Currently Watching


The Great British Baking Show
Finally jumped in. These British people look nice, but this show is savage. They give the contestants instructions with no baking temperatures or times. It makes me want to cry for them! I have a soft spot for the young girls who are still in school, and the older bakers who stick with traditional recipes.


Spirit: Riding Free
Some kids shows are better than others. Y'all, my husband and I watch this and I will fight anyone who says it's not good. I have had the worst cold I've had in years and totally Bad Mom'd it up with Babycakes this weekend. It was days of screen time and eating lots of peanut butter. Oh well. And after hours of comparison, I can tell you, this is the best kids show. Love some Doc McStuffins in a lot of ways, but it's more traditionally little-kids based and there were some reoccurring things that just bugged me, an adult, after a while. Not so with Lucky! (Spirit is the horse, Lucky is the spunky 12YO-ish main female character, Babycakes refers to the show as Lucky after the character). 

 Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
 I haven't read this book, but now I'm going to. First off, Marie is so damn tiny and adorable. I can't even think of a comparison but to look at this person makes me smile. Hubby is even into it. He really only cares about our garage, but fine. We'll start there (out of her order, but whatever) and I'll use that to get him around to the rest of the house!

Personal Identity


Recently I was listening to the Armchair Expert podcast episode with Mark Duplass. Mark and Dax (Shepard, the host) were discussing their different roles within Hollywood. They have each acted, written, and directed movies at different points in their careers. And I believe it was Mark who made a comment that his problem is thinking that whatever thing he is currently doing at the moment is his identity for the rest of his life- ie "I'm a director now. That's my identity. Oh now I can't get a job directing so I'll write something. Okay I guess I will just write movies for the rest of my life. That's my new identity."

And then a year later he gets the chance to do something different and has to re-adjust.

I think this is a big part of my anxiety and general life stress.

I've talked endlessly about how my identity was tied into being a good student. This was by far my defining characteristic from elementary school through undergrad. It was my thing, it was what everyone knew about me.

So when I didn't get into my chosen program for grad school, I was thrown. And I never super replaced that identity. This is partly because I realized that tying my identity into any one characteristic was dangerous.

Instead I tried to sort of fulfill all these different aspects of my identity all at once. And that's dangerous too. 

 This is sort of especially applicable when it comes to motherhood.

B & I talked about how we didn't want to become those people whose lives are all about our kid. We don't think it would be healthy for us as individuals, us as a couple, or our child. And I stand by that.

However, in my head it was like I needed to keep myself the way I was, but go through the motions of motherhood. Which is ridiculous.

Life events change people. Those close to us change us.

And that's fine. It would be insane to say otherwise.

Thanks to my husband, I have a love for Boondock Saints and whiskey that I might not have found on my own. Thanks to me, my grandpa knows what toe socks are.

The people in our lives, and our relationships to them, change us.

And it isn't bad if motherhood changes me, or changes my lifestyle.

It's only bad if I don't want to change. 

I was listening to the Unladylike podcast about Being a Bad Mom and while I completely identified with some things said, I also was thanking God. Because I wasn't jealous of their decisions or sharing regret for having a child.

I like being a mom.

I'm don't like the thousands of different expectations that come with that role (from people who are not my child), but I love actually being Babycake's mom.

Not all the time. It was super hard in the beginning. And yes, I am now on anxiety medication. But so are tons of other people, both parents and non-parents, and it might have happened anyway (I kind of have a theory that now that once Hubs had worked through a lot of his demons re: military service, my mind has kind of gone "Okay my turn," and that just happened to coincide with parenthood for a jolly anxious time).

I always wanted to be a mom, and Babycakes is a fantastic and wonderful little person that I love in a unique and passionate way*. Like, if I could duplicate her I'd have several running around (but I keep hearing that's not actually how having multiple kids works...).

*This is not to say that non-parents don't know love or love just as deeply- which is a complaint I've heard from non-parents about how their friends who are parents treat them; but I do think it's a different type of love. And that's okay. I didn't grow up with siblings in my house, so that's a unique type of love that I don't know. Not saying any one kind is better or more important, just that what I have with Babycakes is certainly not like any other relationship I've ever had in my life before or could expect to have with someone who is not my child.

Anyway. The AE episode made me realize that it's okay to have all these little identities inside.

I don't have to try to give them all equal distribution all the time. It's okay if these little pieces of me take turns and if my identity is more of a continual wave than a static monument.

Sometimes I will be a Mom. Sometimes I will be a Student. Sometimes I will be a Friend. Sometimes I will be a Reader.

And that's okay, because I'm always a mom. And (well, sometimes) a student, and a friend, and a reader.


I'm always Brittany.

Prompt: Word of the Year

(prompt found on Debbie in Shape via Pinterest)

Being honest guys, I've had some trouble lately with blogging. I want to stay connected with the (few) bloggers who stick around, but I'm just not coming up with topics that I actually feel motivated to write. So, I'm going with some prompts.  I won't be doing these for 30 days straight, but think I will make it my go-to when I'm feeling a little uninspired.

60) My word of the year

Restore: to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor.
 

I haven't made a big deal about my word of the year this year, but the thing I am working toward is restoration.

Last year was a bit of a mess for me. I finally hit the point of exhaustion, of confession, of pulling back and facing reality.

And I'm glad about it, really. I needed to just stop. You hear so much about hustling and growth and improvement- and I believe in all of those things! Truly, I do. But the pace I was going at was unrealistic.

And sometimes when you go too fast, too soon, you crash.

So this year is not about growth for me.

It is about restoring myself to a place of health. Because I have been mentally unhealthy for a while now, and I've run myself ragged. So right now, I can't think of being better than I ever have before.

I can only focus on getting back to a good place. And that involves...taking some things slow. And removing some things all together.

Current Thoughts: January 2019


I've stopped using Twitter over the last few months, because it's so political. I understand- there is so much BULLSHIT in current American politics that someone has to be on guard at all times. And if there was a way to sign up for shifts, I'd 100% sign up for a shift. But with social media it's like every individual has to be on guard every second of every day and I cannot do that. I don't want to give up completely and be complicit, but I can't handle thinking of it all day long. That does something to me mentally that makes me feel hopeless and desperate and angry, and those things make me a bad ambassador for the causes I do believe in. Some people can use those things as fuel for positive change...I have never been able to take larges amounts of negativity and use them for good. It just doesn't work for me. So I am trying to find the balance between staying knowledgeable enough to know where to direct my voice and energy, and staying out of the actual fire.

Babycakes is growing up so fast. Yes, I'm going to be that mushy mama for a minute. We went out to dinner the other night, and I was just sitting there looking at her eating. It's so basic, but she looked so grown! She had a regular cup (with a lid & straw, but not a sippy cup) and was using a regular fork fairly well (some rice on the floor, but not terrible). And I was just so proud. It sounds so little but it's a big sign of growing up and officially being out of the baby phase. Also, we weren't carrying a diaper bag because she's officially potty-training (and doing amazing, thankfully, because I was so not looking forward to it).

I ended up registering for a Spring semester class last minute, partially due to...reasons I will explain later. Probably. Anyway, this professor has a reputation for being pretty "chill." Apparently to the point where I am now freaking out because we are about 2 weeks into the class and I've done almost nothing. It feels like I am missing something, but I got a "kudos" from some program he uses to provide feedback so...I guess it really is that chill. I'm thankful but also a little nervous. I am a big fan of the idea that if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.

I've read 8 books so far in 2019, which is pretty good for me. Normally I average 2-4 a month. Plus I've enjoyed all them, haha, which is the main thing. Yay, for enjoying your hobbies again.

I'm watching the second season of Friends from College...and I have a love/hate relationship with it. So many of the people are freakin' awful and do such stupid things, but there are also moments where I'm nodding going "Yep, I'd respond exactly the same way." So it's relatable but disappointing. However, the Marie Kondo show is freakin' adorable and lovely and makes me feel like the world will be just right as long as people learn to fold their clothes vertically. Never read her book, thought it all sounded dumb, but now I'm in.

Finding Little Bits of Happiness

 Photo by Ethan Kent on Unsplash

This title sound cheesy AF, and I fully get that.

When I was a dealing with my anxiety, I thought it was just anxiety. But you hear "anxiety and depression" a lot, and I'm starting to think I was actually depressed.

I have a decent walk into my office each morning. It's roughly 5-10 minutes, and on the walk my coffee gets cold. For months I would just deal with it but it was kind of sucky...not the actually happy coffee time that I like.

But recently, I started reheating my coffee with the microwave that's maybe 7 feet from my desk. Guys, it's ridiculous how happy I get over this hot coffee. And it's such a simple fix. I didn't have to buy a new coffee maker or new coffee cups or anything extreme...I just put it in the damn microwave for 30 minutes seconds.

Another super simple thing that has improved the quality of my life- like putting books on hold at the library. There are lots of books I want to read, but I don't have a ton of time. So the easiest thing for me to do is go online, request a book I want, and go pick it up when it is ready and waiting (versus just browsing, which is fun but not the best use of my time right now). My library holds things for about a week so that is amazing. Plus it means I eventually read the super popular books that everyone else wants...better to get on the wait-list as #15 than forget about a book and never read it.

Are these ridiculously simple changes? Yes.

But they have helped, and for months I didn't realize how much those little bits would help.

You hear about self-care, but sometimes you don't know what that looks like- at least, I didn't always know what it looked like for me.

It may not be a facial, or a massage, or a shopping spree, or a bubble bath, or those fun but kind of superficial things that have become somewhat cliche*. It may be heating up old coffee for 35 seconds. It may be spraying wrinkle release spray on your clothes instead of ironing.

*I mean, I love those things, but they aren't always the best things I can do for myself.

So, if life is hard, and you are tired, and it feels like the gray darkness is surrounding you...don't wait on a spotlight to suddenly shine on you. Find little cracks and slivers of light, and move towards them.

Show Us Your Books: January 2019



Man, that title felt weird to type! It's time for the first Show Us Your Books Link-Up of the year.

I looked back at my Goodreads Challenges over the past few years, and for several years now I've read 50-55 books. Not sure why I continually underestimate my ability and put my goals around 40-40...but this year I'm acknowledging my average and setting a realistic goal of 55. My first book of 2019 is Let It Snow, everything before that I finished in December of 2018.



I started reading this months ago during my summer class, and I just couldn't focus. That was because of my personal issues, and I'm so glad I finally picked it back up because it was exactly as great as I knew it would be. Adeyemi built a wonderful magical, African-inspired world and I'm all in. Pre-ordering the second book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which comes out in March. 




  
Not sure what I was expecting when I went into this story, but it's not what I got. Spoiler in white, so highlight if you want: THERE WAS TIME TRAVEL. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR TIME TRAVEL. However, it was an interesting story and I think it was done fairly well. The ending wrapped up a bit too nicely for me...but that happens. Overall a solid read. 




We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Think I got this recommendation from someone on the link-up a while back. It was...okay. Irby is a blogger/internet famous apparently, so if you already know of her, you'll probably REALLY like this. It was funny, but I felt like I was missing some of the backstory that could have really made this a great read.





This book totally lived up to the hype! Such an interesting look at age and culture and community. I wish there had been a little more specific info at the end regarding The Brothers (highlight again). But overall a great read.
 







Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
I read this after Christmas, but close enough and still winter-y. Cute YA stories by some great authors- recommend if that's your thing.









This is my first 5 star read for 2019. Guys, I FREAKIN' LOVED THIS BOOK! It's a bit of a post-apocalyptic story, but not in an opressive "We must overthrow the government style." The world is built in tiny little pieces and hints dropped here and there throughout the plot in a way that made me hunger for more. The main character was so inherently herself and good at her job and self-aware, but in a way that felt natural and not "All hail this amazingly perfect unicorn female" way. It was intriguing in an almost quiet way, very similar to Circe IMO, and I loved it just as fiercely as I loved Circe. Apparently that is my current jam. Go read it, now.
★★



From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
I enjoyed this a lot more than I enjoyed Doughty's first book (comments on December's SUYB). This one studied several different cultures and options for dealing with dead bodies, including one in North Carolina! I really like that she acknowledges the way geography and time and culture intersect, through the lens of death.








This is a modern re-telling of Pride & Prejudice, set in Brooklyn and told by a young Black girl of Haitian & Dominican heritage. It is so damn cute and good and thoughtful. Plus the main character writes poetry and I loved her poems sprinkled throughout the story (and I'm not normally a poetry person). 





Link-up & 
share what you've been reading!

Life According to Steph

Personal Commandments from Always Brittany


A few months ago I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I loved it.

Self-help books really depend on my mood- I usually either love or hate them, rarely do they rate in the middle for me. And I'm all about it at the moment.

 Basically, this woman decided she wanted to be happier so she came up with a plan and put it in motion over the course of a year.

Part of this plan includes having personal commandments to live by. You can see and read about about Gretchen's commandments here, but like all aspects of The Happiness Project they vary between individuals.

Gretchen states:

These aren't specific resolutions, like make my bed, but the overarching principles by which I try to live my life.
It's a creative way of distilling core values.


She says it took her months to come up with hers and there is no rush. But of course I wanted to jump right in; here is what I have come up with so far. It's only 9, whereas she has 12...but there is no one way to do this and these feel like a strong start for me.

1. To thine own self be true. 
This is basically the same as Gretchen's first commandment of Be Gretchen. But I like this wording better. When I think of Be Brittany, I get confused. Part of my life trouble comes from the fact that I am not always sure of who I am. Thinking of what feels true is more natural and calming and strengthening. 

2. Be generous in action and thought.
 This one is something I've been thinking on and striving towards for quite a while now. It's partially a Biblical inspiration, and partly from what I could have sworn was a John Green quote but I can't confirm online. But it basically was something about the best marriage advice he was given was to be generous. I specify in both actions and thought because I do want to be generous when giving of my resources to those in my life. But the thought portion is to help my relationship with other people. Almost always, when I am having trouble with someone and have talked to them about it, they almost never meant whatever hurtful comment I was brooding over the way I took it. And you know what, even if they did...they could have just been having a bad day. I'm certainly not perfect, and I need grace. I can walk around assuming the worse about people, or I can be generous in my thoughts about them.

3. Accept your limits; only Christ saves.
 This is a big one for me. That's a big part of my anxiety, because I tend to think that EVERYTHING is my responsibility. But that is bad for me and also not exercising my faith. This is not a disregard for the things that I can do and the responsibilities I do have, but it is the realization that I am human and have limits and that's okay.
 
4. Little by little.
I tend to have big lofty goals that intimidate me to the point of immobility. Take for instance, Hubby's 30th birthday. I wanted to make it a big deal but we didn't have the money and I wasn't sure where to find the time and I was tapped out of energy. Within an hour the other day, at work, I had planned his and Babycake's next parties. Simple but cute. I have plans to make/purchase decorations/etc piece by piece over the next few months so when the time comes, I'm ready and have the supplies to put into action. If I had been able to take a step-by-step approach originally, I wouldn't have gotten so overwhelmed that I ended up doing nothing.

5. Promote what you love.
 There is a lot of bad in the world. I get that. And we should strive to minimize it. But my personal mental health is dependent on surrounding myself with positivity and hope. It's not my natural inclination- which is exactly why I have to make it a priority. I want to show support and spread good.

6. Just ask/say/do it. 
 Finally talking to people about my anxiety has made me realize that being honest and just saying I need help has massive positive effects. And it's the same with many other areas of my life. If I just suck it up and spend 20 minutes cleaning, I am happier because my environment is clean. Joining my workout group was intimidating as an introvert who never placed value on physical health or exercise before, but it's been a massive blessing. Just doing it, even if it is a failure, is almost always better than sitting around stressing over the idea of doing it.

7. Take people at face value. 
 This kind of ties into #6. This relates partially to my decision to be honest and actually tell people how they can help. For instance, I have a friend who is super crafty- not only is she good at crafts but she enjoys them. So I asked her to help make our Halloween costumes. I didn't have the money to blow on purchasing from a Halloween store, because those prices are ridiculous. But I don't have the time/energy/skill to make it myself. She said yes, that she loved doing stuff like this! Normally I would brood over whether it was too much to ask, but I'm believing her when she says it's okay and even enjoyable.

8. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. 
 I've been thinking of these commandments for maybe a week and this one has already become a saving grace. This was my frame of mind when I planned the parties mentioned above. This was my thought when I was tempted to spend way longer than necessary finding a new icon to use in my Bullet Journal key, and what I'm reminding myself during my search for a desk for our soon-to-be-office. I'd love to be the type of person to get a cheap desk off Craigslist and DIY it up, but usually the cheap-o just sits in the garage for months...it's more sensible for ME to buy something I can just throw together quickly and start using right away.

9. Prayer First. 
This really should be my first one, but it's my last. You can see why I need to make it a commandment. I want to get better about truly centering my life around my faith.

These are all pretty standard things to abide by in life. But again, I'm human and imperfect. Mantras and reminders help me live life in a way that is both enjoyable and useful. So I'm excited to have this reason to sit down and come up with some specific coping mechanisms and rules to live by that are helpful to me.


Do you have an personal commandments, or just sayings you keep coming back to?

New Year Thoughts

I'm not doing resolutions or goals for 2019.

While it's barely in the rear view, 2018 feels like a turning point. I gave up on a plan I had for my life for nearly 15 years, one that I had prayed for and thought was meant to happen and one that I had prepared my whole family for, and one that I worry hurt some innocent people.

And I did that because in my head, it was part of the plan. It was a good thing, and I am supposed to do good things.

But this year, I'm saying no to plans. I'm saying no to goals.

Other than my Goodreads goal, because...it's my Goodreads goal and that's been a staple in my life for years and it doesn't feel pressure but more happy check-in (and I like the stats it gives me at the end of the year). 

This year, I'm just living. I'm taking things as they come, going with the flow, and not worrying about achieving any specific thing.

I have a general plan to go back to school in the fall...but it will not be with the same sense of...urgency, I guess is the best word, that I felt previously.

In the past I have done Word of the Years, and 2018 was supposed to be Pause. That didn't exactly work out. Instead, I would describe 2018 as...a dam bursting. A lot of anxiety and stress and depression and general feelings that had been held back for a long time came finally cracked the foundation and washed a bunch of things away.

So if I am choosing a word for 2019, it would be more like Replenish. The damage has been done. It's time to clean up the mess, identify the foundational cracks, and restore things back to normal. I can't and won't handle pressure to be better or different this year. I'm it. I'm me, and this version of me is just going to have to be good enough. I'm taking this year to enjoy myself and my life.

Here's to 2019.