Apr 27, 2018

NIAW: All The Feels

Hi guys. Happy Friday and happy good weather week!
My mood is ALWAYS guaranteed to be brighter when it's warmer, anyone else?

So, today is (almost) the final day of NIAW, or National Infertility Awareness Week.
And I won't bore you with possibly redundant details about what it is. If you're interested in learning more, head over to the Resolve website and educate yo'self.

I also guest posted over at Fertility Bridge, in case you missed that article!

What I wanted to talk about today are the feelings and thoughts that come along with this week.

When you start re-hashing your infertility journey, whether you are holding a baby in your arms or not, it starts drumming up a ton of emotions that you may have been ignoring or pressing pause to.

For me, this week has filled me with both a sense of community and overwhelming grief.
It didn't help that I got my period halfway through the week. The hormones will obviously run rampant, and I may or may not have spit some venom towards Mark about bringing in some delivery boxes from the front porch because I was feeling really sad at the time (I did that, and apologized).

You see, it is easy to fall back into the dismal past where despair and frustration and loss consumed our lives during our stint in IVF treatments. It's easy to let the sad and angry thoughts consume your entire brain. It's easy to let them win. It's easy to stop pressing forward, in whatever way, shape, or form eases you out of the normal routine of gloom and doom.

I have said it many times because it's true; knowing we were constantly met with dismal results at the end of each IVF cycle became oddly comforting, because it was all I knew, and I was well-versed in failing.

I forced myself to become uncomfortable when I said no to further treatment.
I put myself in a vulnerable position that doesn't have a forged path.
I am choosing to bow out of the grief cycle and try to see the light in a different path.

You see, it is EASY to continue the cycle of addiction that relates to "trying again" with fertility treatments. You know exactly what to expect and can easily just rewind and do it all again.
That may seem harsh, but it is so, so very true. It is EASY after you have completed one IVF cycle, to do it again. Even if it means a huge hit to your mental state and finances.

There will always be more money.
And there will always be therapy.

So why stop? Why not keep trying until it works if both of these things are technically limitless?

That answer, unfortunately, is not cut and dry. It's something that evolves over time and will be different for every. single. person. 

NIAW week drummed up a lot of the older struggles and made me start questioning if I'm doing the right thing. It made me sad all over again for our losses and made me feel less than because I never became a mom with all my efforts.

But you know what also happened during these trying years?
I met and connected with HUNDREDS of like-minded women.
We have shared stories of triumph and loss, and have laughed and cried together.

I have met SO. MANY. local couples in the same boat, and because I was blessed and fortunate to have excellent insurance coverage for medication, I donated A LOT of my meds to those in need.

And you know what?
I helped SIX couples find their dream.
I helped build SIX families.
I helped create SIX miracles.

That is astonishing to me. It would have never happened if I hadn't struggled myself.

Going through the droves of infertility has been one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn. It has shaped my life in ways I didn't even know were possible. I have gained an immense amount of empathy and understanding for other people around me. I have slowed down and truly absorbed the beauty that life has to offer. I completely understand what a miracle it is to conceive and bring life into this world. I have learned that a family is built on love, not necessarily DNA.

I will always carry grief with me. I will continue to sow it into my soul and sit with it just as I sit with laughter and confidence and happiness and honor it's presence when it wants to join in.

But I won't let it consume me.
I am too driven in my life to let anything take over so completely that it negates all my other efforts.
And believe me, there are PLENTY of pots to fill up.
There are plenty of ambitious things and dreams I am looking to fulfill, in whatever way I can make them happen.

Backing away from fertility treatments and choosing to stop spending all of our hard-earned money to make a baby does not make me weak, less-than, or a failure.
It makes me sensible to know there is a stopping point.
This was my stopping point.
It takes courage to put your foot down, even if you are putting your foot down with yourself.

I want every aspect of my life to flourish.
I want to continue to love, honor and respect my husband.
I want to continue to give undivided attention, care and love to my pets.
I want to continue to cultivate a tribe of beautiful diverse friendships, both in real life and on social media.
I want to continue to excel and find success in my career.
I want to continue to improve our home and flex my creative side to make our house a home.

And I can do it all in time. With balance. And patience. And love.

We are all worthy of the life we are willing to create for ourselves.

This is my story.

I hope you continue to follow my dreams as I am following yours.
Thank you so much for reading. XO
Apr 20, 2018

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do

I listen to The Life Coach School Podcast to and from the office most days, as it keeps me centered, especially when life becomes super chaotic and my brain feels fried.

The title is a mouthful!! But, this book provides many, many important lessons, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the 13 things.

1. They don't waste time feeling sorry for themselves

I get it. No one is perfect. I am human just like every other being, and at times, sure, I have felt sorry for myself. Had a little pity party. But I do realize how meaningless this is. We are our own worst critics, right? Making mistakes, stumbling through life, feeling shame...all of this will come at some point or another, but the goal is to recognize you are knee-deep in a pity party, and focus your mental strength toward happier, more confident thoughts. This takes a lot of practice, and ultimately the pity-parties lessen over time.

2. They don't give away their power

This means, essentially, that mentally strong people don't allow other people's actions or emotions to dictate our own actions or emotions. Someone screaming in my face doesn't necessarily mean I need to stoop to their level and scream louder. It gives them my power. Someone pushing through my personal boundaries and making me feel frazzled or less-than is giving them my power instead of holding firm and lovingly providing my side of the story.

3. They don't shy away from change

Everything evolves all of the time. Always. Plans change. People change. Life changes. I know sometimes when things change from a way I had planned, especially since I am very Type A, that historically I would get all worked up over...well...nothing. These days, and especially since going through the ringer with IVF, I have taken a more laid-back attitude. It is possible to change your thinking and have more confidence that it will all work out how it's supposed to.

4. They don't focus on things they can't control

I. Failed. at this one when going through IVF. I tried to control everything and it ended up blowing up in my face. I figured if I was dumping all my time and energy and resources into something with terrible odds, they should just do as I wish and meet my expectations. Well guess what?
It didn't go that way. I had no control from Day 1 and I recognize that now. Trying to control what I can't was part of the reason I started Lexapro. Anxiety took over and made me legit crazy. One thing I strive to do these days is walk away from a situation that I clearly can't guide to fit my plan. Typically, and oddly enough, life does have a way of working out as it needs to in the end.

5. They don't worry about pleasing everyone

YOU GUYS. Why are women so guilty of this all the time?! I can honestly say I hardly ever fall into this category, and likely have come off as a raging bitch because of it. Oh well, I say. I cannot even count how many times I see or hear things like..."I was thinking of doing this....but we can do whatever you like as well!!"....um....WHY don't you just say your preference instead of back-tracking and trying to please the whole crowd. Nothing ever gets accomplished with dilly-dallying. Ha.
We have opinions about things or we don't. End of story. Your needs and your desires and your wants matter just as much as everyone else's. Grow a back-bone and own it.

6. They don't fear taking calculated risks

I am queen of the calculated risk. No shame in my game. I like to have general ideas about future desires in my life, figure out the logistics, and execute them as best I can...even if I have no idea what the actual outcome will be. It's that risk that lights a fire within me and gives me life.

7. They don't dwell on the past

When I deal with my grief, and recognize I am not as mentally strong in those moments as I should be; I often times find myself dwelling on past issues and drum up all those shitty feelings again. I KNOW they offer me nothing, and help zero things, but recognizing that grief is a normal emotion and you can't be on your A game every minute of every day is also okay. Dwelling on the past lessens over time, especially as you work through a shitty event. But ultimately, the past is the past...all we can hope for is take the lessons learned and become a better person because of it.

8. They don't make the same mistakes over, and over, and over again

I make dozens of mistakes every day. Who doesn't? But, the difference is...to recognize how you can do better next time. Try something new. Change things up. Worse case, you make another mistake, but at least it's not the exact. same. one.

9. They don't resent other people's success.

Yes. So much yes. The grass is never greener. I promise. Someone's highlight reel is never going to be identical to my own. How so and so got ahead has nothing to do with any potential opportunities I may have. People may view my life as successful, but may not understand what it takes to get there. Everyone has strengths, and everyone has weaknesses. Try learning something from other people's good times and give them grace during the shitty times. You would want the same reaction when it happens to you.

10. They don't give up after the first failure.

You guys. Can I tell you how many times I have been tweaking all of my social media stuff? The first idea is hardly ever the right one, but you have to start somewhere. See what works and what doesn't. Tweak things. Change things up. Fail. Every. Day. Yes, you heard me. I fail as often as I make mistakes. It's what ultimately gives me fuel to be more creative. Trust this one. Failing doesn't mean you are a failure, it means you were strong enough to try in the first place, and gives you the opportunity to try again next time. 

11. They don't fear alone time

I LOVE being alone. LOVE. IT. Crave it. Desire it. Carve it out and make it a priority. Do you? I know some people fear being alone because you actually have time to listen to your own thoughts and feelings, and that makes people really uncomfortable. Being surrounded by outside stimulus puts a veil over our true thoughts and actions. It is incredibly therapeutic to recognize all our feelings in our own time, away from other people and places, and accept the good, the bad, and the ugly.

12. They don't feel the world owes them anything.

I feel like this is such a millennial phrase. I'm not stereotyping, necessarily, but how many times have you heard that the "younger" generation based on however old you are, expects to become CEO the second they step out of college? The harsh truth is the world doesn't owe us anything. Ever. If we want something then we gotta work for it. Expecting other people and things to give us what we desire is only going to set us up for failure, make us bitter, and lessen our mental strength. Don't give in to the easy way. It is never more rewarding.

13. They don't expect immediate results

We live in an instant gratification world these days, right? Remember dial up AOL? Now if our internet blips out for a hot minute we fantasize about smashing our phones to the ground. Or at least I have done that. You see those time-lapsed home renovation shows but wonder how come you can't gut renovate your home over the weekend, and therefore feel like a failure. We try things once, fail, and quit immediately. This is why people say they can't lose weight, or gain weight, or climb the corporate ladder, or have the life we expect. Because it's not immediate. 
But guys...the spice of life is the slow simmer of cultivating our lives. Growing the good stuff and simplifying. Letting go of the toxic. Becoming who we are meant to be based on life lessons and many, many, good and bad days. 

Tell me....did any of this resonate with you? What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading. XO.
Apr 13, 2018

A Life to Impress Me

Fully embracing the career I have created for myself has been a real struggle for many, many years.
I have been recognizing it more and more these days, as I dig my way out of the trenches of grief and expectation.

I have often times felt ashamed and silly when people ask me what I do.
I don't even know why I do it.
To me, it's just...a job. Nothing exciting. Nothing to see here, folks.
I tend to brush over the question and change the subject.

Who cares what I have to do?

I'm not doing anything extraordinary. Just your typical, boring corporate job. No fancy title or description. Nothing to promote or market. Nothing unusual or cool. I'm not changing the world.

Just lil' ole me....over here doing my thing and bringing home a paycheck. Just like everyone else in the world.

I think a lot of times I fall into this trap of trying to create something more amazing than I am capable of, because I somehow think I am falling short of "living my best life."

We are told we can and should do anything we want.
To pursue our passions. To not settle. To not listen to the corporate nay-sayers.

Our job should exude passion, and if it doesn't...then it's not worth our time or effort.


I think the main issue with this statement is the confusion of what the word passion means.
To most, I would fare to say that people assume passion means whatever you love to do the most.

So for me, what that means is I need to try to figure out how to make a career out of by petting bulldogs, sipping wine, perusing Homegoods and hanging with friends in my pool.

That sounds magical, but not attainable. I'm not exactly a trust fund baby nor a celebrity.

But yet, that is literally what is being choked down our throats these days. That we should bash the corporate structure and be our own boss. Follow our own path. Carve out anything other than having to set an alarm clock before dawn, right?

I have often times been torn between two obvious differences in my life: what I have actually accomplished vs. what I think I should be doing instead.

Like, no one cares that I have fine-tuned my REAL career because it's not flashy or fun, in the traditional sense.

A career in Human Resources and Finance and the back-bone Life Coach and House Mother of an expanding company isn't really....sexy.

I don't travel often or have perfectly staged photographs or fancy clothes, or spend my days in hipster coffee shops or working from home in my pj's...so I MUST be failing at this whole...REAL LIVING thing right?

But you know what I have realized I am truly passionate about?


I have said it a million times before and I will say it until my last working day.

My goal is to make the most money in the most efficient way I know how without burning out and losing whatever marbles I have left in the ole' noggin.

So. Hot. Right?

Yes, I have an abundant creative side. I love taking photos and renovating spaces and growing plants and painting and fashioning a good cocktail and finding new uses for old things and DIYing the ever-living shit out of my life.

I also have a very structured side. That side loves lists and to-do's and budgets and organization and bottom lines and curfews and deadlines and alarm clocks.

I also like adventure. I'm outdoors-y and like to try new things, even if they scare me sometimes.
I don't often say no to new people or places.

I'm outgoing yet introverted and love my home and my dog and my husband and our life to death.


But the reality is....I cannot really make a dime off of any of these things.

My needs and my passions change with the seasons.

I love home renovation but couldn't fathom doing it every single week.
I love budgeting and structure, but not always. Sometimes I'm more go-with-the-flow.
I could stare at my dog forever but sometimes I get really skeeved out that he drools on everything.
I am happy to share my life and my wisdom, but I also like to talk to no one for long periods of time.
I love cocktails and parties, but also quiet, sober days alone.

Having a corporate job is the constant in my world that keeps me on track and provides all the monetary benefits and vacation days I need to pursue all my other passions and hobbies and feel secure at the end of the day.

So why then, am I constantly believing the lies that my corporate 9-5 job isn't enough?

I was able to take my college degree and completely flip it on it's axis.

After working in the corporate world in various fields for the past 15-ish years, I fine-tuned what I am actually awesome at, walked into a company, and literally created a position for myself when the option wasn't even available.

I found an opportunity and jumped on it.
That is literally what I'm awesome at.

My paycheck is what has created every other opportunity in my life.
It's a guarantee even if it's not glamorous.

It gives me purpose, if only I would just open my eyes more often.
I help people every day, and help a company grow and profit.

I get promoted and get raises and have insurance and a retirement plan...all things that so many others wish they had, and yet...sometimes I actually have the balls to view it as not enough.

People come to me on a daily basis for advice and support.
Isn't that exactly what I'm preaching on social media all the time?

So yes, I guess I have a lot of personal work to do.

My life should be impressive to me.

I fucking created it out of thin air, after all.
I broke that glass ceiling and demanded things most women are boycotting on the streets for.
I have a ton of respect and leverage in a job that is 99% men.
And I own it like the fucking boss-lady I am.

I really need to pat myself on my back more.

In the quest to change my mindset about my career, I am diligently re-prioritizing other facets as well.
Social media will always be in my life...this isn't the 90's, but maybe it gets put on the back-burner a bit more often so I can focus more on my own shit.

I still like sharing things with everyone. I still like being the open-book that I am.
But maybe it will look a bit different moving forward.

I know Mark and I lead incredible lives.
When we really start talking about all the stuff we have done, been through, will do and are capable of, we shock ourselves sometimes.

But that doesn't mean that it's any better or worse than anyone else.
Everyone is capable of incredible things, you just have to stop comparing apples to oranges with everyone else's highlight reels. Right?

So I'm off to continue to live the life I keep dreaming of, because it's already happening, my dear.
Apr 6, 2018

Filling Up My Cup

Let's check in with ourselves and each other, ok?
How are you doing? Like....really....How are you feeling these days? Okay? Could you do better? Feel better? What do you honestly need if you feel like you're barely staying afloat, or worse....drowning?

For me, I am...strained.

I feel off.
I can identify exactly what is going on and what I need, and I'm hoping to share some honest information to deeper connect with this audience.

If some honesty is not your cup of tea today, that's totally cool. Just exit out and come back when things are a bit lighter around here. No shame in your game.

Here goes.
(This is likely long-winded and more of a stream of consciousness rather than a well-edited post. Bear with me.)

Also, I'm not looking for solutions. I know that it's normal for humans to find solutions to other people's problems. But really, just read this and if you identify with something, that's super.
I'd love to hear about it.
I actually have a little plan in place and I promise to get to that at some point in these ramblings.

My sleep has been incredibly broken. Our cat is literally in the last few days of having his cast on his leg and I am just trying to survive him. I know that sounds silly, but he is literally screeching loudly all. night. long. because he is frustrated that his space to roam is limited while he heals. I "think" this would be similar to an infant, but I can't be sure, obviously. His cries are every couple of hours, sometimes every couple of minutes from sun down to sun rise (and probably all day long when I'm at work.) I sympathize with him but at the same time, I just want like one full night of sleep and daydream about locking him in our garage at night just so I can get some honest rest.

Me without proper sleep wreaks havoc on a lot of other aspects of my life. I feel like a zombie, trying to survive each day. The wash, rinse and repeat of daily, mundane life, mixed with the fact that work is nuts right now and the weather is doing nothing for my well-being is making me feel gross.

I keep missing my alarm clocks because I have two ear plugs shoved deeply in my ears, which eats into the carefully allotted time to wake up with intention, instead of leaping straight into the shower and attempting to cram 30 minutes of morning routine into mere seconds.

I am tired of wearing the same "winter uniform" to work. This winter has literally been seven months in Chicago and I am just. over it. Granted, we were blessed with the opportunity to take a little vacation escape this insanity, and I strive to not wish time away, but I keep checking the weather, hoping to see temps consistently in the 50's and 60's. Rumor has it that is coming next week.

I have been diligently making myself more available as I expand my tribe and demeanor to those I don't, or wouldn't normally connect with.
And it's been great.
But also exhausting.
I have put a lot of my OG friends on the back-burner because of this, and crave the steadiness that comes with old friends who just get you. Therefore, I have blocked out most of my time in the near future to welcome them back into my home. I can't believe people haven't really stepped foot in our home in like...four months.
Winter does that to us. Our home is currently geared for summer days, but I need to force myself to connect with friends and family indoors as well.

When my sleep is minimal, and my nerves are high, sometimes I start getting really shitty thoughts about other people and circumstances that are simply not true. Your mind does weird shit sometimes, and it takes a lot more mental muscle to combat these untrue lies you keep wanting to tell yourself.  For me, recently, I have succumbed to the whole grass is greener issue that so many people fall victim to. There are things I crave in my life and I just want the instant gratification of them happening.
But for Mark and I, that is not reality a lot of times. There are environmental and financial restrictions that leave us with long pauses between activities and upgrades because there are simply not enough dollars or time each week to do everything.
I do realize this is very much a first-world luxury...to know we will eventually have all the time and income needed to make our dreams come true.
And so what if it doesn't happen all at once. I know I get to simmer with the good stuff longer and dream about the future more, because of it. And for that I'm lucky.
But that doesn't mean that the shitty thoughts don't infiltrate and win out sometimes.
We are human just like everyone else.

So, where does that leave me?
Well, for one, I am turning my sights back to me and my home.
This dreary weather is the perfect opportunity to continue a little self-care.
For me that means working on my home, and making space for a few more naps.
I find the most happiness and inspiration when I creating beautiful things, even if those beautiful things are simply shampooed carpets and a little paint on the walls.
I am planning to deep clean, purge, and find better organization for the upper portion of our house, just in time to host a few smaller get-together's.

Our rental is in the final weeks or repair and with that comes the chance to make the final pass to eliminate the bulk of our credit card debt and start chipping away at a few loans we have in place. A serious, and very honest, bonus to not having kids is there is actually an end in sight with this type of debt that makes my skin crawl.

I am declaring April the month to fill up my cup with all the good things I love so deeply.
To regain my sense of self and to uncover the inspiration and overall happiness I am missing most days.

Thanks for reading. XO
Apr 4, 2018

I Changed My Mind

Hello, lovelies.
Thank you so much for the feedback and alliances and love thrown my way as I sloshed through March in a haze of grief.

I feel lighter this week, and I believe I'm coming out the other side of what could easily have been a month of depression and grief.

I can tell I am on the up and up, because daily tasks aren't weighing so heavily on me.
The simple tasks of getting up without hitting snooze seven times, or dressing myself, or drying my hair in the mornings aren't met with annoyance and struggle.

So, I wrapped up the bathroom facelift in the first couple months of 2018.
And last year at this time, I gave our bedroom a little facelift as well.

...and I sort of hate it now.

Which is completely normal. Sometimes I hate the way things end up in our home, but I have the capabilities of changing things up as the mood strikes.

Speaking of moods...I have been loving the idea of moodier walls in our bedroom.
Like this:

The gray ombre look is soft, yet dramatic at the same time.

It would be a chance to flex my painting skills again and create an overall lighter landscape in our bedroom, in lieu of the hard stops between light and dark that are currently between walls.

Plus, Mark keeps smashing his face into the wall sconce at night, and as amusing as that is, I actually think these lights would be better suited over the piano in our lobby.

So, nothing is set to go yet...I actually promised myself I wouldn't start anymore interior renovation projects this year, but with the cat's cast coming off in less than a week, I am dying to deep clean the upstairs and get everything freshened up, and what better time to do a little painting than when all the furniture is already out of the space?

And, since spring is clearly nowhere in sight, I anticipate another month of indoor activities before we are officially cleaning up and landscaping the outside of our home.

PS - I finally got my act together and permanently switched over my domain name so you can type in Forever Orchard in any manner and it doesn't land to the old "shehasgoodgenes" website any longer.
Hooray for figuring our this junk on my own!!

So tell me, do you have an spring cleaning or decorating projects on the horizon?