Making a YES for real.

dsc01316These days, there are so many things, places, and people to draw inspiration from, learn from, and follow. When the world is going at an increasingly fast pace and the “so much to do, so little time” mantra remains unchanged, the attention we pay to various things speaks volumes about the true value it holds in our life.

As my attempt at keeping up with the world, I have notes, lists, post-its – on my phone, on my fridge, on my desk – for literally everything I want to remember, for fear that I will lose out on a nugget of wisdom or a future million-dollar idea. It can really be quite the struggle to scale back. At some point, there ends up being way too many notes on notes on post-its with alllllll the ideas and to-do’s to keep track of and no work to show for it.

So what is the whole point to begin with?

When I started this journey almost two years ago, my inspiration and hunger was coming from a very similar place as today. It was the year of the olympics (and a leap year too). The first church that Alex and I have found and loved in Boston was closing. Thankfully, we had one more chance to step inside Our Lady of Victories, marvel at its beautiful stained glass windows and its rich history with the The Victorian Society in America New England Chapter before saying goodbye. It was a lovely moment, pushing me to reflect upon the many changes that have happened in my life up to that point and what I felt it was leading me towards at the time.

There must be something about February.

It could just be the winter blues. Maybe it’s because the new year is not so new anymore and the struggle to keep “resolutions” up is too real. Or, dare I say it, perhaps its the realization that although time is infinite, a lifetime in it is only so finite. There will always be things to try, to gain, to lose, and yet there’s only so much of life to have and enjoy.

This February, it’s also the sense that lent is coming (it’s here!), and now more than ever, I’m feeling the urge to really work on faithfaith in myself, faith in others, faith in the world, and faith, most important of all, in God. The fact that the day of love this year can mean much more than the love we can see, feel, or ever give is exciting and a challenge. One I hope to step into with more intention and the support of those who wish to take part in it.

And so, here we are.

To a YES in my life that is at the core of it all. The yes that has been resting in me, sitting with me and now nudging me, prodding me, and moving me in ways I have yet to understand. I have a feeling I’m bound for something I’ve been searching for a long time. Sometimes, I’m learning, saying YES for myself means saying NO to some things in the short term in order to focus on the important things requiring my best efforts first.

If you’d like to join me or follow along, I am getting ready for the Best Lent Ever. It will be nice to have a friend through it all – just let me know!

Meanwhile, the regular Always al Fresco programming will be starting back up too! It was a difficult few months of work, studying, and test-taking claiming the front seat for a little bit, but hey, we’ve got some good stuff on cue here for you.

Tell me, how has your February been?

Wishing you a love-filled Valentine’s/Galentine’s/Palentine’s Day!

Thanks for reading!

x,

Valerie

PS – Alex surprised me with quite the Valentine this year, which helped tie everything together for me and really jumpstart this journey (below). Let me know if you’d like to see more of that or if you have any questions and other thoughts. Feel free to link up with your related post or favorite related links as well!

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I’ll Always Say YES to Wine, Chocolates and This Kind of Love

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a significant other or Galentine’s/Palentine’s Day with your favorites, I hope you have a love-filled day today and always ♥

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This year will mark our fifth year since getting engaged and saying big YES’s many more times to the adventure that has been our life.  Alex and I are far from planning our long distance rendezvous a la John Meyer’s Love on the Weekend (if you’ve been there before, you’ll want to take a listen). We’re glad for that. Little did our twenty-something selves know how many changes, surprises, hurdles, and lessons we would be encountering along the way. And yes, I’d still choose this life and this love every. single. time.

While we often opt to have a nice night in on Valentine’s Day, this year felt different. Our second winter here in Boston is teaching us valuable lessons on patience, teamwork, faith, home, and ultimately love. It seems only fitting to celebrate though still close to home and try to get away if only for a few moments.

We’ve always had quite the unconventional story, whether by choice or by circumstance, but it’s always been the story of us. It isn’t always rom-com style romantic, but it is always with heart.

Because I’m feeling a bit reminiscent, here are some of our cherished images, both from my instax and our phones (look at these babies!), of that fall-like, love-filled winter day at Glass House Winery in Charlottesville.  This is just one of the vineyards Alex and I enjoyed in Virginia’s Wine Country (see others from our recent trip here) from going to school around the area. Glass House in particular makes delectable hand-made chocolates and awesome wines in a one-of-a-kind setting, which are just a few of my favorite things! My company that day wasn’t so bad either 😉 Please bear with the image quality. We were living up that post-grad life with a post-grad wallet in 2012.

Alex had such an odd, serious-one-moment then funny-but-nervous demeanor on the drive there. Apparently he had the ring in the box in his pocket just so blatantly visible and within a hand’s reach from the passenger seat. I just had absolutely NO clue.

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I was just sipping on some wine, nibbling on some chocolates, ring-less at this point, and TOTALLY oblivious.

It was such a blur and such a strong memory at the same time.

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The vineyard was fairly quiet that day, so we were grateful for the other visitors who were able to snap this shot of us.

img_3754Then here I am easily smiling ear-to-ear with my new shiny Diment ring 🙂 (get it??)

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We finished our bottle of wine and box of chocolates and bought a couple more for home.

Tomorrow we spend V-day in a restaurant just a few blocks from our house. I seriously cannot wait for all of the yummy food.

How do you plan to spend your day? Feel free to share in comment below!

 

Valerie

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And if you liked what I was wearing, find my recommendations to recreate the outfit here:

Date Night/Valentine's Day Outfit: Collared Top + Statement Skirt

 

<< also found this one last minute at 51% off and most sizes available in regular or petite: Banana Republic Factory Printed Mini! >>

Loving that Girl in the Mirror

However much I’ve delayed it, the inevitable has come. The holidays are over. 2017 is here. We are back to normal, whatever that means. Now what?

It seems the current theme in my life has been around wellness and overall health. I talk about this a lot with my everyday clients, stressing the importance of caring for oneself in order to better care for others, especially their babies. My family and I are living in different places/countries and we all worry for one another. A recent loss of a loved one, so dear and so young, was a strong reminder of the importance of staying well in order to stay together longer. I realized I have neglected heeding the same advice in caring for my own self.

Just over this week’s study session, Alex was encouraging me to say, “I am a good test taker” out loud and I couldn’t bring myself to say it! I kept laughing it off thinking it was much “too silly.” I find I would rather cheer Alex on (or nag HIM to deliver self-affirmations) any day than do it myself. It shouldn’t have to be so hard!

To that end, perhaps my biggest endeavor to date is to show more love in the world by working to love myself more first. It can be overwhelming to look at the mirror and make an effort to appreciate the person that’s looking back; but I know I’d have so much more to give if I had a heart and a spirit with more than enough to fill another.

So I sat down and came up with some simple personal reminders and commitments. I kept them easy yet purposeful so that I can keep a steady pace, no matter how slow, and achieve greater long-term success. The best part? The five steps below won’t cost a thing!

Five Simple Steps toward a Better Loved and More Loving Self

  1. Get some fresh air.img_3467And do it often. This time of the year can be harsh for a lot of people. Most of us leave for work before the sun is out and clock out well after the sun has set. It’s cold. Resolutions may not be going as planned. Feelings of restlessness, frustration, and poor habits may arise. I know I’m not the most pleasant person to be around when I’m feeling cooped up, much less after long stretches of time. A little sunshine and breath of fresh air can go a long way.
  2. Make those steps count.img_3468I’ll fill you in on a secret. A BIG reason why I’ve grown an obsession for dining al fresco is because I needed to get off my bum. When I’m not driving or at my work desk, I land straight on the couch when I get home. I would completely let myself go if I didn’t do anything to break the habit. Since I’m not athletic or a gym-goer, I needed something that I could integrate into my set routines to improve them. I figured, I needed to eat at some point, right? Going some place I could walk to became a big motivator for me, even if it was just to walk around the park and then grab a coffee. Now that I’m getting used to feeling good about the walking (and how many steps I took thanks to my step tracker), I often enjoy it without needing a treat! As a bonus, these strolls have become treasured moments when Alex and I can unplug, talk about anything and everything under the sun, and turn into local tourists within our own city. If it’s rainy or WAY too cold, I search for a simple video online (I’ve been on a yoga-at-home kick) and do what I can.
  3. Allow yourself some ME time. img_3475This looks different for everybody and that is perfectly okay! Meditate, reflect, journal, doodle, pray. It took me a while and some misses to really internalize what brings me joy rather than looking to others. Try something old or something new. Perhaps you always loved playing the guitar but haven’t dusted off your strings in a while? Or remember when you used to sketch or watch a movie to reset? Why not visit your happy place again? To me, it depends on what I’m searching for at the time. I try to doodle or write to get my creative juices flowing. I pause to pray when I’m extremely stressed. Take the time to find what works for you, and then allow yourself even just a few minutes (5 to 10 could be plenty!) to take care of you.
  4. Get some good sleep img_3469Break down your sleep habits, maybe even take notes everyday, to evaluate what helps you sleep better and what hurts it. This might also look different to different people whether your body craves 5 hours or 8 hours of sleep. My step tracker helps monitor my sleep (though most phones these days do as well) and I’ve learned that extended screen time right before I close my eyes make me restless overnight. In fact, I’ve learned to eliminate my laptop from the bedroom so that I have greater separation between work and rest (hello workaholic). More work  doesn’t necessarily mean more productive. I was waking up with less energy and disorganized. Coffee is great short term (don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan) but sleep is a free option to get you some energy for the day ahead, seal those memories and newly learned/developing skills in your brain, and consequently improve your long-term health.
  5. Keep good people/energy around.img_3466Let’s face it, it’s hard and often impossible to do everything on your own. It takes a village to raise a child, they say. I believe it takes a village to love yourself, too. Check out the bigger and smaller communities around you that can help you explore all the parts of yourself that need nurturing. You may prefer volunteering, a book club, faith-based groups, or a health and fitness group. If there’s an app for that, chances are, there’s a group for that too. Depending on what’s a priority for you with the time that you have, you may find that some groups/commitments are worth keeping over others. Alex and I had to start from scratch, but now we have a network that fit both our lives together and our individual needs. We have friends and resources surrounding us to draw motivation from and keep us accountable in supportive ways.

I hope this sparks an idea or two in you and that we can share in this journey together! Be good to yourself, ESPECIALLY when the going gets tough. Know that this is a process, and every little milestone is worth celebrating! I may not do all of the above every single day, but I do try to plan and look forward to the next time I can work on my best self.

What do you do that’s the same or different from this list? Feel free to share tips/advice with me! WE GOT THIS.

 

Valerie