My Happy, Healthy Morning Routine

My Happy, Healthy Morning Routine

Good morning! I thought today I’d share with you my morning routine, at least during the week. (Weekends tend to be a free-for-all for me – which only means that I’m not quite as strict.) This routine makes me feel so much better every day, and I hope it can do the same for you. 

I wake up within the same two-hour window every day, and go to sleep within a similar time frame every night. This helps incredibly with the quality of my sleep. I’ve found on days that I nap, I don’t sleep as well that night as I would have, had I stayed awake all day. It feels good and adult to wake up around the same time every day, and I certainly get more done when I wake up even though I don’t have to until later. It’s especially opened me up to more opportunities to read, something I’ve missed immensely. While I get ready, I listen to podcasts. Lately I’ve been enjoying NPR’s Up First, the NPR Politics Podcast, and Bishop Barron’s Sermons.

After I wake and dress, I let out the sweetest little Brie and take her for a half- to three-quarter-mile walk. When we return, I feed her and give her fresh water. While she eats and drinks, I head downstairs to the basement. My parents were generously given an elliptical a few months ago, and it’s been a wonderful addition to our home. I run a mile, sometimes two or two and a half, on the elliptical. Sometimes (usually on days I’ve only run a mile), I’ll use some weights after my run. (For those who are curious, my time is usually around an eight-minute mile.)

Once I’ve exercised, I head upstairs for a well-deserved shower. By the time I’m dressed, I’ve drunk two glasses of water. After my shower, it’s time for breakfast. My favorite breakfast lately has been fruit and two miniature bagels with whipped cream cheese. One week the fruit was bananas, and now it’s cherries. 

This is my morning routine for the past month or so. I really like it. I know I’ll have to modify it once I begin working full-time, but for now, I’m happy with it. What’s your morning routine? Let me know if you have any tips and tricks below!

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July Goals and Update on Past Ones

July Goals and Update on Past Ones

Well all, it’s a new month, and you know what that can sometimes mean: it’s time for my monthly goals! I know I didn’t do a June goals post, so I thought I’d update you about how the last month I posted my goals, April, went. 

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know that I did, in fact, go to Portland, OR to meet the boyfriend, and that we had an absolutely wonderful time. I had a birthday, so I am now twenty-three. I have read more books, though plenty of them have been ebooks I’ve read on my phone. My Goodreads challenge for the year is to read twenty books, and I’ve completed twelve so far. It sounds sad, given how much free time I’ve had lately, but it’s pretty impressive when you consider how many of them were read in the last month, and the fact that all of them had around four hundred pages. I have been trying to use my phone and laptop less, and it’s been freeing, though I could decrease my usage even more. 

Now for July’s new goals. My first goal is to continue with the morning routine I began two weeks ago. I can write a post on it – leave a comment if you’d like to know my productive morning habits. 

My second goal is to get a “big-girl job” and move out of my parents’ house. After I finish the two classes I’m currently taking, I’ll need two more to graduate. It’ll be SUCH a relief to finally have done with school! I’d love to be in a new place before next month.

My third goal is to travel – not air travel, but road trips. This weekend I’ll be heading down to North Carolina to see my best friend in the entire world and her boyfriend, and another friend from college. I’d like to visit more people – maybe a friend in Chicago, or anyplace else. 

The last goal is to write more. I have been slacking in the writing department, between both this blog and my book. It’s beginning to really get to me. There are unfinished and inexpressible ideas rolling around inside me, and they would be more finished and more easily expressed were I to actually be in the habit of writing every day. 

I have a few paltry goals here. It’s difficult, between the classes and the laziness of summer, to think of too many. What are your goals for the heat of the summer? Let me know!

Secrets to Shopping without Buyer’s Remorse

Secrets to Shopping without Buyer’s Remorse

Have you ever gone shopping, either for something you needed, or just for fun, and realized that you’ve paid and come home with a lot of stuff you didn’t need or really even want – stuff that you wouldn’t have missed if it wasn’t there? I can’t say I’m innocent of this, though it doesn’t happen to me often. Here are my secrets for shopping without buyer’s remorse.

My mother, growing up, always told my sister and me that when it came to purchasing something, whether we were purchasing it ourselves or she was purchasing it for us, there was one rule: Either you loved it, or you needed it, or both. 

What does that mean? It means that when contemplating purchasing something, ask yourself, “Do I love this? Do I need this?” If the answer is yes to one or both of these questions, move forward and put down your hard-earned money. If not, don’t buy something that you’ll never wear or use that will just gather dust and eventually get put in a trash bag to take to Goodwill. It’s a waste of your money. 

Let’s break that advice down. Needing something does not mean “really really really wanting” it. Needing something means it will significantly improve your life and quality of living. You need food, shelter, clothing. You even need fun! If your favorite band is in town and you can spring for a ticket, do it! If you haven’t been to an amusement park since you were thirteen, go!

Loving something doesn’t mean loving it now, or ironically. It can be something that makes you laugh, but hilarity isn’t always love. By loving something, I mean that the item in question should be something that, were you to leave the store without it, you would be sad. Loving and needing something is the ultimate win!

The second secret is this: it is better to spend on experiences, rather than things. Let’s say, for example, that you were in Paris. Now, you could either buy an item from a boutique, or you could take a tour of a museum, gallery, or landmark (Being a DC girl myself, I’m horrified at the notion that to enter such places, there must be payment.). While you may love and/or need the item, if the choice is between the two, pick the one that will ultimately bring you more joy. Experiences and the memory of them tend to bring us more joy in the long run than physical things, though this is not always the case (Like if your dad buys you a necklace in Florence, reminding you of the trip every time you wear it.). 

The next secret is the best way to determine if you actually want something. This is not a need, but a want. If you’re on the fence, perhaps because of the price or any other reason, hold that item in your hand and walk around the store looking at other things for a few minutes. There are a few possible outcomes to this. The first is that you forget about the thing, look down at it, and fully fall in love with it. The second is that you forget about it, and when you look at it again you’re underwhelmed. The third is that the thing is always on your mind, whether in a positive or a negative way.

The last secret is something that saves me money every single time I shop. Especially when shopping with friends (Five Below is our usual vice), I know I for one can get swept up in the fun of it all and end up with twelve five-dollar items in my cart. The secret is, while I’m in line, I take stock of everything in my basket. If I’m eh about something, it goes. If I’m excited about it, it stays. Very quickly twelve things becomes six, and I save thirty dollars with just a minute of thinking and consideration. 

These are my secrets for shopping, especially for fun, that prevent buyer’s remorse. This way, you save money, and don’t have to go through the hassle of getting rid of something that you never loved or needed. You don’t have to return it, or donate it, or sell it. Happy hunting!

My Five Ride-or-Die Beauty Products

My Five Ride-or-Die Beauty Products

L’Oreal Waterproof Lash Paradise Mascara

This mascara is my everything. It makes my lashes longer, of course, but also makes them look so much thicker. It thickens them immensely, without sticking. After using it, my lashes are thick, yet separated. But the best part is the fact that this mascara will not go anywhere! It’s lasted through sweat, tears, and heat. Plus, the price can’t be beat.

Essence Make Me Brow Eyebrow Gel Mascara

Don’t be fooled by the awesome price of this brow mascara ($2.99!). It’s worth its weight and more in gold. I use a brow pencil first to fill in the more sparse areas of my brows, then swipe this brow mascara over them. The wand is tiny, which is great for a body part as thin as brows tend to be. The Make Me Brow Gel Mascara stays put like a champ, and it looks like it cost more than $3.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Norvina Palette

I saw this palette last year and immediately began to salivate. I’ve always loved the look of purple eyeshadow. The purple shades in here are excellent, though my favorite look to create with this palette is a bronze eye. It’s a pretty penny, but it’s worth the money – you can create a fun, or daring, or natural look, depending on the combinations and shades you use. It’s undeniably worth the money.

Maybelline Dark Circle Eraser

I know everyone in the beauty community worships at Tarte Shape Tape’s altar, but I’ve found that no matter how much I set it, whether with powder or setting spray or both, it creases. It doesn’t crease dramatically, but it’s also thick and doesn’t let the skin breathe. This, however, is thinner, yet provides natural but complete coverage on my ever-present dark eye circles. It doesn’t crease and blends beautifully into the skin. It isn’t too heavy or too matte. And again, the price is a winner.

Morphe Setting Spray

This is my holy grail beauty product. It’s the best beauty buy I’ve ever made. First, the spray is incredibly fine, and comes out like a hairspray, instead of landing in large droplets on the face and ruining makeup. I put this on in the morning before a shift at work, run around the store for hours, and still get complimented on my makeup, and also on how fresh it looks.

If I could only use five more beauty products for the rest of my life, they would be these. Of course, I hope I can use however many beauty products my heart desires for the rest of my life. What are your favorite beauty products? Leave them in the comments below!

Thoughts on Grief

Thoughts on Grief

This article was made possible by the wonderful people at Heart in Diamond. Heart in Diamond is a company that turns tragedy into beauty. They can be found here.

Grief seems like such a simple concept, but the truth is, it isn’t. It isn’t simple at all. Many of us think of grief as something that happens only when a loved one dies. While it is true that grief occurs when a loved one passes away, grief can also occur for other events.

Grief can occur at the end of a relationship or friendship. It is similar to death, though not as final; it is the loss of the presence of someone deeply loved. It is the loss of the way things were when that person was around. Suddenly, one cannot turn to that person anymore, in good times or in bad. They have exited one’s life, sometimes never to return.

Grief can occur at any major life change. This can include a move, graduation, a job change, etc. The reality about grief is, it can occur when anything monumental happens in one’s life. This could be a happy event, like moving to a new city for a dream job, or it could be a much sadder event, such as the death of a loved one.

I believe there are two key ideas to keep in mind when speaking about grief, or when grieving. The first is this: the ending of one thing is also the beginning of another. The end of an era in one’s life is the beginning of a new one. The ending of a relationship or friendship is the beginning of freedom and openness to new people and experiences. In some religious traditions, the end of a life on earth is the beginning of eternal life in another state.

The second idea I have about grief is that you don’t have to forget. You don’t have to forget the good things. In fact, I encourage you to remember them. It is important to respect the memory of a person, a friendship, an era, by remembering them. The key is to let go enough that you can move on, but to hold onto the good. Our pasts make us who we are. We never lose who we once were – who we were when that person was alive, or was our best friend, or when we attended that school. We respect who we were by remembering. We carry those memories with us as we continue through life.

I’d like to recommend Heart in Diamond to anyone grieving the passing of a loved one. Heart in Diamond is a company that specializes in cremation jewelry. They use the ashes or hair of your loved one to create gorgeous diamond jewelry for you to wear, so you can carry with you the person you love. Heart in Diamond’s cremation jewelry makes it possible to keep some of the closeness of your loved one with you at all times. It commemorates their memory in the most beautiful way possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, please feel free to explore the links below.

Mental Health America

Mayo Clinic

National Institutes of Health

For those of you who are grieving anything at all, I love you and I am thinking of you.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

For those of you who didn’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. In honor of the last day of that month, I have written this post.

My name is Grace. I am a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a dog lover, a kind person. I also have seven mental illnesses.

That sounds like a lot. On the one hand, it is. Seven is a lot of mental illnesses. One is a lot of mental illnesses. On the other hand, it is important to remember that mental illnesses are very much related to one another. Sometimes one causes another; sometimes they just go hand-in-hand. I don’t think of my mental illnesses as separate entities, but rather as roots of a tree that spring from each other and cross paths and come from the same basic source.

I live a happy life. I live with the parents who support me, am almost done with college, have a loving boyfriend, work two jobs, maintain friendships all over the country, and have the best ESA in the entire world. Things have been worse for me, many times over the course of my life. I don’t feel like rehashing all my trauma, and I don’t have to do so. Even if I didn’t have suffering and trauma in my past, my mental illnesses would still be valid. Brain chemistry doesn’t care how happy you “should” be.

If there is anything I have learned over the course of my short twenty-three years on this planet, it is these: mental illness is not like a cold. It will most likely be with me my whole life, hopefully with me spending the rest of it in remission. The best I can do is the best anyone can do; I handle it as best I can. Everyone has their cross to bear, and this is mine, so all I can do is carry it with as much grace as possible – and maybe with a bit of good humor.

I have also learned that while there is pain and suffering in the world, much of it senseless, there is so much more that is beautiful and good. We are more attuned to the negative, not because it is more prevalent, but because it is the exception. It affects us so deeply because our innate and automatic assumption is that this world is beautiful, and people are basically good.

So, if you are silently – or even not-so-silently – suffering from mental illness(es), I leave you with this: yes, there is pain and suffering in the world. No, it isn’t fair. But no one ever promised life would be fair. But more important than that is the fact that love is infinite. It does not end, or run out – not true love, anyway. Love is the root of all that is good – the flowers love the sun, which loves them in return. The mother and the offspring love each other. It is true; it is unconditional; it is infinite.

So, love. If you cannot love yourself, try loving others. Try loving the puddle you splash in on a rainy day. Try loving the friend that makes you feel secure. Loving and being loved by others can teach us how to love ourselves. There is always, always, always a reason to love.

Most important of all, remember that you are not alone. You are not alone. You are never, ever alone.

I love you.

Tampa

Tampa

Well, my travels continued this Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday morning, I flew from DCA to Tampa, Florida, to meet the boyfriend. I arrived a little after noon, and he arrived soon after that. I had to wait in the hotel lobby for almost an hour, but I had a good book and some Starbucks, so I wasn’t upset about it. I was too excited to be upset.

A brief interlude: I am so grateful to him for paying for my flights, and for the job he does that makes all this travel possible. Plus, he is doing what he loves, which is the best part of it all. It stinks that we’re apart so much, but I know he is happy, and I get to travel, so there are perks.

But I digress. Tampa was hot as Hades on Sunday. It was so hot and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky or even the slightest hint of a breeze, we abandoned our plans of walking the Riverwalk and touring Ybor City. We got lunch, and dinner, and hung out in the relative cool of the hotel suite in between.

Monday was our beach day. Love is not a strong enough word for the constant longing I feel for the sea. Maybe it’s based in the heritage I received from my mother’s family, who came from Naples in the 1920s. We picked up the rental car and drove about an hour to Pass-A-Grille Beach.

Pass-A-Grille Beach is south of St. Pete Beach, in the larger St. Petersburg area. If you drive there, drive down the coast until you can’t anymore. Right where the Tampa Bay meets the Gulf, you’ll find the spot where we set up camp. The parking is pay, but there was still a spot for us on the last day of Memorial Day Weekend. There is more parking down at that end, and less people.

There was a pier to our left, where the Bay met the Gulf. Just some hundred yards down the beach, people were packed next to each other, but we found a spot on our more sparsely populated stretch of beach to ourselves, with no one between the water and us. It was hot and sunny again, but there was a breeze that day. The water felt a little like bathwater – I would’ve liked it touch colder, but it wasn’t hot. The water was clear and turquoise, the waves largely gentle. We talked and played in the water, baked in the sun, and started the cycle over again.

We dined early at a seafood restaurant on the bay side, then headed back to the hotel, where we flipped between the last Lord of the Rings movie and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My flight was early the next morning – and delayed two hours, which I was notified of after arriving at the airport (you were supposed to text me, American!). I was still home by one, and went on my merry way to work half-past four.

Tampa was fun. We didn’t take as many excursions as we did in Portland, but I’m just so happy being with him that it didn’t matter to me what we did – with the exception of the beach. The beach is of paramount importance. Still, it feels glamorous and fun to jet off on little notice, even for two days at a time.