Archive of ‘Life’ category

Two Months Later

By Natalie

Some days I have it all together and some days I’m not out of my pajamas until a little before noon. Felicity and I have been getting out more which has been great but the more I try to do the more my mom brain gets the best of me. Frankly I always found it ridiculous when people talked about pregnancy brain or mom brain. It always sounded like a sorry excuse for forgetfulness to me. That was until I went to the store recently to buy a vacuum and realized I left my wallet in my purse at home. I forgot to toss it in the diaper bag for this trip. I turned the cart around, put Felicity in the car and cried. Normal.

We ran back home to grab my wallet and back out to get the vacuum. But you didn’t come here to listen to me ramble about my new vacuum. You came here for Felicity updates didn’t you? It’s ok you can be honest. (more…)


Home Sweet Home

By Natalie

Hunting for a house this spring was as exciting as it was frustrating. I searched tirelessly sifting through photo after photo of houses in our area until they all blurred together. Offers were accepted on several houses that had been listed that same day. They were flying off this competitive market as quickly as they came on. Our realtor Lisa was kept busy adjusting our viewing schedule by the hour as homeowners accepted offers before we had a chance to see their home. Lisa was honest, quick on her feet, encouraging through the disappointments and excited for the potential we saw in our new home.  (more…)

Blessings

By Natalie

IMG_0574We’re so excited to announce we’re expecting our long awaited dearest little one.

The past year has been extremely difficult for me to write anything meaningful or personal. My personal struggles had been consumed in trying to conceive our first child. I took a big step back from sharing things publicly because what now mattered to me was the support and closeness of family and friends. If it weren’t for their encouragement I wouldn’t have made it through with my head held as high nor would I have seen what God had in store for me during this waiting period. I learned the value of close relationships. Brandon and I became much closer than we already were, supporting one another when the other seemed to wonder what could possibly be the problem. (more…)

Meal Planning

By Natalie

FullSizeRender (1)A new year seems as good a time as any to get things in order and start meal planning.

Usually when you decide it’s time to get organized in an area of your life it’s as a result of becoming frustrated or overwhelmed with your current circumstances. I became frustrated with the massive amounts of food going to waste in our fridge when we first got married. I never had a list for the grocery store and would find myself aimlessly walking around the aisles picking up whatever looked good. That got expensive, time consuming and unhealthy very fast. Who wants that?

It took quite a few wilted veggies and moldy loaves of bread for me to finally decide I needed more of a plan. Less fussing over what on earth I was going to make for dinner each night. Less spaghetti every week, because I didn’t know what else to make. I started small making lists, trying new recipes, planning for every meal we’d be having. Now I can’t imagine shopping without the prep.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Tips:

  1. Find a good source for recipes. (Blogs, Instagram, Cookbooks, Pinterest →You can follow my Meal Planning board here. I make 85% of everything I pin to this board.)
  2. Use an app, or set aside a small notebook to write down your menu for each day. Keep it in the kitchen to help keep you on track.
  3. Plan to go out every now and then to treat yourself! It’ll feel like a freebie in your menu and you won’t have to worry about food going bad that you decided not to make that night.
  4. Make sure to line up your menu with your schedule. If you’re working until 7pm you’re not going to want to come home and prepare that roast that takes an hour to cook. Save it for a chilly Saturday.
  5. Plan meals that use the same ingredients. If your personal pizzas, and that chicken broccoli casserole dish both call for shredded mozzarella cheese, jot those down for the same week.
  6. Plan early! Don’t push off menu planning for an hour before your grocery trip. You’ll feel rushed, and as a result you may end up with a scribbled list that does not coincide with tips 4 and 5. I’ll admit this is a hard one for me!
  7. Set reminders on your phone for prep you need to do before dinnertime. Set one for defrosting your chicken in the morning, or washing and chopping veggies ahead of time. Doing these steps earlier will lessen the load when you’re coming home after a long day.
  8. Read your recipes ahead of time! Take 10 minutes to read through the recipe you’re making that day just to become familiar with it. There’s nothing worse than realizing you needed to marinate your meat overnight, or finding that you’re in fact out of an ingredient you thought you had when the soup is half done!
  9. Chat with your grocery cashier! I suppose this one depends on where you go, but typically the employees at Trader Joe’s are willing to tell you what else you can do with those sweet potatoes if you ever get tired of roasting them. They know what’s in stock, and can suggest different combinations you never thought of.
  10. Buy Fruits and Veggies in season! You’re probably not going to find the best and brightest strawberries in December. Nor will your best tasting zucchinis be in March, but rather around June – August. Keep a chart close by like the one I compiled below. Or buy what’s selling at the Farmer’s Market currently.

Blogs to follow:

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Happy Meal Planning!

City Living

By Natalie

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We moved recently to the Southend of Charlotte. We’re three blocks down and a couple over from the Panthers stadium, a five minute walk to Brandon’s work and a whole lot closer to everything we love. Two months ago we were in that pickle of deciding to stay where we were which was a great space, just not quite what we envisioned, or to move on. Brandon and I are move on until you get it just right kind of people.

We began our apartment hunting after the change of ownership at our old complex. In efforts to be sure we would get exactly what we wanted this time we toured nine different places. Including one gorgeous loft in the city with exposed brick walls. We had to say no to it, after we realized we would only have street parking, and the laundry was in the basement of the building three flights down. That kind of thing is only fun to watch in sitcoms, not so fun to do in reality. After careful deliberation and discussing with supportive friends we happily chose one of the first places we saw.

We packed up our precious belongings and trashed or donated the rest to uproot ourselves once more. Each time we move we’re refining our lives to be just where we want them. Getting down to our essentials, and creating a cozy nest full of only things we love. By no means are we true minimalists, we both enjoy too many hobbies for that and we’re still the slightest bit sentimental. However, we do well downsizing every now and then.

Our space isn’t just this little apartment, it’s spilled onto the sidewalks all over Southend. It’s on every street corner that I catch a glimpse of the skyline and am left feeling inspired. It’s in the downstairs lounge where we shared coffee this morning before Brandon had to head out to work. It’s in the coffee shop across the street and the park down the road.

Last week Brandon was sitting in nearly an hour of traffic to get home. Now he’s meeting Bingley and I on the sidewalk corner for lunch at a hot dog stand. The woman at the cart asked if Bingley ate people food. We said yes, and she cooked him up a broken hot dog she was unable to use. Lots of hungry laborers stretched their hands out to pet Bing and give him lots of love. To my left I saw a city I love, and to my right my very happy family. Friendly faces all around and my heart was full. This is my safe place. I never thought I would feel safe exposed out on the sidewalks. Not until I saw dozens of other dog walkers in the evenings. Men and women all dressed up with their earbuds in walking to work in the morning.

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I kissed Brandon on the street corner, and he walked back to work, while Bingley and I walked back home. It’s perfect here.

God’s been teaching me alot about contentment. When we were dating I used to tell Brandon my plans for the future. It all sounded canned, and naïve. When he questioned me about it, I’d say, “because that’s what everybody does.” It makes me cringe thinking about it.

Brandon would say “Who’s everybody?” and I had no answer for him. That’s when I really got to thinking about it. Is there one right formula in which you should live your adulthood? Absolutely not. Some people prefer the space of the countryside. Some people prefer the bustle of a city. Some moms wish and are able to stay home, some wish or need to work. I see a never ending ladder people our age are scrambling to climb, desperate to reach certain points when our peers do, and frantic if we don’t. Something inside me really wants to kick down that ladder. It’s why it seemed like a step backwards that we bought a 3 bedroom house, and now live in a one bedroom apartment. In reality for us it’s 2 steps back in space, and 10 steps forward in quality of life.

You know that old verse your Sunday school teacher would tell you when you had a test coming up, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Philippians 4:13. Have you read the context lately?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

In a recent married women’s study I learned the context of that verse. Be happy, and content where you are. Don’t wait until you have it all to start living. You see, we live in a world full of comparisons. That’s nothing new to you. And you know, I think I’m done with it. As I was writing in my journal recently I felt like God was saying “Let it go. The life I have designed for you will be so different, there is no use in your scrambling. It merely shows your lack of faith in me.” Woah right? Sometimes we need God to tell us like it is. Whether I have what they have or not, I’m good. Whether they approve of my lifestyle or not, I’m good. I finally started paying attention to what works best for us, living in the faith that God has a different set of ladders for each and every one of us.

Myrtle Beach & The Future

By Natalie

imageimageIsn’t it interesting how you make up these plans for your life, so certain that they’ll come to pass.. And years later you find yourself chuckling at those plans. Because you were a different person when you made them.

Brandon and I sat on the pier in Myrtle beach this past weekend after filling up on fresh seafood.

We took turns talking about our favorite memories together in our five years of marriage. Our wedding. Our honeymoon in the mountains. Our vacations. Our moves. Our growth. All of it.

We took some time to talk about our future too as we watched young kids splash around in the water. We had a plan for where we’d be at this mark, but it is so far off from what we ever imagined.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of personal journaling lately, leaving little to be shared here. But this is a safe place, so I’m just going to toss it out there.

I thought I’d be dying to get pregnant by this point. And part of me does feel that way, sure. I have a happy home, a dog who loves licking sticky fingers, and a supportive husband, why wouldn’t I feel the urge to expand our family?

But sometimes ya know.. I really don’t. If it happened tomorrow, I’d be happy. If it didn’t, I’d still be happy. Babies are scary right? God allots you the strength you need, and the patience to get through parenthood, which is incredible. But I’ll admit, after so many years it gets hard to imagine what it’ll actually be like.

I stayed with my sister last trip to Fredericksburg. My eyelids were growing heavy, and I was dying for sleep when I looked over, and saw Nem passed out beside me. I walked into the kitchen to clean up, and I saw my brother in law fast asleep on the couch. I squinted to see the time on the microwave, telling me it was close to midnight. I walked into the living room, and saw Maceo sleeping in his swing. This tiny little human rendering his whole family exausted. I got myself ready for bed, and was about to slip under the covers when my sister’s alarm on her phone went off. It was feeding time. AGAIN. My brother in law woke up as delirious as ever, and Nem came to, eyes tired. We spent another few hours awake, caring for Maceo, and watching Caribbean Life on HGTV.

People say you’re never ready, and I believe that’s certainly true. It sort of seems like you get convinced to do it, then once you tell everyone how hard it is, they give you this knowing nod.

But here’s the twist. I don’t doubt we are in a place where we’re ready. Nannying for one has taught me a lot. I realized very quickly that it’s better to get out of the house for all our sanity, even if the kiddos scream and cry. I know what it’s like to deal with temper tantrums in Target, cleaning up vomit, getting sneezed on, coughed on, and prepping food for hungry bellies while my own hunger pain is eating away at me.

My mom in law tells me it’s different with your own. That there is nothing like having your own children. I cling to that truth. I know that when we have our own it will be hard, and beautiful, and fun, and frustrating, and tiresome, but everything I ever imagined.

imageTo be honest, halfway through writing this I felt like deleting it. Because what if I feel differently tomorrow? Or next week? Or just a couple months from now? I’ve decided that’s ok. It’s ok to feel like today I want to travel more. See more mountains, more beaches, more of the world. Spend more quality time with my husband, and focus on becoming a better me.imageTomorrow I can throw that all out the window, and say let’s start a family. Because no matter when you have kids you will be making a sacrifice. There’s no shame in cutting off deadlines, and living in abandonment of the path God has you on. It doesn’t mean that I can’t plan, it just means that it’s ok for plans to change. It’s ok to uproot, and move towards whatever feels right for us at the moment. Life is surprisingly much smoother that way..

And Nana Poe says no! More grand babies! I do hate leaving you hanging like this. One day Mom, I promise. One day. image

The Apartment Upstairs

By Natalie

We are so backwards. When Brandon and I first got married we lived in the second floor of a house owned by an older man. The entire floor was a completed upstairs apartment featuring our own kitchen, laundry, bedroom, bath, and separate driveway. It was everything the pair of us young love birds needed.

imageAfter 2 years we left the apartment to spend the summer house sitting a close friend’s home, while she was on a missions trip. Which allowed us the time to house hunt without being held captive by a lease. At the end of the summer we bought our first house, and remained there for just under a year when we decided to uproot our lives completely and move to Charlotte, NC. Which felt very much like running away together. Being the best sort of romantic.

We found a townhouse in what we believed to be an alright neighborhood, only to find a year later that our commutes were less than ideal, and the places we enjoyed passing time were miles away. All summer I sat in bed at night flicking through our limited rental options on Zillow. Searching for homes that our little family would be comfortable in, and I couldn’t find a single thing. Which when you are aching to move, is the very worst feeling.

Then one evening I was sipping on my white mocha at our new found favorite coffee shop, and I spotted a decent apartment. Being in a smaller space wouldn’t be half bad if we were living in the area we actually wanted to live in. So we decided why not pack up from the townhouse, and move on to see what another area might be like? You see, there’s something you have to understand about us. The older we get the more often we gather to reassess our everchanging future. “Is this the right time for this? Should we wait longer to make one of those? Should we go ahead and revamp the dining chairs? Would two dogs actually be better? Nope definitely not. And which vacation should we be planning for next?”

Well this time it was a conversation about living space, and if sacrificing a little extra elbow room, and storage space was worth being part of a community we enjoyed. When you move away to find yourself, you don’t just sit in the first place you see, and figure it’s good enough. You keep striving for everything you’ve dreamed of, and moving until it feels right. Moving to an apartment in a different part of town felt right. So we went ahead and threw our name in the hat, and ended up with a move in date.

At this point you know I’m giddy. There is nothing I love more than spending a Saturday afternoon sifting through the junk all the way in the back corner of the closets. I’m not even worried about packing up our place on my own this time. Because let’s face it, Brandon will most likely be sitting in the midst of all his cables deciding which ones to keep like he was deciding the name of our first child. All in the time that it takes me to bubble wrap our entire kitchen.

As I’ve recently been deciding what stays, and what goes I’ve nostalgically been thinking back on our old apartment. And how now it won’t be referred to as simply the apartment, but our first place together. As we will technically soon be in an apartment for the second time.

Our landlord at our first home together turned out to be friendly. His outrageously obnoxious sneezes were plenty audible from our bedroom, and his grunts, and coughs everytime he ate a meal, were a little embarrassing when company was over. But that situation could have been so much worse.

The carpet in our bedroom was dark green, and the kitchen cabinets had forest green leaf handles. The standing shower with the gold trimmed doors was a nightmare to clean, and the trees in the driveway always dusted something on our cars no matter what season it was.

At one point we had a nasty run in with bugs. These tiny little vermin would scurry across our kitchen countertops, and I tried so very hard to convince myself that they were not cockroaches. Until the night I was making dinner with the stove on, and the oven preheating, when I managed to smoke out the mama roach. Screaming for Brandon to come quick I realized those were all of her babies on my counter that I had been smushing. B caught her, and later admit to me that he’d seen her before, but her quick little legs escaped him. I must have heated up wherever she was living, so much so that she needed to peek out, and that’s how she lost her life. But you know, I don’t feel bad. Because every morning, and every night I’d scrub those countertops clean, annoyed by those nasty bugs that were screwing with my cleanliness.imageNow here I sit in our living room full of furniture we picked out together. Bingley asleep at my feet, and the sound of jets soaring through the sky, and I’m thinking to myself.. “Back then, I never saw us here.”

Sometimes when I’m making dinner in front of the stove I’ll have visions of old mama roach, and she reminds me of where we’ve come from. That every difficult period, and every transition has been so perfectly placed in our lives to teach us something, and to remind us of how grateful we should be for those stepping stones that landed us on our montaintop.

Giving a Voice to an Invisible Illness: Part 2

By Natalie

You can read part 1 to this post here. You can also read similar posts here, and here.

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Do you ever feel scared? If so, what about specifically?

It’s scary when I hear about Lupus sufferers experiencing damage to major organs as a result of a flare. Chemotherapy treatments for severe symptoms, the reality of this incurable disease becoming fatal and the risks involved with pregnancy. Would I have complications? Would I be able to handle the inevitable exhaustion of caring for a newborn? I worry about my husband having to take care of me more than he already does and a baby. Will I have to reevaluate my career in teaching and eventually leave the profession because the responsibilities and stress take a toll on my body?

 What do you want people to know about you, and your illness?

She sighs

Good mornings may turn into rough afternoons, and evenings as symptoms are sometimes unpredictable. I’m healthiest when I choose activities carefully and pace myself.
It’s sometimes lonely because I feel people just don’t understand what Lupus is or what it’s like to live with this chronic illness. I don’t get to live my life the way that I want to.

I wish people could validate what I’m going through and knew that I’m fighting harder than they realize. It’s hard for me to articulate what I feel or need because I know I usually look fine on the outside. They have no idea that I go home after a long workday completely drained of energy and utterly exhausted. I’m often unable to enjoy life after work or on the weekends because my body needs rest.

I don’t get to live my life the way that I want to.

Lupus sometimes forces me out of social events. I have to explain to people that I can’t take part in a party or celebration. Having to reject requests to spend time with others due to my health always brings along some sadness and guilt. I don’t want people to get offended or annoyed, but I get tired of explaining my issues to others. However, I’ve also learned that if I am to expect a broader understanding from those around me, it’s important to honestly vocalize what I’m going through so others can empathize.
I also don’t want to burden people. I feel bad and push myself because I don’t want people to think I’m taking advantage of them. For example, after Nadir’s baby showerHosted a baby shower for our sister my foot was hurting really bad and I was feeling fatigued. Sean asked, “What would you do if you could get up right now?” I appreciated his willingness to help, but felt obligated to limp across the room and start cleaning. I struggle with not wanting to feel useless. It’s important for me to still feel useful. I need to feel like I’m still serving a purpose.

How can people be most helpful?

Encouraging words. If there’s something physically to be done while they’re around. Motions around the home.
It’s easy for people to forget because I try to look good on the outside.

How does having lupus affect your future?

Nem: I don’t know if we’re ever going to start a family. I’m getting older, and to change the dynamic of our family is scary. Would Sean end up caring for our child? The new normal requires that I keep up with medications, and pace myself. I’m not supposed to overexert myself.. I need to get enough sleep. It definitey restricts me.

Sean: You know, it’s kind of a lose, lose situation. Either we don’t have kids and later regret it, or we have kids and risk Nem’s health. It’s why for so long we keep avoiding the subject.

What have you learned?

I have so much more compassion and understanding for people living with a chronic illness or other health issues. I don’t always feel strong and courageous, but I hope to inspire others with my story. Raising awareness and knowledge empowers me and gives me a voice!
I’ve always been pretty self sufficient, so it’s been hard, but I’m learning that it’s ok to accept love and compassion from those who care enough to ask me how I’m doing. I deserve the support, sympathy and help that others offer without feeling any guilt.

I’ve become more educated about the illness and I’m learning to listen to my body so I guess you could say I’ve found a new normal which reduces some of my fears. My quality of life has drastically changed because of Lupus, but it’s all about perspective! Although I have physical limitations at times, I will probably always have to take a bunch of medications, and experience emotional ups and downs.

I’ve learned to value the blessings in my life so much more now! My faith and the incredible support system I have in my family and friends, keeps me going and I’m so grateful! God still has a plan and purpose for me and it is good! I try to embrace life one day at a time and not let setbacks hinder me from dreaming and setting goals. Faith has always been my life’s anchor and I know that God is STILL in control, even when I feel like my body and circumstances are out of control.

Life Lately…

By Natalie

2015 is rolling right along, and so much has grabbed my attention, that I thought I’d give you a quick recap of Life Lately. Hang with me, we’re goin fast!

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My beautiful sister Nadir gave birth to her first born last month! I’m amazed by my sister’s strength, and overwhlemed with the beauty of a woman’s ability to go through pregnancy, and childbirth! It’s alot of work to bring life into the world! I was so excited to visit just a couple days later to share in their blessing.

imageNorah did not dissappoint. She’s pretty stinking adorable, and she’s leaving the whole family smitten with love for her. Passing down my crown of being the youngest isn’t half bad.

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School is almost out! Which means I get to see more of this cool kid ↓↓

Bring on the summertime fun!

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If you follow me on Instagram you know I found the best Farmer’s Market ever!  On Saturday I excused  myself past people to grab a giant 34 cent carrot.. Have I grown up, or have I grown up?

My first visit I stood over baskets of strawberries with giddiness in my eyes, because those strawberries were tantalizingly bright red, and gorgeous. After the man who proudly grew them noticed I was interested he said, “Go ahead and try them there strawberries.” Tickled by his accent, and guiltlessly wanting a taste I picked up a little red guy and bit just below the green. And it.. was.. the best dang strawberry I’ve ever tasted.

The next week when I asked B to tag along he insited we grab a cantaloupe. But once we got to the pile we stared at the cantaloupe, and then at eachother. How do you pick a good cantaloupe? There’s so many rules to ripeness.. how will I possibly remember them all? This one’s too green.. this one’s too hard.. this one doesn’t smell strong enough.

“I think you smell the butt.” I said to B.

To which he replied. “But they all smell so good.”

“Whenna you gonna cut it?” An older man asked, noticing we were in need of assistance.

“Umm probably today.” I said. Then he proceeded to grab at the cantaloupe, and handed us a good one, and moved on. And it was a GOOD one.

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Cherries just like the ones we’d pick off of the tree when I was little. How could I pass that up?

When I was 2 or 3 I’d galavant through the backyard with cherries in hand, and when my mom asked me what they were I’d say “Gwapes” and she’d say “They’re Cherries!”

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Plants!!! call me crazy, but I had no idea there’d be more than produce, and fresh flowers at the farmer’s market. I stared at an oversized pot full of Elephant Ears as tall as I am, for 10 minutes. Deliberating… Because, I really, really, wanted those guys in my home. But, I settled for a hanging pot of succulents to accompany the bedroom window. And really, can you go wrong with succulents?

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Speaking of plants…

I found this precious nursery not too far from where I work. imageI wasn’t expecting too much, but once I walked in I followed the sign for houseplants, and I stepped into this beautiful haven. Mhmm I’ll take one of each pretty please.


During a casual Wednesday morning trip to Jo-Ann’s with little Grant I spotted this fabric, and could not get over how it had our entire living room color scheme. After getting a couple feet cut for a bunting I grabbed some matching bias tape, and whipped out my coupons. Because Jo-Ann’s ALWAYS has coupons. Total for this DIY was five dollars! [And lots of leftover scrap fabric for other projects.]image

When I got home I popped in an old musical, and got to tracing, cutting, and sewing.

Since we’re living in a rental I’ve been using as many Command hooks as possible to avoid holes in the wall, and it hasn’t been too big a deal aside from the fact that I miss our curtains. But this bunting has been a stunning alternative!

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In case you wondered..

Bingley wanted to say hello.

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Oh! And I thought you’d like this pretty decent little drawing we spotted on our table at Mama’s Coffeehouse. image

Life’s been pretty sweet huh?

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