I even made a little calender that showed when I was having classes, and where I was going on weekend school trips.  I think it was nice for him to at least have a good idea of what I was doing. 
share things:
I'm talking letters, postcards, pictures, or just random things.  My husband even wrote me a letter to read when I got on the plane to Germany.  It made me feel so much better since I was traveling alone.
My husband sent me letters, a DVD of him and our dog playing, fun socks, magazines, shows he had taped for me.  I can't tell you how exciting it was to get to my host moms and see a package or letter.  It truly brightens your day.
I normally do not show addresses but both addresses are no longer occupied so it's all good.
try and visit:
I know this one is a little tricky.  My husband and my family actually came to visit me halfway through the time I was there. It was nice to have the time of not seeing each other broken up.

 Downsides:  You only have a short time so you attempt to cram so many things in.  Plus being the only one who spoke German was quite stressful for me.  But it's worth it, even it is a short while.

And Finally-

anticipate adjustments:
My husband and I went from being very dependent on each other to having this new independence.  I was on my own schedule, I didn't have to worry about getting home to someone, doing my laundry (host mom insisted on doing it) and not doing any household cleaning.

Coming home I had to adjust like it was our first time living together.  It took about a week before I felt normal again (and the jet lag finally went away).  Again it was difficult and there was a little fighting between my husband and I but we made it.  We celebrated 6 years of marriage last month!

Well I hope these tips helped...and if not, hopefully it was at least interesting to read.  :)  Good Luck to those of you in long distance relationships or will be. Thanks for reading and thanks again to Bri for having me!

-Miranda @ Aimless Translation

Long Distance Lovin' - Nicole

Meet Nicole...she blogs over at "Sunkissed With a Twist", she's a fellow Texan, and she's quickly become one of my favorite blogger friends.
She and her beau (Zach) met when they were just 14 years old (how stinkin cute!). They dated briefly before Nicole found out that she would be relocating to Germany with her family. One summer during a visit back home Nicole was reunited with Zach and it was "love at first sight - all over again". Zach decided to visit Nicole in Germany, and they've been together ever since, they just celebrated their 6th anniversary together!

I'll let Nicole pick up the story from there...
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Long-distance relationships.
Those words bring up anxiety and stress just thinking about them!

There’s no doubt that long-distance relationships can be incredibly... challenging. 

Our relationship, by no means has been easy. Especially in the beginning! It was challenging to be able to fully trust each other. We were both really, really young and we had only spent the summer together before we decided to try long-distance. And let me tell you - it was NO cakewalk!
Long-distance relationships aren’t for everyone. You have to have a lot of patience, loyalty, respect, and the most obvious one, trust. I’m a really untrusting person anyway, when it comes to most people, so that was especially difficult for me. But it wasn’t so much that I didn’t trust him - it was more of not trusting other girls.

Overall, we spent about 9 months apart. Which is a pretty long time! With only one 5 week visit in between. Crazy! But it was so worth it.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but you just have to know that you really want to be with this person and know that you will remain committed - no matter what obstacles you face. And those obstacles will come in many forms, like time off, scheduling, travel, trust, loyalty, a possible time difference... but whatever gets thrown at you, you will be tackling it all head on, together. 

I think the biggest lesson I learned was that jealousy and trust are major issues, but they don’t have to be if you don’t let them. You have to be completely honest with each other, or it just.won’t.work. Period. Nobody likes being lied to, so just don’t do it. Even if you think it’s something small. I’ve always said that being lied to is bad, but knowing that I was lied to and that I found out the truth on my own, is even worse.

So here’s a few tips and some things I learned along the way:
Be as honest and truthful as possible. If your boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t want you going to a party where they know your ex will be there - don’t go. For real. It will save you both a lot of headache and stress. Also, don’t take pictures with your ex at said party that you weren’t supposed to go to. It may end the relationship! Just sayin’. Tell the truth even if you think it will hurt. You will thank me for this.

Make time to talk. Set up iChat/Skype dates, send sweet texts throughout the day, and try to talk to each other each night before you go to sleep. Knowing your sweetie is safe and sound in bed is such a comforting feeling.

Plan ahead. Make trips to see each other as often as possible. Distance can make the heart grow fonder - but too much distance will help you drift apart faster than any amount of miles ever could. If money is of concern, just talking about your day, every day with each other will be enough. As long as you both still feel “in the loop” and involved in each other’s lives, I think you’ll be more likely to last.

Learn to roll with the punches. Life won’t always be smooth sailing and arguments are bound to happen. But with any relationship, you have to be willing to compromise and find common ground. You have to put in extra, extra effort because you don’t have the luxury of seeing each other everyday. The stress can make it easier to give up and just say “forget it.” If you call, and they don’t automatically answer, don’t jump to conclusions. It will drive you insane and put tension between you.

Be rational - not irrational. When you get into an argument - and you will because it’s inevitable - take time to cool down before you do or say anything crazy. Even people in the best relationships argue. You don’t want to do or say something you will regret later. You should ALWAYS “say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” Life is too short to have conflicts, especially with the one you love, so make sure you think before you speak. Heated conversations spiral out of control FAST, so know when to quit and just resume the conversation at a later time when you’ve both had time to think.

Be spontaneous. Send each other pictures in the mail, or even a little care package of his/her favorite things. It’s thoughtful and lets your sweetie know that they’re always on your mind. You could even show up for a surprise visit! There’s nothing better than getting to see your babe when you’re not expecting it.

Do everything (well mostly everything) in moderation. Don’t get all text crazy, or impulse crazy when you *think* something might be up. Even if you don’t think anything is up, but you just miss them so much you have to text all day long and see what they’re doing and who they’re with and what they ate and what they’re doing next... you are going overboard. You’ll seem too clingy and a little bat crap crazy! Don’t be bat crap crazy... but do:

Love each other madly. Be each other’s best friend. You have to really, truly, and utterly be in love to make a long-distance relationship work. But most importantly, I think the most vital aspect of any relationship is friendship. It’s not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes a relationship fail. If you can’t be friends, you can’t be anything. You have to be able to talk to each other about anything and everything. Always have their back.

Long-distance relationships aren’t for the faint of heart! It takes work, but the payoff will be huge. And if you can make it though a long-distance relationship, you’ll be able to make it through anything. I promise.

-Nicole
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Long Distance Lovin' - Whitney

She blogs over at "The Observant Turtle" and she's over here today to share her long distance relationship experience.
Imagine getting married to the love of your life, going on a fantastic honeymoon, then returning to the real world and your brand new husband moving a thousand miles away.

That's what I did.

Let me just start off by saying that I know that there are people out there who had/have it worse than we did. There are couples that are separated from each other for months and months at a time without being able to communicate with each other. I know that. We were pretty lucky.

After getting married on July 23, 2011, my husband Nick and I went on an amazing honeymoon to Disney World. We had a great time, but the entire time there was an underlying sadness, knowing that he would be leaving me once we returned. One night we were waiting in line for a show and I just started crying because I couldn't imagine my life without him. I had spent almost every single day with this man for four years. How would I go four months without being able to see him?

He left our little townhome in South Carolina for Houston, Texas on August 19. There were so many tears. I felt empty, scared, alone. I didn't know what I would do without my new husband. My parents came up to spend time with me that day and helped me make the townhouse "mine" instead of "ours." The whole day I was on edge, with tears constantly in my eyes.

But, the days went on. Time passed and it got easier. I threw myself into everything I could find to keep myself busy. I joined organizations, got an internship. I kept busy so that I wouldn't think of how sad I was.

I was finally able to see Nick for the first time on my fall break, in the middle of October. It was seriously like a scene from a movie. I ran to him, cried, and fell into his arms. We spent five days together and I left him sadly knowing I wouldn't see him for another month. Having someone ask me "how is married life?" and having to respond, "I wouldn't know" killed me.

School continued and finally Thanksgiving came. Nick left again, and I finished my last semester of school. He arrived for the final time, two days before my graduation. The holidays came and went and we packed up my car and drove the long trip back to Texas.

We were apart for four months and they were hard, but we knew we would be together again.

If I can offer any advice for couples doing the long-distance thing, it's to remember that it will all be over soon. Take pleasure in the little things. Send each other snail mail and care packages. Find something you can do at the same time, like watch a movie or tv show. Most importantly, invest in a web cam! Being able to see each others faces really helps!

I would never wish a long-distance relationship on anyone, it honestly sucks hardcore. But enjoying the little things can make it all the better.

-Whitney

Long Distance Lovin' - Jessica

Hello Lovelies! 
I'm Jessica and I blog over at Jessica Who?
You can get to know me here, but for now let's get down to business!
When I heard about Bri's Long Distance Lovin' series, I knew I had to be a part of it.
I think my story is kind of unique because I have lived through both the good and the bad (and the ugly) of long distance relationships (for the sake of repetition, let's call this an LD relationship). I've been through more than one serious LD relationship. (It just kind of happened that way. You can't choose who you fall in love with, right?) My last LD relationship lead to marriage and I could not be happier! :) 
I know every relationship is different, but I can tell you what did and didn't work for me. There are 4 things that I think make or break a LD relationship. I'm a list person, so here we go!

1. Communicate. This is obviously so important in any relationship but especially in a LD one. LD relationships don't have the luxury of being physically there with each other all the time. So tell each other about your day. Tell your partner about that coffee shop down the street that you love and that new girl at the office who is totally driving you crazy. That way when you guys are together, it's more real. You'll walk down the street with him and he will say "Hey, that's that coffee shop you like, right?" and you'll smile because it's like he's been there all along.

2. Trust. Trust and communication. They go hand in hand. In a failed LD relationship that I had, we had little communication. Sure we talked on the phone a lot but he never really mentioned his life. I didn't know about the little things like his favorite thing to eat for breakfast or who was in that group that he went to the movies with. It lead to problems. A lot of them. If that girl wasn't a big deal then why didn't he ever mention her before? Is he seeing her? If I didn't know about her, does she know about me? Yes, I did turn into one of those psycho girlfriends, but I had good reason. He actually was cheating on me. More than once. And in 4 years, I never knew. This is the ugly part that I mentioned earlier. let's not go too much into that though. The point is that I should have known from the beginning that our lack of communication meant that I couldn't trust him. Without trust, there's nothing.

3. Be normal. What I mean by this is just because you are in a LD relationship, doesn't mean you have to miss out on everything that "normal" relationships have. Set up Skype dates. Watch a movie together (just play the movie at the same time). Eat the same dinner. The possibilities are endless! Before Jared and I got married and moved in together, we had date nights via Skype all the time. Sometimes we even played drinking games which always turned out to be pretty hilarious. Get creative!

4. Stay positive. If you don't believe that it will work, then it won't. You have to stay positive for each other. I always had a really hard time with this especially because of my previous relationships. Thank God I was with someone who lifted me up and stayed strong enough for the both of us.

There are obviously a ton of things that factor into making a relationship work, but I really think that these are the basics to make a long distance one work. You can read more about my long distance journey with Jared and how we ended up deciding to tie the knot here. I can honestly say that our marriage was worth the wait.

Thank you so much for having me on Just Bri today! I tried to keep this short and sweet but if you want to talk more, I'd love to get to know you!


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I participated in a mascara and lipgloss swap and Tara sent me these awesome goodies!
The Buxom lipgloss is AMAZING. Thanks Tara!
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