April & JD Engagement Photos

I had the opportunity to take some engagement photos for my grand-big, April, and her now husband, JD, back in mid-June! This was my first time taking engagement photos and I was SO nervous. I came armed with a stockpile of screenshots from Pinterest and whatever creativity I could muster. Luckily, this sweet couple made it SO easy on me! They were complete naturals and had so much fun together. Their joy was contagious!



One word that has been on my mind lately is "quiet." Have you ever truly noticed how much noise we're surrounded by on a daily basis? Currently, I can hear my co-workers chatting (yes, I'm writing this at work... whoops), the housekeeper vacuuming, and the music I have playing. Thank GOODNESS I grew up with two younger sisters and I can easily tune things out!

All joking aside, I've become so much more aware of not just the audible noise, but other noise like clutter, digital noise, and even noise stemming from relationships. These other types, that may or may not make actual sounds, take an incredible toll on your day-to-day life! It can be distracting or discouraging, reduce your productivity, and possibly create health problems. Read on to see how I'm combating those different types of noise in my life!

Clutter // My room at my parents' house (soon to be my house again since I'm moving back home!) was FULL of stuff. Just stuff. Not necessary stuff. Not important stuff. Plain ol' stuff. 4 years of moving back and forth between dorm rooms and apartments and home really took its toll on my organization abilities and the storage capacity of my room. My parents were, rightfully, so tired of seeing all the junk that was stacked, almost literally, floor to ceiling. I HAD to clean it out. It took a while, but I finally got it done a few weeks ago! Oh, the things I found in there! (I also learned that I have hoarded A LOT of clothes I've outgrown.) I went through every storage container, every nook and cranny, and ruthlessly got rid of stuff. The pile that I kept is significantly smaller than the pile I'm putting in our yard sale. It felt good. I was then encouraged to do the same at my apartment. I've only been there almost a year, but I own a lot of things. I'm trying my hardest to stay in the mindset of "get rid of it" and ask myself a few questions about each item I'm unsure of:

1) Is it necessary to every day life?
2) Does it hold special meaning to me?
3) Does it bring me joy?

I tend to not be a sentimental person, but like everyone else, I'm fairly materialistic. Understanding that your worth does not come from what you own is essential in this process. I also have to focus on not thinking about what I spent on each particular item. Sure, it will be hard to see something I paid $15 for go for $1 or $2 at a yard sale, but I keep thinking about how incredible it will be when Harrison and I move into our house after we get married and we only have the best, important, and necessary items.

Digital Noise // I have started to make a more conscious effort to put down my phone and tune into what is going on around me, rather than what other people are doing. This process of detachment began a few weeks ago when I realized I wasn't sleeping (and therefore waking up) well. I decided to stop sleeping with my phone right beside me. I still keep my phone in my room (I'm afraid of someone not being able to reach me if they need me/something happens), but it stays face down on my dresser with the ringer on. I've always heard of the effects of blue light right before bed, but never realized how much it does affect you until I started reading actual books before bed, rather than my Facebook timeline. I have been falling asleep faster and waking up feeling more refreshed. A lot of my struggle to fall asleep I was blaming on wedding planning stress. While I do think that is part of it, not having my phone beside me forces me to actively make an attempt to relax rather than scroll through social media to distract myself.

I also turned off almost all of the notifications on my phone. The only ones I kept are weather alerts, my morning devotional reminders, Google Calendar reminders, tweets from Thoughts of Dog, and texts. No social media, no email (my boss will send emails every hour of every day, so I need to be able to actually "leave" work), nothing. The only one that has the little red bubble notifications are my texts. It is so refreshing to open your phone to check one thing, see a clean screen, and not be tempted to check the other 15 notifications you have. Speaking of a clean screen, my home screen is a solid light pink background. My lock screen is the picture of the wheat field from above. That picture fills me with so much peace and serenity whenever I look at it. What you take in with your eyes is able to affect your mood, emotions, and thoughts so much. I try to keep things clean and simple.

Relationships // It can be so difficult to balance all the wonderful people in your life. People can be demanding! I have my close friends, friends I love but don't get to see that often, family, Harrison, work relationships, Sailor (yes, she counts due to the amount of attention she requires!) and all of the other people that fill my life from day-to-day. My Myers-Briggs personality type is an ESTJ, but I scored a 51% E and 49% I. My barely extroverted self loves to be surrounded by my loved ones, but I do need time to recoup on occasion. I think people who are really close E/I have the worst FOMO... because I do! There are instances where I really need that downtime, but the side of me that needs interaction can't be quiet!

For the most part, my weekends are reserved for family activities and Harrison, since the weekends are the only time I get to see him. My friends know this and thankfully completely understand! They also understand that if we all want to hang out, plans need to be made ahead of time. I'm at a different stage of life than most of them, so if I can't make something they don't get upset (even if I do!). The easiest way to see my friends is week night dinners, even though I have to limit those as well- the house won't clean itself! Sailor takes up a lot of my time, too. She has to go for about an hour long walk every night, be fed, bathed, played with, etc.

As much time as my relationships take up, I try to view it as an investment. Rather than seeing everyone all the time and not doing much, I try to spend quality time with everyone at a bit lesser interval. If I am rested and fully in-tune to the time I'm spending with them, I am better able to connect with them!

It can be so hard to find the quiet in your life, but it is so necessary for your well-being... no matter how extroverted you are! These are the main areas I have been focusing on lately. I am approaching a new season in life, so evaluating where I'm at and where I need to be happens daily. If you have any tips on finding the quiet in your days, please share below!


The Best Day

This past Sunday, Harrison and I GOT ENGAGED!!!!!!!! It truly was the happiest day and I am so blessed that the Lord allowed Harrison and I to cross paths at our huge university. Sometimes it seems so crazy that I found him out of 35,000 people, but sometimes it seems like we were just destined to meet. Our very first class (bright and early at 8:05 AM) on our very first day of college... we were in that huge lecture hall together. Biology 181. I don't remember ever seeing him because I was trying to be the "good student" and sat on the front row. I would have fit in much better with the group he sat with, considering I almost fell asleep every class. Our circles were never really that far separated and the luckiest day of my life was when they converged.

Our engagement was very "us" which makes it all the more special to me. I always told him that I don't want a public proposal- I just want us two, no photographer, even, so that we can just enjoy the moment with each other. He definitely took that to heart!

We were in Greenville for the weekend for Sarah and Justin's beautiful wedding and decided to go kayaking on Sunday. Harrison's dad had told us to check out Merchants Millpond State Park a few months ago, so we thought that there was no better time to go than Memorial Day weekend while we were closer that direction. We enjoyed a beautiful two hours paddling on the millpond. The pond itself is 760 acres and almost 200 years old. The black water is dotted with bald cypress and black gum trees... and the occasional alligator (although we didn't see one!).

After kayaking we had a picnic in the woods (see... very secluded and just us!). Over pizza and nachos lunchables, Harrison got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him! It was an incredibly special moment and we both are ecstatic for what lies ahead!


March in Pictures

I know we're not fully through with March yet, but I wanted to round up some pictures from the past 29 days to share what I've been up to this month! It's been a crazy, fast month... how is almost April already?! Also, March, you never fail me with the "in like a lion, out like a lamb" saying. You definitely came in like a lion (remember all the wind!?), and you managed to redeem yourself with 4 days left in the month- yesterday was 75, today is going to be 80, and Friday and Saturday will be above 65, too!

How can you not love these sweet faces?! Sailor has turned into quite the lap dog lately (I think all the puppy energy is about gone) and sometimes, when you catch them on a good day, you can find Lupin lounging with her.

 Alpha Gamma Rho celebrated their 99th anniversary on NC State's campus this month! The fraternity's colors are green and gold, and Founder's Day dinner just so happened to be on St. Patrick's Day, too, so it provided the perfect excuse to wear green (read: buy a new green dress)! I love when old friends are able to get together, and celebrating this organization that has provided so much opportunity is just an added bonus.

I made many a trip across the street from the building I work in to the coffee shop for an iced caramel latte (sorry, budget!). In my defense, March has been a hectic month!

Taken the same day as the picture of the coffee above... yes, I went to get iced coffee in the snow. March's weather was strange, to put it kindly. I wasn't going to complain about seeing a few more flurries this year, though!

I had a very unwelcome visitor in my bathroom one morning in the form of one of the insects depicted on that can- and it wasn't an ant. If there's one bug that I can't deal with, it's a roach. My mom can attest to that... she and Erin were audibly laughing at me while I was having a total meltdown on the phone. I bought this can of bug spray that afternoon and it has sat on my bathroom counter since. 

Can you tell that she basically thinks bath-time is water boarding?

Oyster roasts are one of my all-time favorite events- especially when the proceeds go to as good a cause as Ducks Unlimited! Harrison and I had a great time shucking oysters and supporting waterfowl conservation!

If there's one thing I can thank Sailor for, it's that she keeps us active. Exploring new trails is one of our favorite things to do. This one was at Lake Benson and Sailor was not a fan of the coots that were on the water.

I'm thankful for another fun, healthy, happy month in the books! I'm excited to see what April has to bring.


Undeniably Dairy

If you haven't heard, the dairy industry is having a pretty tough time right now. Milk prices that hung right around the $16 mark for the good part of last year all the sudden tanked around the first of 2018. During almost the entire month of February, the price of milk was at or below $13.50. That is a 14% decrease from the 2017 average. Currently, milk prices are around $14.

Dairy farmers get paid per hundred pounds of milk produced. Currently there is a huge supply of milk which is driving prices down. Many farms are struggling to make ends meet and some co-ops that purchase milk are sending letters with suicide hotline numbers along with the checks they are writing to their producers. You may have even heard of the contract cuts by Dean Foods. They ended partnerships with over 100 dairy farms (read: family farms) who now have until May 31st to figure out what to do with their milk or face going out of business. You can't just turn off milk production in a dairy cow. They keep producing and you keep milking, even if you have nowhere to send it.

That being said, there are ways to help support the dairy industry...

Put another gallon of milk in your cart. If you have the resources, consider purchasing more dairy products. If you don't finish it, pour it down the drain.

Consider switching to real dairy products if you are able. If you are drinking almond, soy, or other beverages (legally, they cannot be called 'milk!'), switch to the real thing! Dairy products are much more nutrient dense.

If you don't drink dairy (or even if you do), purchase some to donate to a food bank. Milk is often one of the most demanded items by food banks (because it is so nutritious!). Ask if your local food bank will take donations of milk, and if they do, purchase extra and drop it by. If you don't want to deal with all of those extra stops, you can donate online to The Great American Milk Drive.

Cook with butter. Who wants margarine, anyway!?

Go out for ice cream and drink chocolate milk. They are easily the best dairy products out there. Buy a gallon or a tub this week, or stop by your local ice cream shop or creamery for a treat!

Ask your local school district to bring back milk. Milk has disappeared from the lunch line at many schools. Bringing it back will restart that market!

And most importantly... do your research. If you see a shocking video or a scary statement, research all sides of it. Don't believe what PETA or other animal rights organizations have to say- they have an agenda. Don't believe what the misinformed people on Facebook have to say about what's really in your milk. Go to the source. Learn the processes. Incorrect information spread by fearful people will drag an industry down. Don't spread lies. Ask questions and learn.


Coffee & Jesus: Blinders

I saw a quote recently that read: "Why do racehorses wear blinders? So they focus on their own race. We should learn to do the same."

The horse person in me wanted to say that there could be a myriad of reasons for putting blinkers on a horse, but essentially, that is correct. It is to keep the horse focused on what is in front of them. That quote resonated with me. We need to learn to focus on our own selves and our own lives and cut out comparison.

Galatians 6:4-5 says, "Let each person examine his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load."

Let each person examine his own work. That is, focus only on what you are doing. Go about your work, or your choices, or your life living up to only your standards (or the standards that were set for you by work, etc.). Don't focus on what your coworker is doing at work or what your friend is doing with his or her life. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else. When you focus on your own goals and avoid getting caught up in competition, you can be proud of yourself because you know that you did it for you- not for anyone else. You worked hard to become president of a club because that's what fit your goals, not because it's what your best friend did and you need to be able to compare to her. You went a different route with your major because the career path you were heading down wasn't going to allow you to build the life you wanted and you didn't care what your classmates thought about it. Achieve what YOU want to achieve and what will propel YOU forward. Don't do something because everyone else is doing it. Don't seek the approval of your peers or competitors. As a servant of Christ, seek only the approval of the Lord.

For each person will have to carry his own load. When it comes down to it, you will have to answer for your own choices. When those friends drift away and you are on a path you don't want to be on, how do you explain that you are there because you followed the crowd? Because you had to keep up with the newest trends. Because you got distracted with what everyone else was doing and didn't finish your own race.

The shadows are distracting. The others around you will get you sidetracked. The spectators will scare you. Look forward. Stay your path. Put your blinders on. Your race is the one that matters. Your choices will define your life. Dig in and give your all to the goals you have set. Out of the gate it may look like someone else is so much further ahead, so much faster and stronger. But maybe they weren't conditioned the same. Maybe they were trained with short bursts of speed, whereas you were trained with long gallops to build stamina. Resist wanting to speed up and challenge them now. Let your race play out and do what you do best. Stick to the plan because it all works out in the end.

"Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2


25 Before 25

I am notorious for making these lists and not doing anything with them! I made the 23 before 23 list last year and then realized recently... "I'm turning 23 in 6 months and I haven't marked off one thing!" I think part of accomplishing those things is giving yourself enough time, but it's also about being intentional. Intentionality has been at the forefront of 2018, so I decided to tackle this list with a new frame of mind. Rather than making a list for the sake of making a list, I wanted to create something that means something. I wanted to give myself a little more time to achieve things that are going to matter when I'm older.

So, here's my new and improved 25 Before 25 list!

End date: September 25, 2020

1. Take riding lessons again (started May 2018)
2. Visit 5 new states
3. Take a photography class
4. Make a college photo book
5. Make a t-shirt quilt
6. Read the whole Bible
7. Take my family out to dinner
8. Have $10,000 in savings
9. Get married!!!!!
10. Take a trip with Mom, Cassie, Erin, Jenna, Lauren, & Lisa
11. Purge my closet
12. Start an Etsy shop
13. Start a Roth IRA
14. Take Harrison horseback riding
15. Start a garden
16. Go to the races at Keeneland
17. Buy a new camera
18. Get back to my sophomore year of college weight
19. Visit another National Park
20. Visit 10 state parks (May 2018- Merchant's Millpond)
21. Learn to drive a manual
22. Organize all of my photos
23. Go on a friend vacation
24. Visit 5 new cities
25. Go 1 month without personal purchases