Friday, June 23, 2017

Real Talk: Why I Took a Leave of Absence from Work

This is my 3rd attempt at writing this blog post. I feel like it’s important to talk about, because no one ever talks about it, but it was hard for me to find the right way to talk about it. The first time I wrote it, it was me pouring out my heart and soul, laying all my pain out for the world to see. But at the same time, I kind of felt defensive. I felt like I had to defend my decision to take a leave of absence from my job, when honestly I don’t have to defend shit. While Jen read that post and said it was perfect, I wanted to wait. It took some time and, if I’m being real, some therapy, for me to feel like I was in the right head space to talk about this. So here we go. 

My mom died almost a year ago. It will be a full year at the end of July. It feels unreal that the time has gone by so fast and I’m looking at starting my second year without my mom. My mom died from multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. She had a stroke in early 2015 and shortly after was diagnosed with cancer. She was doing chemotherapy for almost 14 months straight before she stopped responding to treatment. This was at the beginning of July 2016. By the end of July her body just stopped. I found out she was in the hospital two days after being back at work from a 2 week vacation and instantly left and spent the next 3 days by her side until she passed. It was hard. Watching someone you love die is horrifying, nothing at all like it is in tv and movies. I was haunted by “end of life” breathing for weeks. Even now, sometimes I remember what that was like and I my heart sinks. I was 29 years old, my youngest sister was only 20, and suddenly we didn’t have a mom anymore. 

Her passing changed my whole world. I had a complicated relationship with my mom for most of my life, so her dying left me with a lot of guilt, a lot of unresolved issues. I felt scooped out. I was empty. I was someone I didn’t recognize anymore. I didn’t know how to navigate this huge grief that I didn't ask for and didn't want. Before my mom died, I had ambition and was hard working and energetic. When she died I became this version of myself I didn’t recognize. Panic attacks became a huge part of my life, along with constant anxiety. Depression also came along for the ride, so I was just a mess. I took a few weeks off from work right after this happened, but I was still struggling. I was pretending to be healing and that I was ok, that I was fine, but I was very much not fine. 

My depression made it hard to get out of bed, hard to do anything. I found myself missing work once every week or two. I just couldn’t do it. I was able to work from home sometimes, but it was still incredibly hard. It’s really hard to convey in words just how bad things were, how different I was from who I used to be, and how much energy I put into pretending I was ok. The company I work for has an unlimited PTO policy. It’s also the first place I’ve worked where it felt like I was valued as a person. I know that if I went through this at any other job I would most likely have been fired. It was hard to admit that I was not in a good place and I was blaming a million things in my life besides just dealing with my grief. 

In March, I was put on a performance improvement plan. Not surprising since my quality of work was nowhere near what I wanted it to be. It’s so weird to struggle at work and want to be better but not seem to be able to get any better. I finally opened up to my lead about how I was feeling, truly and honestly. She was incredibly supportive and kind. She mentioned to our HR rep in our office that I might need to talk. I had a meeting with my HR rep and she suggested taking a leave of absence. I didn’t even know that was an option, that you could take leave for mental health reasons. Once I knew that was something I could do, things just clicked. I had been seeing a doctor for my anxiety and depression since my mom died so I had medical records to back up my request, and getting it approved was pretty easy. 

The past 3 months have still been a struggle, but I finally feel like I’m healing. I’m moving on to the acceptance part of grief. My coping mechanisms are so much better. Like, I actually have coping mechanisms now. I’m anxious about returning to work but also excited. I’m grateful I was able to have this opportunity to heal. The biggest thing that has lead to my progress has been finding a therapist. I’ve been seeing mine for about 6 weeks and I kind of wished I had started seeing someone as soon as my mom passed. Therapy was scary for me, but just in the past 6 weeks I’ve made an insane amount of progress. 

When I first went on leave, I was incredibly embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling, especially with mental health things. Admitting I needed help, that I needed a break from my job, felt like admitting weakness. Plenty of people live with these issues every day and don’t take a leave from their jobs. All I can say is that I know how bad things were 12 weeks ago and this leave feels like it saved my life, no exaggeration. I feel like I’m getting back to the person I was before, maybe even a better version of who I was before. I will always live with the loss of my mom and the feelings that come up with that loss, but I’m healing from the rawness of that loss. I don’t feel ashamed anymore that I took leave from my job. I did what I had to do for myself and my family. I recognize the incredible privilege I have that afforded me to be able to take this time off. I have an amazing support system in place, people who always believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.

Mental health is something that is not really talked about very often or openly. Not where I’m from anyway. I want to be transparent with this huge thing that I dealt with. Grief is different for every person. For me it triggered an incredible amount of anxiety and depression and I didn’t know how to help myself. If you have any questions on what it was like to take leave, I’m more than happy to answer them! For now I’m preparing to go back to work at the beginning of July and prepping to talk to everyone who maybe assumed I didn’t work there anymore.  Wish me luck and thank you so much for reading through this very long and personal post! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's Getting Hot in Here

Well Friends, it's officially summer! We are kicking off the change of season with a new outfit post!  

I'm so thankful for seasons. I don't think my heart would be as happy to live in a place that doesn't have super defined seasons. I relate certain activities and celebrations to certain times of year based on the seasonal weather. I can't image living in a climate where you could swim at Christmas or never see the snow fall or a place where you don't get to watch the leaves lifecycle each year.  I get very into crafting and decorating for each season as well as rearranging my wardrobe per season. Thinking about each season passing from one to the next, basically marking time, can make me feel very at ease with the universe and with nature. Like, I'm just such a miniature part of this great universe.

  One day I would like to take it a step further and have some sort of solstice celebration for each season. My mind immediately goes to Practical Magic, where they are celebrating the fall solstice and the witches jump of the roof naked. Or even further back to Little Bear (Nickelodeon days) and their traditions of celebrating the winter solstice with an outdoor gathering/feast where they feed all the creatures of the forest. I think I'm looking for some way to celebrate nature and each season individually while giving back to the universe in general.  Obviously, I'm not looking for any public indecently charges, but I think you get where I'm going with this. I just want to stop and take the time to really celebrate how cool nature is. Yah know, throw some flowers in the air and dance in the yard barefoot and eat some food off a blanket, that kind of stuff.  

Bodysuits are life. Seriously. I'm not sure how I ever lived without them, especially with my love for overalls. I now have a hard time styling a sleek look without them. I feel like everyone can see the fabric bunching up without the sleekness of said bodysuit. (My head is full of these types of lies--no one even notices the fabric bunches.) These pants are super classy yet feel like pajamas so they are basically perfect for almost all activities.  So far I've only styled them in a professional type manner and now I'm curious to see how they would look with a graphic tee or a tank top.  I was lucky enough to grab these baby's on clearance for under $20 and that feels like a major score considering they are from Modcloth.  Also, these heels make me my dream height of 5'5"/5'6", which I have been told is an extremely girly statement. *shrugging emoji*

Outfit Details
Bodysuit {Forever 21} / Gauchos {Modcloth-sold out} / Sandals {Forever 21-sold out in blush}

Do you ever see something and think, "This is very me and I need to own it immediately no matter if I have to dip into savings?" While I didn't dip into my savings this time, I did think that this dress was one of the most "me" things I had ever seen and knew I had to own it. Mustard is my color and it pairs so well with navy. I love the silhouette of the dress and the ruffle detail of the navy sleeves. Even with all these perfect details, the first time I wore it was for this blog. Sometimes I buy something I really love and then I let it hang there for weeks because I want the first time I wear it to be special. Which is kind of silly, since I don't think beautiful things need to wait for a special day.

My got to outfits are usually things that are flattering in the stomach area. It's where I hold all my weight and I can easily look 4 months pregnant in the wrong thing. Thanks to having twins, my skin is kind of stretched out so I do my best to love my body while also dressing in ways that look good on me. This dress does that for me. It's my favorite color, it can be casual or dressy, and it's flattering. Plus with the humidity being out of control in Missouri, it also keeps me pretty cool.

While I do love experiencing seasons, I do miss those years I lived in San Diego and could basically use a cardigan in the middle of winter as heavy outerwear. I'm embracing that Missouri is my home for the foreseeable future and I'm cool with it. But I don't think I'm as big a fan of seasons as Jen is, but I am very into her idea of celebrating solstices! Might have to make that a bestie tradition of some kind! 

Outfit Details 
Dress {Piper and Scoot-not longer available} // Shoes {Forever 21-similar

Monday, June 19, 2017

Real Talk: Grief and Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

“Our memories of our loved ones are the pearl we form around the grain of grief that causes us pain.” 

If you've been a reader for awhile, you might know that my mom passed away last summer. It's about 6 weeks away from being a full year, which seems crazy to me. It's been the hardest year of my life. Grief kind of swallows you, leaving you to fight your way back. You aren't the same person any more. When someone close is taken from you, it's like you are broken into a "before" and "after" version of yourself. You are forever changed, you won't be the same, but you try to find a way to navigate yourself back into a person who isn't as broken. So, I think it might be obvious that reading Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner for our May book club was hard for me. 

I had tears streaming down my face most of the time. While the circumstances of our grief was completely different, the emotions that Carver has after his friends die is so universal to the grieving process in general. Carver loses 3 of his best friends (Eli, Blake, and Mars), the other members of the Sauce Crew. He's left with guilt over the fact that a text message he sent to one of them could be the reason for their car crash that killed them all on impact. As he navigates this new world without his friends and the weight of the grief and the guilt, he grows close to Eli's girlfriend Jesmyn and helps the families of Blake, Eli, and Mars have a Goodbye Day for their friends. The idea of  a Goodbye Day is to share your memories of the person with others who knew him so you can know that person a little better. 

“Funny how people move through this world leaving little pieces of their story with the people they meet, for them to carry. Makes you wonder what'd happen if all those people put their puzzle pieces together.” 
― Jeff ZentnerGoodbye Days

Each time Carver had to help the families of his friends with a Goodbye Day it was crushing. Blake's grandmother was so sweet and loving and it broke my heart to witness their sweet and wonderful Goodbye Day for Blake. Eli's was completely different, but still heartbreaking, and the one with Mars' dad was crushing. He not only had to deal with different emotions each time, but also with the fact that some people held him responsible for his friend's deaths, including some of their parents. Like, holy shit I cannot even imagine that level of guilt and responsibility. While my mom died of cancer, and that can't be blamed on anyone really,  I think for me, it really hit me hard because one of the things I wonder about the most since my mom died is about all the pieces of her I didn't get to know. I know her as my mom and our relationship was complicated for most of my life, so realizing that other people have these pieces of who she is kind of helps. Hearing family and friends tell stories about my mom help me know her better, even if I didn't get the chance to do that when I was alive. 

I think another part of this story that hit close to home was Carver struggling with guilt and panic attacks, something I have struggled with a lot since my mom died. I am on anti anxiety meds now and in therapy (which has helped so much) but when I had that first panic attack, I was sure I was dying. I couldn't breathe and I was at work, so it was hella embarrassing (kind of like Carver and his first day at school without his friends) Jeff Zentner captured the feeling of panic and guilt and grief so perfectly. He also is able to write characters that feel like whole people. We only get to meet Eli, Blake, and Mars through flashbacks and stories, but you really get a feel for who they were and how crushing their loss is for Carver. 

Goodbye Days came to me at kind of a perfect time. It was hard to confront my own grief in the context of this story, but it honestly helped a lot. This book will hold a special place in my heart, especially since it was hard to read for me. I think that everyone should give it a chance, even if it can feel heavy at times. Losing someone is one of the hardest things we can ever go through, even knowing it's part of life doesn't make it easier. This book is basically a perfect example of how YA can be moving and funny and heartbreaking all at once, in the best kind of ways. Books can move you and tell your story, even if your story isn't even remotely the same. Read this book, y'all. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jen is Sew Cool

Hey friends! As you are probably well aware, if you follow me on any social media, I've crossed over into a whole new sewing world. Sewing has been one of the biggest parts of my adult life.  I've always been somewhat interested in the craft but upon purchasing my own home decided it was something I must teach myself in order to obtain peak coziness in my new environment.  Since them I've made more quilts, table runners, wall hangings and curtains than I can count. I've also embroidered everything that was laying around that had a fabric surface, such as pillowcases and kitchen towels. Sewing has been a slow evolution for me, yet one of my biggest confidence boosters.  To me, there is no bigger since of accomplishment than knowing I created something out of nothing. 
I've obviously always been very into fashion, basically since I can remember.  My mom always talks about how she would hit up yard sales and come homes with bags of clothes for me to potentially wear but mostly I'd play dress up with them.  Hours upon hours were spent playing dress up and twirling in front of mirrors.  Pretty much since my first viewing of Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion I've been dreaming about designing and making my own clothes.  I half joked about making it a potential career one day but the practical side of me decided against it (biggest life mistake, maybe?).  
At the beginning of this year, I set out a list of goals. Most of them had to do with my crafting lifestyle.  I was starting to feel like I was in a funk and needed to shake things up.  A girl can only make so many quilts--even if they turn into gifts, yah know?  I decided my first goal would be to make a clothing garment of some kind.  See Kate Sew was having a sale the first week of the New Year so I decided that was the perfect opportunity to start my clothes making journey.  I bought the Peplum Top pattern with the add on Skirt Pattern so I had an option to make a peplum top or a dress.  Then I did nothing but fret for 2 months. Shopping for clothing fabric is so different from quilting fabric so the step of picking out fabric seemed super daunting.  I then decided to break it down into mini goals. The first month my goal was just to pick out and buy fabric.  The next goal I set was to cut out my pattern and then cut out my first garment which ended up being a peplum top. Then I really started picking up steam and by the end of the day I had a completed garment.  I was elated. Creation is always so fascinating to me even though I witness it constantly. The feeling of turning a hunk of fabric into something useable/wearable is just the best feeling. I can't even describe it.
My Favorite Skirt

This is probably common knowledge, but I love me a high waisted skirt.  The style is very New Girl meets Modcloth and I love it.  What I don't love, is the price of these skirts. Seriously, they are around $50 and that's just a tad out of my price range for one garment.  I found a great skirt tutorial and have busted our four of them already.  The only alteration I made to the pattern was adding pockets (which is way easier than I could have predicted). It works up so quickly and only takes about 1 1/2 yards of fabric-only 1 if you don't want it to be below the knees.  I am absolutely in love with this dino print and this skirt rang it at around $17.00. I would say $15 is probably the average price for this project, depending on fabric choice.  I randomly picked up some striped fabric the other day and made an entire skirt for $3.00.  I've also made a succulent skirt and a gnome skirt. I think it's safe to say I'm obsessed with this pattern and will definitely continue using it.

See Kate Sew - Circle Skirt Dress
So the dress was my 2nd project. It's basically the peplum top plus adding a circle skirt. Easy peasy. I finished this dress in a day and I love the cut and fit so much. The pattern was super clear to follow and this project worked up so easily. It's a perfect dress for really any occasion.  The patterns also has options for sleeve length so I could make some fall/winter versions of this dress too.  I can predict this pattern will be use more than once!  This was also a very cost effective project.  The fabric for the dress rang in at $5 a yard, for a total of $15 for the dress.

McCall's Romper - Pattern 7115

Sew, up until this project, all my clothing sewing had gone super smoothly. Basically no issues or extreme frustrations.  This romper project was a bit trickier.  I didn't love the pattern and directions. I'm very much a visual person. I want there to be lots of photos and words describing each step. Over simplification drives me nuts. Yea, I've been sewing for 10 years but my brain can't always make these leaps without proper instruction. Anyway, round 1 was pretty rough but I wanted to document my struggles along with my successes.  This was the finished project. As you can see, it doesn't quite fit me properly.  It's a little too short in the lengthwise and the neckline is a full on Monet. This was my first attempt at buttonholes and they really aren't as hard as I predicted. 

So, yea, the fit didn't turn out great. I was sad for about a day and then I decided to rip it apart and recut the top out of leftover fabric and just do a big ole do-over. I'm really in love with the print of this fabric and just couldn't let this project go.   I'm very glad I did. Not only did I improve the fit but I was able to get the neckline lined up much better. It's definitely now an outfit I would wear.  Sometimes perseverance is key. This fabric rang in at about $17.00 + $1.00 for matching buttons.  The only alternation I made to this pattern was adding pockets, but women deserve pockets too!

I do think I'm going to give this pattern another whirl.  It has a dress variation that I'm dying to try out. I really do love the print of this fabric and can see it making a great weekend outfit. My biggest complaint about this project was the pattern detail.  I don't love piecing pdf patterns, but they always seem more detailed which I really appreciate.

After finishing all these projects, I really did feel like I was on top of the world. Like I could make anything. I felt so badass. I know I'm becoming insufferable around the house, constantly modeling my homemade wears, pointing out how I can add pockets to basically anything and forcing my husband into instagram husband roles. But man, I've always struggled with my confidence so hard.  Creating and designing my own wardrobe is giving me confidence I didn't even know existed within myself. Y'all, sometimes it really pays off to step outside of your comfort zone. It's also amazing to see my childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer/seamstress, like Romy & Michelle, is actually coming true.

I would love to hear your sewing adventures. What are you making? What's your favorite thing to sew? What part of sewing causing you apprehension. Seriously, I want to know!!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Just a Couple of Cat Ladies

Meow Friends! I like to think both Heather and I are known for our cat lady tendencies.  We are both cat mamas who like to frequent cat cafes just to chill with cats we haven't personally spoiled. They are just more well behaved, yah know?  Anyway, Heather had the great idea of having a cat themed outfit shoot and I was 100% on board.  It feels like I'm always snatching something up that has crazy cat lady written all over it.  What I didn't anticipate was that most of those things are more appropriate for the fall and winter. I guess I'm just more prone to wanting to stay cozy and warm like a cat during those months? IDK, but this theme ended up being more challenging than I anticipated and I'm now on the hunt for some summerish cat outfits.

Where I fail at having a cat themed summer outfit ready to go, I make up for in cat themed tees and accessories.    The sunglasses alone are ridiculous enough to win a crazy cat lady Halloween contest. This is one of those rare outfits where I absolutely love each piece individually as well as collectively.  These heels are very new to my wardrobe and I've been stressing a little over this block heeled trend. Obviously I love the style but I usually lack in fanciness when it comes to shoes. I hate feeling restricted and like I can't strut my normal strut. Amazingly enough though, block heels are so much different than other types of heels I've been accustomed to. I don't feel like I'm struggling in them or teetering around. My overall strut isn't affected so I'm calling them a win.   

Also, what is it about wearing leather that makes you feel fancy? This skirt always makes me feel super fancy and just a tad bit sexy, especially paired with these heels.  I bet sexy isn't an adjective you would expect to hear to described a cat themed outfit. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Outfit Details:
Cat Tee (Passive Juice Motel-retired print) / Skirt (Forever 21-last summer) / Sandals (Forever 21) / Cat Clutch (Christmas present) / Cat Sunglasses (Glasses Lit-sold out, for obvious reasons)

Like Jen said, I found putting together a cat themed outfit a little harder than I expected even though the theme was my idea. While I have quite a few cat themed things in my closet, I had a tough time deciding on outfits. This one is one that's both my summer outfit and out of my comfort zone, blog wise. I was a little nervous about wearing shorts on the blog, but shorts are something I have to wear in the humidity that is starting to climb here in Missouri. I do think it's good to push myself on the blog and not just stick with my default of skirts and tops. 

So this outfit is kind of my summer uniform lately. A nice loose top with some fitted bottoms and cute sandals. Before the humidity kicked up, I was rocking these kind of tops with leggings around the house. My stomach is my area that I am constantly working on loving since it's where I hold my weight and is not my favorite body part. But it's hot out and I don't want to feel like I'm restricted to wearing things that are maybe more flattering but aren't as comfy and cool. Plus I love this top so much. The cats on it and the peter pan collar make this something I can wear casually but also can be dressed up easily too. 

Outfit Details 
Cat top {Modcloth} / Shorts {American Eagle} / Shoes {Target

The girls came along with us while we took outfit photos so of course I had to stop in the middle of it to help figure out Pokemon Go. Mom life is just constantly answering requests from your kids at all times, even inconvenient ones. Ha!