Thursday, September 10, 2015

You Matter; And So Do I.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
This is always a weird day for me.. As important as I believe this day is to raise awareness and start conversations, I tend to try avoid talking about it too much. It's difficult to acknowledge the past and sort through those emotions. It's painful! And for someone like me who feels like an annoyance and burden more often than not, telling my story can feel awkward - I tell myself that no one honestly cares.. I imagine people rolling their eyes as they scroll through Facebook, or biting their tongue as I pour my heart out to them. So I don't.

Self-hatred is something I still deal with day in and day out. Living with clinical depression and anxiety can be debilitating at times. And although logically I know that talking helps, I clam up. I pull back into my own shell until I'm in this dark and very scary place. A place where I continue to tell myself lies - believing that no one, not even my husband of nearly 6 years, actually loves me. A place where I sit with phone in my hand, debating on whether or not I should call someone.. reach out. A place where I've been alone in my house for a week and have no desire to leave any time soon.. Although serious thoughts of suicide have become fewer and further between - I would be lying if I said this is something I have truly overcome.

Depression is not something that affects only moody and hormonal teenagers. It has been 11 years since my diagnosis. [Trigger Warning::] I vividly remember being 12 years old, sitting in my bedroom with a bottle of stolen prescription pills ready to end my entire life. 12 YEARS OLD!! I was a child. After I didn't die (I didn't know what I was taking, thank God. But I did end up very sick) and I told my parents what I had done, I remember someone telling my parents that this is something teenagers do. A psychiatrist I had seen told my mom I could be put on Prozac for a few years and that would fix things until I was "over it." Luckily my mom had enough sense to yank me from his care and have me seen by someone else. Now 11 years later, as a married woman, I'm still not over it. It sickens me that SOME people have this mentality that this is something that only threatens our youth..

In the last 12 months, my husband and I have lost 2 people very close to us to suicide. Of course I won't go into much detail, but I can tell you that neither of them were teenage girls. They were 2 very different people with very different lives, yet they both felt there was no other way. They felt there was no hope. They felt they had no choice. Their own demons had fed them lie after lie and led them to believe their life was not worth living... that they didn't matter enough. And by the mourning that followed their deaths.. I can tell you that was not true. EVERY life matters... Right now our world is consumed by this race war. Everywhere you look you see- Black Lives Matter. White Lives Matter.


How is this a difficult concept to understand? This year we lost 2 great lives. 2 lives that affected us in such a way, that with their death, a piece of us was taken. We were shaken. And it's changed the way we live our daily life. I wish that those 2 incredible people knew how much they mattered.. how the life they lived still matters to this day.

Now I won't say suicide is selfish. I won't talk about the pain it leaves behind for everyone else. Because the times that suicide became a real option for me..When I thought it was my ONLY option... I didn't care enough about other people to stop. I didn't care about myself. I didn't care about anything. And when I DID care about other people... I hated myself so much that I turned to self-harm. Of course I don't believe that suicide is ever the answer... but shaming people will not keep them here.

So what CAN you do? You can be there for people. Be kind! Be a loving and caring human being to everyone you meet. Sometimes we don't know that people are struggling, we don't know the battle they're fighting. Think of Robin Williams .. his death took the world by surprise. One of the funniest men to have lived, yet his own world was so dark and sad.. So show love to everyone. I have become pretty good at faking a smile the last 11 years of my life. Some people are shocked when they hear about the extent of my depression and anxiety. However, there are people in my life who DO know... and for the most part, these people have been my solid ground in this world. I have amazing friends who look for signs of me pulling away back into my own shell. When they notice these things, they offer support. They check up on me. And because of their encouragement, I get help. For me, help comes in the form of prayer, meditation, vitamins and supplements, exercise, sunshine, and quality time with people. If this is something your friend needs, please be there for them.. Don't make them feel like they are burdening you, because soon they will stop asking for your help.

It has taken my YEARS to come to the understanding that my life DOES in fact matter. Years to even accept that if I were to leave this earth that my husband would even miss me. THAT is the kind of craziness my depression hisses to me. If you have never experienced it, you might not quite get it, but my hope is that you'll make an effort to gain some understanding for your friends sake.. your mom's sake.. a sister.. brother.. grandparent.. uncle.. Depression and suicide does not discriminate based on age, gender, sexual orientation, or economic standing.

And if you are the one feeling alone.. please hear me. You life matters. You would be missed. And life is so worth living... I KNOW that it doesn't feel like it now. I know that you can't imagine any alternate universe where things will ever feel okay.. but I promise it does get better. That phrase has become so cliche, but that's because it's true. If I had ended my life at 12 years old, I wouldn't have made some of the best friends in the world, wouldn't have married my soulmate, wouldn't have found God and become a Christian... I wouldn't have traveled from coast to coast singing Taylor Swift songs with my husband. I wouldn't have learned to cook. I wouldn't have a chance to still learn to bake. lol I wouldn't have learned more about the military or helped other spouses get a handle on this crazy life. I wouldn't have seen my nephews grow up, even from afar. I wouldn't have become so close with my sister. I wouldn't have a chance to become a mom someday.. I wouldn't have known what it means to live. Please believe me that your life matters, because I know now that my life does too..


If you are feeling like suicide is the only option, or if you're concerned for someone you know.. please call the National Suicide Lifeline. 1 (800) 273-8255

Monday, April 27, 2015

Easiest Pulled Pork Ever

Alright friends, honesty hour. I was not fully prepared to be a wife. Yesterday when I spent my entire afternoon in the emergency room, (I'm fine. Just back problems.) I was watching a rerun of 19 Kids and Counting where Jessa Duggar was preparing to marry Ben. They mentioned how Jessa had spent the months leading up to her wedding taking over preparing meals for the family. She learned how to cook so that she would be fully prepared to become a wife. I did not do this. When I married Brent, I could rock some Mac and Cheese and make a killer PB&J. The first few months of our marriage, we did a lot of eating out and precooked or frozen meals. We lived on Hamburger Helper, Taco Bell, and frozen pizza. When I finally decided I needed to start learning to cook, I had NO clue where to start! I wanted easy recipes that required very few ingredients. Less ingredients means less of a chance of messing it all up, right? So that is how I stumbled upon an amazing recipe for 3-ingredient pulled pork! And being able to provide an amazing home-cooked meal for my husband gave me the confidence to continue learning to cook! These days, we eat at home more often than not. I'm able to cook from scratch. I've even made up new recipes! So in an effort to encourage my friends who feel they can't cook, I wanted to share this recipe for 5-ingredient pulled pork! (See? 2 new ingredients! That means I can cook! ;) ) You CAN do this! All you need is a pork loin, root beer, onion, season-all salt, and BBQ sauce.

 First things first, just throw your pork loin into the crock pot. You can throw it in frozen or thawed. Whatever you want. This is part of a gigantic pork loin we bought from BJ's and cut up ourselves. From a piece this size we get enough for about 8 sandwiches! So that's perfect because we love leftovers. :)

 I didn't have an onion on hand when I made this, so I just threw some of this chopped onion I got from Costco a while back. These 2 ingredients are optional and just something I have thrown in over time. The Season All I just sprinkle on top to give a little extra flavor. You could use your favorite pork rub if you want or any seasonings you really like. Or leave it out all together. Again, these 2 are completely optional.

 Here you can see I just sprinkled about that much onion on top, and added my Season All salt.

 Use any root beer, and any BBQ sauce you want. I'm a big fan of Stubb's BBQ or Sweet Baby Ray's. But I'm also a big fan of sales! So here's my Kroger brand root beer and BBQ sauce. I'll give you a hint, Kroger root beer is the most delicious root beer I've ever tasted!

 Take about a 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and your full can of root beer. Mix that all up really good. You don't HAVE to do this part. When I first started making this pulled pork, I just threw in the root beer without the BBQ sauce until later on. But I have found adding just that little bit of BBQ sauce early on really adds to the flavor.

 After you've mixed your root beer and BBQ sauce, just pour it all over the pork.

Cook your pork low and slow. I shoot for 8-10 hours or so on low. But if you're like me that day and completely forget about dinner until noon, you can cook it on high for 6 hours. The meat won't be quite as tender, but it'll still be great!

 I forgot to take a picture of this part, but 30 minutes before dinner time, pull the meat really good using 2 forks. At this point, it should pretty much just fall apart. If there's way too much juice, drain the meat a little. But you want to keep some of the moisture. Add the rest of your bottle of BBQ sauce, or however much you want. If your family likes things really saucy, add more. If your family doesn't, add less. Let it cook the last 30 minutes to warm up the BBQ sauce and let the flavors mix a little.

When it's time to serve, just pile it high on whatever buns you like. Usually we add a little more BBQ sauce and/or ranch to our sandwich. When we serve this for friends, we get coleslaw to pile on our sandwich. Whatever you like with your BBQ. Serve with fries, baked beans, chips, whatever floats your boat. And this tastes even more amazing as leftovers! 

This is one of our favorite meals to make. It's quick and easy, and my husband LOVES it! Let me know if you make this!

What was the first meal you learned to make?

5-Ingredient Pulled Pork
  • Pork Loin (or pork butt or pork chops. literally whatever pork you can find on sale)
  • 1 can of Root Beer (or Coke, Dr.Pepper, Pepsi.. any dark-colored coke.)
  • 1 bottle-ish of your favorite BBQ Sauce (I typically use what's on sale.)
  • 1 onion sliced (optional)
  • Season-All Seasoned Salt (optional)
  1. Place pork in slow cooker.
  2. (Optional) place onion on top and sprinkle with Season All salt.
  3. Mix 1/2 cup BBQ sauce and 1 can root beer. 
  4. Pour root beer mixture over pork.
  5. Cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 6 hours.
  6. 30 minutes before serving, pull pork, drain most of the juice, pour remaining BBQ sauce in with the pulled pork. Mix well. Let cook for remaining 30 minutes.
  7. Serve on buns. Enjoy the compliments you receive for an amazing home-cooked meal.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dating My Husband | Making It Work

Hello friends! I have wanted to write this post for a while now, but I just haven't had a chance to sit down and gather my thoughts enough to type it all up. Today I am taking it easy because of a pulled muscle in my back and I thought I'd take advantage of my forced rest day by finally getting this post out there!

If you know me and my husband at all, you probably know how much we love to go on dates! I'm actually asked quite a bit how we manage to go on dates all the time. Since getting married, we've felt strongly about the importance of continuing to date each other. Ironically, we have done more dating since getting married than we did while we were "dating." We are 5 1/2 years into marriage (still newlyweds practically) and I'll admit, we sometimes get into ruts! Looking back at this last year, the theme of our dates was Cinema Cafe. We discovered the awesomeness that is dinner and a movie AT THE SAME TIME! We loved (and still do love) going to our local Cinema Cafe, ordering a Pina Colada, "Kevin Bacon Burger," and watching whatever latest movie was playing. It was always fun. We were still going on dates. But if I'm being honest, our dates had lost some of their sparkle. It seemed more routine than romantic.

My husband and I have learned in the last year or so about The 5 Love Languages. I am bilingual in my love language - mine are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. Both are extremely important to me, and quickly fill my "love tank." So as you can imagine, dates that became routine, and dates that we didn't talk to each other, were NOT filling my love tank at all. This year I wanted that to change! We have made an effort to find other date ideas and spend more time talking and continuing to learn more about each other.

I wanted to write this post to share one of our recent dates, but I also wanted to do a little bit of excuse busting! I have many friends who admit they haven't gone on a date in months or even YEARS! That just completely blows my mind. I understand busy schedules, I know kids take up a lot of time. I get all that! But dating my husband is such an important part of our marriage. I was reading 1 Peter 3: 5-6 in the Contemporary English Version and I was struck by the way it was worded. "Long ago those women who worshiped God and put their hope in him made themselves beautiful by putting their husbands first. For example, Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her true children, if you do right and don’t let anything frighten you." This of course is controversial. Many women today do not feel strongly that their husband should come before their children, work, and their ever-growing to do list. They actually feel the opposite! Husbands are regularly placed on the back burner. They get the leftovers. But the Bible tells us - God comes first, and your husband comes second. That doesn't mean God comes first and your husband gets lumped in somewhere with everything else you have to do. It means he gets second place ABOVE everything else you have to do. And think about it - 18 years from now when your kids are grown up and out of the house, will you even know your husband any more? If you spent 18 years with someone, but without learning about them, talking to them, dating them... will this be someone you want to spend your remaining years with? That is why my husband comes first (right behind God.) And you may say "Well that's easy for you to say - you don't have kids!" Yep, that is totally true. But will my convictions change? No. Why? Because this is what the Bible says. So I'll obey it. Is it always easy? Absolutely not. Between my husband's work schedule, my volunteer work and Scentsy business, church, leading a Bible Talk, and my husband being in school.. Sometimes it can feel like there just isn't enough time! There are 48 hours in a weekend. Recently all 48 have been booked with baby showers and church events and other obligations! Does that mean it's okay to put my husband on the back burner and just forget about date night? No way! We make it work.

So let my tell you about our date this last week. First of all, it was this past Monday night. Yes, date night on a Monday! Like I said, we make it work. Recently my husband and I have begun Dave Ramsey's baby steps to getting out of debt, so we are on a very tight budget! But we have a date night envelope, and we've been able to come up with some pretty frugal dates. Monday my husband invited me on a date, and he had the whole thing planned out for us! Our first stop was actually our local library! Our reason for going? To play board games! I don't know if this is a common thing, a local thing, or if this library is just super cool since it's remodel - but our library has an entire Gaming Floor! So we went and played a few games together. 

I promise he's happy, he's just concentrating.
First up was Battle Ship. Brent beat me twice! I really thought I was clever in placing my ships strategically, but he kept finding my ships so easily! Maybe he's just so in tune with the way I think. So to redeem myself, we placed 2 rounds of Mancala! Thanks to my uncle, and many hours of practice while growing up, I am a BEAST at Mancala. I smoked Brent twice! It was time for a tie-breaker and an INTENSE game of Phase 10. It was pretty back and forth, but in the end I was victorious! We had so much fun playing silly games, laughing, and talking. I know you're supposed to be quiet in a library, but we had so much fun laughing together that we got more than one sideways glance. 

After board games at the library, it was time for our next stop! Now let me tell you, I hate surprises. I try so hard to figure them out. But this next part was fun because I was not expecting to go here at all! We had talked about it several times, but there was always a reason not to go. So when we pulled up, I was so thrilled - We went to Doumar's! 

Not my picture - It was actually taken from
A local Barbecue joint known for it's ice cream and waffle cones. It has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and we have wanted to check it out since we moved to Virginia. And with it being only 10 minutes from our house, I have no clue why we didn't check it out sooner! Brent ordered a waffle cone with a scoop of vanilla and scoop of butter pecan. I ordered a banana split. Both were phenomenal! I love me some ice cream!
Of course we had to take an ice cream selfie. And of course my husband had to make a ridiculous face.
There wasn't anything outwardly spectacular about this part of the date. It may just look like ice cream. But for someone like me who enjoys quality time, this was perfection. Just hanging out in the car, enjoying the drive-in ambiance, listening to music, talking, and enjoying amazing ice cream. This is definitely one of those dates I will always remember because it was so special to me.

So what excuses do you give for not going on dates? There are 3 main excuses I hear from people when they admit they rarely go on dates.

Time- Let's face it. We're busy people. I gave you an idea of how busy our lives are at the moment. Sometimes I feel like we don't have a second to breathe. But when we found an evening that we could make work, we took advantage! Instead of a night of Netflix or video games, we made it a point to spend quality time together. And sometimes I have to say no to things because we're going on a date. When we have a date planned, it's non-negotiable. Our date this week was about 3 hours long from start to finish. If you can't find 3 hours at any point during your week, make it an hour. Go to a cool coffee shop just the two of you. Spend one whole hour just talking. Ask each other silly questions. Try to avoid talking about work or kids. Just talk about the two of you! It's amazing how just one hour of focused quality time can make you feel closer to your spouse.

Money- Money is tight these days. We have a strict budget, and stick to it. We have had to stop thinking dates mean a nice dinner and a movie. Those dates are GREAT, but pricey! There are so many cheap date ideas out there. Go to a park and have a picnic, check out a local karaoke bar, spend the evening in a small coffee shop. Go grab an ice cream from Burger King or somewhere similar ($1 each) and walk the beach. Even have dates at home! If Netflix is your thing, cool. But make it special! Silence your cell phones and put them away, make popcorn, grab some candy (like the movie theater boxes you can get from Dollar Tree), turn the lights down low, and snuggle up on the couch together. Make a romantic meal together. Just make whatever you're doing SPECIAL. And when you go out, find ways to make it budget friendly. Our latest date for example -

Library - $2 for parking
Ice Cream - $10.13

Total for an awesome, special date - $12.13! That is well within our budget. Just make the dates work for you and your budget.

Babysitting- This is probably my favorite excuse. Why? Because the people I hear this from, have never asked us to babysit for them. 99% of the time, if you ask me to babysit because you want to go on a date with your spouse, I will find a way to make it work! And I know a lot of people feel the same - they are MORE THAN HAPPY to babysit. If you have exhausted all of your options, and no teenager or childless friends are willing to babysit, start a rotation with your friends who also need babysitting! 1 weekend they'll watch your kids, the next you'll watch theirs. And if that doesn't work and there just really is no way to get babysitting, put the kids to bed early, and stay up a little later. Play board games together, sit around a fire pit in your backyard, feed the kids Mac and Cheese for dinner, but after they're in bed make a super fancy gourmet meal and enjoy a bottle of wine (the good stuff!) Having kids is not an excuse to neglect dating your husband.

There is ALWAYS a way to date your spouse. Always. Give me an excuse, and I'll help you bust it. This is obviously something I feel strongly about, and I hope that you will grow in your conviction to date your spouse. And if you can't remember the last time you went on a date, plan one right now! Call me up for babysitting. I'm serious.

So let me ask you, do you go on dates regularly? What is your favorite date you've ever been on?