100 Days To Brave

“What’s cool about your calling is that there are no dead ends. Even if you weren’t brave enough to pursue your last opportunity, you can be brave this time.”

Day 37 of 100 Days to Brave written by Annie F. Downs

100 Days to Brave: A daily devotional by Annie F. Downs.

To be honest, I doubted getting this book at first thinking that a book couldn’t make me more courageous in my daily life. At least not one that looked so small in dimensions and had that overused arrow on the cover. I’m here to admit I judged this book by its cover, which is like Book Lover 101 not to judge a book by it’s cover – but I did (sorry Annie). I still got it though on a leap of faith/bravery and I am so glad I did! I’m only a little more than half way through and it’s been a life-changer for me. I am all about little books that challenge me each day.

I started this book January 1st to kick off a personal goal of mine to become braver, more assertive, and live courageously. Yes, it’s been almost 100 days. No, I’m not on the right day… because well, life happens.

Regardless, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a new challenge each day to take a brave step: whether it’s your calling, career, friendships, relationships, family, whatever it may be. Annie writes from her heart. She writes like she cares, because she does. She shares personal losses and wins in her life. She shares times when saying “no” is needed and the right thing to do and she shares times when she said “no” and it was what God was calling her too. Each day ends with a “Be Brave” challenge for the day. Sometimes it’s to call a friend you haven’t talked to for a while and getting out of your comfort zone, other days it is to confide in someone close to you about your current struggles and trials in life. Each word of her book is beautifully well-written to instill courage and bravery in our every days lives.

We can’t always talk about the good. Sometimes we need to get into the “ugly” stuff and dredge it up to truly feel, make peace with, and understand the lessons we learn and sometimes the lessons we repeat two, three, sometimes four times. The point is to focus on the brave actions we take, big or small. Every decision we make is a chance to be brave, and we make decisions every day!

For me, I love to read this little devotion first thing in the morning either before or after my morning workout with a cup of coffee and my journal. I love to read and reflect on the author’s words, challenge myself with the “Be Brave” end notes then journal about what I read and how it applies to me. At times that journal entry is just a few quick sentences, other times… it’s four pages long.

I’m not the most assertive human and I’m not the bravest human. My biggest criticism I receive is to be more assertive: career and personal life. For me, assertiveness is a bravery thing. The courage that it takes me to muster up having a confrontational discussion is like THREE months worth all wrapped up in a 20minute conversation. It’s grueling to me. Especially if I muster that courage and no action is made on the receiving end. Or I gather the strength to have that conversation and am dismissed completely. Then I have to get myself together again to do the same thing- sometimes over and over and over. It’s horrifying to me. It used to be physically painful where I would complain, cry, or just flat out give up and let people do what they wanted no matter how much it hurt me personally. I had (and have) such a hard time with this. People would walk all over me and honestly some still do. I’ve been working on being brave, more assertive, and standing up for myself for over three years now. I’m happy to report I have made progress, but I’m not perfect by any means. It still takes me a harsh pep talk to myself and some giant prayers to my God to take those brave steps. Here I am though. Continually working on myself, showing up for me and just trying to take that next brave step towards my purpose and calling in life. One of my favorite quotes from this devotion so far is:

“God knows we need dreams in pieces because we would be too scared of the whole puzzle.”

Day 25 of 100 Days to Brave written by Annie F. Downs

How true that is. We desperately want to see the big picture and be in the know and 100% informed on the plans for our life, right?

So if I’m overwhelmed with the small daily decisions, and I saw the big picture He truly had in store for me, I can guarantee you I’d be absolutely terrified. I think we all would be. That’s why Annie says later on in her book, “a little yes can be a step in the right direction, even if it isn’t a leap (Day 53, 100 Days To Brave).”

Take your next step, be brave.

…and by that I mean buy her book, duh!


If you want to read more about Annie F. Downs as an author or about this book, 100 Days to Brave, click here.

How Facebook Saved My Life

Okay that may be a slight exaggeration…

I’ve mentioned to you before that I pretty much furnished our 2 bed 1 bath by using Facebook Marketplace. I got our couch and loveseat for $150 total, our two bedroom dressers and nightstands for a total of $160, and our futon for $75: all off of Facebook Marketplace.

Can I get an AMEN for one man’s trash being another’s treasure?

Armando and I moved me down to Virginia two years ago with some kitchen items, clothes, and one TV. Literally that is all we moved with. We had our mattress delivered the week after I moved in June and the guest bed mattress delivered when he joined me in Virginia 4 months later. At the time I moved, we were newly married, living in two different states, paying 2 rents, 2 grocery bills, 2+ utility bills and then whatever extra we had to pay like student loans and insurances. We were not doing so hot financially.

Ya girl was on the lookout for some furniture. If you have been or are ever at my home, you’ll probably hear me say “I hate those couches, but they were such a good deal and literally match everything.” It’s true. They are from an older lady’s second living room. They are navy blue, brown, cream, and light blue pin stripes. Yes, I’m aware it sounds atrocious, but I made it work. My mom helped me get rid of those terrible rolled pillow things and add some real pillows that bring it to a more current century. She’s incredible. Literally four $10 pillows changed the entire look… who would have thought of that!? Not me.

The point is that I may not be a stellar home decorator – yet, but I like to pride myself on finding great FB Marketplace deals and creating friendships off my purchases. The lady I bought my house plants from still messages me with new plant babies she is looking to sell and the lady I bought these adorable yellow glass kitchen bowls off of we went to church with for about 3 months before trying out another church that we now call home.

Yesterday, I took a risk on FB Marketplace and it paid off. Have you seen people selling their clothing? Some that look like they’ve been around for about 6 years with armpit stains being sold for $40 a shirt? Or the ones that say “Brand New”, but clearly have been worn for at least 6 months to get the wear and tear visible?

Yeah, same.

I was scrolling last night and I happened to see four pairs of American Eagle jean shorts catch my eye. Ladies, you understand how hard it is to find a decent pair of jeans or jean shorts. Personally, my thighs eat shorts for breakfast. It happens. As you can imagine, this makes pant shopping excruciating to me. I hate shopping for pants. Tops, jackets, shoes, underwear – ALL DAY. Pants – Nope. Pass.

This girl on FB was selling these jean shorts for $5 a piece. I was thinking there has to be something wrong with them. I read the post, do a little Facebook creep (don’t judge me, we all do it), and decided they look legit and fairly new so I messaged her “Are these still available? Do you remember when you bought them I know sizes can change for AE shorts?”

…and now we wait…

She messaged back shortly after that they were a year old, and one pair was 2 years old, but they were all barely worn. She was so sweet and actually sent me a video of the shorts and some other clothes she was looking to get rid of and we happened to be the exact same size in everything!

Three videos and a bunch of pictures later I decided to go for it. She even offered that I could try them on and if they didn’t fit I could give them back for my money back. I was blown away! We met up and followed “social distancing” protocol with the COVID-19 pandemic of being 6ft from each other. I walked away paying $35 for 3 pairs of jean shorts, 2 pairs of jeans, Adidas joggers, and a crop top.

GO READ THAT AGAIN.

I spent $35 for seven articles of clothing. It would have cost me over $35 for just the Adidas joggers alone. Woah.

Naturally, I got home and had a full fashion show to myself while trying to force Armando to participate and comment. I also sent my little sister pictures with CAPS LOCK text messages attached on the deal I just got. I’m still completely shocked. Even better is the fact that this girl that I bought the clothes off of is still going through her closet and we exchanged cell numbers saying she would text me pictures and videos of the other clothes.

BRB while I go spend all of my money on her closet…

I watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix series a few months ago and donated 4 bags of clothes that didn’t spark joy. What I failed to realize in my Marie Kondo journey was that you can’t donate all of your clothing because none of them spark joy…but I did. Oops. Now I am re-building my wardrobe and only with the ones that spark joy for me, but we are on a strict budget so I’m being creative. Being creative for me means utilizing FB Marketplace and raiding my little sister’s closet when I am in Pittsburgh. (Sorry Krist!)

On a real note though, what a blessing people can be!

One, Kristi – my little sister – is always recycling her clothes to me and I am forever thankful for her obsession with clothes and shoes that all happen to be my size.

Two, strangers becoming new-found friends are such a blessing. I joke about people selling some questionable items on FB Marketplace, but honestly, how cool is it that as communities and neighbors we can list our unwanted or unused items for other people to take a look at so that it doesn’t go to waste, and maybe we make a few dollars in the process. It’s incredible.

Facebook didn’t exactly save my life, but it did save me time and money while also adding a few friends to my life journey.

What have you sold/bought on FB Marketplace?

Have you looked at each encounter as a blessing and/or seen the possibilities of friendship and community with each other?

Spread THIS, not Coronavirus.

I’m sure everyone at this point is aware of the pandemic sweeping our nation and world right now. We have all heard of it, but have we done our own research on it or are we just running around like chickens with our heads cut off because of what others are telling us via the media and hysteria?

COVID-19, or “coronavirus disease 2019”, is the disease caused by the virus itself. This disease has been escalated to a pandemic level across the globe. Read through to the end for a link to all of the factual information mentioned in this post.

The World Health Organization, WHO, declared this viral respiratory disease as a pandemic (def. a global outbreak of a disease) on March 11th, and on March 13th the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a National Emergency by President Trump in the U.S. Individual state’s and local city authorities are taking things into their own hands for their residents as well. Everyone is working tirelessly around the clock for new information, ways to test, treat, and prevent the spread of the disease.

But, you know all this right? It’s been floated across news channels, websites, apps, etc on a repeating loop it seems like.

With all of the bad news, the fear, and terror that it has struck in people’s hearts and minds around the world we see this fear in the U.S. as a shortage of toilet paper. Somewhere in the past week, grocery stores ran out of toilet paper, then paper towels, baby wipes, tissues, meat products, and various other canned goods and non-perishables. As for why people decided to wipe out the toilet paper aisles first, I wish I had an answer for you there. My best guess is that they want to make sure if they are stuck at home, they don’t have to leave for toilet paper? They still need groceries and food, but who knows. All I know is more than half the aisles at Target, Aldi’s and Walmart are all completely empty.

Okay, listen. I understand what a pandemic means, we all do. It means that a very high percentage, if not all of us, will be affected by the disease at some point. The hoarding of paper products, hand soap and sanitizer, canned goods, and grocery items has got to stop. We all need to eat food and have good hygiene. This is not one citizen versus another. This is all of us in it together to slow down the spread and to be better equipped to handle the outbreak from a healthcare standpoint.

Personally, we were late to the game. Armando and I don’t get a paycheck for another 3 days. Our car got towed last weekend that we unexpectedly paid $300 to get out of the tow yard. We quite frankly had $170 dollars in our bank account with no savings and bills that still needed paid. I couldn’t afford to run to the grocery store and stock pile any groceries, freezer foods, or paper products. I walked into Target yesterday at 8am (March 16th, 2020) to find some toilet paper, baby wipes, cold medicine, ibuprofen, deodorant, and a few other necessities. Then I stopped at Aldi’s to try and find us some meat to put in the freezer and some other fruits and veggies to hold us over. I used the remainder of our money with $24 left over.

(If you ask me if we have credit cards to use the answer is no, we do not. We follow Dave Ramsey’s money makeover/financial peace plan – we paid off and cut those cards up about 2 years ago.)

I couldn’t afford to stock pile these items like so many others are doing, I could only grab what was necessary and some medicine for when my family is exposed to the virus. I can also guess that I’m not alone on this either… Many of us live paycheck to paycheck, whether by decisions we have made or by other circumstances. Some of us don’t. For those of us that do or may have experienced financial hardships, you can relate to the horror and embarrassment I felt swiping my card at Aldi’s saying a silent prayer that I calculated correctly and had enough money to cover my groceries.

Do you know what I have seen a lot of throughout this outbreak that hasn’t been talked about? Kindness.

Yes, we do have people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer and up-charging it on Facebook Marketplace – there will always be those living for their own interest or trying to make an extra dollar off of others, but there is a far larger population that have come together. They have rallied in their own neighborhoods and communities to help each other out by sharing resources, offering child care or even a helping hand to the seniors and elderly in their communities to get groceries and other items they need to stay safe. Seniors are the demographic discovered to be most vulnerable to the disease and more likely to turn into a critical situation, along with those suffering from chronic medical conditions.

Kindness reaches farther than fear.

How many of us have been on the receiving end of kindness during this time?

I have. We were actually gifted $150 of the $170 that was in our account this past week. Talk about a blessing! Someone close to us wanted to make sure my family had the resources and medicine needed in case additional measures are taken in the next few days. I’m incredibly grateful for the love and kindness shown to my family this week.

Let’s spread kindness, instead of coronavirus.

Cheesy, I know – but it’s true!

In a world and a nation that is reacting with fear and terror – let’s continue, or start, to show kindness to those around us. While this social distancing and quarantine is in practice, let’s not forget that we are all in this together, not against each other. The worst thing we can do right now is pin ourselves against each other.

Be kind, wash your hands, check in on your neighbors, and call your friends and family to make sure they are safe and have enough groceries and toiletries.

PSA: Target now has a 1-pack limit on paper products if you are actually in need of a a single pack of toilet paper, not 12. You’re welcome.

Stay safe and healthy out there friends. Say a prayer for our leaders around the world as they do their best to research and guide us through this difficult time.

All information in this post regarding COVID-19 were found on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website and can be accessed here for your own research and education.

What does Loco Habibi mean?

Loco Habibi means a few things.

It shows the importance of family in my life, the importance of culture, of differences/similarities. It is the the most important thing in life: love. It’s the adventures, the mistakes, the lessons we learn. It is so much more.

Loco means “crazy” in spanish. This comes from Armando and his family whose heritage is Cuban. Armando’s best memories of his grandpa are in a shirt, in the woods or out on the lake, that read “El Loco“. Armando actually has this tattooed on his arm as well.

Habibi means “love” in Arabic. My paternal grandma, that we called Sittee (pronounced “Sit-tea”) used to call us this at Sunday lunches after church together. Sometimes we got habibi and sometimes we got another not-so-pleasant word if we were being difficult or rambunctious. My sisters and I joke that the only Arabic we remember are the important things – food and swear words!

Though these two words together technically mean nothing, they mean everything to me. To me they are “Crazy Love”. It is this blog embodied. It is my life, my family, my husband, the adventures, the joy, the anger, the sadness. All of it.

How many of us have felt like our lives have a mind of their own?

Life is messy, it knocks us down time and time again. It can feel scary, stressful, and hopeless. It can bring so much anger and sadness, but life can also bring joy. Life can be beautiful, full of wonder and happiness. The bravery that comes out of what we experience in life helps us weather the strongest storms imaginable even when we are swept up in a whirlwind of disaster and love all at the same time.

Loco Habibi is my whirlwind.

This is me welcoming you to my hopeful, comical, adventurous, and crazy love.

We paid $585 for what?!

Of all of the random and crazy events we have inadvertently caused or endured since we moved to Virginia I seriously think this one takes the cake.

You know how couples go to Home Depot browsing the aisles for their next home projects and next big thing? Well, my parents did it on their date nights when I was growing up and so did Armando’s. So we tried our hand at it.

Being in a 2 bed 2 bath rental, I wanted to make that second bedroom as functional as possible. Half the room for an office for Armando, half for an office for me, maybe some floor space for a workout area, and of course with a bed for guests to visit. How do I make this happen in a 12×12 bedroom that we are renting?

A murphy bed!

That was my big idea. I presented it to my husband (the true handyman of our marriage) and he was all over it. I sent him Pinterest posts, he told me about Youtube videos he watched of people building them. We thought we had it all figured out! Off we went to Home Depot, giddy with the adrenaline rush of home renovations, because our first material we needed was the wood!

We get an orange flatbed and are strolling through the aisles. I’m thinking about 18 other renovations to make to our rental that Armando says quickly says no to every time as we pass by kitchen backsplash, light fixtures, patio furniture, and more. We come to the wood section. Armando tells me not to be picky because we are going to sand and stain or paint the wood anyways. Okay, got it. Check, don’t be picky. We pick up some 2×4’s and head to the 12-14in wide boards. I point at some and say wow are those prices right? $.50?? Armando says “no no, that’s by the foot we don’t want that kind.

I literally have no idea what I’m looking at, it all looks the same to me but some look smooth and others look weird and rigid. I point at a smooth one that says $2, we stare at it for a while and decide yes we like that one a lot. Armando and I load up like six of these boards that are 12inches wide and 6-7feet in length. Some are shorter for the headboard and footboard like 4-5ft in length. We’re super excited and are talking about the plans to start building and then go look at and pick out a stain – this deep brown color that’s absolutely gorgeous.

We make it to the check out and the cashier starts scanning everything and we are still chatting away thrilled about our first Home Depot date night together married and all the sudden the cashier says, “Okay so you’re total is $585 and-” literally I don’t even remember the second half of that sentence.

Armando will tell you I didn’t even blink before pulling out our joint debit card and saying, “Okay” while he touched my shoulder with an are-you-kidding-me look. Needless to say, we swiped our card and left Home Depot. Walking to the car, I peek over at Armando who looks physically ill at this point.

We load these 5-7ft long boards into our Honda Accord (that was a sight to see) and climb into the car. He looks at me with these big eyes and says, What did we just do? How did I miss that? Can we return it? Let’s take it back inside. I asked him why it was so much when the label said $2 and he looks at me:

“Marissa, it is $2 per foot for these boards and we just bought 6 or more that are 5-7 feet each board.”

Oh. My. Goodness.

So…I’ve never been good at numbers, which is pretty common knowledge if you know me. Or if you are Armando because I ask him what 6+8 is or other simple math questions on a regular basis. Numbers are hard, okay. Don’t judge me.

WE JUST PAID $585 FOR OAK WOOD. FOR A HOME PROJECT. IN A RENTAL UNIT.

Ya’ll. What.

Turns out the wood was non-returnable too apparently (Armando tried it). So we took it back to our 2 bedroom rental apartment and didn’t buy groceries for 3 weeks… no I’m kidding, but we were definitely on a stricter budget than usual. We also made sure to call both sets of parents and share our experience the same night with them. I’m sure you can imagine their thrill at how intelligent their kids were in that moment.

*Fast forward to today… a year and a half after this date night*

Do you think we finished that murphy bed project idea? Nope.

The close to $600 worth of wood sat in our dining for a few [eight] months until we gave into the fact that the murphy bed idea was just that – an idea. It was great in theory and on paper as a plan, but not possible in our rental. Instead, this crazy expensive oak wood turned into decor in the old apartment and then re-sized and re-done when we moved into the new apartment. Literally, this wood was more than we spent on all of our living room and bedroom furniture put together. It felt like an injustice to let it not be used or seen!

Talk about an adventurous and slightly embarrassing first Home Depot date night as a married couple. This whole story is one giant *facepalm* in my book. You live and you learn though, right?

Well, we definitely did more LEARNING on this one.

Ready or Not!

I’m sitting here at the doctor’s office, and – men feel free to tune out for this one if you want. I’m at the GYNO and am deciding if now is the time to go birth control free or not.

I’ve been married for two years. We are healthy, happy and the most financially stable we have been since we got married. We want kids, like two or three of them. How do you decide you are ready or not?

Is there a way to even determine that?

There are so many emotions right now that it’s hard to tell which ones to listen too and which ones are just fleeting intrusive thoughts. There are ones that tell me I’d be a terrible mom, that I don’t know what to do with a son or even a girl for that matter, that I’m too OCD for the messiness. There are the apprehensive ones saying “but what if _____ goes wrong?” and then there are the sweet thoughts of holding this kiddo who is ours and would be so incredibly loved that we would do everything in our power to take care of them and show them Jesus. Like I said… so. many. emotions.

I grew up with an older sister that is about 5 years older than me and a little sister who is 21 months younger than I am. All girls with all girl pets growing up too – my poor dad. My mom said she used to want 3 boys growing up since she had brothers and when she ended up with three girls she would say that God knew what she needed even if she didn’t.

Let’s take that last part again…

“God knew what she needed even if she didn’t.”

Woah. As a believer and sinful human these words are still hard to hear. I don’t care who you are – if you hear that you don’t have control of something, it stings. It hits you to the core of who you are. Some of us fight like hell to make it happen or make it work. Think about it… how many of us have forced a friendship, dating relationship, work relationship, a business, a car with mechanical issues, the list goes on. Guys, I was that person who turned the volume up in the car so I didn’t hear my car brakes squeal. We’ve all been there, we’ve all forced something that maybe you had a small inkling it wouldn’t work, but you so desperately wanted it too. Maybe you didn’t get that feeling, but it still didn’t work out. That’s okay.

I am the easiest going person outside of my home. Whatever happens, happens right? But inside my home? Nope. A leaf on the floor that I forgot to sweep up? THE LITERAL WORST THING EVER AND IT JUST RUINED MY WHOLE NIGHT.

I liked being able to control my little bubble of my home and keep it tidy and clean and organized. It was the one thing I could control. I can’t control job offers retracted, job loss multiple times in a year, 4 ER visits, 2 major surgeries, or the money going out being more than the money coming in. To be honest, I struggle with this control concept every single day. Have I overcome a lot of this internal struggle, yes I have and it has taken me about 3-4 years just to get where I’m at today. I learned to journal and meditate when things start to stress me out. Armando will notice our entire house is spotless when my brain is overthinking about all the external stressors and he’ll gently remind me to sit down and take a deep breath. I fall short and I probably always will.

But, Babies?

I can’t control when they get sick, when they throw food all over the floor, when they wake up at odd hours of the night crying, etc. That’s just the thing though. Those things will all happen, 100% guaranteed. I need to have a swift chat with myself to trust the God I know and love that He knows what is best for me and for my family. Ultimately, I don’t know what I need. I know what I want, but like the famous song says, “we can’t always get what we want.

Maybe kids aren’t in the plan for me, maybe they are.

Maybe that relationship/business/career/school/etc. isn’t in the plan for you, but then again – maybe it is.

Here’s to trusting and being ready, or not!

How our gluten free journey began.

In 2018 we were living in our two bedroom apartment in Chesapeake, Virginia and we were broke. Very broke. We were living on one-income, choosing which bills to pay and which ones weren’t going to get paid, and we were eating literally whatever we could put together from the pantry or whatever was cheapest at the store. No shame, Krafts Mac ‘n’ Cheese was our jam. $2 for like 4 boxes? Plus the off-brand at Aldi’s was even cheaper. You bet we ate that 2-3 times a week sometimes. We would douse it in Sriracha and TA-DA, Dinner! Sometimes we got crazy with frozen hamburger patties if we were really trying to live it up.

Towards October 2018, Armando woke up one night around 3am with inconsolable stomach pain and vomiting. He was dizzy, pale faced, and in incredible pain. I called an ambulance that came and checked him out and said the tests they ran were normal and wanted to take him to the ER. So off we went. Long story short, the ER visit gave him a [nasty] Potassium drink since he had thrown up all of his nutrients and they sent us home for 9am with a $200 bill and a referral for a Gastroenterology doctor. Here’s the catch, we didn’t have PCPs yet or Virginia insurance. The insurance was Pittsburgh specific. Yay.

We went to see this GI doctor who was very nice and decided to do all kinds of tests for Armando: empty stomach tests, ultrasounds, endoscopy, colonoscopy – the works. Diagnosis? Nothing definite. Possible Diverticulitis, maybe IBS, maybe a slow metabolism. He was told to eat more fiber, exercise, and control stress levels. While all of those are extremely important, something was missing. These were our possible diagnoses and suggestions after another pain and vomiting episode, and 2 more ER visits.

If you know either of us you know Armando is obsessed with Reddit and I love doing research in general. So we sat down and said “okay no seeds with foods for this possible diagnosis“…”lots of veggies for this possible diagnosis“… “plus add more protein into our diet for this one” … “oh but none of this, no that“. Our initial thought was that we could no longer eat food at all. Dramatic, I know. Then…from the deep dark pages of Reddit and my .org/.gov sites we saw it… Gluten. Added gluten is so difficult for our bodies to process and digest. Some people’s bodies are more sensitive than others and can develop an allergen to it later in life. Interesting. We read up on the symptoms of having an intolerance to gluten and they were spot on. Having researched some of the foods that we could and could not eat on a gluten free diet, we decided to try it out!

Two weeks into going gluten-free – no episodes and feeling okay. 3-4 weeks in and we were feeling pretty good with had more energy throughout the day. Personally, I noticed that I wasn’t bloated after eating meals anymore! It took us a few months to wean off gluten completely and start to look for the alternatives in stores and online. It’s expensive ya’ll and we were just tapping into months with two-incomes again.

Now, about a year into this gluten free journey we are feeling great! Armando has not had another episode of this stomach pain/vomiting since then. Praise Jesus!

I have to admit, I used to sneak gluten every once in a while and literally always regretted it shortly after. My body has grown its own intolerance to gluten and I don’t mind it one bit anymore. I have felt great too and while our grocery bill has gone up, it is a small price to pay for a happy and healthy body. If you are curious about being gluten free, I would suggest to do your research on the positives for your body, but also know the trials that come with it too such as grocery prices, the transition period for your body and knowing that you will not start seeing the effects for 3-4 weeks after you stop eating gluten products altogether. It can be a lot to take on, but your body will thank you.

Also, while I like to think I have the hang of gluten free cooking and baking, the struggle for homemade gluten-free pizza crust is real. If you have any suggestions for crust or any other yummy GF recipes, please share them in the comments!

This is a quick glimpse into why we follow a gluten-free diet and to be continued for our not so smooth transition to a dairy-free life as well!

Hypothesis: Love Is Blind

Warning: This post contains spoilers to the Netflix Original Show “Love Is Blind”

Experimental, Romantic, Cringy, Cheesy, Awkward. Yet, somehow it makes you feel ALL the things and is very addicting. Who else has seen this show and been swept up into the fad?

To be honest, the idea of this show is incredible. It is not your typically “Bachelor” or reality TV love show. It is based on a social experiment with the hypothesis that love is blind and testing if you can fall in love without ever seeing the other person. Their measurable test to prove the hypothesis is the marriage ceremony when/if the individual’s say I do. Starting with fifteen potential couples, (SPOILER ALERT) only two couples actually say I do and get married at the end. Being filmed in 2018, I looked up all the details and both couples that made it to alter and got married are still married 2 years later! Now that’s cool!

Being a psych major in college, I took Social Psych and Psych Statistics among other classes. In these classes we learned and even conducted our own social experiments. In regards to the show, 2/15 potential couples ended up saying I do. That’s 13.33%. Not very high, actually that is very low. You have to take into account a few of the other factors, like time – they only had maybe 8 weeks total to make this decision, and as always, the emotionality of humans and how that relates to your personality, decision making, rational/logic side versus more spontaneous/whimsical or adventurous types. The people willing to take a leap versus those that have to think through each scenario.

For example, Cameron and Lauren. We see Lauren portrayed as this quirky, outgoing, fun-loving social media content creator and the man that she fell in love with is a shy, calm, cool and collected scientist. Their individual reasoning and decision-making, mixed with their personalities, led them both to being open to the experiment and ultimately falling in love with each other before ever seeing the other person. For them – Love is blind.

For others, such as Mark and Jessica, where social factors like age, status, finances, etc. play a larger role – love is certainly not blind. Jessica says this herself when she gets in the van in her wedding dress after leaving Mark at the alter in the season finale. Mark, on the other hand, felt the exact opposite by saying that love really was blind because he had fallen in love with Jessica in the pods and even more so when they saw each other and got to Mexico.

Is it an individual choice and openness that allows them to be susceptible to find love through an experiment like this?

What do you think about the show and its hypothesis, Love Is Blind?

Side Note: Team Cameron and Lauren over here!!

The Big Move

I lived in Pittsburgh for my entire life, literally on the same street and in the same colored house. I grew up in a cute little white house in the suburb outside Pittsburgh in a little place called Verona. When I was in middle school, we moved across the street to another white house where my great grandfather lived. We moved in with my Great Pap so my parents could help with his daily needs as he aged. My mom, dad, two sisters, and I lived there with him until he passed away at age 94 and my parents and little sister still live in that same house today. I moved out when I was 18 to go to college and lived in Beaver Falls, PA for about 3 years, then moved back into that white house in Verona my senior year of college.

Fast forward 6 months after graduation I started working for a healthcare staffing firm as a Home Care Director for half the state of PA. Talk about a challenge, I’ll go into more detail on that later. I stayed at home while working for them and I loved every second of this difficult, but rewarding job. Armando and I got engaged in February 2018 about a year and a few months after starting with this company. We had talked about getting married and moving away to be able to really figure things out as a married couple, but where should we go?

Georgia? Florida? The Carolinas? We knew we wanted sunny, warm, and as little snow as we could find. Turns out, Armando’s brother and sister’s family live on the other side of Virginia so we started looking… Somewhere along that line, Armando applied and started the hiring process at a shipyard in Newport News, VA.

Naturally, I jokingly ask my COO at the time “Do you think we could start an office in Virginia?” And to my surprise (and slight horror), HE SAID YES.

Our wedding was planned around Armando’s hiring process and my job’s ability to start an office in a brand new state. I wish you could have heard my Vp of Operations’ voice when I said “Yeah we are going to get married at the end of next month actually so I’ll be ready when you are with the new office!” LOL. I thought he was going to pass out on the other end of that phone. It was especially great when we flew to Norfolk, VA together two months later to interview a potential recruiter that would be working with me and I told my boss I didn’t have a place to live yet. To which he answered that we were two weeks away from our Grand Opening for the office and was worried for my sanity. (Same.) He even offered to delay our flights home and visit apartments with me. I politely declined out of awkwardness and we flew home the same day.

Just two short days after sending an offer letter to the recruiter we interviewed and making the final arrangements we got the news…

Armando’s job had retracted their job offer to him.

Yep.

I was moving to an unnamed apartment in a new state and starting a new office without my husband, whom I had been married to at that point for 30 days.

It was terrifying, exciting, and bittersweet.

On June 11th, 2018 Armando moved me into an apartment in Chesapeake, VA that we had never seen. I had a blow up mattress on the floor in the master bedroom with about 20 boxes of belongings in the living room, no couch, no dining room table, no furniture whatsoever.

To make things worse, Armando caught a stomach bug and the first thing that home knew was Armando throwing up in the bathroom and me with no cleaning product trying my best to wipe it up and nurture my new husband. All while my little sister and best friend were in the second bedroom terrified of catching the same bug, wrapped in 4 blankets on a second air mattress with a hole in it. We were a sight to see! It was a mess. We ended up sending my sister and best friend on a flight home while Armando recovered and drove home 2 days later and I started my first day of work at my brand new office!

When people ask me what brought us to the area they usually expect to hear “the military” with this area being heavily Navy and Air Force. I honestly tell them it kind of was an accident by the end of it.

In October 2018, Armando finally joined me in Virginia so we could finally start a “normal” married life. We should have learned from this first experience, our lives would never be “normal”, we were just made for adventure together.

***

To give you some perspective of 2018 and our big move:

February 2018 – we got engaged.

April 2018 – we got married.

June 2018 – I moved to Virginia and started my own office.

October 2018 – My husband followed and moved to Virginia.

I wish I could say 2019 was an easier year, but it sure wasn’t!

What is Work/Life Balance?

Is work/life balance even a thing anymore?

I ask that as I sit cross-legged on my bed with the work phone next to me that I finally put down from 7:45a this morning. I read an article on LinkedIn about laptops ruining this balance for professionals because you can take it with you anywhere and work from it. But can we really blame the electronics or the objects for our lack of balance in these areas?

What about ourselves and how it relates to our individual personalities?

I believe personality plays a HUGE factor here.

For example, my husband has a work phone on him at all times, but when he gets home at 4p, 5p 7p, whatever time it is the work phone and tablet are set on the couch or on the counter until the morning when he starts his day at 7am. He walks in the door, maybe takes 20-30 minutes to close out his day and then doesn’t touch it again until the morning (unless his boss or someone calls of course, you can’t ignore that). Me? I’m “on-call” at work tonight which happens 2 weekdays every week and rotating weekends. Do you think I actually let the phone just sit there and wait for it to ring? Nope. Ya girl is shooting out texts to people to tell them I emailed them a few hours ago, researching potential new clients on the internet, and of course going over the compliance and sending a text at 9pm to a nurse to send me her updated PPD. Like, what? Marissa…relax.

Why do some of us do this to ourselves?

It’s like our brains cannot shut off and we constantly wonder about work or that unread email you heard come through, or maybe getting a head start on tomorrow so you can start your day ahead of the game. Personally, I can’t blame the phone or my computer for my lack of balance between the two. I can only blame myself.

Those of you like me, we need to take initiative and set boundaries for ourselves. It’s not healthy and we know it. The questions is: what are we doing to fix it instead of shrugging our shoulders with a tired smile? Is it because we love our jobs and can’t get enough of it? I highly doubt it. Let’s be real. If we stop sugar coating the reason, a lot of us will learn it’s because we are either work-a-holics or perfectionists, or maybe we do it out of sheer boredom, or to fill our time, or what about that we are so stressed out and feel like if we keep working it will give us a sense of accomplishment so we can be less stressed out at work the next day? Are you feeling personally attacked yet? I am.

Balancing the two places we spend most of our time is crucial for our mental, emotional, and even physical health.

*My work phone text tones rings and I aggressively reach for the phone where the text literally reads: “K” *

As I was saying… separate the two. Work = Work. Home = Home. I recently turned off my notifications for my work emails to my personal phone. So now all I hear is the tone instead of getting the email preview like you do with a text. This has been a major test of perseverance for me to hear that tone and not immediately go and check my work email when I’m in the passenger seat on the way to a date night or standing in the middle of the grocery store aisle. Don’t get me wrong, it haunts me. I hear ghost tones of my work email sometimes and will actually go into my work email and there is no new emails. Woah. It’s that bad that I’m hearing the notification tone, WHEN THERE IS NO NOTIFICATION. I know I’m not alone here.

And look I get it, some people do have a job that is demanding at most hours. Or maybe you are starting a business and trying to grind each day out to grow. I get it. But for your mental health, please. Take a break. Give yourself at least 1-2 hours unplugged. Don’t answer any work emails, heck, unplug completely and don’t answer any personal texts either. Spend 10minutes a day on “Do Not Disturb” listening to a guided meditation.

Be kind to your brain, it’s the only one you get. Give yourself a break from work, give your body a break too and let it rejuvenate so it can be ready to take on the next day. Don’t burn yourself out trying to catch up or get ahead. Once you “get ahead” you will just keep thinking of more things to do. I’ve been there.

Work will be there when you get back to it.

Here’s your challenge: Take a few minutes right now and figure out what this balance looks like for you. Is it setting some guidelines? Turning off those notifications? What do you need to do in order to separate your work from your home life?

Now, start putting it into practice.

Share with me in the comments what step you’ve decided to take for yourself today! And if you are rocking this area in life, share some tips with the rest of us because, HELP.