Counting Down

rachelandjames051Baby girl’s due date is just a few days away so James and I are soaking up time together as just the two of us (well, three of us, counting Coach!). These past two years of marriage have been filled with so much adventure and joy and while there have been bumps in the road along the way, James and I both feel so blessed by the ways in which our relationship has evolved and grown. While there is a teeny sense of mourning for the passing of the season of us, there is infinitely more excitement for the next season of our lives and for the richness and depth our daughter’s presence is going to bring to our hearts and our home. We know that we are never going to be the same, and for that we are grateful.

Our dear friend Heather Hawkins took beautiful maternity photos for us in June, so I promise to share the rest of them soon. I love this blog so much, as it’s served as a wonderful space for connecting with others while also serving as a scrapbook of sorts, documenting life’s momentous occasions, adventures, and thoughts. I’ve been busy tying up loose ends at work before I head out of the office on maternity leave while also queuing up lots of posts for my editors at both Darling Magazine and Wonderfully Made (including finalizing a fun podcast project that I can’t wait to tell you about). I haven’t carved out as much time as I’d like for sweet Coffee & Tacos but just know that even though my posts may be more infrequent, as they have been of late, I’m not going anywhere – I pinkie promise.

Photo via Heather Hawkins

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Defining Your Home Team

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI’ve written about the concept of the home team a lot on my blog, either in entire pieces or in small references, so I was excited when I got the chance to expound upon this topic for Darling Magazine. In my most recent post for Darling’s blog, I wrote about the importance of defining the members of your squad. Shauna Niequist, the author who introduced me to this concept in the first place, makes great points about the importance of not only knowing who is in your home team but also being aware of who is not. Here’s a little peek at the piece:

[Niequist’s words] got me to thinking about continually seeking intentionality in relationships. Especially in this day and age of instant connectivity and constant communication, it’s easy to feel connected and close to a myriad of people from all different walks of life. And while that may be perfect for some people, it’s not the right fit for me. I know that I crave quality time with the people I love, and because there’s only so many hours in the day, I have to be realistic about who I’m giving my time and love and trust to — and when, and why.

Head over to Darling’s blog to read the post and let me know what you think about the idea of having a home team! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Above: a favorite photo of Laura & Kyla at the best taco shop in town

Everything You Need

I love, love, love this print I saw at The Butcher’s Daughter during our weekend in Santa Monica. The sentiment “You have everything you need” rings true always, but on the day I saw it I felt particularly struck by the reminder, so much so that I had to snap this photo before we left the restaurant.. It is so, so true, and I certainly need to remember this thought on the days when I am misled into thinking that I need more. I have everything I need. 

The Little Things

SugarFix-Cake-Monkey-12-600x900I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the little things, how tiny, small, nearly imperceptible things in our day-to-day lives can make all of the difference in the way we feel. I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am for sunshine and clean air and cold drinking water; for a hot breakfast and a sweet card in the mail and puppy snuggles at an unlikely moment. I’m thankful for a really great workout counterbalanced by homemade chocolate chip cookies. I feel happy when I go for walks and spend good quality time with people I love and add life-giving plans to my calendar. I feel joy when I really connect with my husband (even over the silliest or smallest of things), when I laugh with a friend over the phone, and when I complete a tough project at work. I am grateful for clean sheets and great-smelling candles and Mexican food, for a new notebook and a hot bath and loved ones I can count on. When the world seems too big and terrifying to take on, I remember the little things, and that makes all the difference.

Image via Jeff Mindell for Studio DIY

A Fresh Start

IMG_0783-copyIsn’t it funny how much easier it feels to turn over new leaf on the first day of the month (especially when the first falls on a Monday)? I don’t know about you but I love fresh starts, and even though I’m always invigorated by the start of a new year (well, except for this year maybe), I find myself feeling rejuvenated, motivated, and inspired in a brand new way when I flip the calendar to the next month. So many of life’s bigger blessings inspire me – travel, nature, relationships, service – but so many little ones, like books and restaurants and gorgeous photos and the first day of the month, provide a surge of creativity and revitalization, too.

Early on in January, I shared a post on Darling’s blog about some resolutions that could help us find our spark this year. I wanted to write about creative ways to set resolutions instead of always defaulting to the typical, generic goals of living a healthier lifestyle, saving money, and pursuing happiness. Those are wonderful resolutions, to be sure, but I wanted to inspire readers to take a chance, do something a little different, and really push themselves to achieve the lofty dreams they have, bringing them into reality and making them happen.  I am revisiting that piece today as I’m reveling in my newfound sense of inspiration, and I am plotting out the things I can do to keep this energy flowing. Don’t feel the same way on the first of the month (especially when it falls on a Monday?). Last spring I wrote this post about being stuck in a rut, and to this day it remains one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written. I actually wrote the piece while I was in a rut myself and it was a therapeutic process that actually helped me find inspiration in a variety of ways.

So here’s to you on this Monday, February the first – whether you feel ready to embrace a fresh start or ready to dive back into bed, I salute you, friend. Keep on trucking and persevering, regardless of how you feel. Inspiration is out there just waiting for you to seize it.

Image via Madi Ellis for Darling Magazine

2016

plants_4I know, I know – January is almost over already and I’m just now posting about 2016. Well, I finally made it just in the nick of time! There have been many reasons that the start of this new year has been so exciting that I could burst (more on that later!) and other reasons that it’s been heartbreaking and frustrating in such a way that I haven’t had the energy to post on my sweet blog. The darkest moment has been the loss of our precious, perfect Callie girl. She went to heaven just before New Year’s Eve after valiantly battling cancer for six months, and we miss her every single minute of every single day. I wish I could muster up the strength to write more but thinking about her still just makes me so sad. I did write a lengthy post on Instagram about her life and how much she meant to us, so please hop over to read it if you feel so inclined. We are so grateful for the support we’ve received from everyone ranging from our family and best friends to the loving staff at the vet and our neighbors. We are surrounded by pet-lovers and that has made this process easier in so many ways; people have related to us and commiserated with us and embraced us during this difficult time.

So, that’s my update for now, but I’m looking forward to resuming a normal posting schedule. Stay tuned, friends, and thanks for walking beside me on this journey.

Image via Veda House

Countdown to 30

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI absolutely cannot believe that my 30th birthday is next week. Next week! Honestly, I have no qualms about leaving my 20s and entering into my 30s. I feel so grateful for the life I’ve led so far and for all of the goodness that has occurred in my 20s – graduating from college, landing my dream job, moving to Dallas, getting married, becoming a puppy mama, traveling the world. Admittedly, there have been seriously hard times and I’ve made plenty of mistakes throughout this past decade, but overall I look back upon my 20s so, so fondly. I learned and grew and stretched. I prayed and played and worked; I cooked and read and ran. I cried and laughed and hopped on planes and took road trips. I made memories and photo books and the very best friends. I am excitedly anticipating my 30s, as I expect that amidst life’s inevitable hardship and sorrow, there will be endless amounts of joy, newness, richness, and beauty – and for that, I am grateful.

On a lighter note, I am beyond thrilled and honored that my girlfriends are throwing me a birthday dinner here in Dallas next week. They created and mailed out the gorgeous invitation pictured above – isn’t it fabulous? I feel so known & loved, and I can’t wait to celebrate with so many of my favorite women on the planet!

Should You Quit?

deskLast month I was assigned a really interesting topic for my most recent post on Darling Magazine’s blog. My editor asked me to write a piece that explored the reasons why we should stay in a tough job when the going gets rough and compare them to the reasons that justify a transition into pursuing something new. This post took me a while to write; I was surprised by how much this topic consumed my time and energy. As the writing started to flow, I realized I had been caught up in the premise because there’s such a strong tension that exists between today’s world of living-for-the-moment, the same attitude that pushes us to chase our dreams no matter the cost (causing us to want to quit any job that doesn’t seem perfect), and the character development that’s built from sticking it out in a job that may not be our passion but gives us the space to explore who we are and who we want to become (which, though this cultivates personal achievement, could hold us back from professional gain). I began to wonder which option was best, and if there was a healthy middle ground between the two choices that could provide a sense of balance and stability.

I came up with three reasons why we should consider quitting our jobs (when there’s no more room for growth, when we’re opening our own businesses, when the office culture is abusive or derogatory) and three reasons that build the argument that we should stay (when the positives outweigh the negatives, when the going gets tough, when relationships can become resources). I found so much personal value in writing this piece, as it challenged me to explore an area that I had previously not given much thought. Hop on over to Darling’s blog to read the whole piece, and let me know what you think!

Image via The Everygirl

If Your Job is All You Do

unnamedI’m back home in Dallas after having an absolutely wonderful time in Los Angeles! The Yellow Conference was so incredibly inspiring, and I loved getting to spend time with Andrew and Lauren on the best coast. More recaps (and lots of pretty pics) to come!

The conference stimulated me creatively in so many ways, and I felt encouraged to continue to seek out inspiration in my daily life once I returned home. Sometimes inspiration comes in the most unlikely of places, like in an email I received yesterday from one of my favorite companies, Artifact Uprising. The subject line – “If your job is all you do…” – jumped off the screen, capturing my attention. I loved what the business’s co-founder, Katie Thurmes, wrote about this topic on AU’s blog:

“You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”

I scribbled those words on a napkin three years ago. The words came at a time of tire. The truth is, I had spent years creating art at a rate that would soon try my passion for the very art that inspired that pace. It’s difficult to acknowledge that place. For one: it’s a privilege to take on work that’s infused with so much passion you dare name it a calling. And for two: admitting to that need, to admit aloud that your fire needs fueling demands a certain kind of courage to shift your own expectations for yourself.

Creativity requires of us to get out there, to unplug, to move and to pause – it requires we make room to think about what could be. We too often forget to take the deep breath and say “yes” to the things that scare us. Or the things we need the most. This “yes” is courage. Without it, we would have never made it to our desk today. And without it, we’ll never leave. Leaving is important – you’ll be better when you’re back.

I must interject here that I am blessed to have a healthy work + life balance, thanks to the fact that my place of work values personal time, family commitments, and vacation time. The fact that I was encouraged to go to the Yellow Conference on behalf of the foundation is an indication that our organization values inspiration that comes from outside the confines of the office. I know that many companies aren’t like that, and it isn’t always an option to sneak away or stop working (whether for a creative conference or a restful vacation) when deadlines and angry bosses loom near. That being said, I thought the message in Artifact Uprising’s email was an excellent reminder that creativity will always be stifled if we’re working ourselves to the bone, forgetting to pause to take in the beauty around us. This theme is one that was reiterated frequently at the Yellow Conference, and I can’t wait to share more of the things I learned while I was there. Stay tuned!

Image via Artifact Uprising

On Tech & Disconnecting

tumblr_n9jyg5jdtA1r1vjs5o1_1280I am settling back into my routine after returning from another wonderful trip to Ghana! I am so grateful for all of the amazing travel experiences my job with Touch A Life has afforded me, but this past week was one of my favorites of all time. The team, comprised of 22 volunteers and supporters, was just so, so wonderful. There were so many moments when we were at the Care Center that I found myself looking around at our incredible crew as they interacted with the kids and staff. We hosted a yoga retreat at the facility over the weekend, which was just the absolute best, and the children all had their medical and dental assessments completed thanks to our rock star volunteer physician and dentist. There was a fierce sand volleyball tournament, tons of crafting projects in the Art Center, and plenty of bonding with the kids. Our trips are always about the children we serve, first and foremost, but as I reflect on our week, I keep reveling in how stellar the team from the U.S. was, how passionate they are about Touch A Life and how a mentality of gratitude seemed to cloak every single person as they savored their time in Ghana. It was really special.

While I was there, my phone made itself scarce – whether it was lost or stolen or simply misplaced, I don’t know, but it went rogue halfway through the trip. I was annoyed, to be sure, mostly because I wasn’t interested in shelling out cash for a new device once I got home. But then a moment of clarity passed over me, and I felt pleased that I was able to disconnect from everything that tends to creep into my mind via my phone even when I’m in the most sacred of spaces. Sure, it made it easier knowing that I could get in touch with James or my family if I needed to by using someone else’s phone – I wasn’t totally stranded or off the grid – but I loved not having a device at my fingertips. I procrastinated on buying a new phone when I got home, and since I’ve returned, I’ve lost touch with the gravitational pull towards my social media feeds and text messages, which is something I’ve wanted to do, but failed at, for some time now. I even (finally) bought an alarm clock so I can keep my phone charging in a separate room at night (instead of using it to wake me up each morning), preventing any temptation to delve into the world of email before falling asleep.

Coincidentally (though not on purpose, lest you think I lost my phone as a social experiment), I wrote a post about social media usage for Darling Magazine that was published on Monday, the day I got back into action after recovering from jet lag, and I understood what I had written so much more acutely after having been disconnected with technology myself. I’d love it if you took a peek at the piece and let me know what you think. For now, here’s a taste of what’s in store:

“…if we’re relying solely on an online community to validate our character or our opinions, without having a real life community in place to balance out this feedback, we may be missing the point.

The point is that bonding with a group of people gathering in an online forum is important, but so is intimately connecting with the loved ones with whom we interact in real life, face-to-face. Relationships that withstand the test of time are the ones in which we’re honest and real, both online and in person, and solely relying on the commentary from those with whom we communicate through screens can be detrimental.”

For the rest of the post, hop on over to Darling’s blog!

Image via The Girl With The Curl