Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Year in Review, and looking forward to 2017

So the year is just about done.  And yesterday was my dad's 70th birthday!  WOWZER!  I cannot even believe it!  We had a fun night celebrating with him.

This year has been pretty fabulous, I must say!  A few highlights:

  • I joined Premier Designs and have sold jewelry for the past year.  I've become more fashionable, made friends, gained confidence, and had fun in the process!
  • One of my best friends, Christina, got married in May!  It was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderfully special day to celebrate.  What a wondrous occasion.
  • I made a crazy decision to do a triathlon....and SUCCEEDED!  That was probably the craziest thing I have ever done.  But I definitely do not regret it.  I challenged myself and am so proud that I completed it!
  • I took a trip with John to visit Ben, Kristen, and Ayla in Tacoma.  It was so wonderful to take some time off of work and visit my lovely family.  We got to spend time with the little nugget, and hike a mountain to boot!
  • I got to meet one of my idols, Katie Foster! (  She is a blog writer and a huge motivation to me to be healthy.  We grabbed a drink on the east side of Michigan.  I loved it and she is great!
  • I bought a keyboard (thanks to John's inspirational trumpet playing!!!).  Unfortunately, I haven't played as much as I have hoped, but I will be addressing that with a 2017 goal!
  • I took and passed my social work licensing exam - WAHOO!  That means in April of 2017, I will be a fully licensed social worker, and instead of being Emily Carlson, LLMSW, I will be Emily Carlson, LMSW!  Hooray!
  • In December, John and I celebrated one year of being together!  Yay!  We spent our weekend in Pittsburgh at his friend's wedding.  Everything was extravagant and gorgeous - it was held at the Natural History Museum (we got to see dinosaur bones!).  And we got to get all gussied up which was super fun too.
All in all, the year was a success, I'd say.  I am definitely looking forward to 2017.  As for my 2016 goals, I accomplished some, but not all.  I did not read all of Anna Karenina.  I did take and pass my social work exam.  I did pay off my debt to the auto-mechanic (hooray!).  I did not get down to my goal weight (but I did lose about 20 pounds and I am OH-SO-CLOSE!).  I think I connected with family and friends 2x a month, but I did not keep a good record of that.  And I did read "The Celebration of Discipline."  So, not too shabby for 2016!

Now on to goals for 2017!  Here they are:
  • Physical - achieve my goal weight
  • Mental - take 3 months worth of piano lessons
  • Emotional - write my "shitty first draft" (of my story)
  • Social - write a note/month to friends or family
  • Financial - finish saving my $1000 emergency fund
  • Spiritual - read "Jesus Calling"
  • Relational - read "Love and Respect"
I am so looking forward to the new year!  I can just tell it's gonna be a good one.  The last year of my 20's!  Crazy!  And then in February, John and I are taking a trip to the WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!  I cannot even believe it!  Nor can I wait.  It's gonna be a blast.  John even got me an interactive wand for Christmas so that I can do spells.  Wahoo!

But thanks all.  Thanks for reading.  Hope you've had a great 2016, and I hope you have a fabulous 2017 as well.  Love to you all, my friends.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Breathing a sigh of relief

I have done it.  I have read the four letters that have enabled me to breathe a huge sigh of relief: PASS.  I passed the masters of social work licensing exam on Thursday, October 27th!

What an experience, let me tell you what!  I should have take it months after graduating in 2012.  But I didn't.  I procrastinated.  But one of my goals this year was to take the exam - and when I set a goal like that and make it public - I generally tend to stick to it.  So I scheduled the exam and then there it was.  On my calendar.

My supervisor recommended a website to me to get me studying (  You can subscribe to that and they have practice exams, and flash cards, and all sorts of tools you can use.  I subscribed for a month.  It wasn't until the week and a half before the exam that John asked - how's your studying going?  I was honest and said..."it's not."  He told me I wasn't allowed to call him at night until I had gotten at least a half hour of studying in that day.  It was the motivation I needed to kick my butt in gear.

I studied a minimum of half an hour each night the week and a half before the exam.  I took practice test after practice test.  I think I only passed a handful of them (you need a 70% to pass).  I usually got in the 50-60% which was pretty discouraging.  But I did not give up!  

The exam was in Grand Rapids.  So the night before, I drove up and spent the night at my good friend Danny and Christina's.  They bought me some wine to relax and we hung out for a bit before I attempted to sleep.  I woke up at 12:30 dreaming that I had already passed and I was so excited!  But, obviously that was not the case.  Then I kept waking up about every hour and a half or so.  It was horrible.  Finally the time came for me to go to the exam.

We had to have two forms of ID, and have our palms scanned for identification as well.  It was so intimidating.  There was a tiny little room where we were video recorded and they could watch us from a separate room.  There were people taking all sorts of exams - and one other lady was taking the social work exam as well.

Half way through the exam, one young woman had a grand mal seizure!  It was so sad.  And a bit distracting I might add.  I thought they might cancel everyone's exams on account of the distraction, but we just kept on taking our exams as people were coming in and out and getting her safely out of the room.  It was pretty awful.  I felt bad for her.  I found out later it was her first one.  I can imagine that would be really scary.  

So yes.  You were able to mark questions you weren't sure about and go back and look at them again.  I marked about 15 questions.  After going back and looking at them, I changed two answers.  At the very end, you click "next" and they ask you twice if you're sure you're ready to submit your answers.  My heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird's wings.  It was so intimidating.  But I kept clicking.  I thought, well, it's now or never.  And low and behold - I read the fateful words that I had been hoping for: PASS.  I could not believe it!  I passed the social work exam on the first try!  It was all over!  In a few short months, once my hours have been completed, I will be a licensed social worker! 

What a day.  What an experience.  I am so glad and relieved that it is over.  If you are reading this and have not taken your exam - just do it.  Get it over with; you will be so glad that you did.  And if you don't pass - don't worry.  It does not mean you're a bad social worker.  It just means you might not be the best test taker!  Best of luck to you all.  On to my next goal.  ;) 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ambitions & goals

It's good to have goals in life.  It's good to work towards things.  I feel like I am a woman of a million goals.  At the dawn of every year I set up categories of goals.  I come up with a goal (or two or three) per the following categories: physical, financial, emotional, social, and spiritual.  But then throughout the year I come up with new and modified goals and ambitions.  One such new goal has been to learn the piano!

I ordered a used Yamaha P-95 from Guitar Center online after much searching.  I have been tinkering and playing on it a little bit each day.  Last week, my friend Liz (who plays piano super well) came over and gave me a little lesson.  She took a mechanical pencil and tap tap tapped on the music stand because I definitely need to work on my timing.  

But I have been having so much fun with it!  It is so fun to have something new and exciting that inspires me and something productive to work towards and to use my spare minutes on.  It's a great stress reliever and is just fun!   I absolutely love it.  And I have to give a shout out to John for inspiring me.  He's been playing the trumpet for the past months and he's the one who motivated me to pick up an instrument again.  It's been so fun for the two of us to play our instruments together!  Love it.

I have other goals in my brain as well that won't seem to leave me be.  I want to get down to my goal weight (in hindsight, that cheesecake I had for dinner once this past week probably wasn't such a good idea....), to work on paying down my student loan debt, to work my Premier business, to grow in my faith and relationship with God, to be intentional about my friendships and relationships, and to take my social work exam.

As far as my weight goes - I'm not gonna lie - since I competed in the triathlon I have been slacking hardcore.  I have worked out sporadically and not focused on eating healthily at all.  I definitely need to rededicate some thought and motivation towards that cause.  Anyone wanna partner with me in that venture?  I should probably pick up running again and sign up for a race to keep myself accountable.  Hmm..

Student loan debt.  Ahh.  Gotta love it.  That kind of goes hand in hand with my Premier business.  I recently started going to a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class this past week.  I'm hoping to learn some very useful tools through that to help me in this venture.  After tallying up the total of my student loans (I haven't done it in a while and interest sure does add up quickly!) - I nearly had a heart attack.  But I survived.  And I just need to work harder and spend less!  So that's fun.  

My faith and relationship with God.  Yes.  I continue to write in my prayer journal.  I need to be more disciplined about setting aside quiet time instead of just fitting it in when I can.  God needs to be a priority in my life.  He definitely makes me one in his, that's for sure.  He provides so much for me.  I'm also currently reading the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist which has been a breath of fresh air.  It's literally about living in the presence of life and the presence of God, versus trying to live a perfect life.  

Friendships and relationships.  I try to be intentional about those by setting aside time to spend with friends and family.  And for those who aren't local, I try to be intentional about sending texts or making phone calls.  I'm not always the best - but I try.  Know that I love you guys!

And lastly, my social work exam.  I've started studying!  It's a step in the right direction!

Guys.  Ambitions and goals are important.  I feel like it's good to have something to work towards.  Keeps us moving in a positive direction.  I want to leave you with this:  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fairs, food, and festivities

So this is a bit overdue, but I am wanting to write a recap of my fabulous weekend last weekend.

Friday began as most Fridays begin - with work.  But it ended gloriously.  It ended with the Berrien County Youth Fair.  Ashley and I hopped in her car and picked up Mike, and we met up with a big group of us at our friend Jeremy's house.  We all carpooled to the fair and slogged through a ton of mud to the fair (it had been raining most of the day).  Literally - tons of mud.  But it was so worth it.

We didn't do the rides.  None of us showcased animals or exhibits.  But boy oh boy did we enjoy the food.  Glorious fair food!  Our first stop were the corn dogs.  I absolutely love corn dogs.  Delicious.  Then we walked around some barns and I got honey sticks.  I tried four different kinds: lime, vanilla, cinnamon and sour raspberry.  My favorite was definitely the sour raspberry - tangy and sweet.  A delightful combination.

After the barns with the weird clothes and the candles and the assortment of thing for sale, we stood in line for the meats and while we stood in line for that, I got some corn on the cob literally dipped in a bucket of butter which I proceeded to douse in salt.  Oh man.  So good.  Then we saw the animals!  The goats were so cute!  Some of them had their heads stuck through the wire cages - it was kind of cute/sad.  Then we saw the baby animals - ducks and horses and donkeys, oh my!  Haha.  Then...more food.

The culmination of the night I'd have to say was the ever-so-amazing deep fried Oreos.  We literally had to walk what felt like miles to find these puppies.  But they were worth it.  But anyway.  Enough about the fair.  On to the rest of the weekend!

Saturday was my beautiful cousin Brook's bridal shower.  It was full of good food as well: blueberry French toast, quiche, and mimosas!  We also played fun games.  I even tied for first playing a game where we matched the movie quote to the title of the movie.  That was neat.  It was so wonderful celebrating Brook and Dan's love and upcoming wedding day (October 2nd!).

Then I had to scoot out of there to meet one of my inspirations and favorite bloggers: Katie Foster!  She writes a blog called Runs for Cookies ( and she writes about her life, her amazing weight loss accomplishments, and her love of running.  She has been an inspiration to me over the years to become a more healthy and better me.  I have been reading her blog for a long time and feel like I know her so well!  We grabbed drinks and got to know each other's stories a bit better.  It kind of felt like a first date, and was super fun.

Myself and Katie Foster

Then I headed to John's and we hung out with his siblings for a bit, and then grabbed dinner at Jet's before heading to bed. 

Sunday was the big Marshall family corn roast!  What a day it was!  Every year since 1972 the Marshall family has been gathering in August for a corn roast where family and friends come together to roast corn and they bring food, pot luck style to fellowship and have some fun!  It was a blast.  Despite a bit of rain at the end, it was wonderful weather.  The corn was roasted to perfection.  My parents were even able to come out and join in on the fun!

At the corn roast after the rain.
And John was able to share his newfound love of the trumpet with his nephews.  It was such a precious moment.

What a fun weekend!  And the last thing I want to share with you has absolutely nothing to do with my weekend, but it just makes me happy: 

Ben and Ayla skateboarding!
And with that I bid you adieu.  Until next time folks!  :)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Different strokes: the social work life and transactional analysis

So my life as a social worker sometimes includes studying.  It should probably include it more as I am hoping to one day take and pass my licensing exam that I have literally been putting off for years.  Years!  It's getting a bit ridiculous.  But anyway, I digress.

In my supervision this past week with my supervisor, Theresa, we have been discussing the theory of transactional analysis by Eric Berne and she sent me some youtube video links and since then I have been enthralled.  It is such an interesting theory.  Check out these videos.  They are seriously worth a half hour of your life (10 minutes apiece).

Ego states & basic transactions



So, in case you didn't watch the videos (which you should!) or were super overwhelmed by them (which I was - and want to watch them like a million times over) - the basic idea behind transactional analysis is that each interaction between people is made up of what Berne calls "strokes."  Each stroke or "fundamental unit of social action" is either verbal or nonverbal.  Example, you say hello, I wave back.  These are the strokes that create day to day life.

While Freud believed in the Id, Ego, and Superego, Berne postulated the Parent, Child, and Adult ego states.  They boil down to this:  the parent ego reacts in the way one's own parents would - in a taught concept.  Examples of this include: Don't talk to strangers.  Eat your vegetables.  Clean your room.  The child ego reacts emotionally, like children do.  Examples include:  The monster in my closet at bedtime scares me!  My friend at recess was really funny.  The last ego state is the adult ego concept.  This is data-processing/learned concept/rationalizing state.  An example of this would include: When I forget to water the flower, it slowly withers.  I will water the flower every other day.

A simple suimmary:
Parent - taught concept
Child - felt concept
Adult - learned concept

Is this interesting to anyone but me?  Maybe just the social workers out there!  Haha.  My supervisor gave me the task of relating it to an example in my life - so mom and dad - you are the lucky winners! (it was hard thinking of something!)

I thought of how I split the monthly bill to the gym with my mom.  South Shore Health and Racquet Club draws $74 out of my bank account monthly which means that my mom owes me $37 each month.  She has yet to pay me for July.  In my analysis she is reacting from a child ego concept.  She did not feel like paying.  I (unfortunately) reacted from a parent concept demanding that she pay me back.

Had I reacted from a child ego state, I might have cried and gotten upset and said something like, "I feel like you don't even care about me at all!" - thankfully I did not do that!  Haha.  But had I been wise and acted out of the adult ego concept, I would have said something like "I would appreciate it if you paid me by the end of the week."  So when I talk to them tonight - that is what I will say.  :)

It's so interesting.  We obviously cannot change the ego concepts that other people act from.  But if you watched the videos, we can try and stop the games people play!  It's not easy.  But it's definitely doable, and oh-so-interesting!  I am hoping, now that I have this knowledge, to try and approach my life from more of an adult ego concept.  Not that that is always the perfect concept to be in - sometimes you need to be in the parent concept, or even child - depending on the situation.  But I feel like mostly the adult concept is best.

Anyway - if you want to learn more, read the books Games People Play by Eric Berne or I'm Okay - You're Okay by Thomas Harris or Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy by Eric Berne.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 18, 2016

I tri'ed and did it!

I did it - I completed the Sister Lakes sprint triathlon!  500 meter swim, 13 mile bike, and 5K run.

I am so freaking proud of myself.  I did a Couch to Tri program through two different groups, the Sunset Coast Striders (a local running group) and the Tri-Avengers (a related local triathlon group).  We'd meet every Tuesday to bike, every Wednesday to run, and every Thursday to swim.  We started in April and the group culminated this past Saturday, July 16 at the Sister Lakes Triathlon!

The AMAZING Tri-Avengers group!
As far as the actual race goes...oh man it was fantastic - and tough.  The swim was probably the hardest part.  There were three yellow triangle buoys that we had to swim to/around.  I swam pretty well to the first buoy doing the strokes with confidence, but after I rounded that first corner I started panicking and was exhausted.  So, needless to say there was a bit of doggy-paddling, back-stroking and just random movements trying to move forward.  Which I did.  I eventually got around all three buoys and made it to shore.  PRAISE GOD!

Then came the bike.  I feel like the biking portion was my strongest leg of the race.  At first I got passed by what felt like millions of people.  But eventually I started passing people, which felt really good.  There was one girl that I passed, and then she passed me, and then I passed her - back and forth.  We both dismounted at about the same time.  I should have remembered her number to see who beat who in the end, but oh well!  So yeah, the biking went well (despite my seat not being at the right height...does anyone know how to fix that?  Every single time I raise it, it just plops back down!).

And then the run.  My legs felt like jello and lead at the same time - which is a really weird phenomenon.  My pace was slow, but I guess that's to be expected after competing in two other disciplines first, and not being good at knowing how to save energy and strength and all that good stuff.  But I did not walk!  Which was my goal - so I accomplished that and was quite proud of myself for that.

All in all, I completed the whole thing in 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 24 seconds.  Here's the time sheet with the breakdown of each discipline:

So!  I did it!  And I am SO stinkin' proud of myself!  I met some AWESOME people on the journey and have become a stronger person, mentally and physically, in the process.  It was tough, don't get me wrong.  There were times that I definitely did not want to go to practice.  Times that I wanted to bail (and times that I did).  Times that I just felt like giving up...but I did not!  And I am SO glad that I didn't!  What a journey.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tacoma trip recap

Oh man you guys.  My trip to Tacoma was such a blast!  It was so good to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and to see family in such a beautiful land like Washington.  Seriously though.

I'll give a short recap of the trip.  Dad took John and I in to Chicago Saturday evening.  We flew out of Midway on a late flight and arrived without any issues around 11:30 pm.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early to little Ayla cries and got ready for church!  We really enjoyed Ben and Kristen's church - everyone was so friendly.  Plus their church is housed in the same school where 10 Things I Hate About You's football scene was filmed with Heath Ledger - ya know the part where he sings "I love you baby" that's pretty cool.

Ben, Ayla, myself, and Kristen.

Then Sunday afternoon, after Ayla Mae's nap - we headed to Seattle.  We went to Spud's - a fish and chips place and YES I, Emily Alma, ate fish.  Isn't that insane?!  Haha.  The more insane thing is that I liked it!  But that's because it was so deep fried that it didn't taste like fish.  Then we headed downtown.  We walked around Pike Place Market and to the first Starbucks and just around town.  It was fun.

Johnny and me chillin on the grass in Seattle.

Then on Monday, Ben and John and I ventured two hours away to Mt. Ellinor.  We spent about 5 or 6 hours hiking up this gorgeous mountain.  It was a 6.2 mile hike - which doesn't sound that bad, but it was pretty intense.  It was about 1,000 feet in elevation per mile and there was quite a bit of snow that we had to traverse!  But it was gorgeous!

On our hike up Mt. Ellinor.

At the trail head.

Hiking on the snow!
 And there were mountain goats!  This was at the top.  Ben told us on our way down that a few years back a hiker got gored to death by a mountain goat on this trail and they had to shut it down for a few that was fun!  This mama goat and her baby were cute but they kinda followed us a bit and it freaked me out.  Notice the hiking pole kinda shoeing them away?  Lol.

Mama goat and baby goat at the top!
Then on Tuesday I drove Johnny to the airport at 3:30 am for his flight to Detroit.  It was sad to see him go, but I was glad he was able to join us for a few days and that he could meet my family.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing with Ben and Kristen.  We didn't do a whole bunch Tuesday, which was nice.  We prepped for our camping trip, Kristen and I got manicures, and we went to their church community group on Tuesday night hanging out with a bunch of people, which was fun.

Then Wednesday we went CAMPING!  FUN!  Ayla and Kristen only stayed one night.  Ayla didn't do suuuuper well camping as it didn't get dark until late, but we had a blast anyway.  She is such a cute little camper.  She played in the dirt and was so much fun!

Baby Ayla at the campsite.

At the beach.
After Kristen and Ayla left on Thursday, Ben and I had a lot of good bonding time.  We just sat around and talked and cooked food and made s'mores and relaxed.  We went on walks in the woods and sat looking out at the water.  It was nice.  Good quality brother/sister time.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ben and I returned to the apartment on Friday after packing up camp.  It rained most of Friday.  But the gang and I decided to go on a mini hike/walk anyway!  We put on our rain gear and went to Titlow Park and walked in the rain.  It was so fun!  We saw jumping fish and sea lions in the water!

Then Saturday was time for me to head out.  All in all it was a wonderful week.  Ayla started out the week crawling and ended the week walking like crazy!  She was toddling around like it was no big deal.  So cute!  It was so neat to see her progress so quickly!  I love my family so much.  It was so good to be able to spend some quality time with them.

Love this little girl so much!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cry me a river

So this past week/weekend has been a time of tears.  Some good, some not so good.  Tears can be so cathartic.  They can be so good and cleansing.  They can "wash the windows to your soul."  Or they can be embarrassing.  Or they can be heartfelt.  There are all kinds of tears.  Let me share with you some of mine.

Post Spring Lake open water swim practice.
Preceding this picture was where I had my first mini cry-sesh.  My couch to tri group had our very first open water swim practice.  Aaaaaand I cried.  Like a little kid.  I was so overwhelmed and afraid of the open water and felt that I couldn't do it and afraid and exhausted, and did I mention afraid?  Oh man.  I mean, I grew up in Lake Michigan - so being in open water doesn't scare me.  Swimming in open water doesn't scare me.  But my version of swimming is doggy paddling around while laughing and giggling with girlfriends.  This kind of swimming was intense.  This kind of swimming was laps around kayaks with seaweed and muck in your eyes.  I was seriously so overwhelmed.

But my coach, Dee, the kind lady in the foreground of this picture, pulled me aside and reminded me that I can do this.  I can overcome all kinds of fears.  I am a strong and capable woman who she believes can accomplish this feat.  So after taking a deep breath, I jumped back in and finished out the practice.  She reminded me that even if it's not "the perfect stroke," even if I have to do some alternate stroke other than freestyle, moving forward is the name of the game.  That gave me great confidence and I felt much better.  Those were the first tears.

Danny and Christina
The next tears were surrounding this gorgeous couple.  They got married this weekend.  I was blessed enough to be able to be a part of their beautiful day.  I got to read the following poem by Pablo Neruda:

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Christina and I have been best of friends since we were in the fourth grade.  We have been through so much together.  She is my lobster (lobsters mate for life).  I love her dearly.  This was such a happy celebration for me to see her with Danny.  Danny is so good to her and for her.  They make the most wonderful couple.  They are so blessed to have each other and I am so blessed to have them.  Thus the tears.  I cried at the rehearsal and I cried at the wedding.  Seeing my friend walk down the aisle in her white dress, saying her vows, pledging her love to her husband.  It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful ceremony.  What a day!

The gang.
John and I
Thus my week/weekend of tears, both good and bad.  Have you cried recently?  What have you cried about?  Anything good?  Anything bad?  Leave some love!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cake AND skinny jeans?! #bookrecommendation

Dark chocolate fudge.  Angel food confetti.  Creamy espresso cheese.  Cake.  I love cake.  I especially love cheesecake, but that is a whole other topic for another day.  But what does cake have to do with a book recommendation?  The title of my new favorite health book is entitled "How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too" by Josie Spinardi.

This book is all about intuitive eating.  This is an "anti-diet" book.  The book starts out fairly research heavy - which I absolutely loved.  I felt like I was learning so much.  It talks about how diets can be so extremely damaging: mentally and psychologically. Then it delves into the application.  It stresses eating when you are truly hungry and stopping when you are full.  It says not to restrict yourself from any foods because then you tend to binge or overeat those foods later.

I can't even begin to say all of the wonderful things I learned from this book.  All I have to say is that you should just go and read it.  Just do it.  Even if you don't struggle with overeating or binge eating, you will learn a lot!  It's definitely worth a read!  Two thumbs up from Emily!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Guys.  I'm pretty much famous.  I have had the privilege of being a guest writer on my roomie's blog Peonies 'n Mint!  Check out the post here!  The post is all about love.  I think you'll like it.  Anyway, that's all.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tri and tri again

I am officially doing the Sister Lakes Triathlon, as most of you already know.  Last night wrapped up our third week.  On Tuesdays we bike, Wednesdays we run, Thursdays we swim.  What a few weeks it has been!

Last night after doing a few laps in the pool, my eyes bulging like little toads (I'm getting new goggles so that this doesn't continue to happen..) I start to think - can I really do this?!  It's a 500 meter swim, 13 mile bike, and 5K run.  That is a lot!  There is a tiny part of me that says, "ehh, just give up - not many people do this, who are you competing against?  Why are you spending so much time and energy on this useless goal?"

But no!  I will persevere!  This is about more than just swimming and biking and running.  This is about setting goals and sticking to them.  This is about pushing yourself and going past your limit to do more than you ever thought possible.  I am doing this for no one other than myself and that is okay.  I am pushing my body to go places it's never gone before and I will be stronger as a result.  Stronger in my beliefs in myself and stronger physically.  I will not give up. 

What are some of your goals?  What are you afraid of doing but so badly want to accomplish?  How are you holding yourself accountable to working toward these goals?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The world of doodling

Flamingo colored pinks and luscious greens now decorate my new journaling Bible.  I have multiple doodles that have begun to decorate the margins.  What is a journaling Bible, you might ask?  It's a pretty simple concept - it's a Bible that has space in the margins for note-taking, or in my case, doodling!

This is my first try at it - this is the cover page essentially.

This is my favorite verse, Psalm 45:11.

Another good set of verses from Colossians.
Relationships take work.  One must invest time and effort and energy into keeping up a relationship.  Examples of this include letters mailed and phone dates scheduled, chats over coffee and a quick lunch grabbed in between the business of life.  

What does doodling have to do with relationships?  My doodling is so much  more than just doodling.  It is the way in which I grow in my relationship with God.  It is a way in which I can meditate on his word and spend time with him.  It is how I invest in our relationship.

My relationship with God is the most important and fundamental part of who I am.  My walk with the Lord has not been easy.  I've lived through and endured some challenging times (one day I want to write a mini memoir or collection of essays about it...feel free to encourage me or give me tips!).  Throughout these times though, I've leaned on the Lord and grown closer with him.  I've depended on him for my everything.  

So I will continue doodling and spending time with my Lord, growing in grace and the knowledge of his love.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

One year work anniversary!

I cannot believe it.  It has been exactly one year today that I started working at Area Agency on Aging!  That is just crazy.  It  has been quite a ride, but I've absolutely loved it.  I might be biased, but I seriously have the best supervisor, trainers, and co-workers that a gal could ask for.  Everyone is so supportive and helpful, and fun to boot!  I' so glad I was hired on and have been a part of such an awesome company.  Hooray!

Beautiful flowers from my parents in honor of my anniversary!
In other news, April is almost upon us.  Spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner.  I have such fun things coming up!  I can't even believe it.  This weekend John and I, and Mike and Ashley are going camping.  It might rain, and it's going to be bitter cold - but I know we're going to have a blast!  In April, John's sister, Katie, is hosting a jewelry show.  My friend Megan is having a baby shower, and my friend Anh is having a party in Chicago.  All of which are going to be so fun!

Then May rolls around and I've got another jewelry show and then the month of celebrating Christina and Danny!  Christina's bachelorette party is the 14th and they get married on May 28th and I get to read a poem at their wedding and I could not be more excited for them!

In June...oh man I am so excited for June.  Johnny and I are going to be visiting Ben and Kristen in Tacoma, Washington (John for a couple of days, me for a week).  I cannot even contain my excitement.  I am beyond thrilled.  It's going to be SO fun!  And I get to snuggle little Ayla till my heart is content.  Hooray!

In other news, I have officially registered for the "Couch to Tri" program that starts next week Tuesday.  I am excited and oh-so-nervous.  I am definitely not a swimmer, and I can barely call myself a runner.  While I've biked quite a bit (my 700+ mile trip in Australia), it's been years since I've done that (2009).  And I only have a mountain that's not gonna help either.  But regardless of all of that, I am still very excited and can't wait for training to begin!

Now on to goals.  I have been working on some goals and have revised some and created others.  Click here for my post about goals for the year 2016.

MENTAL:  I am on track for reading through Anna Karenina.  I've completed my March page goal and have started on April's.  (I have to read approximately 70 pages a month-ish).  I have yet to sign up for my social work exam, and I've been slacking on studying.  That's one thing I definitely need to work on.

FINANCIAL:  I'm still plugging along on paying back my car mechanic debt.  I make a payment every month, so we'll see if I can get it done by the end of the year (fingers crossed that I won't need any more repairs this year!)

PHYSICAL:  I am quite far from reaching any of my physical goals.  I gave up on Kayla Itsines' BBG.  It's just hard.  That's all I've got to say.  I got half way through week five of the twelve week program.  Oh man.  I have not calorie counted either.  I tried Weight Watchers for a hot minute but wasn't successful with that.  So needless to say, I have definitely not reached my goal weight.  This is disappointing, but I'm not giving up!  Hopefully the tri training will help some.  That's a new physical goal - to actually complete the triathlon.  And I want to incorporate drinking more water and eating more fruits and veggies.

EMOTIONAL:  I have not kept track of who I've been keeping in touch with, but I think I've connected lots with family and friends these past months!

SPIRITUAL:  I've got two chapters left of Celebration of Discipline.  Almost there!  Kayla and I are meeting on April 11th to discuss the second to last chapter.  Should be good!  Don't know what I'm going to read next. I'm almost done with Love Does by Bob Goff, and I want to read Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.  We shall see.


So those are my goals.  I just gotta keep plugging along.  How are things with you fine folks?  Anything new and exciting to report?  Hope and pray that all is well!  Much love.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day y'all!  Did you know that if you're a protestant, you should be wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day?  Well, I wore both green and orange today to compromise!  Haha.  Just a bit of trivia for your day.  (Check out this site for more information).

So March has been very fun thus far.  John turned 33 on 3/3 this year - so I got the opportunity to travel to Dexter where he's from to celebrate with his family and friends.  On Friday we hung out, grabbed dinner, and went dancing with a bunch of his friends.  Then on Saturday we had dinner and hung out with his siblings.  It was a great weekend of celebration!

Then this last Saturday, John and I, Mike and Ashley, and our friend Amanda all ran a St. Patrick's Day 5K!  It was a blast.  It was so fun to get out in the sunshine with friends and exert some energy.  Here's a pic from our Saturday morning run.

So in relating to fitness, I need your assistance.  There is a "Couch to Tri" program starting at the beginning of April.  Click here to check out more information about the program.  It's a commitment of every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for about 3-4 months.  My question to you I do it?!  I've always wanted to do a sprint triathlon and I feel like I do better with my fitness when I have a goal to work towards.  It's just such a huge time commitment and I want to be able to successfully do Premier as well.  I just don't know!  Thoughts?  Advice?  Wisdom?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Speaking of Premier, I had my first two shows this past week (shout out to my mom and co-worker Elizabeth for being awesome hostesses!).  They went so spectacularly!  I was so nervous going in to those shows but they ended up being so fun!!  My mom invited a bunch of friends over and that was more of a formal show where I did the "normal" presentation.  Then the one with coworkers was held at Martin's Side Door Deli Cafe and it was informal and I just kinda talked about the jewelry and Premier in a more low-key manner.  They were very different but both were a smashing success!  I can't wait to see all the great jewelry on my even more great friends and coworkers!  FUN!

On an unrelated note, I came across this webpage a while back that has "50 questions that will free your mind."  Here's the link.  I thought I would go ahead and answer the first five today!  I might do more later, I might not.  Just thought it was kind of fun.

1.  How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
This is a hard one because to be honest, I feel exactly like the age that I am!  I used to think I was an adult stuck in a 12 year old's body, but now I just kind of feel right in the right spot!  If I had to pick another age, I'd say maybe a couple of years younger...I am currently 28, so maybe I'd be closer to 24 in how I feel.  That would make sense to me.

2.  Which is worse, failing or never trying?
Clearly never trying is worse!!  Because if you never try, then you might never get the opportunity to succeed!  And if you fail once doesn't mean you can't succeed at it if you try it again later!  

3.  If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don't like and like so many things we don't do?
That is a stinkin' good question.  I think maybe because a lot of the things we do are things we have to do to be an "adult."  Like pay taxes and bills and go to appointments and all that good stuff.  But just because there are things we have to do doesn't mean we can't do the stuff we like as well!  I always try to incorporate fun things into my life.  And I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to do lots of things that I like, especially including travel.  I love traveling.  

4.  When it's all said and done, will you have said more than you've done?
Ha.  Okay. I don't think so!  Like I said in the previous answer, I have been very blessed to have been able to travel the world and experience lots of cool things.  I have studied in Spain, biked 700+ miles in Australia; I did missions' work in Alaska for a summer; I've traveled throughout Europe.  Yeah.  I think I'm good.  ;)

5.  What is the one thing you'd most like to change about the world?
Oh wow.  I don't even know.  More faith in God?  Less poverty and struggle?  Less evil?  There is so much I would like to change.  But at this point in my life, I am more concentrated on changing one life at a time by getting to know people and sharing God's love.

What about you?  How would you answer these questions?  Are there other questions that peak your interest more?  I'd love to hear what you have to say!  I hope you all are having fantastic days today!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Kiss a leprechaun!  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New challenges

Hey all.  I wanted to start out today's post by sharing a bible verse from Colossians that has been inspiring me a lot lately.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

I have been facing many challenges lately, mostly ones that I put on myself for personal growth.  It's been tough, but very very good.  Premier Designs jewelry is one of those challenges.  In addition to needing the extra income to help pay off my student loans quicker than in a million years, Premier has been a great way for me to connect with other women.  I have gone to a couple of trainings already and have been inspired by some very hard workers.  I have been challenged outside of my comfort zone in trying to get bookings and I feel like I am growing in so many ways.  It's been incredible.  I practice my show in front of my mirror and in front of loved ones (thanks Mom!) and I am growing more and more confident in myself.  What a neat experience.  If you want to check out the jewelry go to my website: - the catalogs are there!  I'd love to host a show for you to help you earn free jewelry (and I'd be forever indebted to you!!  ;)

In addition to Premier, I am attempting to work on myself personally on a deeper level too.  I am taking an online art therapy course by Brene Brown, a social worker and researcher and all around amazing woman.  I am reading her book "The Gifts of Imperfection" along with doing some watercolor art therapy.  I am growing so much and learning so much about myself.  Check out the following piece I did:

The assignment for this was to choose two pictures in which, if you could go back in the past and whisper some encouragement to yourself, what would you whisper. The first picture is from a very dark time in my life when I was living in Spain.  Some day I will write about it - or feel free to ask me about it and maybe we can grab a cup of coffee together and I can tell you about it.  But, if you can't read it, I wrote "You are beautiful.  You are strong.  God is with you always.  He will NEVER leave or forsake you."

The second photograph is of me and my friend Anh when we were in our friend Kathryn's wedding.  Though it may look like all smiles and sunshine, this also followed a very dark time in my life.  The words I wrote there were "You are not crazy or unlovable.  You are wonderful and gorgeous and you deserve the world."  Some day, maybe some day I will write about these times in my life.  When I get the courage.  But yes, I was a waterfall of tears when I was working on these.  

What kinds of things would you like to be able to whisper to yourself in the past?  Is there anything you should be whispering to yourself now?  Any kind of encouragement or word of wisdom?  It's important to think about the messages we are sending ourselves.  As I learned in Latin class in high school "Cogito ergo sum" - I think therefore I am.  The messages you send yourself are so vital and important to who we are and who we become.

This online art therapy course focuses on living a whole hearted life.  I think with my breakup with my ex, that I am having a hard time being super vulnerable and open in my new relationship and I want to make sure I am being as open, honest, vulnerable, and wholehearted as humanly possible.  I'm hoping and praying that this course helps me through some of those hurdles.

Another challenge I have been giving to myself and working toward is getting healthier.  I have some poundage I would like to lose and I am working desperately toward losing it.  I am in a DietBet right now where I bet money against myself to lose 4% of my weight in four weeks.  I'm doing Weight Watchers to try and accomplish this and I am also training for a 10K in May with Johnny boy.  John, Ashley, and I just signed up for a 5K in a week and a half so that will keep me motivated to keep training.  I am trying!

A goal that I have not been very successful with is studying for my social work exam.  I work on it at least weekly in my supervision with my supervisor and a coworker, but I have not done any work outside of that to progress toward that goal at all.  I wish the exam weren't so darn expensive, otherwise I'd just take it to see how I'd do and hope for the best!  Prayers and encouragement in this would be greatly appreciated!  Or if you are taking it soon or know someone who needs/wants a study buddy - let me know!

I am continuing to read Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.  It is SO good!  It's definitely not a page turner, but good none-the-less.  I am also reading "The Celebration of Discipline" with my friend Kayla and that continues to help me grow in the disciplines of the faith - always a good thing.  I'm also reading "Love Does" by Bob Goff.  An incredible read.  Definitely recommend that one.  What else am I reading?  Haha, oh yeah, John and I are reading "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller.  It's a book that makes you think, that's for sure.

Are you reading anything good?  What are you doing to better yourself?  Any recommendations or words of encouragement you can provide me with?  

Life in general, though I am working on a lot, has been extremely good.  Last weekend John and I went to Grand Rapids to visit my friend Christina and her fiance Danny.  We stayed in their newly purchased and gorgeous home and hung out with their little girl.  So fun!  We got to go to Ada Bible Church on Sunday - my old stomping grounds.  Then after church we went to The Electric Cheetah where I got the most amazing food for lunch.  Usually I get their mac and cheese but they had a brunch special of mini almost elephant ear type dough smothered with cherry preserves and peanut butter whipped cream.  OH MAN it was so good.  I asked for a spoon to lick up the rest of the whipped cream, that's how good it was.

Tonight, Mike and Ash and I are having a game night for fun.  Wednesday I've got the Randy Gariss "love series" again.  Then Thursday is John's birthday so I'm going to Dexter on Friday for the weekend!  That should be fun!!!  I cannot believe how blessed I am with everything in my life.  I am so grateful.  What are you grateful for?

Thanks for reading!  Sending you my love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Love & Premier

So we had another meeting on the topic of love last week and we discussed "agape" love.  Unfortunately, I don't have my notes handy, but it's good to refresh anyway.  Basically agape is a love created by doing acts of service.  It is a love of commitment and intention.  Agape is not a free-wheeling euphoric feeling kind of love - it's the love created by serving those you love.

The speaker, Randy Gariss shared a few examples of couples whose marriages were struggling and one person in the couple assisted in the reconciliation by serving the other.  It was neat to hear how powerful it was and how that fostered a deeper love.

We meet again tonight so I'm curious to learn what we will be talking about!  Should be good.  (plus we're doing a pasta dinner with everyone that's coming - so that should be yummy!).

Thinking of agape and serving others...I have begun a (renewed) venture with Premier Designs!  Premier is a jewelry company that works by people hosting jewelry shows.  It is beyond an amazing company.  I had my training show last night and here's the jewelry display I had set up:

Oh man, it was so fun.  The jewelry is gorgeous and the company is fantastic to work for.  I'm starting this venture as a way to pay off my student loans a bit quicker (rather than the million years it'd take otherwise, lol...) but it's so much more than that.  It's growing to be a great support system for me in my faith and friendships.  Lindsay, my sponsor, is a doll of a lady.  She has such a strong faith and is such a dear friend (maybe you might remember, I lived with her family late 2012 and early 2013!).  

Anyway, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it if you could shower me with agape love by hosting your very own jewelry show.  As a hostess, not only would you get a fun girls' night out, but you'd earn free and half price jewelry items!  It's a win win!  (Plus I'd be forever grateful).  Feel free to email me at or text or call me at 269-470-3315.  And definitely check out my website with the catalogs at They've got some beautiful and funky stuff!

Thank you so much in advance for your support.  I couldn't do this without you and I am so excited for this journey!  Sending my love.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Love love love

Last night about 8 or 9 of us gathered to listen to a message from Randy Gariss that my friend Aaron had a recording of.  It was all about relationships and love.  It's a five part series that we're going to be meeting to do on Wednesday evenings (you're all invited!!).  It was really interesting!  I just wanted to share a bit.

The main gist of what we discussed was how there are basically three types of love.  He shared/reviewed two of them.  The first is Eros, the second is Philea.

Most people think of Eros as erotic and physical, however it is more than that.  Eros love is basically the idea of "I'll love you if..."  It's a form of drug.  A way to cope with life and one's insecurities.  For instance, I'll love you if you make me feel good about myself.  I'll love you if you  make me dinner.  I'll love you if you this that and the other.  It's definitely a conditional kind of love.

The second, Philea, is essentially "I love you because..."  Randy thinks this kind of love is okay in a dating relationship but not in a marriage.  This kind of love means that you are looking for specific characteristics and if that person fits that mold, then you will love them.  The thing is, people change.  No one is static - we all change throughout life's experiences, both good and bad.  So if/when a person changes and they no longer fit your mold, the love fades.

The next time we meet we will discuss the best kind of love (which I'm assuming is agape).  But in reflecting on my experiences...I definitely can see how my last relationship was not the "good" kind of love.  I think that "old" John (since I have a "new" John) loved me because of who I was.  However, when I went through a hard time toward the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, I changed.  Life happened and I was no longer the person he fell in love with.  In addition to him not being tough enough and strong enough to walk with me through the hard times, I changed and he did not love who I was after that change.  This is Philea.

I'm not saying I'm much better.  I think that I loved him in the Eros sense of love.  I was insecure in who I was and not confident.  My self esteem was very weak.  I think that my love was based on the way he made me feel.  He "completed" me - which is so unhealthy - it should have been God completing me.

While that break-up was extremely painful and came at such a devastating time in my life, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  Because of that break-up, I was able to grow more into the woman of God that I am supposed to be.  I was able to learn to love myself, flaws and all.  I'm not saying my self-esteem is perfect right now, but I have definitely grown.

Anyway, those are just some of my musings.  I'm excited to learn more as we continue to meet and discuss.  Please post your thoughts or questions if you have any!  Thanks guys.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Birthday celebrations!

Before I jump into my birthday celebrations - I want to give you an update on how my goals are going!  As far as reading Anna Karenina goes, I am now past my mini-page goal for January and I am on page 107!   Wahoo!  Now I just need to get to 158 by the end of February and I'll be on track.  I have been studying for my exam - so there's progress in that regard.  I haven't made any new progress on the payment for my car repairs, but I did make a payment this January, and I'll make one in another couple of weeks.  I have made zero improvement with reaching my goal weight.  However, I completed week one of the BBG!  And I calorie counted for most of last week, but once my birthday hit I kinda took a break.  Once the chocolate peanut butter pie is outta my fridge, I'll jump back into doing that.  As far as connecting with people, I had a phone date with my lovely friend Rachel this month; and I connected with Beth too!  (more on that later).  So I've reached that goal for the month.  And as for reading The Celebration of Discipline - I am discussing the next chapter with my friend Kayla tomorrow - so there's forward motion there too!  Wahoo!  One more goal I am thinking about adding is running a 10K again.  John and I have talked about training for the River Bank 10K in May.  We shall see.

Now time to talk about birthday fun!  My 28th birthday was this past weekend (January 17th).  On Saturday I had a bowling extravaganza!  Here's a pic of all the people that showed up:

It was so fun!  I bowled 107 on my first game and 117 on my second game.  Not too shabby!  Also the 117 equals my date of birth!  (Get it?  117=1/17).  After bowling we all went out to pizza at Silver Beach Pizza.  Yum!  I got an Ace Pear Cider which is oh so good along with the Garlic Greek - my favorite pizza they have!

After that and some relaxing back at my apartment (Ash and I played Mario Party!), a bunch of us headed to grab appetizers/dinner and drinks at The Buck.  Then went back to SBP for more fun!  Here's a shot of me and Ash and our guys.  :)

Then on my actual birthday we all went to church and then to Sophia's for lunch afterward.  Then John and I went to Goodwill where I made out like a bandit with some great finds!  Then dinner at my parents where one of my best friends, Beth, surprised me from Grand Rapids!  What fun!  Here's a shot of us:

So that was that!  I had Monday off for MLK so Beth and I stayed up SUUUPER late on Sunday night (she's a 3rd shifter) watching Extreme Weight Loss (my new addiction).  Then when we woke up we went to The Mason Jar for brunch.  We even split a chocolate bacon waffle!  It was soo good!

So that's that!  I had a great weekend celebrating.  It was so fun!  28 is gonna be a great year I can already tell!  :)  Hope y'all had a great weekend too!  Sending my love.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Goals for 2016

I love making goals and writing lists.  I always have and I always will.  So I am going to write and post some of my goals for 2016!  (I am also hyper-organized and have categorized my goals...I'm kind of a dork like that).

  • I want to read all 817 pages of Anna Karenina!  (So far I'm on page 64, so I'm making progress.  I think I just need to read about 67 pages a month now to complete it by the end of the year!  Woot woot!)
  • Sign up for, study, take, and pass the Masters of Social Work licensing exam!  I have a study guide for it, now I just need to actually study and get this sucker over the end of the year!  What a relief that would be.
  • Pay off my debt to my auto-mechanic.  Elaina the Elantra (John named her!) has cost me quite a bit of money in repairs the past year or two, so I've racked up quite a bill.  My goal is to have that all caught up by the end of the year.
  • Get down to my goal weight!  Ideally I'd like to get down to my goal weight by the time Christina and Danny's wedding roles around (May 28th), but I don't know how realistic that is.  In order to accomplish this goal, I have two sub goals:
    • Complete Kayla Itsines' 12 week Bikini Body Guide program!  I started on Monday and today will mark my second day of it.  I've got this!  (Hopefully positive thinking will help me, haha.)
    • Count calories successfully.  I don't want to become super anal about this but I definitely want to be more aware of what I am putting in my body.  I'm not really giving myself a limit, but trying to stick to roughly 1500 calories a day, give or take.
  • Connect with family or friends twice a month.  I want to be realistic and not make this goal too high, but I also want to keep up with my family and friends - whether it be a physical "let's grab coffee or a drink" get together, or just a phone date.  This is important to me.
  • I want to finish reading The Celebration of Discipline.  I'm reading and discussing this book with my friend Kayla and we have gotten through some of it, but I really want to complete it by the end of the year.  I'd also like to try fasting a couple of times - one of the disciplines - but I'm not gonna make that an official goal.
Well folks, that's what I've got for now!  I'll try and keep ya updated as the year progresses.  And feel free to cheer me on toward my goals.  I also have that 101 Goals in 1001 Days that I'm still working on on occasion.  So that's fun.  Hope all is well and that you're enjoying the start of your new year!