December 31, 2012

Lessons I've Learned in 2012

Today is a big day of reflection for me! Looking back on the past year, I am blown away completely. I remember just where I was and what I was doing last year on New Years Eve...

Babysitting... Feeding the sweet baby girl I nannied this summer a bottle. I mean, that's hard enough to believe all on its own! I can't believe that little angel was that that little. And just a year later... She's two years old and has a completely new and evident personality. She's hilarious and her vocabulary blows me away... I just can't believe it's gone so fast!

In August 2011, I was diagnosed with arthritis. In December 2011 - January 2012, I made it through my first 4 week round of PT. In October - December 2012, I made it through yet another round of PT - this time 6 weeks.

It's crazy how it all runs together and creates years and ultimately, our lives.

Today, though, I want to just look at this year as a whole and share 6 things that I've learned through those moments. 6 isn't a special number for any reason, I was just able to incorporate what I want to share into 6 lessons. ;) I want to reflect and continue to grow as a person because of them. More than anything, this post is a letter to myself. Things that I need to be reminded of as I continue to navigate through life.

1.) Let. It. Go. There are some things that you just cannot control, Kenz. There are some things are beyond your power. There are days when you simply cannot put any more on your plate. And guess what? That's completely normal. That's OKAY. Tell yourself that. And then, when you lay down to sleep at night... Close your eyes. Clear your heart. Let. It. Go.

2.) Don't wait around for boys who can't commit to you. If they don't deem you "worth it" now, they don't deserve you - now OR later. Don't waste tears, thoughts, or heartache over situations that those foolish boys cause. Wait for a guy who respects you for you and loves you just the same. Know that a movie night with your best girlfriends is so much more productive than having the cutest boy in school take you out to a movie... Because you're building memories rather than attachments that will hurt you later.

3.) Stop making so many dang plans. Learn to enjoy the adventure that life is occasionally. Be spontaneous. Be a little crazy. You know that God will have His will anyway, so don't waste your energy and time making your own plans. It's not worth it and it will never work out exactly the way you want it to. But I promise, you'll still be more than blessed in the end.

4.) Laugh when you feel like crying. Even if it's fake laughter, just do it... Because stupid, pointless, fake laughter WILL turn into real laughter; that real laughter will be become tearful laughter and in the end, you'll feel a heck of a lot better. 

5.) Take your meds, do your treatment, and take care of your PT and OT. Again, just do it. You know it's good for you. You know it makes you feel accomplished afterwards. And hey, your physical therapist and the rest of the team is PROUD OF YOU everyday - no matter what. Let that be a motivation and a testimony to how much they love and care about you.

6.) Love on everybody and anybody. Cherish the moments you have with them... Everyone is a gift. People come into our lives as blessings and as lessons... Both are essential. 

"This year I made it through 10 weeks of PT, 24 weeks of OT, an MRI, 4 sets of x-rays, 10 trillion medication changes, tons of appointments with specialists I've never even heard of, and so much more! And guess what? God blessed me through it all! I'm not saying that I didn’t have any sad moments, didn’t shed any tears, wasn’t hurt, discouraged or disappointed at some point... I'm saying that God PROVIDED me with ALL of my necessities, granted me a few desires of my heart, and allowed me to wake up this morning! I've formed relationships with true best friends, have another job that I adore, and I have 10 of my FAVORITE kiddos coming over to spend the night tonight! I am beyond grateful for all that I have and all that I am. I can't imagine feeling anymore "blessed," but I know that God loves surprises. :) Bring it on 2013!

December 28, 2012

Fab Friday :: Vol. 3

When Laura posted a Facebook status about her link up...

... Going live at midnight, I had to look at my calendar because it totally didn't think today was Friday! I can't believe Christmas is over... I can't believe how fast this week has gone!

- I am completely and utterly in love with the iPad "Santa" brought me for Christmas! I cannot stay off of it. I know the newness will eventually wear off, but I'm just loving every second of it right now. I live for figuring out new electronics! And I've never owned anything Apple - so this is an amazing start. :-) Kenzie is in love!

- I babysat or working since Wednesday, and I'm in the middle of babysitting right now. Oy. I've been working +8-12 hour days and I am WIPED - but I made really good money this week and I have a few online purchases I'm planning to make tonight! Plus, I'm advertising with some great ladies for the month of January and couldn't be more excited to work with them! It all requires $$$ and I'm SO blessed by and grateful for my two jobs.

- I'm spending my New Years Eve hosting a Parents Night Out again and I have 9 kiddos coming over! We are going to have SO much fun and the parents who get to go out and ring in the New Year as a couple are going to have a blast, too. I'm happy to help out in any way that I can... And I love every second I get to spend with those precious babies! Win, win!

- I swear over 5 babies have been born this week between blog-land and my little ole' babysitting world. And about 5 other ladies have announced their pregnancies. It seems like the past month has been full of pregnancy announcements. My heart is so happy for those ladies, their husby's, and their soon to be families! What an incredible gift! I swoon over babies. Every single one. Swoon.

- I decided I'm going light with my hair again. I feel like a need a change! I'm getting anxious with the length it's at, but don't want to cut it again. I'm also getting my bangs chopped again because I loved them last time! Totally looking forward to spending a few hours in the chair of my favorite hairdresser - a close family friend of ours! She's wonderful and I'm so thankful I know her and have her in my life!

Lots of randoms this week! Have a fab Friday, loveys!

December 27, 2012

Holiday Style :: 2012

This morning I'm excited to share my holiday style with y'all! I may have given a sneak peak yesterday in my Christmas recap, thanks to the surplus of pictures taken on Christmas eve, but today's the day I share all the wonderful details!

Quite honestly, my favorite part about this outfit is the fact that I only really spent a measly $9 on it. The only items I purchased "new" were the dress and leggings - everything else was already in my closet! Talk about the perfect outfit to throw together during the holiday season... Festive and affordable while in the midst of purchasing gifts for everyone and their mother... Can I get an amen?!

Aside from the bargain high I got off of wearing this adorable outfit is the sheer fact that the dress is sparkly! For me, that's a major holiday MUST. Christmas just isn't Christmas without that glittery, glimmery snow and an outfit to compliment it perfectly.

Another must {for the holidays, especially} is comfort. The holidays are stressful enough, and  my arthritis adores planning sneak attacks when I'm stressed to the max. Leggings are great for that. I'm a true believer that you can never, EVER have too many colors or too many pairs. My mom begs to differ, but even she thought this outfit was insanely adorable. Leggings are incredibly versatile and can be dressed up over a trillion ways. It's a fact.

Earrings//Bridier Baubles
Dress // Wet Seal
Necklace // Bridier Baubles
Leggings // Wet Seal
Legwarmers // Kohl's
Boots // Target

What are your thoughts? Did you incorporate something sparkly into your holiday wardrobe this year..?

December 26, 2012

Christmas Recap :: 2012

Christmas this year, as it always is, was absolutely, wonderfully magical. My heart was filled with joy from the second I woke up on Christmas eve til the moment I fell asleep late last night. Heck, who am I kidding... I was full of Christmas joy the second Halloween was all done and said and I've still got the Christmas music on my Pandora playing loud and clear...

Today, as life would have it, I'm back to babysitting and staying plenty busy. I am so grateful for the past few days that I've had completely off. Time to catch up. Time to pray. Time to celebrate. Time to be thankful. Time to breathe. It was a great chance to catch my breath and focus on what matters most.

The post I've written for today is special and close to my heart because of the great memories that go along with each picture. It may not interest you, as a reader, but these are the moments that make up my life... And I want to remember each one forever.

If nothing else, this post will give you a little glimpse of  me, the girl behind this blog, and the people I love the most.

*Saturday the 22nd* : Today, we celebrated Christmas with Dad's side of the family. It was so good to see our big family gather in the same room again, even though Grandpa was missing. Prayer before dinner made me tear up as we talked about Grandpa watching over us and prayed for our little cousin Tatum to continue kicking cancer's butt. Playing Apples to Apples with my cousins and sisters after dinner was hilarious, as always, and we had the most wonderful time catching up and telling stories. I pulled Grandma aside a bit later into the evening to give her an ornament I'd picked out for her and Grandpa this year, even though he can't be with us on earth. She agreed that he'd appreciate the sparkly walleye hanging on the tree... I most certainly agreed. After a lot of visiting and another plate of food, we headed home for the night, get comfy in our PJ's, and watch Christmas movies.
{Bottom left picture in collage : Grandma Jeanette and I.}

*Monday the 24th* Before heading to Grandma's, Megan, Madi, and I took a bunch of pictures outside in the snow. Mason even snuck in a few. ;-) Later into the night, we celebrated Christmas with Momma's side of the family. I haven't been to Grandma Shirley's in quite some time. That hour drive sure stinks when school and babysitting keep me so busy all the time. I want to be down there visiting her more often, the distance is tough though. Dinner was delicious as always and catching up with and joking around with my cousins was an absolute blast. The White Elephant game was hilarious and somehow, I ended up with a flower pot. Grandma loved the new, sparkly pickle ornament I got her and we talked about the tradition of "good luck" if you can find it hidden in the tree each each. We wrote silly memories on the tablecloth Grandma embroiders each year and I got to snuggle, cuddle, and love on my baby cousin Beau. Dessert {Grandma's cheesecake} was delicious as always and taking lots of pictures with her and the family was comical... I swear, someone is always making a face in this crazy group. After lots of laughing and far too much food, we made the trip home and discovered Santa had already visited! I must have been spectacular this year... Because Santa most certainly brought me the iPad I've been wanting so badly. Then, as always, we opened our gifts as a family and hit the hay.
{Bottom right picture in collage : Grandma Shirley and I.}

*Tuesday the 25th* Today, we all slept in til about nine. Dad and Mom made breakfast and we all spent the day playing with our new gifts. All I can say is... I am so grateful and blessed. I have an amazing family who loves me, a roof over my head, and and God who sent His only Son to take away our sin. I cannot wipe this smile off my face or tame the joy that's overfilling my heart. I am so blessed. So blessed. I absolutely could not ask for more.
Linking up here with // 
 Hallie for her "Deck Your Haul" link up!

December 24, 2012

A Very Merry CHRISTmas!

Loveys, I want to wish you nothing but the merriest CHRISTmas today and tomorrow. Enjoy time spent with the ones who are dear to you and find peace knowing what Jesus' birth has done for us all.
{This picture was taken when I did face painting for a holiday party this month. No, I did not go "see" Santa on my own. Although, I wish I were that cool. ;-) Ha!}
Matthew 1:21~ "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins."

Lots of love from the joyful girl behind this little blog... :-)

December 22, 2012

Christmas Without You

Today's the day we celebrate Christmas on my Daddy's side of the family! He's one of 11 children. Yes, you read that right. 11.  And I have about 40 first cousins!

It's actually quite hilarious because every year, we rent out a local school's gym just to celebrate together. There really is that many people... And I promise you, there's REALLY that much food. ;-)

We always have a blast playing bean bags, basketball, and board games. {Apparently we have a love for all things B...} It's wonderful to catch up and be together for once throughout the year. It seems like because there's so many of us, we're rarely all together.

This is always one of my favorite days of the year.

I'm so excited to see everyone today. To hug them. To catch up with them... But there's someone that will be missing for the first time.

My Grandpa.

That's tough to swallow for me. I'm betting it's tough to swallow for everyone in my family. It's going to be different without him. Empty.

It brings me to tears thinking about it - and to be honest and transparent, part of me doesn't want to go because of that empty feeling that I know will be lingering.

You know what else brings me to tears? The Scripture that God gives us for comfort and guidance during the hard times...

John 14:2~ In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you, "I am going there to prepare a place for you."

That's a promise I know our God will keep.

Christmas won't be the same without you, Grandpa.

We miss you. We love you. We can't wait to be with you again one day.

December 20, 2012

Tales from the Girl Crying in the Bathroom

Arthritis is a funny thing.  Some days, it's actually a blessing. Others, you feel suffocated. Like you're buried... In over your head...

At the appointment with my rheumatologist last week, we discussed my seemingly "normal" MRI results and decided to forward it on to a pediatric neurosurgeon. My doctor said it was highly unlikely that anything would be found, however - I received just the opposite of nothing... I finally received answers.

Monday was a day from... Uh... Let's just go ahead and say... The gutter. I had a job interview, babysitting, an eye doctor appointment, and then a coffee date. Not too shabby, so I thought.

The roller-coaster began after I got home from my interview. My mom told me that she talked to the neurosurgeon who has officially diagnosed me with moderate degenerative disc disease on top of juvenile arthritis. *Cue the pre-break down here.*

The job interview went well, the little boy I pick up afterschool had a fabulous day, I got a few sweet surprises in the mail, and my eye doctor appointment was quick and easy. After a busy night, I was reunited with one of my good friends when we met up for a coffee date. 

So, it's all okay, right? Funny how things change so quickly...

We hardly sat down and started talking when my nightly nausea kicked in full swing... And I mean hardcore swing.

I ran to the bathroom on two different occasions. And, without sharing too much unnecessary info, it was disgusting. It was puke. And it was pure acid every time. EVERY TIME. I was shaking like a leaf, so I decided I needed to leave early. My bed, a bucket, and a cold washcloth were calling my name...

The night continued like that and I woke up Tuesday morning in so much excruciating pain because my stomach was completely empty. There was nothing left. I slept in, showered, attempted to eat, and headed off to class.

If there's one thing that's stressing me out right now, it's school. The people. The exams. The homework. I'm good at handling stress... I'm good at staying motivated. But, I'm also human. And there are days when my body simply cannot pretend it's all okay anymore.

To put it simply, I was a hot, HOT mess on Tuesday. I ran out of my English class bawling. I stood inside a bathroom stall bawling for 10 minutes. I didn't finish my homework. I stayed after class and had a heart to heart with my teacher... Complete with LOTS more tears... 

But, I finally feel better. It felt so good to get it all out.

And even though I'm in the same predicament as I was on Monday and Tuesday night... I'm experiencing and I'm learning... I'm toughing it out. I'm holding on. I'm fighting.

I'm not saying I won't be the girl crying in the bathroom stall ever again. 

I'm saying that God is still bigger... And I'm saying that I refuse to be reduced and/or defined by these debilitating diseases.

December 15, 2012

Take This World & Give Me Jesus

It's everywhere and it's unavoidable. 

I know that all of us are absolutely heartbroken for the children, teachers, and families that were affected by the awful tragedy in CT yesterday. Innocent lives were lost and my heart and prayers will not stop going out to and loving on these children. Children I didn't even know.

I'm not a parent. I'm not an aunt. I'm not a teacher... But I am nearly a full-time nanny and babysitter and I know that my calling in this life is children. I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain those who were close with these children are feeling. I cannot even try to understand the fear that those children felt as their innocent lives were taken.

It's tragic and awful. Terrible and inhumane. Insanely unbelievable. The whole situation makes me irate. 

Despite how corruptive this situation is, my friend Laura reminded me of something so very important last night in her Facebook status...

"Thankful this world is not my home."

It really put the situation into perspective for me. It reminded me that this world is indeed, full of evil, but Heaven is just the opposite. It is perfect and it is where these children are now. I know in my heart that God has already welcomed each of them home into His loving arms and everlasting kingdom... And I know that one day, they will be reunited with their families in that same beautiful and altogether perfect place.

Last night, I found and am holding onto the hope and promise that God gives us in Scripture...

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.

I'm also holding onto this incredible reminder... 

The battle is His.

My heart and soul are devoted to praying today. It's difficult to do because of how horrifying it all is, but I refuse to stop at simply kissing my little brother more or hugging the little ones I care for a little tighter... That's not enough for me.

I am choosing to pray my hardest when it's hardest to pray. I am choosing to entrust this world and the circumstances we all face to the God who was, is, and has yet to come. The battle is His. He knows what He's doing. 

Hebrews 13:5: ... Be content with what you have, because God has said, "never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

December 11, 2012

The Hard Way

Lately, I've been throwing around a lot of "what if's..." 

"What IF I let God completely take the reins?" 

"What IF I let go of the things that are weighing me down?"

"What IF I actually did something good for myself for once?"

The only things keeping me from God's plans is my own selfish attitude, desires, and failures.

I mean that in the most realistic way possible. I really do. I'm not saying these things because I have a low self esteem - I'm saying them because I know myself well enough to know that there are so many parts of me in need of work.


Basically, I've been blaming the world for a lot of these setbacks and making excuses for not surrendering, simply because I was going through a rough time, was too busy, etc. But, I'm finally ready to admit:

I've learned the hard way.

I've lost.

I've learned.

I'm ready.

I've learned the hard way... That no matter how hard I try with certain people, I won't win the battle. That no matter how much I respect others, it doesn't mean I'll get the same respect in return. That no matter how much I strive for perfection, I will still have my days and I will still have my failures.

I've lost... People close to me, my patience, and countless battles with God.

I've learned... That I'm not perfect, that God's mercies are new each morning, and that God is and forever will be in complete control of my life and this world.

I'm ready... To kiss this rut goodbye, learn from the past, let it go, and move forward knowing that God has already forgiven me.

I've learned the hard way.

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”   ― Maya Angelou

And today, I'm moving on.

Gotta do this.

December 08, 2012

The Time I was on X-Factor...

This past Wednesday, I had the amazing opportunity to be featured and interviewed {via webcam} on the X-Factor PreShow! It was a blast chatting with my bestie Alicia, Adrienne Bailon (a REAL cheetah girl...), and Jesse Giddings. It was also wonderful to work with the producer and director of the show throughout the entire process... I am truly forever thankful to the whole crew of people who allowed us to have such an incredible experience. We both had a blast, if you can't tell! ;-)

God continues to bless me with once in a lifetime opportunities admist the struggles and pain of my condition and daily schedule. I'm crazy thankful for Him, His generosity and His neverending love!
I've had a few people asking about the link to rewatch the interview, so I'm including that right HERE. Just be sure that you click the "Top 6" video! Alicia and I are right at the 2 minute mark, so you don't have to watch the whole show! ;-)

I've also got to let y'all know how thankful I am to YOU for the support and kind words! Every single day, I'm blessed immensely by a group of women that I don't actually "know" - but hold so close and dear to my heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

December 07, 2012

Blessings In Disguise

It's hard for me to post this, but it's something that I've been dealing with over the past few weeks and I keep reminding myself that the whole reason I have this blog is to use it as an outlet... And that's why I'm following my heart and head by putting this out there today.

Grief. What does it really mean?

Honestly, I go back and forth with it. Always have. My ways of "grieving" are really different. But, they work for me and I know that they make up a big part of who I am.

One stage that I often go through it the "keep calm" stage in which I try to rationalize and remain calm above all else. I don't break down and I don't like to talk to or be around anyone I prefer to be alone, think, and talk to God through prayer.

Another stage I often go through is the "write it out" stage. Basically, I journal the crap out of everything I can find. I type draft messages on my phone, open blank word documents, scribble away in a journal until my hand falls off... You name it. There's just something so freeing about getting those words out on paper or through a keyboard.

Occasionally, I experience the "break down" stage. I just hurt all over and I'll admit, I cry... A lot. I go into denial a bit... I fail miserably at staying positive... I listen to sad songs about missing people and ask God to carry me through because I know I'm not able to do it on my own. I think this is the only stage where I fully allow myself to grieve.

And sometimes, on special days, I go through the "joyful" stage. Those are the days that the countless blessings that fill my life are visible and clear as day. I just seem to have a spring in my step and my heart is happy. Nearly everything reminds me of whomever it is that I've lost and I'm able to smile at the memories and stories I've shared the people I love and miss. Those days, I am just so incredibly, entirely thankful for... They make this life and the pain of loss worth it.

As y'all know, my Grandpa passed away in August. You can read more about that HERE, if you wish.

It was a really tough time for me. It's never easy losing the people you love.

Last week, I had a joyful day - and I have to say, as much as I hate to admit it, some days, I LOVE being a juvenile arthritis patient. Let me elaborate...

While I was waiting for lab work, an old man in a wheelchair was wheeled up next to me by his daughter... I offered my seat and began to get up so the two could sit together, but the old man said, "No, no! You sit right back down. Right here next to me!" I did as he said and laughed a bit. His daughter was trying to help him take his jacket off and he shouted, "You tryin' to rip my arm off? There won't be any place for them to take blood if you keep it up!" She laughed a bit and apologized. Then he looked at me and whispered, "I'm an abused man! She nags on me all the time! But I promise you, I'm a good man." I laughed out loud and told him how much he reminded me of my Grandpa - voice and all! He replied... "Your Grandpa's a good man too! I sure hope he doesn't have one of these chasing after him!" I could not stop laughing in that waiting room. Shortly after, I got called in to have my blood drawn and he said, "You tell your Grandpa that now young lady! He's a good man!" I told him I would do just that.

I couldn't help but laugh hysterically and tear up joyfully because of this man and the good memories he was able to remind me of. I can't thank him enough for brightening my day with his smile and personality - and for reassuring me how beautiful and precious this life truly is.

This week, I might not be able to say the same. But to me, that's okay. I'm going to continue to let myself grieve when I need to and in the meantime, I'm going to hold onto the beautiful and cherished memories. The joyful ones. I'm going to accept that sometimes, God's biggest blessings come through raindrops - and yes, healing often comes through tears.

December 04, 2012

ANOTHER Minnesota Giveaway!

I wanted to bridge some sort of leeway between today's post and yesterday's - but I just couldn't. I wanted y'all to be completely surprised because today, I'm introducing another...

Homegirl say whaaaaaaat?

Homegirl say YES. IT'S TRUE.

I recently started following Lauren's blog and I'm pretty sure it was fate... Just days after I found her, she announced this MN giveaway! Three cheers for PERFECT timing, eh?! Anyway, we basically hit it off right away. She's super sweet and ridiculously funny, so make sure to go check her blog out and show her some love for hosting and organizing this!

Still teaming up with a group of my favorite MN bloggers and still giving away some more AMAZING prizes like...

A Christmas surprise package...

Your choice of a cat OR dog gift package...

$15 towards some DELICIOUS coffee...

And $75 to the happiest place on earth! (And no, I'm not talking about Disney world...)

It's pretty simple... Just enter through the rafflecopter below by following the instructions and prepare yourselves to WIN. Really, it's that easy. ;-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

December 03, 2012

A Minnesota Giveaway!

It's Monday! The start of a fresh, new week!

Am I the only one excited?

If so, it's probably because y'all haven't heard of this awesome little thing I'm cohosting called...


I may be a little bias because Miss Hallie is one of my best friends, but for real you guys, you don't want to miss out on this!

There are some really cool prizes involved and I want you guys to make darn sure you get to enter for your chance to win! A little birdy told me there's some OPI Nail Lacquer, chapstick (we all know how Kenzie feels about chapstick...),  a pair of sequin boots, a scarf, coffee cozy, custom print, a surprise package, and MORE up for grabs!

You can enter in the rafflecopter below and make sure to leave a comment to let me know which item you want the most! Ya never know, I might be planning to surprise one lucky commenter even if they don't win the entire giveaway... ;-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway