The past three and a half months have been a total whirlwind to say the least. Being engaged is both the happiest and craziest time you can ever imagine. While, in theory, being engaged is between you and your partner, it really ends up being a time where your friends and family rally around you in excitement about what is soon to be the biggest and most exciting commitment of your life.
Now Matt and I have such a funny love story, which you should hear about in our upcoming podcast but we never were going for a fairytale wedding situation… ironic considering the whole Disney proposal thing. Since the day we decided we were going to get married we actually were convinced that we were going to elope on an island somewhere. As things actually started to get real, we realized that we so badly wanted our closest friends and family there and it just wasn't feasible to do the destination thing. So we decided to do a small wedding that was going to be focused on us spending time with the people we loved who were supporting us on our new journey and overall just having a damn good time. That being said we still have about 100 people that we want to celebrate with us which can really add up price wise. Also, as superficial as this sounds, it is the truth; I love décor, I love details, and I like everything in my vision to be just right. This comes with a price tag. Especially after working for a wedding planner in the past, my standards of “the perfect big day” some could say are a bit unrealistic for what cash I actually want to (and can) shell out. With us just buying our first home, my medical bills being sky high, and us wanting to travel the world before starting a family in the next few years, we have been determined to create our perfect big day on a budget that is actually realistic. For the past three months I have been working with Matt and my closest family and friends to plan an event that is going to be budget friendly, beautiful, and so freaking fun.
This is where a lot of my time has been taken up where I would usually be spending it blogging and I was super stressed about my lack on contributions to Crohnically Blonde. Matt (he’s so smart that’s why I love him) suggested that I start sharing my experiences of wedding planning through the blog because there have to be some other people out there that are going through the same thing. Duh. Thank you fiancé. So that is where this series of posts started. I want to share with you guys my planning journey in hopes that it can inspire or help you. Learn from my mistakes and please take my successes and use them for your own big day.
To start off this series I wanted to rewind back to right when Matt popped the question. After the shock and the love and the tears and all of that jazz happened it set in…. I’m engaged, what the heck do I do now?
I definitely thought that and I panicked a little inside. I could not have written this post until I was out of the initial couple month storm of craziness. Now looking back I can organize my thoughts and break down what exactly I would recommend to myself (or any of you) right after you are officially engaged.
First piece of advice….
Don’t immediately share on social media.
I know coming from me who lives and breathes Instagram this may come as a shock. I always thought that I would be Instagramming my ring ASAP as soon as that thing was on my finger. I actually waited until the afternoon the day after to announce our big news. Not a huge gap of time but enough time for us to just enjoy each other and be happy living in the moment. This also gave us a chance to tell our families and our closest friends first so that they would see if before the rest of the internet. Once I posted I was flooded with well wishes online, via text, and by phone call. It was a lot to handle and while I am so thankful, it was nice to have that special time where it was just Matt and I celebrating our commitment. For a short while it is your own sweet, romantic secret.
Figure out if you have a deadline.
Okay, now this one sounds weird but it is really helpful. Is there a certain time that you want to be married by/need to be married by? Example for me: my health insurance was about to be dunzo so I knew the sooner the better. This helped me to craft a timeline of when the actual ceremony needed to happen and helped me narrow down venues. If there was a venue that would be booked two years out, that was going to be a hard no for me (and also most likely out of my price range). If there is a “deadline” per say then that may force you to get a little creative which sometimes can turn out to produce the best events. Knowing that we were setting a date for less than/a year out meant that I had to start booking things almost immediately after returning from our trip (where we got engaged). Now this doesn’t mean to start going crazy and booking every single thing right away but you need to lock down the things that are really important to you so you don’t miss out. That brings me to my next tip.
What are the elements of your wedding that are most important to you and your S.O. For me I know my photographer was #1 and I would take out a second mortgage on my house if I needed to get the one I wanted (just kidding but like am I kidding?). Shout out Maddison Short. Matt’s number one thing was having a really good DJ. Knowing that those two things were so important and “make or breaks” as I like to call them for the big day, we booked these vendors first and actually planned our date around when they were free. We got super lucky in this situation because my sister’s big in her sorority is the wedding photographer I wanted so she was flexible with us and our DJ is one of my college friends who is a professional DJ. Things just worked out here which I couldn’t be more thankful for but seriously if the vendors you want are in high demand (which ours definitely were) you need to lock them down ASAP.
Figure out who your wedding party is going to be and ask them.
I think this is so important to do early on because part of the planning is the fun of bouncing ideas off your girlfriends and also part of the benefit is they help to take some of the stress away. I asked my bridesmaids pretty soon after we got engaged to be in my bridal party and I couldn’t be happier. (There will be a post on how to craft the perfect Bridesmaid Proposal coming up, don’t worry). They will be there to really be invested and help along the way. It also helps to have conversations upfront with members of your bridal party about what you expect from them. For example, my MOH is my sister Amanda. She also happens to be in her last year of college and is totally swamped. Some of my other bridesmaids are getting married, in dental school, and about to graduate high school this year so that can also be stressful and leave little time for participating in the usual "bridal party activities". My best friend Kelly is in my bridal party and while she is not officially the MOH she has taken on a lot of the helpful planning duties. I explained the situation to her from the start and she has been a huge help taking the stress off of my MOH. Being a bridesmaid shouldn’t be a burdening experience so make sure you are communicating and being as open as possible about your expectations the whole way and hearing them out if they say they need some help from other members of the party or your family.
Whether you are on the groom side or the bride side, another perk of asking your party early is that you can start planning the Bachelor/Bachelorette parties early. This means watching out for deals, maybe getting early booking discounts, and planning ahead so the maximum amount of people can come.
Find someone who has been there and done that recently.
This isn’t always and option but I really have found this to be helpful. I have a few friends who have gotten married in the past few years that I have been bouncing ideas off of like crazy. They know those little things that you wouldn’t even think of… I mean, event insurance?! They also have great referrals and I am a firm believer that referrals are the best way to find vendors. There are things that I know from working in the wedding planning business but when you are piecing things together on a way tighter budget, things have to get a little more strategic and creative. That is where utilizing what these friends have done and their experiences can make your life a lot easier. Also, they keep you sane because they know how ridiculous this process can be. It was my married friend that introduced me to Natural Calm, coincidence? I think not.
I am OCD about just about everything so getting organized was one of the first things that I did. I am going to do a whole post on just exactly how I organized things in case you want to use my “model” but however you do it I suggest you make it fun. I picked up a bunch of super cute office supplies from Target to use and went to town. There are so many moving parts to a wedding and more contracts for different vendors than you will ever see in your life so being organized is so crucial. This also helps you to make sure you are on time with payments and not irritating vendors because you realize you forget to cut them that check you owe! Even though I have a Pinterest board (multiple, let’s be real), I also like printing out inspiration photos and collages so I can see everything together. Kind of a waste of paper but that is just how my brain works. There are plenty of actual planners that are specifically for wedding planning which are great if you want a separate book. For me I integrate everything with my Day Designer that I use regularly so I am seeing my upcoming “to do’s” every day and not falling behind. Another tool that I love is the wedding checklist on The Knot. I haven’t exactly followed the timeline of when to get things done (I’ve been early, overachieving AF) but it is a great reminder of little things that I would have definitely forgotten if they weren’t on the list.
My last piece of advice for those few months following your engagement and really up until your day of (and beyond) is...
Don’t forget about your partner.
Things can get really crazy. There is a ton of attention on you from friends and family which is great because they love you and want to celebrate, but don’t forget the reason why you are celebrating. You have to make sure you aren’t getting too caught up in the planning and decision making that you neglect your S.O. When it all comes down to it, the wedding is one, literally one day, of your life. Your marriage is forever so cherish this time that you have before your big day to really remember why you are so excited to spend the rest of your life with this human.
I hope these few tips have helped/will help you all! I wish I would have know all of these tidbits a few months ago! As I said before I can't wait to keep sharing my planning experience with you. You shouldn't just expect the basic bridal blog topics though. I want to touch on some things that maybe aren't the happiest part of the experience because someone needs to put it out there. I'm talking- body image/trying on wedding dresses, managing expectations (and opinions) or those around you, and anxiety of being sick on your big day (chronic illnesses are the ultimate wedding crashers). Of course we will also touch on some lighthearted topics which I'm super excited about to: bridesmaid proposals, choosing a caterer, how to get organized with your planning, and why you don't have to (and probably shouldn't) do everything by the book.
As always, if there is anything that you are excited to hear about, shoot me and email or message on Instagram and I will make sure to add it to a post soon.
In light of the recent, devastating hurricane I have teamed up to help promote Knack's efforts to Uplift Houston and give back to the community. There are endless families and individuals that are displaced, waiting in shelters to rebuild their lives, and mourning the loss of what they once called their home. Knack is doing what they can to give back and ease the pain of those suffering. By purchasing one of their three Uplift Houston gift boxes, they will donate an identical box to a hurricane survivor in need or provide a monetary donation of equal value to a shelter.
I think this is such a cool way to donate and honestly it is such an easy way to make an impact. The boxes range from $81- $136 and not only are you donating but you are also getting a box for yourself. I know that we shouldn't need personal incentives to help our fellow humans who are struggling but this is a great way to take advantage of a special gift and give it to someone special who is close to you. In times like this where people have lost their loved ones and are struggling through serious hardships, it is so important that we take an extra moment to appreciate those close to us.
Knack in and of itself is an amazing brand that focuses on lifting up others and conveying how much you care in the perfect way. I love what they are doing for our friends down in Houston so I am urging you to get involved!
The link to the boxes is HERE!
Let me know which box you choose to send!
Crohnically Blonde is sending lots of love and light to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
I have this whole motto where my blog is about kicking chronic illness's ass. Usually I think I am pretty good at it. But recently, I have been getting my ass kicked. I hate admitting that because that's not who I am. I am not someone who spends a long weekend unproductively on the couch. I am not someone who lets physical defeat get me down mentally. But you know what, I am realizing that maybe that has to be a part of who I am now. I exhaust so much mental energy being upset that I am "not productive" or "I'm shitty because I didn't make it to the gym". I am so damn hard on myself. But it is against my nature not to be.
I also get frustrated REALLY easily when things are not in my control or I can't solve a problem. A blessing and a curse I supposed. Recently, a lot has been out of my control. My symptoms have escalated and I am having more bad days than good. The thing is, it isn't my gastro effects of Crohn's that are crippling me from living a normal life. It is the fatigue, joint aches, muscle pain and all of this is just getting worse. I am so thankful that my Remicade has definitely helped my gastrointestinal issues but I can't help but wondering, what else is going on? There has to be something else. There is no physically possible way that a 26 year old should feel this way.
I have went through the motions, gotten blood work done, MRIs, CT scans, sonograms. Somehow I am a perfect specimen of a human on paper now. But my body is telling me otherwise. I thought, maybe I just need to go to the gym more and be more active and my joint pain will go away. Wrong. I made it 30 minutes into a gentle yoga class before my wrists were swollen my knees were aching and my one knee actually gave out when walking down the stairs when I got home. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Coming from someone who used to frequent 90 minute intense hot yoga classes, frequented other classes at my local gym, and have a serious collection of Piyo programs that I loved to do at home, this was a wake up call. Even during periods of time where I wasn't working out as frequently I could drop in for a HIIT class and hold my own, and now I can't even make it through a damn gentle flow yoga class?!
I scoured through my blood work to see if there were any signs of something that maybe my doctor was missing when she told me everything was "fine". I also in a fit of range sent her a probably not so nice message explaining that "fine" is not what I would use to describe my situation right now. I am not blind to the fact that with one autoimmune often comes others. Many doctors have speculated there is something else that is going on behind the scenes but they have never been able to pinpoint it. I have a recommendation to go see a Rheumatologist which I supposed I should but somehow I feel like its just another dead end. I have been frantically researching my symptoms (I'm long past being concerned about when WebMD says I'm on the brink of death), and have found some theories that I will share as I go through this journey of, hopefully, diagnosing what else is going on. I am not only going to see the recommended Rheumatologist but also a specific Lyme literate doctor as well so I can make sure I am covering all bases.
I have some theories of my own which I don't want to share until I am sure, but let this serve as another example of why taking control of your own health and doing your own research is so crucial. You have to be your own advocate.
I will make sure to keep you guys along on this journey with me and as always I appreciate anything that you guys have to say as far as questions or comments. If you have been in this similar situations and have stories of your diagnosis I would LOVE to hear those stories and pieces of advice as well.
I do also have to close this post out with addressing the mental impact that this whole thing can have. It can literally make you feel crazy because on paper you seem fine but you aren't! People start to act like it is all in your head. But it isn't. I know that, other Spoonies know that, and what has helped me so much in staying sane through this is leaning on the online support community and hearing about other people's similar situations. Us chronic illness fighters have to stick together and support each other, which comes back to the reason why I started Crohnically Blonde in the first place.
Well hello everyone, it has been a while hasn't it? Before getting back into the posts that I have planned I wanted to give ya'll an update on life since I know it has been a couple of weeks since I have checked in on the blog. If you follow me on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) you know that I was just on vacation in Disney World for a week. My goal going into my vacation was to be really present and not focus so much on documenting in the moment. I did gather a lot of good stuff that I want to share, just I want to share it now that I am back instead of using that precious time with Matt and my family to do so!
Also, kind of a big deal.....
I GOT ENGAGED!
Yup! So excited and so in love. I won't get all mushy but I am so incredibly excited to spend my life with Matt and be a part of the Pickens family! It honestly is the most amazing feeling to know that you are committing to standby, support, laugh with, and experience all of life's adventures with your best friend.
All of that being said, I have spent the past week that I have been back in Maryland sharing this beautiful time with my family and friends and just soaking in all of the excitement and love that is around us.
I have loved hearing from you all on Instagram and your kind words are so appreciated. I am excited for this new chapter of life and I am so excited to bring you guys along on the journey. Holy shit.... I HAVE TO PLAN A WEDDING!
I want to first give a shout out to Brandon Cobian Photography who took these amazing photos (and many more to come on the blog). He is currently shooting in the Baltimore area so make sure to get in touch a book something. He has some serious skills and even got Matt to smile during our shoot! Ha!
Having a pretty and cohesive Instagram feed has always been something that has been important to me since the day I realized Instagram was a public facing social media platform that could build your brand. It was a freaking epiphany when I realized it was not just for editing weird pictures of my shitty makeup job or some blurry photo of my college friends and I “just being basic LOL”.
Instagram has evolved from being a glorified, old school Facebook album with filters to being a serious place where you can build your brand, your career, and actually make a lot of money from it.
Now, I am not saying I am an expert by any means, my account, my brand, and my blog are most definitely a work in progress but what I can tell you is, part of building something is the discovery along the way. And part of MY brand is sharing with you the tips and tricks that I uncover. This is actually part of the reason why I didn’t created a new Instagram account for my brand, I just changed my personal one over to @crohnicallyblonde. Why the EFF would I want all of my new followers at 26 years old to see the photos that I thought 19 year old me thought were worthy of Instagram? Well friends, it was a different time back then. Instagram has evolved, and so have I. But I have always had hustle. If you scroll back (not encouraging this but if you want to, be my guest) my Instagram was full of random photos of things that I bought at Nordstrom Rack (or wanted to buy because I was too poor) and where to get them and often their price.
My feed had a ton of makeup posts that shared reviews on the makeup in a super candid real way. Example: I post a hot selfie of myself and talk about Naked Skin foundation by Urban Decay that just came out. Yeah I wanted to post me looking good on a Friday night but I actually was providing people with value. This was actually so on brand for what I was doing back then because I was in makeup sales for almost 5 years, before the days of heavy social media marketing. I had a beauty blog called Beautybombbb (throwback) where I talked about makeup and clothes in a very real and relatable way but never marketed it. I had a decent following of people but I didn’t commit enough to succeed in such and over saturated market. The whole point is, I left this stuff up on my Instagram and I want my followers who stalk the shit out of my account to see that I didn’t just one day wake up and decide to start a blog and an Instagram and BOOM everything is pretty and beautiful. No, there was work and years of practice and honing in and trying out every new app until you find the ones that you like for editing and planning. Plus I kind of like where I came from because it makes me appreciate how far I have come creatively. I like to look back and see how my aesthetic has evolved and matured into what Crohnically Blonde is today. And guess what, it will continue changing an evolving so stay tuned.
What I DO want to share with you guys today are some of the tricks that I have picked up along my blogging/Instagram journey.
1. YOU HAVE TO TAKE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS THAT MATCH YOUR BRAND
I know this seems so basic that it is insulting that this is one of my tips but it is SO true. Beautiful photos are key because those are the ones more likely to get liked, commented on, and reposted. That is just the truth in it. Lucky for you, you don’t need to have a professional grade camera to take heart eye emoji worthy shots. So many people (myself included) who are starting out building their Instagram feed shot their content with their iPhone. My dad who is a photographer said that more and more professional photographers even are posting iPhone images in their professional feeds because of the high quality that you can achieve. This doesn’t mean that you can just snap a photo on your iPhone and call it great content. You have to think about the composition of the photo, the lighting, and the focus of the photo. It requires practice to get it right. To address the matching your brand piece, this means that you are shooting and editing to match the style of your brand as far as color, tone, products, layout, and everything else that plays into it.
2. Have tried and true editing apps and saved setting/filters for a cohesive look
Does anyone use the filters on the actual Instagram app anymore? This one is huge since there are so many apps out now that are competing to catch your eye. Once you narrow down a few, you figure out your editing process and you can save your settings to make sure your photos are all pretty cohesively edited.
A few of my favorites of the moment are:
Facetune- Not to make you look like a Bratz doll… no no no. I use this app for whitening my whites in photos and lightening up a picture. You use the whiten tool that you would actually use for teeth whitening and use it on your background/feature product. I love this trick for flat lays. This trick has been a total game changer for my feed as far as making photos flow and look like they are part of the same series even if I am shooting in different environments.
ColorStory- I love this app mainly for the tools that you can use to edit curves, exposure, tone, and much more in a photo. You can also save your preferred settings and use them again as a default filter for future pictures. They also have some cool filters that I like as well if I lessen the intensity to about 50% or so.
Looksee- They have some cool filters, specifically for nature and food that I like to take into ColorStory to edit the lighting afterwards.I also like that they have celebrities/influencers create filters that you can purchase for a couple of dollars.
Word Swag- I just recently discovered this app for quotes and I LOVE it. You can use their pre made backgrounds or use your own photo and put quotes of top of them. The quotes can be in a variety of different fonts, layouts, spacing, and styles most of which are pretty well designed. I love this app for making content for Instagram stories and making quote blocks to post that aren’t pulled from Pinterest like everyone else’s.
3. what value are you adding with this post?
My rule is that I try to make 50% of the photos I post on Instagram add value in one way or another. Pretty pictures are great but if they aren’t backed by content they can only take you so far. To me a “value driven post” is a post that is either sharing information about a place/product that your audience will be interested in, sharing a tip, trick, or recipe, or promoting your other forms of content (ie. blog, podcast).The reason why I go for around 50% is because my brand isn’t just about products and blog posts, it is about getting to know me in my natural habitat, knowing my boyfriend, my dogs, my life. If you are all business then it hurts your likeability, authenticity, and people’s ability to relate to you. I do make sure to try and pose a question in my captions to get followers engaged, especially on photos where there isn’t necessarily a direct value add.
4. Make sure your aesthetic carries over to your blog as well
This one is kind of a no brainer but I have to mention it. Make sure the aesthetic of your Instagram matches that of your blog so that users know what they are getting into. If you have a dark and moody Instagram aesthetic and then your blog is light and pink and girly this causes a disconnect in your brand an confuses readers.
5. PRODUCT ENDORSEMENTS- MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE THE PRODUCT/ IT IS BRAND COHESIVE
I like doing product endorsements and reviews. I actually love it. I love being able to influence buying behavior through social media and I love having the opportunity to try new products. That being said, I only do endorsements or ads for products that align with my vision, mission, and brand. Sometimes brands don’t think before they reach out or they don’t do their research. For example, I’ve been asked to partner with brands to promote products that clearly contain gluten. How in the world am I supposed to try and genuinely endorse a product that I can’t even try?! As cool as the paycheck or free stuff can be, if you start filling your feed with BS products that don’t fit with your brand, you lose buy in from your followers. In addition, make sure that if you do agree to endorse a product you can put your own spin on the post both aesthetically and you can use your own words to describe your authentic experience. I just did a post for Roam Fitness and I loved how they handled it. They gave me creative freedom to pretty much do whatever I wanted and it turned into a really informative and authentic post that people responded to.
6. Plan your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and read like a story
I never used to plan my Instagram posts out but the more OCD I get about how it looks the more serious I get. Make sure you are thinking about how the sequence of your photos looks and how the story will flow to your followers. Make sure it is cohesive but also has a healthy mix of content. I use an app Postvu to upload potential posts and arrange them to see how they will look in my feed.
7. Utilize insta story to build your brand
This is something that is newly important due to the increasing popularity of story mode. Utilize your Insta Story to share behind the scenes content and show the more authentic and less curated version of yourself so that your followers can get to know the real you. This is something that I am working on because I am so bad about remembering to do stories. Putting this on my goals list! I love when bloggers and Instagramers that I like put up tidbits of behind the scenes, easily digestible content.
8. Don't make everything so curated that it seems fake
As much as I love a good Instagram feed that is aesthetically pleasing, you have to have a sense of human in your posts. Everything in your life isn’t perfect. If it is then good for you, you are literally the first person ever who can say that. Showcase the realness of your life and the little imperfections. You can do this with photos, with the stories you tell in your captions, or you Insta Story.
As I said before, my brand is still a work in progress but I wanted to share my tricks with you that I have discovered so far. I am so obsessed with the art of social media and human consumption of content. I read so many books about it, listen to podcasts, read articles, it just excites me. I hope this post adds value to you guys and if you have any questions about the apps I mentioned or any of the advice I shared please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Happy Monday everyone! Today I am mixing things up because The Brunette Blend tagged me in a cool "How Well Do You Know Me" challenge. The gist is, I answer the 11 questions that she created, create 11 new questions, and tag 11 more bloggers to answer those questions. The trail continues on and on. I think this is such a cool way to connect bloggers and introduce readers to other bloggers with similar taste! This also really reminds me of the quizzes that everyone would post on their MySpace pages #throwback. Please tell me that someone else remembers that....
Here goes nothing!
1. Let’s get this out of the way ASAP. *N Y S Y N C or Backstreet Boys?
Ugh, wait... why is this question so hard. I was a Backstreet Boys girl through and through but I do have to say I love me some JT.
2. Has your blog changed directions since you started?
I actually started my blog during my freshman year of college with a totally different direction. I started off as mainly a beauty/ lifestyle blog because I was in makeup sales throughout college. I went on a hiatus for a bit and came back with Crohnically Blonde which is a concept I am absolutely in love with. I still incorporate a lot of beauty and fashion but that isn't my main focus.
3. Who inspires you to be better?
I know this sounds corny but my boyfriend Matt really inspires me. I see how hard he works to provide for our family and allow us to live great lives. He supports me 110% in my full time job and with all of my blog goals as well. He gives me genuine feedback and always has my best interest at heart. He not only encourages me to be great in my career but also in my personal life. He encourages me to slow down and enjoy the little things, especially our family.
4. What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
My Day Designer. I swear this thing keeps me sane. No matter how much I try and integrate my plans into my phone/Outlook calendar I HAVE to write things down. Whether it is appointments or a "to do list" I can't resist crossing things off in my planner once I complete a task.
5. What is your social media platform of choice?
6. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Pet both of my dogs and give them a kiss. Usually Charleston sleeps above my head and Rhaegar is near my feet. It just sets the tone of my morning giving the pups a little love.
7. What have you learned from blogging?
I've learned the power of sharing your story. I never realized how impactful the things that have shaped me in my life can be to others. Never be afraid to share.
8. What was the last photo you took?
My mail from The Skinny Confidential <3
9. What movie do you quote on a regular basis?
Not a movie but usually Vanderpump Rules. I'm the devil and don't you forget it.
10. What is one of your beauty tips or hacks?
I'm going to do a blog post on this but I use CBD oil on my face for anti-aging/moisturizing benefits. I have a roll on that I originally was using for my jaw pain at night but when I started to realize the skin where I was applying it was smoother and clearer than the rest of my face I realized I was onto something. I use it all over my face every couple of nights and put it on breakouts too. This works especially well to prevent over drying from acne treatments. Here's the scoop -- I use this face mask (its really great for cystic acne too!). I usually leave it on overnight which you aren't supposed to do and can be a bit drying but it definitely does the job of clearing things up. I follow it up with some topical CBD oil which is moisturizing and has healing benefits. Seriously guys, you must try.
11. What are the three things that ALWAYS make it into your grocery cart?
Sparkling water, avocados, Halo Top (Birthday Cake flavor)
Annie from The Californienne
Raquel from Sincerely Nourished
Melissa from Simply Meli
Shannon from Sunny Coastlines
Julianna from Barre to Table
Sam from The Salty Twig
Michelle from Millennial Mom Life Crisis
Amanda from Cashmere And Jeans
Shelly from Arizona Girl
Hannah from Blissfully Brunette
Amanda from Fashion to Follow
My 11 questions are....
1. What is one beauty product you can't live without?
2. What inspired you to start your blogging journey?
3. What is your favorite blog post that you have ever done? Make sure to link to it!
4. What was the last book you read?
5. What is your go to brunch order?
6. What is your guilty pleasure TV show?
7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
8. What is your favorite movie ever?
9. What is the biggest take away that you have learned from blogging?
10. What motivates you when you are having a bad day?
11. What is one word or phrase that you use way to much but just can't stop?
Things have been crazy this past week! And I can't wait to tell you all about it.....
So first off, it was the week before my Remicade infusion so I was not feeling so hot. On Monday we were scheduled to FINALLY get our AC replaced in our house after three excruciating weeks of waiting. I came home from work a bit early to meet the repair technician and was greeted by two completely destroyed TV remotes all over our bed.
My two little troublemakers ATE, literally ATE TWO REMOTES. This was so ridiculous because we've been leaving them out of the crate for almost a month now with no issues. Luckily, they didn't eat the batteries so it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought but I did end up spending six hours between the regular vet and the vet ER with Rhaegar who was the main culprit. After a pretty penny spent on getting him back to normal, I am happy to say him and Charleston are okay and healthy but they did lose their privilege of roaming free while we are at work.
Other good news, we did finally get our AC replaced thanks to my dad and stepmom coming through and helping out with that while I was at the vet all afternoon. We have a cool new Nest thermostat and a completely new AC system that should last us for a long, long time (or at least it better).
Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted by time Fourth of July rolled around so we kept things low key and had family dinner at my parent's house which was relaxing and a great opportunity to catch up with them.
Other than that I have been keeping things superrrrrr chill this week in preparation for my Remicade appointment yesterday. I wanted to give you all an update on that as well. This was my fourth treatment and I was hoping to get some more answers after my inconclusive hospital visit a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done differently. I am off of the steroids because they cause some major sleeping issues for me and I started two new antacids which I haven't tried before so hopefully I will see a difference with those. My doctor also moved up my Remicade to be only 7 weeks apart instead of 8 weeks which will hopefully help me avoid that hardcore crash during that last week. Have any of you guys seen luck with changing the schedule around a bit?
Overall, I think the Remicade has been a lot better for me and more effective than the Cimzia but I still am not back to my best self. I think with Remicade the times that I feel well I feel a lot better than usual but the times when I don't feel well are the lowest of lows. Sometimes I don't know what is better: to feel really high and really low or to just feel low grade shitty all the time? Only time will tell if this is going to be the long term solution to my case of Crohn's.
I also am supposed to go BACK onto the Keto diet which I was originally on and then off because of the liquid diet/hospital situation and now I guess it is back on. I am definitely going to have to get things back in check over these next two weeks before I leave for vacation because the last thing I want to do is spend my entire time in Disney being sick.
I've been doing a ton of research about the different restaurants that Matt and I have booked for our trip and lucky for me, Disney is incredibly accommodating of dietary restrictions. I've seen some blogs about the different options that they offer as well, which has been super helpful. I am going to try and document what I am eating while I am there and share the different options that are offered in hopes of helping other people who have dietary restrictions and are trying to enjoy Disney World as well.
I seem to get a lot of positive feedback on my travel posts so I will make sure to document everything that I am doing with packing, eating, preparing, researching, all of that good stuff. So be on the lookout for that!
I will be spending the rest of this weekend while I am feeling under the weather from my Remicade, creating some new content and responding to any emails that I have gotten from you guys! There are some pretty exciting things that I have in the works and some collaborations that I can't wait to share with you all. Just stay tuned! Now that I should be feeling better in a few days we are back in business.
Something that I don't think I've ever addressed is what the weekend after Remicade actually looks like. I think people assume it is a lot of stomach issues that make someone sick after getting the infusion. It makes sense to think that because that is usually the case but this version of feeling under the weather is a totally different breed. Your joints ache, it is impossible to get comfortable, and it feels like you are running a fever constantly. I feel like I can never drink enough water to feel not dehydrated and I develop a cause of perpetual sore throat. Usually the first night I fall asleep decently early but wake up in the middle of the night with aches and pains that I can't get rid of. By time I get back to sleep it is usually on and off with some really strange dreams which aren't a proven side effect but I SWEAR I dream the weirdest shit after Remicade days. I end up sleeping (or at least laying in bed) until at least noon which sounds like it would be nice but not when you are insanely uncomfortable. After being up for 3-4 hours just sitting on my sofa I start to crash again and have to retreat to bed or curl up with a blanket and Netflix. I usually like to read when I don't feel well but my eyes literally ache for a few days after Remicade so I can only read in small segments of time. I am irritable and cranky and my skin literally hurts to touch. Getting Remicade is basically like having the flu and not being able to do anything about it.
I know to someone who has never experienced this it could potentially sound over dramatic. Well it isn't. It is 100% truth right here.
I personally try and make the best of it by making Remicade weekends special for Matt and I where we rent movies, play board games, and spend hours snuggling with the dogs. It is an excuse to do nothing all weekend which isn't horrible. For the hours when I feel like a functioning human I can be very productive with blog stuff because no one is messing with me!
As always, I am don't share all of this to have people feel bad for what is happening in my treatment, it could be SO much worse, so feel bad for someone who has it a lot worse. I am honest so that if you are going down the path of Remicade you know what to expect. I am honest so that if you are the mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, best friend, coworker, boss, or in anyway in relation to someone who is going through Remicade, you know what that person is going through and maybe you go a little easier on them during the weeks leading up to and following their treatment. So share, share, share this and hopefully the compassion will grow.
I hope you are having a safe and relaxing weekend and I will have another post up for you guys ASAP!
Yup, we're going there today. Major truth bombs right here so if you aren't in the mood to get deep then you should keep on scrolling and come back when your are feeling like getting really freaking real.
Recently I have been feeling like I got hit by a bus. Regina George style, over and over again both physically and mentally. I have been really struggling to balance everything going on in my life. I know that sounds like I am being over dramatic because I am dealing with normal 25 year old stuff like a mortgage, friendships, money, work. But as someone who is prone to some serious anxiety and is a major control freak, the unexpected things in life are oh so rough for me. A hospital visit here, a random and unfortunately steep medical bill there, a random day where on top of a bad day at work I am plagued with body aches all day. I'm not here to complain. I'm here to put all of this out there because if you are suffering from a chronic illness chances are you feel this way too. And if you are a supporter of someone with a chronic illness then now you know how we feel everyday.
I usually can keep pretty even keel but when shit hits the fan for me I lash out at those closest to me (aka Matt) and I get just plain evil. I try so hard to be a a kick ass #girlboss at work putting in 50+ hours of time in per week, coming home and being a good girlfriend and dog mom, keeping my house clean, having a side hustle (shoutout to this blog), and trying to maintain a somewhat normal state of health (doctors appointments, sleep, food prep, research). I feel like I just can't win at all of these things 100%. I know it is because I always hold myself to unbelievable standards but I REALLY, like REAAAALLLY need to stop doing that.
I think a big portion of feeling so defeated is that the light at the end of the tunnel can sometimes seem so far away. On good days or weeks I feel upbeat and hopeful and then on bad days I feel like remission is just this imaginary thing that doctor's tell me about to keep me satisfied and trying more and more medicines until hopefully I find the magic combination. I feel bad whenever I think like that because I know people have it A LOT worse than I do. But like I said, this stuff needs to be talked about because honestly, I haven't seen anyone really put it out there like this.
The other day I reached a real breaking point for me that I haven't experienced since my first diagnosis. Things just piled on and all of a sudden everything went wrong at once. Our AC broke in our new house, work things were getting crazy, and on top of the my health took a weird turn. I got very sick two Fridays ago and ended up in the ER. I didn't know what was wrong but I did know it was way worse than usual so I needed to figure out why there was a sudden change. After hours of excruciating pain, dizziness, dehydration, and lots of pain medicine, blood work, and tests the conclusion was so irritating to me.
My lymph nodes in my intestines were swollen.
Are you kidding?
That is what caused me to feel like my insides were literally going to fall out?!
I went from the doctor telling me that I may have to have emergency surgery to telling me that my freaking lymph nodes were swollen?! My prescribed regime for when I returned home was more steroids, pain meds, and Pepto.
I'm in no way frustrated with the doctors. They did everything in their power to figure out what was wrong and they did. And it isn't there fault that there is nothing more helpful that can be done. Autoimmune diseases are a painful game of guess and check where sometimes things work and sometimes they don't.
I have been in this type of experience before but this situation was so defeating because:
1, I had been very strictly following my anti inflammatory diet and actually feeling better until the night before my ER trip. Things with Crohn's can change so suddenly. One minute things are okay and one minute they aren't. There is no planning with Crohn's.
2. I actually feel crazy whenever the doctor tells me its "just" this or "just" that, that is the problem. Like am I crazy for feeling the sickness, pain, and discomfort that I am? When I am feeling THAT bad I would expect them to find something gravely wrong with me. Instead it is "just" my lymph nodes causing all of this and my regular Crohn's flare up inflammation that can't be tamed. There is no measure on pain. They can only take my word for it. When they do tests and blood work and see it is "only" my inflammation, I feel like my pain isn't justified. Because of this I so often hide how I am feeling physically because its not like a broken leg where you can see something is wrong. That is why it is called an invisible illness with a serious limit of metrics to validate your condition.
I talked through this a lot with my mom who as a fellow Crohn's sufferer and totally gets it. I also worked through it with Matt who is a freaking angel for putting up with me. I slept for almost the whole weekend when I got home from the hospital and then was still foggy through the beginning of the week. Come the weekend I made the mistake of over committing socially (which was so incredibly fun) but now I am paying for it.
I am realizing my limits and I hate having limits. I know now that I can have only one weekend event and that is enough. I know that I need a sleepy Sunday to recoup for the week ahead. I know that as much as I love my friends, my health needs to take priority.
Right now I am still waiting for my Remicade to hopefully start working better. I get my next injection next Friday. For now I am coping with stomach/intestinal pain, foggy brain, and body aches. I switched up my diet again to see what happens and I am on a cocktail of a few medications all with different side effects that cause another issue in my body.
I didn't write this post to be super depressing or to have people feel bad for me. I have a great, beautiful, amazing life. I am not as sick as I could be. I have a job that understands that I need to take time for my health and even more importantly I have a support system that is always there for me and lifting me up. I have a house, I have money to pay my medical bills, and I have the access to great healthcare. I am writing this to shed light on the fact that when you look at me, I seem like a happy, successful, ambitious 25 year old girl. Most people who I meet will never know how I feel everyday because I don't share that with them. I worry about the judgement from other people for me not being able to be 100% at everything in my life. Mostly because they can't see that I am struggling so what must they think? That I am lazy? That I just don't care? That I am a slacker? That can't be any further from the truth. I am all about hustle but I am also struggling. Just recently I realized the true mind fuck that invisible illnesses are and I think that the term is thrown around so much but never actually, explicitly explained.
I hope you read this and can say "wow, yup I've been there, I feel you girl" or you pass it on to someone who hasn't been in mine (or your) shoes and they realize the struggle is most definitely real even though it can't be seen.
I always get so nervous before publishing posts like these because they aren't perfectly curated. Talking about this stuff isn't sexy or cool for Instagram but I keep coming back to my purpose. My purpose of this blog and they purpose of my going through my journey with Crohn's. If at least one person reads my story and can related or connect or feel validated in their journey and struggle then I did my job and served my purpose.
Episode 2 is here!
Better late than never. Technical difficulties pushed me back a bit but I recorded this last Sunday night, in hopes that it would be out a bit earlier in the week. I am glad I finally figured everything out and I hope you all enjoy Episode 2!
I talk about letting yourself have down time, my experience on "The F-Word Podcast", the keto diet, and Ally Hilfiger's book about her experience with Lyme.
I am working on getting some guests locked down for future episodes AND I have some cool suggestions from people that I am excited to incorporate.
GUYS! Super exciting news. I know I just took the plunge and finally decide my own podcast but I also had the amazing opportunity to be a guest on one of my new favorite podcasts, "The F-Word Podcast". I am absolutely in love with their message and everything they stand for. I really can't do it justice with my explanation so I took the words straight from their website.
"We are Jackie and Emily--two friends who decided to start a podcast to openly discuss issues that are sometimes seen as a taboo in order to create a more understanding and empathetic world.
Luckily I had the chance to use their platform to share my story about overcoming anorexia and how that fight plays into my battle with Crohn's. I have never really shared my full story struggling with anorexia on any public forum and I really wasn't sure why (I did share a bit here). I just don't think I was ready to fully embrace it until now. Well, I ripped the bandaid off and here I am. Even more vulnerable and open and authentic than ever and I did it because I have seen the power sharing your story can have on others.
Please take a listen if you are curious about hearing my story and take a listen to the other episodes as well the hear stories from other amazing people who have struggled through a variety of different issues and who are brave enough to share their stories. Every episode is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
You can check out the podcast on their website HERE or on iTunes HERE.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback!
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.