Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: December Caravan by Rebecca VanDeMark

One of my new favorite things to do as a blogger is participate in book launches.  I love reading, and I admire anyone who is willing to pour so much of their time and hearts into writing a book.  Writing my own book is on my 30 by 30 list, and while that's one of the more far-fetched items on my list, I hope to accomplish it someday. It's an honor to support and encourage those brave souls who've made the formidable leap from "someday" to published. :-)

Never has it been more an honor, though, than this most recent book I've helped to launch, December Caravan, written by my dear friend and personal hero, Rebecca VanDeMark.  

Rebecca is a normal girl with normal girl stories. What makes this book powerful is her extraordinary reaction to these normal girl problems. She meets each challenge - heartbreak, longing, fear, pain - with grace, faith, and wisdom.  I so admire this about her, and she sets a sterling example for those of us who struggle to make sense of our own trials.  
Through her retelling of her stories, she explores the idea of hidden blessings, draws parallels to scripture, and wrestles with "why," while weaving strings of hope and peace throughout. This ability is one of the things about her that makes her an extraordinary friend to have, and I love that she is able to show a larger audience this quality, and in effect become the patient and wise best friend of everyone who reads her book. 
Maybe you haven't been through the exact same experiences Rebecca has, but chances are, you've been through something similar and will recognize yourself in her stories. If you're struggling to process the struggles of your normal girl life, check out December Caravan and be inspired by how a normal girl finds the "extraordinary" in her normal circumstances and turns them into a force for good.

Rebecca is offering bulk/group discounts if you'd like to use December Caravan as a study book for a book club, youth girls study, retreats, etc. :-)  I would love to see tons of teen girls learning from Rebecca's beautiful example all over this country!  Finding hope and strength in normal girl struggle is such an important skill, and I believe it is one that needs modeled and taught as opposed to being innate.  :-)  And really, isn't it a skill we can all stand to develop a little more? 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

10 Awesome Tote Bags for Moms, by Moms

My secret mom weapon of organization is tote bags :-)  I love having designated totes for all of my roles... my current diaper bag is a tote bag, and I have another bag containing things we need for taking the babies out to eat, one for taking to meetings or work days for my twin mom club's newsletter, one I can carry my blogging necessities in, and a bunch more for organizing travel (entertainment, road food, quick changes of clothes).

I also love supporting small businesses, so I've rounded up some of my favorite totes from online small businesses! Funny, clever, beautiful... and of course, super-practical!

Awesome Totes and Bags... for moms, by moms.
  1. PinkPigPrinting - Random Crap 
  2. Ringopie- Zipper tote.  The bow and trim at the top of this tote are made of zipper, and SO cute!
  3. Lemons and Limes Boutique - This boutique is owned by a twin mom friend of mine, and she carries adorable bags and really pretty jewelry :-) This "Large Package" bag is wide open and roomy, but others in the line have lots of pockets and organizing.
  4. Emerson Grace Boutique - #MomLife large zipper tote.  This one is a little closer to a duffel bag, but I'm still counting it because it's cute and "graphic" and the zipper makes it even more versatile :-)
  5. Mom Life Must Haves - This is my current diaper bag :-) And I love that it puts my standard answer to one of the most-made twin comments to me, right on the outside of my bag. ;-)  My hands may be full, but so is my heart!  (ALSO!! This is currently out of stock, but she'll restock eventually.  You can use code "alwayskatie" in her shop for 10% off your order, too!)
  6. Aria Paperie - For all the Target-loving moms out there :-)  I'm not *as* drawn to Target as a lot of my mom friends are, but there was definitely a little bit of that obsession that came with the postpartum hormones :-) 
  7. Click and Blossom - Mamarazzi tote.  Perfect for those of us constantly chasing our kids around with cameras.  This shop has lots of bags more oriented toward photography, too, so if that's your passion, check the others out, too!
  8. Heart of Life Design - Wonderful, important reminder, right on your bag! :-) 
  9. Get the Party Started - Haha!  This is so me... ;-) 
  10. Romantic Southern - This shop is where I got my Momma Bear tee shirt, and this bag matches the graphic on it. Fun!  And so rare to find "momma" spelled the way I prefer it, haha!
There ya go!  Ten of the awesomest bags the internet has to offer!  Happy shopping! ;-) 

What's your secret organizing weapon? Anybody else as obsessed with totes as I am?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Protect Your Identity (and I'm NOT talking about finances)

[Trigger warning: suicidal ideation]

What do you know about yourself? 

I'll bet most of you can tell me a few positive things that you are, things that you like about yourself. You're a hard worker, you're pretty, you're loyal or passionate or funny or you can really cut a rug. When you're having a rough day, or starting to lose sight of some of the nuances of who you are, you can count on these details to be true and good.  

I'm smart.  

This is the one good thing I've known about myself since I was very young.  Even when I also believed I was bad, lazy, messy, ugly, boring, nerdy, overly-emotional, not worth being friends with or dating... I knew I was smart. It was a good quality of mine I could cling to, and I built the bulk of my identity around that.   

But what do you do when that identity is called into question?

I was 20 years old, a junior in college, taking a class I loved called “Sociology of Families.”  The professor was young and fun, with a wry sense of humor and a penchant for actually writing class notes off the cuff on the chalkboard. 

Sociology was my major, and I was drawn to it because I enjoyed the lively yet respectful and open discussion it encouraged.  I loved that I could float ideas that I was still developing and have them explored and expounded upon by my peers and profs.  I loved that my major was based on critical thinking and questioning everything we were told. I loved that if I could at least begin to support my thoughts with sociological theory or ideas, I was welcome and urged to do so.

One day in class, we were talking about religion and its impact on the family, and our professor stated definitively that Christianity was an institutional support for domestic violence. Simply-put (and without getting into a sociology primer, haha), this means that Christianity – by its very nature – needs and feeds domestic violence. I took issue with this and raised my hand to argue that the more likely causal relationships were with traditional gender ideologies, etc, which were features of the radical branches of any number of religions, rather than with with one whole, specific religion.  

My professor flew off the handle and told me that he had more experience and knowledge than I did, and he shamed me for questioning him.  He told me that he didn't know how I had made it to a 300-level class without learning the importance of generalization, and he said that I didn't belong in his class.  I kept my eyes down for his tirade... it was the first time a professor had ever spoken to me that way and I didn't know how to process it other than to take it in silence.

I had to turn in a brief paragraph proposing the topic for my final paper at the end of class, so at the bottom, I jotted a note.  I apologized for disrupting class and upsetting him, and I told him that the point I was trying to make was that Christians generally abhor domestic violence.  He had pointed out the "wives submit to your husbands" verse in Ephesians during his attack on me, so in my note I pointed out that that verse is sandwiched between verses admonishing husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church, and to love her as he loves himself.

The professor came to our next class session with at least a ream's worth of printed articles, slammed them down on his desk, and said, "This is all research that backs ME up."  He dared anyone else to challenge him, and then lit into me for another ten minutes before moving on with his lecture.  As we were leaving, he pulled me aside and told me how inappropriate my note was and how he just couldn't believe that I could be so dense.  He again told me that I didn't have the critical thinking or generalization tools necessary to succeed in the upper level courses at a rigorous university.

It was terrible.  But the worst part of it was...

I believed him.

Suddenly, I believed him deep in my soul.  This was a person who had earned his doctorate in knowing and understanding people, who had shown nothing but respect and patience for my classmates and me up to that point.  He said I was no good.  I wasn't smart.  I wasn't worthy.  And I believed him.

I believed him so deeply and intensely that I suddenly didn't know who or what I was.  I hadn't developed my personal identity much beyond "smart," so when that was stripped away, I lost everything I knew and valued about myself.  And I gave up.

I had a nervous breakdown that weekend, and ended up unresponsive in ICU because of the way diabetes reacts to stress.  And this stress was enough to very nearly kill me.

I began to make the bare minimum of effort in my classes... even if I would never be a successful sociologist, I should at least get the degree if possible, so my parents' tuition money wasn't a total waste.  I mean, sending an idiot like me to college was probably fairly wasteful, since I'd never amount to much anyway, but I may as well at least get the diploma. I stopped paying attention to my blood sugars. I wasn't on a pump, so I didn't have a regular basal rate to keep me going, and I skipped doses of long-acting insulin or forgot to take insulin to cover the food I was stress-eating.  I ended up deathly ill and in the hospital again. And again.  And again.  And again.  For the next year or so, I was in and out of the hospital at least a dozen times.  

I was passively suicidal.  I had a plan, and if I'd had the energy or motivation, I probably would have carried it out. But it didn't matter. My apathy would probably end up killing me, and that would be okay.  Because whatever.  I was nothing, nobody, and I just didn't care. Friends walked away, because they didn't understand. I remember one telling me that I was being lazy, not taking care of myself, and she just didn't want to be friends with someone who couldn't be bothered to take care of herself.  

If all of that in the last couple of paragraphs sounds like hyperbole, I get it.  Reading it with my editor eyes, it does to me, too.  But it was real.  Those are the thoughts and actions (and inactions) of a girl who was committing slow, passive suicide. 

I began to come out of it a little bit, the further distanced from that professor I was, and after finding a family-away-from-home at the police department in my college town while I was interning there. I began to understand that that professor was wrong.  I know, so obvious, but it WASN'T obvious to my fragile little heart back then.  Regaining what little I knew about myself, I was able to start piecing my life back together.

I was fortunate that I met Ethan around that time. You can read more of our story under the tab at the top of my page, but long story shorter, he kept encouraging me with Biblical truth about my identity in Christ, and my worth as a person, and he helped me learn other things about myself, too. Like that I'm goofy and spontaneous when I'm comfortable, that I have a passion and skill for listening to people, and that "stubborn" isn't always a bad thing to be :-) He helped me to see that I'm tough, and that I'm a survivor.  

Honestly, he still has to remind me of all of the above sometimes.  I'm in a much better place right now (MUCH MUCH), but sometimes old feelings pop up out of nowhere, especially with the lingering PTSD and depression, and the newer postpartum depression/anxiety. I am thankful now that my identity no longer revolves around one small detail. My identity is, at the core, a daughter of God, His image-bearer, His beloved.  

If any of my other identities change, this one will remain.  

Thank you, Lord, for saving my life and teaching me who I am.  Thank you, Professor, for being a huge jerk and creating the disaster in me that the Lord turned around for good.  Thank you, hubsband, for letting Him use you and for loving me so well.  I love you!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Altered Travel Journal: Beautiful, Unique Gift for Travelers

Hey y'all!  I'm popping in with a vlog review today! My lovely friend Rebecca at Caravan Sonnet sells these Altered Travel Journals in her Etsy shop, December Caravan.  :-)  And there may be a fun little announcement at the end of this video...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Revisiting My 30 by 30 List - I've Made Some Progress!

Do you guys remember when I shared a list of 30 things I wanted to accomplish in the 18 months or so that were left until I turned 30?  Right around six months have passed since I made that list, so I wanted to revisit it and share some of my progress with y'all!
  • I made my first batch of cold process soap about two weeks ago!  I won't know for almost another month how it turned out, but it *looks* right and was a LOT of fun! 
  • Still haven't thrown a dinner "party," but we did have my parents over for dinner I made myself and that was nice :-) Not checking this one off yet though... even though we realized that seating is going to make it really difficult to have more than one other couple over. Lol!
  • I've started purging, but it's not getting crossed off until I've gotten rid of a LOT more.
  • Nope.
  • Heck nope.

  • See my first post as a Huffington Post contributor here!
  • Nah, and I've planned this to be a "closer to 30" item, since the babies are still so young and prone to eating art supplies. :-)
  • Not yet... but I'm practicing my stock photo type photography.  
  • I have a few ideas. :-)
  • Nope.  I was hoping to while Ethan was off work this June, but it was soooo hot. Maybe when the weather breaks a little.
  • Pfft.
  • No... and I think maybe I've built it up in my head to the point I'm almost scared, lol!
  • I've done a few pages, but I have LOTS still to do.
  • When I set this goal, I wasn't thinking about our annual family reunions in West Virginia, I was thinking something a little longer, vacation-y.  But by golly, getting them there, surviving the trip and hotel nights and outdoorsy reunion itself, felt like a victory, so I'm crossin' it off!  We may take another trip with them by the time I turn 30, but yeah.  I'm counting this one :-)
  • No... and I'd kinda forgotten I'd set this goal!  I do need to get back on that :-)
  • Nope.
  • I've sent five... I should be a little further along, but it's not bad!  Hopefully, they've made the recipients smile and know they're loved :-)
  • Yes!!  I get asked all the time about my cookie pie! So fun!
  • You're looking at the new newsletter editor for the West Chester Mothers of Twins and More Club!  Well, starting August 1, technically. 
  • She's awesome :-) 

  • I've made some tiny strides... I finished our canisters.  And I'm honestly not sure what I want to do in there, I just know it's a room I wouldn't have picked the finishes for.  Problem is... it's in great shape and it would be wasteful to change much about it... so I need to figure out a way to work with the counters, cabinets, etc and still make it feel "us."  Maybe a new backsplash? 
  • I've sent out LOTS of pitches, and gotten a couple of collaborations that I'm REALLY excited about!  It still feels awkward and I still have a ways to go and much to learn, but I'm making progress.
  • Fingers crossed!
  • I've seen lists of classes I can take over a weekend that would give me a good chunk of the CEUs I need... I just haven't felt particularly inspired to take them.  But I do NOT want to lose this license!  
  • I've read one :-)  I know five doesn't seem like a lot, but... I don't get a ton of reading done anymore, and I tend to gravitate more toward fiction.  I'd like to read more about mental health, adolescents, career counseling, etc.  Anyone have any good recs?

  • Not yet... but I miss y'all!
  • I can't remember if the batch I finished was 18 or 20, so I'm going to say I have 32 more to go :-)  
  • Not yet, no ideas.  Sorry, you can't nominate yourself... it wouldn't be a surprise ;-)
  • I was thisclose, but went with a knockout rose instead.
  • I think they start back up at our church this fall, so not yet.

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