I cleaned the house like a madwoman quoting my mom and wearing slippers all day.
I baked the week away with a ridiculous ratio of cookies to guests.
We opened our home and partook in tradition.
I have been feeling an anxiousness, a stirring in my heart that is telling me to go home. I feel it when my friend’s Facebooks transition from scenes of dorms and college life to familiar scenes of home and comfort. I feel it as leave gets approved for those stationed here and they return to their roots. I feel it as if the colder temperatures tell me to migrate. It’s time to go they seem to call to me. This restlessness is robbing me of the festivities of Christmas and it wears on Matt and I like a heavy fatigue. The miles between here and our hometown seem insurmountable.
The Annual Thomas Christmas party was born from this same heartsickness. I can hardly call it homesick because I am home. Though in a part of the country I never thought I’d live, I’m with the man that I said home will be with for always. But there is a legitimate heartsickness that desires comfort and community and simply the ease of being known. My mom, one of the strongest individuals I have met to date, felt this stirring too when she first got married and had her little family of Dad and I. She missed Aunt Lucille’s annual Christmas party. I can practically see the twinkling of the house, the aroma of dishes from relatives outdoing each other of Christmas treats, and the bustling of a house full of family.
From this the Thomas family tradition was born and from that the Kernan family tradition was born. We carried the notes of Christmas past in our preparations: veggie trays that mimic the towers my dad would make, gingerbread men with frosting caps and mittens, peppermint bark that my baby sister makes annually with pride, my great Aunt Lucille’s breadsticks, Alaska coffee percolated in the kitchen, tradition exuded from our humble abode.
We are made with an innate desire for fellowship, connection, and relationship. The relationship we have as the church as the bride of Christ is mirrored when the church loves each other well and loves others well. This desire for connectedness was tangibly felt in every smile at the party. I could perceive the hunger for fellowship and knew it was given and received by all. I know this because I felt in myself and recognize that we are made for this. The tradition of Christmas parties, holidays, and the like are more than the good food and legacy: it’s about a coming together and bringing others in. The Christmas party is not the tradition it is if no one comes. The tradition is in community.
As Matt and I continue to make traditions, I pray that our focus will be on what fosters fellowship, what embodies open doors and open hearts, and what welcomes all into a community of connectedness. I am overwhelmed to remember that it’s bigger than me, it’s not an issue of “us and them”, it’s a collected us and a call to make sure there are no “them” on the outside.
I was recently coerced into a diet with some friends of mine. Please stop right there and don’t tell me that I’m twenty and I shouldn’t be dieting and that most people gain all the weight back and more after a diet. I already had all these arguments and they fell on deaf ears. And truth be told to call this a “diet” would be a bit of an understatement. What I committed to do during the Advocare 24 Day Challenge was the start of a lifestyle change.
The focus of this challenge is to:
a. Eat REAL food.
b. Work out.
c. Focus on not putting sugar and junk in your body.
Seems easy enough, but it’s easier said than done. I knew I needed this diet overhaul as I had put on some happy weight from marriage and a tad bit of sad weight from being homesick and adjusting to life in the desert. Regardless of what caused my weight gain, I was not taking care of my body and what I was putting in was essentially garbage. Friends, I want to share with you what I learned through my experience of 24 days of clean eating. (okay not going to lie there were some definite cheats in there. I had pizza on one account and ice cream on another and coffee some days. I’m not lying to you folks. I’m human. Yes it’s only 24 days but pizza, ice cream, and coffee are my Kryptonite) (Because yes I’m a superhero).
1.I was addicted to sugar.
The first three days of this challenge I felt like a semi-truck had mercilessly run me over. I was crappy, snappy, tired, had headaches… I was a mess (or maybe that’s just me always and I’m blaming it on the sugar…but I digress). This people is the result of sugar addiction. Once I started being aware of all the sugar I was putting into my diet I was mortified. I know it’s not like a real shock but I suppose I didn’t take it very seriously. Soda alone… I am disturbed by how candidly I open a soda (OR TWO). Sauces, boxed foods, canned goods, creamer, “health foods”, everything. This is not new information but being aware of it and recognizing the need for change is step one. After I cleansed my body of my sugar dependency I was amazed at my increased energy levels, my mood improvement, and my clarity of mind.
2. I am an emotional eater.
When I first moved here I was cooped up in the house a lot and alone a lot. I was feeling a wide range of emotions and ice cream was there for me (Thanks Ben, thanks Jerry). I know this seems like a basic thing to say but I seriously found comfort in food. And also entertainment perhaps. I’m bored! Let’s look at the pantry again! Now that I recognize these eating patterns I am doing much better to correct it.
3. Eating healthy and working out frequently make me feel good.
Hmm, it’s like I ignored that whole memo about endorphins being released when you work out. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I need all the endorphins I can get! I have also noticed that when I am eating healthier it is easier to manage my worries and fears that I struggle with on an emotional level.
4. It’s okay to splurge a little.
The problem with me is my “little” often doesn’t end there (well I had a dozen cookies today, guess this pizza isn’t going to finish itself) (Exaggeration. Please know I would never eat more than 6 cookies and a pizza in one sitting) (please laugh. I think I’m hilarious). But I want my splurges to be for social reasons! Do I really want my splurge of the week to be a store bought cookie? Do I really want to eat a pint of ice cream when I’m bored and alone? I would rather use my splurges for social and special events. It’s your birthday? Let’s celebrate you! And I will gladly celebrate with a reasonably portioned slice of cake. Best cheesecake in the world? I’m not going to be that person that misses out on experiences because I am unrelenting on my diet.
5. It’s mostly about portion control.
Once I started getting serious about my portion control I was AMAZED at how I felt full but was eating reasonably. Veggies first! Then a correct portion of protein! Then healthy complex carbs! That’s the formula folks! (These dinner pictures sometimes don’t have correct portions but they are a reflection of what I ate that day and how I balanced it out).
6. You don’t need dairy *gasp*.
This is the hardest for me. I have been doing more research and learning about the politics involved with the dairy industry. This is sad for me because most of my favorite foods are very dairy based. I love cheese, I love cheeseCAKE, I love ice cream, I love sour cream, I love milk and cookies (not a plain glass by itself though because I’m not a savage), and pretty much everything that has cheese in it. Did I mention cheese? But here’s the deal, once I integrated dairy back into my diet… I don’t feel as good. In fact sometimes I felt pretty sick. Though I don’t foresee an immediate removal of all dairy in my life I am looking at cutting back. Let’s take care of our bodies!
7. You really shouldn’t just eat a bunch of fruit when you’re eating healthy.
I’ve kinda always had it in my head that if I’m going to eat healthy I can have an unlimited amount of fruit. Well, yes and no. But mostly no. I’m going to tell you no. (PUT THE FRUIT SALAD DOWN BRENDA) But there is sugar in fruit (duh you say). And yes it’s good sugar but it’s still sugar. I am working at reaching for carrots instead of fruit when I get a snack craving. Or bell peppers!
8. Salt isn’t the only “spice” you have.
I love cooking. I have really come to love experimenting with new recipes and making dinner is one of my favorites (hate dishes more than anything though so I beg Matt to do that for me when dinner’s over #bestwifeaward). I use salt in wayyyy to much though. After cutting out salt I have gotten much more creative with my seasoning! Instead of just garlic salt I use savory, thyme, oregano, cumin, paprika, cilantro, and more! I also have to make time for meals as cooking healthy doesn’t come in prepackaged ease. Though some days this was annoying it was nice to reclaim time that would otherwise be filled by multitasking during meals or rushing off to another thing instead of being fully present.
9. Saying no is not that hard.
I was nervous about being pressured into eating when I was in group contexts. It’s awkward to explain why you can’t have stuff and then you’re “that person” that needs to be on a diet. But I realized that saying “no thank you” to something doesn’t result in the world ending. In fact most people DON’T CARE AT ALL.
These are my biggest takeaways from my 24 Day challenge. I lost five pounds during this time and I think I have lost more weight since. It is honestly difficult to go back to the way I use to eat when I know so much more now. I have still incorporated a lot of the habits that I learned during this time. But I also sometimes backslid. I was a very emotional eater recently. I’ve had more sugar this week than I would like my weekly sugar intake to be, but it’s baby steps. I want to be healthier. The transition in the challenge happened when I realized I wanted this. I want my lifestyle to be healthy and I can do it affordably and happily.
So I raise my shaker bottle to you and toast to happy and healthy lives. Let’s eat real food.
My favorites from the store:
a. Laura Scudder’s Old Fashioned Peanut Butter
b. Apple Cinnamon Rice Cakes
c. These all fruit no nothing added popsicles I found at the store
d. Quinoa and Brown rice blends (Matt trying to pronounce Quinoa will forever be one of my favorite memories)
a. Fed Up (just watched, sooooo good).
b. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
c. Food Inc. (have yet to watch this one but I’ve heard great reviews!)
I’m sure it has touched some aspect of your life. The multiple Facebook groups that your girlfriends keep adding you too. The claim to “buttery” leggings. The invites to in home parties, online parties, and pop-up shows. If no one has broken it down for you, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s talk LuLaRoe. What is it? What’s the big deal anyways? So let’s talk! Though I am the child of a LuLaRoe addict, (and I’m on the road myself) I am going to be separating myself from my bias as best as I can and give an objective perspective to this company, the clothing line, and the shopping experience I have had with LuLaRoe Blessings (a consultant and friend based in Kodiak, Alaska).
Let me catch you up to speed on it if you’re still confused as to what the LuLaRoe shopping movement is. Here is the down low: a mom wanted an opportunity to work from home to provide for her family. She was in a hard place and with big dreams and a lot of elbow grease, LuLaRoe was born. A mantra on their website is: “I believe in you” and “you can do it” and that is reflected in their company from the CEO level down to the consultant and customer relationship. In line with their humble roots and work hard attitude, LuLaRoe focuses on empowering woman and generously blessing others. Free giveaways are a frequent pattern in all consultants. Additionally, LuLaRoe has a limited amount of each print for each cut of clothing. Instead of building competition with consultants in the same area, people are inclined to participate in a variety of groups since they have more opportunities to find more prints they like. (Also, if you’ve been confused on the whole “unicorn” terminology your friends have picked up, that’s what they are talking about. They are looking for a specific print on a specific cut.) If you are not in love with this company yet, get this: despite their huge success and growth, they have only expanded into fair trade markets to meet the demands of their growth. Can someone take my money all ready??
Each style of clothing has a name. What I love about naming each style is it represents how beauty comes in all sorts of styles! I love the celebration of beauty among women that is woven into the very products of this company. There are also styles for men (The Mark: a 3 button long sleeve and the Patrick: a short sleeve that is incredibly soft) and there are styles for little ones too (leggings, the Mae: a short sleeve dress, the Adeline: quarter length sleeve dress, and the Bianka: a kimono for kids). These are the styles that my dear consultant friend Monica Gustaveson (more on her later) carries that I am showcasing, there are even more styles that the company over all carries but we are going to focus on the following styles.
Amelia: It is SO DIFFICULT to find a dress that cuts at knee length anymore without being a muumuu or a full on ankle length dress. Amelia answered that perfectly. This was my first LuLaRoe purchase and I should have known then it would be a downhill slope after that. Also: pockets.
Cassie:I started a job that requires me to dress business casual and I immediately knew: “I need to get myself a Cassie”. This gem is a pencil skirt style and comes in a variety of prints and textures. I love how I am able to wear power colors that make me feel like a more capable and confident leader and employee! There is too much gray in the business world. I always order a size up in Cassie because it is a little more hip-hugging and in the words of Shakira: my hips don’t lie. Plus, you can roll down the band if you are concerned about the skirt not hitting you right length wise.
Monroe: When I was little I wore a poncho pretty much every day to school and this is like an adult (and much classier) actualization of that dream of mine. My Monroe with a pair of jeans dresses up any outfit or it makes a super cute swimsuit cover! Living in California now this is pretty much a staple for any beach day.
Maxi: An aspect of all the clothing LuLaRoe offers is its versatility. The maxi is no different! Pulling it up to be a full length dress, or wearing it at the waist as a skirt, the possibilities come together for a plethora of options!
Julia: This sophisticated cut is perfect for dressing up or dressing down. It’s cut is very business casual when paired with the right accessories! I was nervous to try this dress before because it is hip hugging and my sides don’t need any help. I feel more comfortable in a size up from what I would normally wear but that’s just my personal preference. I have also seen SUPER cute pictures of my pregnant friends wearing Julia to showcase their beautiful baby bumps. It’s not everyday you get a piece of clothing that can double as maternity wear!
Joy: Joy is a piece that is a jaw-dropping essential to every wardrobe. The piece was originally a limited edition item but received so much attention that they are keeping it! It was also named after the sister of the CEO that passed away whose middle name was joy. This lace beauty has three panels and hits at about knee length. My favorite part about it is how it’s so light and I can wear it even in the SUMMER in the desert! The bright colors that the Joy comes in can bring color to any outfit as well.
Randy: Officially my comfy shirt. This shirt super comfortable and has a great fit. It’s nice to have a comfy shirt that doesn’t look frumpy and the Randy does just that. It’s perfect for studying but I can still run around and do chores and errands without feeling like I look like a bum. With the lighter color I pair it with an under tank-top but it looks great with some blue jean shorts and a messy bun!
Carly: This is the dress I have been waiting for!! It’s perfect for year long wear. This subtle high low beauty comes with a higher neckline and short sleeves. It’s super comfortable and I’m excited for the blank canvas to work with. It would look super cute belted or as I like to wear it with my Lindsey. I’m in love with my mustard color Carly and I’m excited for it to be a fall-fantastic piece!
Lindsey: I didn’t even know that LuLaRoe carried this piece until recently! This kimono style hits beneath the elbows and dips in the back lower than the front. I tied mine in the center when paired with my Carly but it looks great left down as well. The sheer material makes for a easy, breezy style!
Azure: Not going to lie, I was a little skeptic when I saw this piece but this cut has blown my mind away! The flair of the skirt is so flattering and makes me feel like a million-dollar bill. My plain black Azure is easily dressed up or down for casual or formal wear. I love how I can wear this skirt to a concert or turn around and wear it for a business casual style. There is also a lot of flexibility with where you wear the waistband. I prefer mine higher up so the flare of the skirt is more flattering but at your natural hip is a great look too!
Irma: The Irma is the pinnacle of comfort. This slouchy and comfy style has a long back (so you can pair it with leggings without your buttock being flaunted) and is a slouchy style that still manages to not look frumpy. I sometimes will wear it with shorts and tie the back up so it doesn’t trail behind. My favorite is to pair it with leggings and rock style and comfort. I cleaned my house today with the Irma/leggings combo and felt comfortable and put together!
Leggings: LuLaRoe’s leggings are probably one of their most trademarked products. They come in a wide variety of patterns (and solids as well) and all take the cake for being ridiculously soft. The leggings maintain their softness and will have you asking people to touch your legs (which in any other situation would maybe be inappropriate). They come in One Size, Tall and Curvy, Tween, and kid sizes (s/m and l/xl).
Sarah: I’m kinda obsessed with this article of clothing and I’m so excited that it’s getting cooler outside so I can wear this always! The Sarah is the most comfortable sweater piece ever. The Sarah hits at mid-calf and it has full length sleeves. I pair this with everything and it gives a makeover to every outfit. It looks great with dresses, jeans and a tank, EVERYTHING! One of my favorites is to pair it with a Carly. Some get a little nervous at the sticker price of this piece but it’s worth every penny, you will want to wear it with everything!
Ana: When my I first pulled this dress out of the package my first thought was: “Wow. That’s a lot of fabric”. I was nervous it would look like a choir robe on me! Boy was I wrong though. This maxi dress is a fantastic staple to every wardrobe. My favorite way to wear my Ana is paired with my Joy for a pop of color and texture. The length of the dress was not overwhelming or hot like I was expecting and the fabric was light and made me feel elegant. The scoop neckline is flattering as well without letting the girls fall out. In addition, the sleeves hit perfectly and I was comfortable the entire day.
Classic T: The Classic T is one of the easiest examples of how soft LuLaRoe clothing is. Just like all their clothing this style comes in a variety of prints making your wardrobe fun and festive. This shirt is super flattering and is super cozy. Even after going through the wash! I have worn my classic T to a concert, hiking, and with my Azure. It’s a perfect staple!
As consumers, we have a huge responsibility. I recently read Dale Partridge’s novel, People Over Profit, and was reminded that as a consumer I have the opportunity to choose not only how I spend my money but what my money supports. Do I want to be supporting a company that involves labor trafficking for cheap prices? Do I want to be contributing to a company that is unjust to their employees and makes unethical decisions? As a shopper I get the choice to pay for values I want to support. LuLaRoe as a company fulfills that but I also want to share about a dear friend of mine. Each consultant has the opportunity to express generosity and is encouraged by the company to do so and generous even further is Monica Gustaveson. Taking the initiative of LuLaRoe’s vision one step further, Monica has been actively creating space for using her business for bettering lives. Her business is called “LuLaRoe Blessings” and is true to its name. For example, when I hosted a recent online party, she paired the party with Generate Hope, a ministry that is focused on aftercare for victims of sexual exploitation. This gives me so much encouragement to see a business being run so generously and ministry minded. In addition to big picture goals, Monica focuses on the individual experience of each of her shoppers. She has recently started doing “Roeboxes” and pairs outfits, preassembled, for her customers to purchase. For someone like me (who kind of flounders around at the store senselessly) this is a great opportunity and makes the shopping experience even more personal. By supporting companies like LuLaRoe, and shopping with consultants like Monica, you can not only be purchasing a product that is high quality but you can be supporting visions that are high quality as well.