Your Reality Is Y O U R S

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    The world, especially the electronic one, will always try to tell you when and where. They will try to tell you what you “need” to do to “succeed.” When to move out, when to buy a house, and even when you should graduate college by. When to be married, and WHO to marry. These people will tell you how many kids to have, or not to have, solely based on just their experience. They will DEFINITELY tell you how many vaccinations you should give your kid, IF any. They will also where to go and what to study!

The world will try to tell you what to do to fit to its own conformities, but I have a comforting realization to share with all of you: You are not the world. You are you. Your reality is based off of your perspective. Their reality is based off of their perspective. All of our realities do not match because we all look at the world differently; please, please remember this.

Not everyone is meant to move out at a certain age — some like to save to travel, some just have anxiety! Not everyone is meant for college — there’s a reason there’s a whole plethora of careers you can pursue without it — so, please, save your rant about how your kid went to college and succeeded at their 9-5 when I do not want a 9-5. Not everyone will fall in love before 25, or even 45 years old. Not everyone will have or CAN have children. Not everyone will think your path is the correct one…. but that’s the FUN of life.

If you base your choices off of societies conformities, or maybe a fake Pinterest-based lifestyle, who are you actually conforming for? Who are you growing, flourishing, living, loving for? Is it your reality…. or theirs?

Not everyone has to study at college, and not everyone has to succeed in the way YOU see success. Not everyone has the ability to go to college or to become a teacher, or a nurse, or whatever your dream may be. Some people thoroughly cannot do this because of mental illness. Others can’t because of financial issues.

The moral? Success isn’t a destination. Success is the pathway. The only way to reach the highest form is to be your highest vibrating YOU. The happiest, most passionate YOU. Why? Because most people conform and do not follow THEIR passions, and having a conscious passion is so soulful and euphoric. Stay on your path and continue fueling your fires. This life is yours. Not society’s. If society is your motivator, that’s when you need to take a step back. Life’s hard enough; quit listening to everyone else and making it harder for your true self to shine. If you needed a reminder, or a sign, PLEASE use this post as yours to KEEP DOING YOU. Keep pushing towards your passion. Money gets used and can always be made back. There’s always going to be something for YOU. Please, stop conforming. Start flourishing. Whatever is setting you back, use it to fly you forward. Like an arrow, you can only move by being pulled backward first.

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Keep smiling. Yes, you got this. 💛  ALISSA + JORDAN 🌻

Two Brides, One Shower | ♡May 6, 2017♡

On May 6, 2017, we were hosted the most gorgeous bridal shower!

We decided on a joint shower for two reasons: 1. We have the same friends and it would be ridiculous to host a separate one with the same people invited, and 2. It was easier to help plan this way. We are very aware that, traditionally, the bride(s) are not involved in their own shower and they also don’t have it 6 months in advance. Our one request was a spring THEMED bridal shower, and it was only common sense to have it in the spring! Honestly, I truly think there’s no “right” or “wrong” time to have your bridal shower. Having it 6 months early versus 2 months early doesn’t permit anything. It has actually helped us in the long-run, because a lot of the gifts we received, we get to use daily! We loved having ours early because it just made the entire journey go so much faster (considering it’s already been two months… holy crap!) and made the year so much more exciting! Having to wait until 2 months before the wedding for the “traditional” shower would make us rush the journey more than we already do, but that’s just us! To each their own. :) (Also, we helped create our shower because the date got switched nearly 5 different times and it was very, very confusing for our bridal people to plan. We didn’t pay much towards it, but yes, we helped create and no, I do not regret it.)

It was hosted at my cousin’s house. I am REALLY happy everyone decided to forget about renting out a banquet hall because, not only was her house free to host at, but it made 20 people seem like 40! Smaller spaces = less decor and less of a stress about the amount of people showing up. About 40 people were invited, 30 RSVP’d that they WERE coming, and roughly 22 or so showed up. Overall, it was wonderfully planned and beautifully executed. :)
Here’s the invites that I created on Paint Shop:

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(The bottom left said the address and the top right said phone numbers!)

Here’s our outfits:

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Alissa’s outfit:

DRESS: Forever 21 • CHOKER: Forever 21 • FLOWER CROWN: Amazon •

BOOTS (I ended up wearing sandals, but these were the original thought): Luca & Grae

Jordan’s outfit:

SHIRT: Primark • JEANS: Primark • BELT: Primark •

FLOWER CROWN: Forever 21 • SHOES: Amazon

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Two of the best parts: our mimosa and donut bar!

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(This was the day Jordan and I found our newfound love for mimosas!)

The next bars: waffle and bagel bars! The picture on the right is the only one I got showcasing how pretty our gift-opening area came out. This was right at the beginning…. by the end, we were showered with gifts from the most lovely people!

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Not the clearest pictures, but I made both of these signs and the coasters were from Target:

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Our favors were spring-colored koozies! They all said positive affirmations on them. Also pictured was a super cheap and fun scratch-off game from Target’s dollar section! We brought around 14 prizes! I wish we had a picture of those!

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One of my favorite pictures ever taken of Jordan:

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(Behind her, to the right, was our “main” game, which was called “How Old Is the Bride?” This was SO much fun and EVERY SINGLE PERSON participated! We had 12 photos — 5 of her, 5 of me, and 2 of us as a couple where people had to guess both of our ages. It came out AWESOME!)

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LEFT: Jordan’s aunt surprised us with a framed picture of our first dance song. This was my favorite gift because it was a TOTAL surprise, and I truly couldn’t believe my eyes when we opened it. I love seeing it above our bed every day.

RIGHT: 5 of my coworkers chipped in to buy us nearly $300 worth of bathroom decor. I didn’t include pictures of (most) of the gifts because I felt as though it wasn’t needed. I did, though, put in a picture of this card that one of my coworkers had her twin daughters draw for us. They drew Super Girl and Wonder Woman because “they thought we liked them,” without knowing they are two of our favorite comic book characters!! Having such supportive people surrounding us truly means the world.

Our wedding was 6 months and 5 days away on our bridal shower date. Today, we are officially 2 months and 20 days away! It actually still feels like YESTERDAY was our shower, as cliche as that sounds, and I thoroughly cannot believe it’s been over 100 days. Whoa! We wrote our our “thank yous” two months ago, too. We purposefully took a month to write them so we could use every item first and write actual, fully-thought-out “thank yous” after trying everything! If you’re reading this and you came to our shower, or even simply just acknowledged our shower, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. This day felt like a dream and I cannot believe this is our life. We are so thankful and blessed to have the most wonderful people and the most lovely support systems around us. Thank you for making life beautiful and easy for us!

Wow. So. Life is flying, y’all! I am so thankful that we took the time to buy decor and to pay things early on in this wedding planning journey, because if we didn’t, I truly believe we would be 400% more stressed right now. All that’s left is to pay off the remainder of the DJ and photographer, get the food + drinks, and to pay off our honeymoon! I cannot comprehend the fact that, in just a few weeks, this entire journey will be coming to an end…. and, to think, here is where it all started….

Keep smiling. Yes, you got this. 💛  ALISSA + JORDAN 🌻

WEDDING WEDNESDAY — Tips, Updates + More! ♡

Hey, y’all! It’s been almost a year since our last blog post, but we have an actual explanation for that!

To start, from last October until now, life has been a TOTAL roller-coaster. It’s been almost an entire year since our last post because, since then, we’ve gotten evicted, and moved…. TWICE. Yep, TWICE in 6 months!

It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions to accept the sad reality we had to live through. January was the hardest, but come March, all became “normal” again! We moved to a home with my parents that has a more mother/daughter setup. We have half a house, full bathroom, living room, bedroom, etc. for ourselves. We pay rent (not nearly as much as we would have to pay to live in a CRAPPY apartment near our jobs) which includes all of our other bills besides our car payment. We are financially stable and physically + mentally happy once again. To reflect on my last post about “failure,” I actually couldn’t go back to school because of all of the changes since my last semester (in the winter of 2016), and that’s okay. I will go back when I’m ready and when there’s less pressure on us again.

So… It’s almost July! We are officially 4 months and a few days out from our wedding day. That’s CRAZY to consider! All of my bridesmaids have their attire, almost our entire guest-list already RSVP’d, every single piece of wedding decor has been bought (and is currently being produced and DIYed by us!) and all of the “bigger” aspects (food, music, photography, alcohol, etc.) has been configured and/or partially paid. We both have our wedding outfits from head-to-toe. We’re almost at double digits in our countdown (136 days from this moment, to be exact!!!!) when we started in the 1,100s!!!! Life is moving CRAZY fast, but I truly could not be any more excited!

For today’s portion of Wedding Wednesday, I’m going to talk DIY and ring selfies!

To start, we recently just finished up the focal point of our centerpieces! These are mini mason jars and clear vases that we painted with our wedding colors, distressed, added rocks to and cut up silk and artificial flower bouquets to make our own! For our entire wedding, we decided we wanted fake flowers…. even down to our bouquets! We’ve both really dabbled with the idea of spending the hundreds of dollars on real floral bouquets, and then both agreed that it’s kind of a waste of money. We’re doing wooden and silk bouquets and boutonnieres! I love the idea of everyone (including us) having them as forever keepsakes (considering real bouquets are only good for a select amount of hours/days) and I love DIY-ing as much as possible! :)

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ALL YOU NEED: vases/jars of your choice – acrylic paint – sandpaper – matte spray (optional, but it’s a good sealant!)      Paint your jars with a thick coat of paint. Let dry for 1-2 days. Next, distress to your desire using little folds of sandpaper. I advise you to distress any 3D pattern on the jar — it really adds a rustic vibe when the chips are mainly on these already accentuated parts! Lastly, you can add your matte spray over top if you’d like. We didn’t do this step, but it definitely would improve the end result from what I’ve seen on other blogs!

Next up…. ring selfies! I know a lot of people think it’s “bragging” and stupid when people post ring selfies, but for me, I just do it because it makes me happy. If something is pretty, I like to take a picture of it! Plus, Jordan totally enforces me taking them whenever we see pretty flowers. 😛 Honestly, do what makes you happy…. and always take pictures!! I love having pictures as keepsakes as it is, and if that means taking a billion pictures of my beautiful engagement ring, too, then so be it! To see some of mine, check out the #LifeIsBeautifulWithTheJacques on Instagram! 😀 Here’s one of my recent favorites:

As most people know, my ring is a handmade conflict-free ring off of Etsy. We chose to take this route for a few reasons: 1. They last just as long as blood diamonds. 2. TG’s diamonds are created to be identical in D-color and shape. You cannot tell the difference unless you are a “diamond expert,” and even then it’s tough. (Check this article for reference!) 3. I have a VERY laborious job. I’ve already lost a stone once from my ring last fall and had to get it fixed. It was extremely affordable and came with a free cleaning and buffing, even though it happened at a financially hard time in my life, and that’s a BIG deal for me. (I had a diamond ring growing up. I lost ONE diamond, which was less than 1/4 carat in size, and it cost a good $400 to fix.) If it’s not affordable to fix ALWAYS, it’s not worth it (to me!) 4. Referencing number 3, with my job, there’s no way I would go to work 180 days of the year and not wear my ring in fear of it breaking or getting dirty. Knowing I can always afford it, and always clean it, without stress, is a HUGE deal to me. We chose to take the small business route and in return, we were surely not disappointed. My ring is 1.5 carats and a pear-shape. We chose this shape because I have very long and skinny fingers, so it fits to them flawlessly! The wonderful businesswoman who owns the company, who created my ring and wedding band(s), is named Tabitha. Tabitha was generous enough to send me ANOTHER one of my rings to show you guys how incredible the detail and the lack of wear-and-tear is. My ring (pictured above) is almost 2 years old. A few facts about Tiger Gemstones: NO, THEY ARE NOT CUBIC ZIRCONIA and NO, man-made OR conflict-free rings DO NOT mean they are LESSER QUALITY than a blood diamond. They are more affordable and usually made by small businesses, and they are definitely HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTS. Before you read articles on topics like this, check the jeweler of the rings/jewelry first! Similar to TG, moissanite and other beautiful and flawless-colored gemstones fall under this category of diamonds. Cubic zirconia, on the other hand, DOES NOT fall under this category! Here’s a few pictures of the new pear ring that Tabitha sent me, and also one comparing the new versus the almost 2-year-old one to show proof of quality with EVERYDAY wear:

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The first picture was taken when it was straight out of the box. The second picture is comparing my almost 2-year-old ring (bottom) versus the brand new ring (top.) The only difference is that my older one needs to be buffed because I recently wore it to work and the gym (* this photo was also taken before my weekly cleaning. Like any other diamond, it needs to be kept up with.) THAT IS IT! Just like a blood diamond, since your engagement ring IS worn daily, it will DOES need to be cleaned. This is not abnormal wear! Unlike cubic zirconia, man-made/lab-made/handmade/conflict-free diamonds do not yellow or cloud within years of constant wear. The sparkle is still the same and I do clean it at home weekly, but I like to send it to get professionally cleaned every year. Reference to the photo I posted earlier with the hydrangeas about how shiny and clear my diamond is today! Click here to shop for your dream ring.

Here is a short video un-boxing the ring! This shows the shine without filter and in daylight:

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN TIGER GEMSTONESplease feel free to use this discount code courtesy of the wonderful ladies of TG: drinkpositivitea. This will give you 15% off of ANY order! I have been a fan of Tabitha for years now, and I am so happy to help others find their dream rings at an affordable price, too!

Keep smiling. Yes, you got this. 💛  ALISSA + JORDAN 🌻

I Let Myself Fail & That’s Okay: A Summary of Mental Health

This post is a reminder to all of you who have been told you are not allowed to give up.

You are allowed to give up. You are allowed to let go. Do not continue to force something just to finish, and especially do not do this in fear of someone’s judgement in you giving up.

Giving up because of laziness is NOT parallel to giving up because you are UNHAPPY.

Genuine unhappiness is not something to “blow off.” It’s not just a phase; unfortunately, if you continue doing whatever it is causing this unhappiness, you will just dig yourself into a deeper hole.

Newsflash: everything can be tried and tried again. And if it can’t, it is not meant for you.

I let myself fail a class, and no, I do not regret it.

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I let myself “give up,” for the semester, on one subject. And no, I am not in a rush nor do I care about the grade. My main focus is my mental health, and it was being destroyed by this schedule and classwork. I let myself give up as a stepping stone towards my own happiness. I let myself give up out of my own stability and mental state, not out of laziness. There is a difference. Giving up because of your mental state is not the same as giving up because you’re lazy. Know that. // One thing I did TOTALLY wrong my first semester of college was to let it affect me to the point of MAJOR depression. I’m talking MONTHS and MONTHS of such a deep unhappiness that I had to give it up altogether. Because of this, I learned the hard way that college is NOT YOUR ENTIRE LIFE! DO NOT LET IT BECOME THAT WAY. //

Yes, I do vow to try again. Yes, it does pain me to know I am ruining my 4.0. But, the amount of emotional stress I was under pained me a whole lot more.

It is so vital to your mental health to listen to your cues. Why are you unhappy? What’s changed, what’s not changing?

There’s a few things you need to know about life:

  1. Everyone will want you to become a handful of certain things. A doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a police officer, or someone who works a 9-5 at a desk job.
  2. One of these things may pertain to you. You may aspire to become one. Maybe for the career, maybe for the money. None might be for you, too. And note that it’s 100% OKAY if none do.

Just because you are NOT becoming one of these things, or just because you are happy with what you’re doing, does NOT mean you will not be successful. I do not aspire to be any one of these things. I adore my job. I work so damn hard at my job. I get compliments and references. I applied for a promotion and already have an interview. I want to level myself up in my position now, and although I am attending school at the same time, it does not mean it will change my view on my career choices. And, guess what? You love what you do? Good. Continue doing it. Build a lifestyle out of it. Save. Buy. Sell. Create. DO WHATEVER IT IS YOU HAVE TO DO TO SATISFY YOUR CALLING. We do not have all the same calling. Stop following someone else’s journey and trying to make it yours. That is something you will undeniably fail at. If it’s not you, it’s not your journey.

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It’s SO okay to allow yourself to fail. In my situation, I allowed myself to fail because of the eternal stress brewing. I work full-time in an autistic classroom, then come home and teach myself a class and do homework all night. It’s a lot of work, and when you can’t get yourself to understand something after two weeks, it’s time to ask for help! But, when I personally went for help, it was useless. And at that point, it set me off because I waited for help, went for help, and got no help. On top of this, I’m already having a very challenging school year so I’m constantly exhausted. I have straight A’s in my other three classes, and they’re SUPER easy for me, but this one class caused me so much emotional stress that I never felt myself. I felt like a robot with no time for me or my loved ones. It had to be stopped; until my schedule gets easier, at least. Most people have the luxury to not have to work full-time (especially at a laborious job) whilst going to college full-time, and I am totally jealous of those who don’t have the schedule I have. At the same time, though, I would not change my lifestyle for the world. I am doing what I love, aside my love, and building my own opportunity each day. I am not rushing my present for my future, because in reality, your future is based off of your today. Don’t waste your today waiting on a tomorrow.

I’ve truly noticed that, in all of our lives, we spend so much time just COMPLAINING. Instead of fixing an issue, or allowing ourselves to fail for once, we sit and complain. We, basically, just sit and waste time.

We also spend loads of hours comparing.. waiting.. wishing. I’ve recognized more people rushing to finish than worrying about the process or journey at all. I’ve noticed friends and classmates lose their passions and their spontaneity. There’s no more balance, because our generation just wants to rush and have money.

Well, you know what? I let myself fail, and that’s okay. Mental illness is NO joke. If you are rushing because you want money in your pocket, all in all, that’s your personal decision. If you are conscious about your mental health and you are allowing yourself to give up, not because of laziness, but for well-being; I solute you.

Listen: life is what YOU make it. It will turn out as good or as bad as you want it. Personally, Jordan and I have a set plan to move down south when we decide to get our first house. We both have aspirations. We both have goals. But, we are NOT rushing. We have been through too many hardships as individuals and as a couple to rush to the finish line any longer. You MUST have a balance. A balance of goal-setting vs. goal-obsessing. Our balance entails us working hard, but enjoying even harder. Our balance entails us to not obsess over our goals, but to quietly work toward them and build up from the ground. We do not aspire to be millionaires with an 8-bedroom house. Our plan is a lot different than most peoples’, and that’s our reality to worry about. :)

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[ALL images from Pinterest]

“I know that happiness is stability, but stability is NOT a desk job. [And] I refuse to sacrifice my aspirations for an income and security.”

Keep smiling. You got this. 💛  A + J 🌻

A Very DIY November Wedding!

As most of you know, Jordan and I are getting married next fall; November 11, 2017. When we first got engaged, we had over 1,100 days on our countdown… We are, currently, at the 409-day mark! That’s crazy. Time is flying extremely fast, which is why we are getting things done as early as possible. I’m sick of hearing, “you’re doing this too far in advance!” .. Time truly is F L Y I N G, y’all! When we purchased our first “big” wedding thing, we had roughly 600+ days left. Since then, we’ve gotten approx. a quarter of the stuff we need + paid our photographer a down-payment. If we waited to buy all of this stuff all at once, we’d be INSANELY stressed! So.. My advice? Do it as soon as possible, and stop listening to “The Knot” and “Wedding Wire” and their wedding countdown guides! My “The Knot” app told me not to buy my dress until next March. If I didn’t go this past May, I would’ve never found my dream dress. It was the last in stock and last to be made, only one size larger than my dress size AND we got it nearly 75% off. Yeah.. So.. Do your wedding planning at YOUR pace! Not at a website’s suggestion, not another person’s suggestion. Take it day by day. It’s, truly, never too early! [The same app also told me not to even look for photographers or DJs until January. My photographer was almost booked, 14 months in advance! His rate is absolutely incredible for what he provides, too!]

Okay, enough ranting! Onto the wedding updates!

On Instagram, you can find our engagement and bridal/wedding posts under the tag #LifeIsBeautifulWithTheJacques. I won’t go into detail of every single thing, due to the reason it’s already all over the Internet, but I will explain a few new updates with some bits of advice. :) // First up: color scheme! //

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Yes, it’s a little less traditional, but our wedding is very colorful and I couldn’t adore how it’s coming together any more! We love fall, and we love the color blue, so incorporating both really is turning out beautifully. Although my dream was an outdoor wedding, my parents and my fiancee’s parents are not super wealthy and we are not trying to make anyone broke or stressed out. I’d rather have quality stuff by next year than to have to wait years and years for an obscenely priced wedding! And, unfortunately, outdoor weddings can rank incredibly expensive. [In New Jersey, that is! I still love the look of them, don’t get me wrong! Our original plan was to rent out a VERY small sliver of a park in October. All it included was a small area of land and an area, fenced in, to sit. It was $5,000 minimum just to rent for 4 hours + no alcohol allowed! Outdoor weddings also get scary with the weather.. I would probably go insane having to watch the weather all week! Lol!] So, a DIY rustic wedding at a beautiful church is how it’s going. :)

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In the beginning of the church, we are hanging this sign [without the watermark] on the last pew. In a rustic frame, tied in a knot with a burlap ribbon, it’ll be the first thing you read as you come in! Well, next to our DIY pallet that reads, “pick a seat, not a side. Either way, it’s for a bride!” [Pictures to come.] 😀 We are keeping the church itself pretty basic, since the floors are red and the stained glass brings in so much color. Aside from lining the aisle with leaves and the pews with sunflowers and vines, most of the church doesn’t need too many additives!

A few Pinterest DIY ideas that are really catching my attention..

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  1. Fake leaves lining the church aisle! We bought a ton of multi-color [red, yellow, orange, green, etc.] and multi-textured fake leaves to line our aisle. For added color, and to bring in our light blue, I also added handfuls of light blue petals. We lined a our living room with them to see how they looked, and it came out perfectly!
  2. Pizza bar! Aforementioned, we aren’t having a traditional wedding. That also includes the foods! I, personally, don’t like going to weddings and HAVING to eat a plate or two of a “fancy” food. When I’m at a party, I like to eat fun foods. I’m not much of a fancy food eater regardless, even when we go on dates, but I’m especially picky with wedding foods. Pizza is the happy medium for everyone, anyway! With every discussion we’ve had about all varieties of foods, every single person in our families’ love the idea of a specialty pizza bar from our favorite pizza restaurant. It’s also a food that literally every single person we know likes, plus it’s super easy to provide enough of! [With lighter foods, like antipasto and plain Italian salad, as a side.]
  3. “In Loving Memory” table! Using a small circular table, we will be recreating this beautiful idea; specifically for my grandparents and Jordan’s grandfather. They have the BEST seat in the house, why wouldn’t we give them a little spot? :) I’m hoping we find a spot in the church itself for it!
  4. “Falling In Love” dessert bar! I bought a rustic “Falling In Love” sign recently, and we are slowly figuring out where this little bar is going. I just adore it too much to not do it! We’re having a local bakery [which was actually on “Cake Wars” on the Food Network!] make our cake, and then another bakery make a variety of cookies and what not. I, for one, love my plethora of desserts.. So, I really love this idea!

Taking a look at my Pinterest, you can pretty much piece together small increments of our wedding. I really like putting our own personal touches on everything, so we won’t be buying too much decor in comparison to creating it ourselves!

Lastly, let’s be honest here; wedding planning can definitely suck. Almost 80% of the time, especially when it’s a wedding that’s within 12-14 months. I have never seen anyone enjoy planning their own wedding, because it surely gets extremely irritating and frustrating.. Especially when it comes to putting down deposits! Although there are SO many days we spend wanting to drop it all and just elope, we are definitely trying our hardest to take it day by day, buying things along the way. The longer we wait, the seemingly more aggravating and stressful it all gets. Like I previously mentioned, there’s never a “too early” when it comes to planning a wedding. The earlier, the better!

Keep smiling. You got this. 💛 ☕, Alissa Ellen + Jordan Hunter 🌻✨

Why Do You Need It All Figured Out?

As someone who worries 24/7, I know firsthand that the second I hit my 20’s, I felt lost.

I felt like I needed to lay my future out on a platter to brag to the world that I, Alissa, had it all figured out.

Well, I don’t.

I am 20 years old. I will be 21 in less than a month, and I just started college back up this past January.

I will not be graduating with my class, I will be graduating with the students who were freshmen when I was a senior.

I will not promise to finish even by 2020, for I am not in a rush anymore..

I will not be moving out the day I get married, or going on a super-far-away-on-a-deserted-island-in-the-middle-of-the-Caribbean honeymoon either….

I will not be having a family, a career, a life plan and complete financial stability come the start of my marriage..

I will, though, be living my life the way I choose to, this entire road along. Stop telling me I am wrong for doing so.

Life is VERY tough. I am 20 years old living in a generation where everyone around me is set on graduating, having a career set in stone and complete financial stability by the time I am only a sophomore in college. If I choose to continue to get my bachelor’s in physical education, that is my choice. If I choose to take another break after my completed associates in general education, that is my choice. These choices will effect me as a person, maybe, but will most definitely be based off my happiness first and foremost.

No, my plan is not to move out when I am married. My fiancee and I share a two-story house with my family. We have our own loft minus a bathroom and a stove. I am completely content, happy, living and healthy in this location, and I do not plan on wasting all of my money on paying full rent elsewhere. Not in the state we live in now, that is.

My fiancee and I plan on finishing school together, hopefully, as we both have current passions to work for. Although mine changes with the wind, if I choose to finish with my original plan, so be it. If she chooses to finish, or to quit, so be it. These are our choices that will be altering ONLY OUR LIVES. It does not matter to anyone else, for it does not effect them.

My ULTIMATE life goal is just to help people. Whether that be by continuing to be a self-contained Autistic paraprofessional, or by being a general physical education teacher, or whatever it my be. By the time we are 30, I want to be mortgaging a small home in Knoxville, Tennessee. I want 1-2 kids, a big dog, and our cat now. And I want her.

Do you see where I wrote what career I want by 30? No? Well, that’s because I truthfully do not care what age I get my degree, or don’t.

My goal is not money. My goal is continuous stability. My goal is not a BMW or any type of sports car, for they are beautiful — but I have learned the issues and money that come with owning one. My goal is to have one truck, one car, a family and a place we love to live. If I live for the money, I waste too much of my life working for it. Then I find myself with money and no time to spend it.

Right now, my advice is to stop thinking that you need life figured out. If you want to be living at home until your 30 just so you have guaranteed financial and life stability, that is GREAT for you. If you want to move out at 19 tomorrow because you have the passion to, GOOD FOR YOU. Either decision should not have to be explained to anyone.

You are living in a time where living your life to the fullest should be at the top of your list.

If you find yourself worrying so much about not having life figured out right now, remember this:

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Listen: being in your 20’s is not a time to have life figured out. It’s a time to DISCOVER life. To travel, experience, learn, love. It’s your last decade of a lot of things; stop trying to figure it all out. Being in your 20’s is a time for happiness, and discovery. If everyone had life figured out by 23, life would seem a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it?

So, stop trying to rush. Focus on you; on discovering you, on becoming the absolute greatest you that you can be.

I’ve seen more people change their careers and life decisions by their 30’s/40’s than you’d ever think! It’s not super common to stay stagnant on a perfect life-track forever. What makes you happy today may not be your reality in a year. Accept that. When you’re in your 20’s, you are supposed to be living for you and for what is going to make you shine as an individual. Remember that. Put on your favorite song, a comfortable outfit, make your favorite tea, and smile on.

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Keep smiling. You got this. 💛 ☕, Alissa Ellen + Jordan Hunter 🌻✨

Without Struggle, Where’s the Progress?

I get a handful of these questions often; “how many days are you going to school??” “Full-time, which entails four classes, and all after work. Online college.” “Full-time? How do you do it with this job?! You’re amazing, that’s amazing!” etc….

The truth is, this does not make me “amazing.” This just proves that changing from one normality to the next is completely possible. This makes me willing and motivated. The absolute hardest part of doing this was changing my normal routine to fit this new lifestyle. And, you know what? Every now and then, you really need to change your normal — this way, there is no “normal” after-all.

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No, having a full-time job and full-time college together is not ideal. Especially not at 20 years old! It does take quite a lot of time, but the thing is… it’s time worth using. I make time. It’s definitely not my favorite choice, but damn – if I didn’t prove myself wrong before, I did now! I didn’t think it was possible, but it totally is. I am now only five Mondays away from the end of this semester, with straight A’s and a ton of compliments from professors — all for the first time! Doing this also proves that excuses are not valid. Someone dying, an accident, sickness, etc. are not “excuses,” by the way! An excuse is you make up a ridiculous or random reason out of laziness/an unmotivated mindset. Unless you are en-route to a doctorate degree, I will vouch that there’s always time to “grind,” so to say!

I started online college [after a year and a half hiatus from college] on January 25, 2016. I take English, Algebra, Western Civilization to 1650 and General Psychology. I adore my English and Psychology classes, as they are mainly writing papers and opinions out and I love doing both. Because I am finally in classes I enjoy, on my own time [God BLESS online school!], I get it done voluntarily. Not because I “have to”, but because I love them, and because I want to. College is voluntary, and because of that, you really need to find something you love and take it as much as possible. Otherwise, it’s a chore. You never want it to be a chore. I also learned so much experiencing the actual “teaching/paraprofessional” life since 2014 that I don’t even need to read my Psychology book a good portion of the time. I know it all by experience, and this also proves that you need to do things on YOUR time. If I never quit college in December 2013, I would’ve never experienced this job. It’s all happening for a reason. Listen to YOU. YOU are important.

In light of this constant question I get, I have a few tips to share on how I do what I do. How I balance work [in a self-contained autistic classroom], college, relationships, and health/fitness.

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  1. PLAN. This is obvious, but buy a planner if you have to [which REALLY does benefit you, especially when they’re roomy!] Make time for you, your loved ones, your friends, and etc. Plan a movie night once a week, plan a bath every night, just plan something into that tight schedule. It’s possible until you make it impossible. I see people in college complaining they have no time, although they do not work while there — and I know that it feels that way, but you must make that time. It will not make itself.
  2. Try to finish things completely before they are due. I have a week to complete all of my classwork, but that also entails four classes — a good 2-3 quizzes, 2-3 papers, 3 discussions, over 100 pages of reading and more due within 6-7 days. Sometimes essays and sometimes multiple-chapter tests, as well. Again, it’s not ideal, but there is always time. I make time at work on my breaks to study/take notes/watch videos, and I take tests at work for an hour. When babysitting, I make time every few hours. I get it done, on my own, with my own brain. I also utilize the updated Microsoft that my job has [considering it’s a school] and write papers there, as well. If you don’t have updated Microsoft or Adobe, do not hesitate to utilize the library, or even your job.
  3. Know this first: success follows happiness. Happiness does not follow success. Actually, happiness IS a form of success. Remember this as you are writing papers on papers and preparing for finals and tests. If you are not happy, you have to take a step forward to change that. Life doesn’t just alter itself; you have to put forth the energy. Your mental health gets you further than a degree will, absolutely any day of the year. If you’re happier in retail, stay in retail. I have a friend who’s a manager for two years now [which gets you GOOD money and good benefits], and LOVES it. She’s not in college, nor was she ever, but she loves her job. Her happiness is not mine or your business. Her success is no one’s judgement.
  4. Be smart in those 24 hours you are given each day. I’m serious. Stay smart and stay motivated. Make TIME to study, make time to write papers and notes, make time for college. Do not procrastinate just because — you are just wasting more of life doing something that could’ve been done. Spend xxxx amount of hours per week on school, the same amount on work, then the sum of the rest on regular life. Learn now that life is not easy, and things aren’t going to be forever handed to you. I work 9-3:30 Monday through Friday, and I plan to do schoolwork Monday through Thursday, giving myself the weekend for freedom. I work with a severely autistic boy on breaks, making it a 9-10 hour shift, and I still make time for college in-between. It’s possible if you’re willing. If I want to do something M-Th, I do extra one day, or extra on the weekends. Yep. It’s about 15 weeks each semester, which is very bearable. That’s 30 weeks of the year and plenty of breaks. Don’t rush college and make your entire 20-somethings focused on just that. Life needs to be lived, and especially while young. Come the future, when I’m into more teaching-type courses, I’m sure it won’t be as simple. But that’s okay, too. It’s not a full 52 weeks, and there’s no progress without this struggle. Since starting school, life has progressed for me. We have hung with more friends, planned & bought lots for our wedding, been to more and more new movies, gone on plenty of dates, celebrated life, and 5-6 days a week I make time to de-stress at the gym. Listen: life is too short. Do not waste it with procrastination. Do what you have to do now, so you have time to do what you want to do later.
  5. Time management. Yes — time management is everything. For me, this means to find time during my lunch break and after school before I pick up my fiance from work. This gives me an hour and 35 minutes to get things done. I spend 30 minutes reading and writing notes and the hour doing actual work and research. This helps SO MUCH. I’m less exhausted and it’s done on less of “my” time. If I need a nap, I now have time for one.
  6. Motivation. Find a class that YOU like. Even if it’s not towards your degree — just take it. You can never learn or earn too much. Take time to enjoy that class. Never claim that “there’s no class for you.” I thought this way for YEARS, and then I took a newer English and Psychology class. I fell in love with writing again, which makes life a whole lot easier during my busy week. I despise the other two classes, but I need them for my degree, so they must get done. There’s the balance. The opposite two, I love! They’re easy for me. Plus, my first time around, my professors were the least personable besides ONE of them. My professors now are extremely lovely. So, simply find professors that fit to you and do NOT feel obligated to stay in a class with a rude teacher or extremely uncaring professor! I had this my first time around, and then I eventually took the step to do what’s best for me. I left, and I am so glad I did.
  7. Treat yourself. Plan your favorite dinner for during the week after your least-liked class. Go read #1 again, over and over. It’s you vs you, always and forever. You are all you’re gonna have in every single breath and moment. Do not defeat this part of you because of something like school or work. We all have the same 24 hours, but we all spend it differently. 7 billion people spent today doing something different, and if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

Life is not a sum of school and work, but a sum of little moments. It’s a balance of wants and needs. Remember: your 20’s are your learning years, not your “let me work until I’m so worn-out that I may die” years. I am not doing this to “complete” me, but to challenge me. To do what last year’s me said I couldn’t. I am not working so much because money is my everything, but because I love my jobs and I love earning. These are not the years you want to waste miserably, seriously. These are the last of your true youth, and a decade of truth seeking, and pure happiness. No, you do not need it all figured out by 30. Not by 40, either. Plenty of people change lives and careers by 40, even 50, years old. Just remember: these are YOUR years. Find things you like to do, and again, make time for them. No more crying. No more wasting. No matter what you’re given, use it. Yes, you got this. Get up out of that zone, and make yourself uncomfortable. Life’s waiting, and it knows you’re possible.

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{Mantra Band on Instagram}

Keep smiling ♥ ☕, Alissa Ellen + Jordan Hunter

Year In Review: the Life-Changing 2015

This year was the equivalent of a roller-coaster. Seriously.

January was spent very much bored and sad indoors because of consistent snowfall. February was quite hard, with lots of money spent and lots of knowledge learned. March, April and May felt like a balloon, constantly inflating and deflating… June, July and August were awesome and sunny! September was relaxing, but much-needed. October, November and December were full of experiences. Here’s our year in review; our most favorite adventures and our greatest learning moments. Our first -full- year together as a couple, and our most life-changing year to date! [100+ pictures below- and we are totally not sorry. Lots of scrolling going to be happening, but the smiles are well worth it! 😉 Promise!]

January

This was the first full month in our bigger room and new house with my family. My family and I hadn’t moved since 1997 when we moved here to NJ, so it was quite the change. Jordan and I had a room that felt like an apartment because we didn’t have enough stuff to even fill it until mid-year! It was also our first month full of full-on bills… Rent, lots of car issues [$400-600 worth. Ugh!], gym membership, and other little in-between things. We also got a little blizzard later in the month, and exploring it was one of my favorite spontaneous little “adventures” we ever have done!

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February

February wasn’t anywhere near easy. One of our hardest months to date! Though we were looking forward to this month the most because of our one-year anniversary on February 14…

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The week after was quite the ride. Our car [with brand new tires and spark plugs! Read above about how much we spent just that month…] got flooded. Our mechanic forgot to close something and we went through a puddle at 7 am, and flooded. Completely. Nothing worked besides the engine and sometimes the locks or doors! This week was simply awful, but we learned SO much. So so much, and I am incredibly grateful of it all. We were left car-less for a few days, and then witnessed our first ever car buying moment! We ended up with our beautiful 2014 Versa Note with extremely low-mileage and energy efficient tires. Good left, and better came! Tears were shed for days, but man, it was worth the hardship. [Keep in mind we only had one other car at the house, with 4 adults. So, that’s another factor in why this really sucked.] Since this day, we have explored nearly 17,000 miles… and those 17,000 miles are full of some of the most memorable, amazing moments! I wouldn’t change it for the world, and we have tons of more to drive! Oh, and another moment of this month: the same weekend our car blew, our bed broke, too… So, we bought our first bed together and later on in the year, our first expensive [but the most amazing] mattress. #AdultThings

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March

March was pretty great. The snow started lightening up, the weather started getting a bit warmer, and our smiles brighter. We got our tax returns, and Jordan got the most she’s made to date! We got a lot done and thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of spring. We started hiking again, too!

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April

Though it rained a lot, come April we hiked almost everyday of most weeks. It was so lovely to be outside in the sunshine again! We picnic-ed and enjoyed the weather a whole lot. Also, we celebrated our second Easter together!

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May

We visited my brother at Fairleigh Dickinson University and went to Smash Burger for the first time ever. We also hiked some new and old places, and then Jordan’s 21st birthday came on May 21, 2015! I treated her to a day in New York City after she opened all of her presents, and we witnessed Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum for the first time ever! [Man, I was SO happy I could do all of this for her.] Our first taxi rides together, our first full day in NYC together, our first Central Park walks and our first time at the best pizza restaurant ever- John’s Pizzeria, which was built inside an old beautiful church! Her birthday was amazing, and we cannot wait to do it again.

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June

Come June came Pride Month. Our Pride date was June 7, and we went for the first time [together]! It was so great and felt amazing being surrounded by others in the same boat. We went with two friends and ended the day with the buffet and some hangs. It was very hot, but very worth it! And, ironically during Pride month…. LOVE WON! Love was legalized in ALL 50 states. How beautiful is that memory?!

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Also… WE ADOPTED OUR FIRST PET! Ringo, at the time named Boston [his brothers and sisters were all city names!], was only about 6 weeks when we adopted him. He went from shy and timid from months on end, to the most lovable and playful little guy ever. He’s now nearing 8 months old and going on his first Christmas! :)

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July

I had surprised Jordan with tickets to Warped Tour, because it’s one of her favorite concerts and we originally didn’t plan on going because of our money situation. So, we attended our first Warped Tour together… and possibly our last. It was 98 degrees, they had only one water station, and an insanely small and crowded venue. It was fun, but we didn’t catch much music! Mainly just Mod Sun and some of ATTILA.

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My 20th birthday came on July 23rd, and it was awesome! We spent the day at Grounds For Sculpture and continued going up to northern Jersey for dinner. We went to my favorite place- The Cheesecake Factory! This place was mind-blowing and we plan on going back come next spring and summer!

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Alsoooo, my 8th tattoo happened as a birthday gift from my parents! I can’t wait to get her background finished.

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August

August 9, we hiked our first mountain together. Two paths, over 5 miles uphill and rocky, 80 degree weather and 4 hours of moving. We recorded some of it on our YouTube channel and took a million pictures! My favorite place, to date. My favorite adventure.

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And we went to the zoo with a friend…

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September

September wasn’t very eventful. Though it was a time of good things because work kicked back up and we were busy with that, and because fall was slowly on its way [the weather was very on and off, but nights were dreamy!], we didn’t do much! A few main things: we went to our first art show together [Jordan’s grandma’s, at that!] and we saw Florida-Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett and Frankie Ballard a few days after! Most amazing concert of my life. All three performances were mind-blowingly amazing and SO personal!

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October

We celebrated our second Halloween together this October, and had made two amazing costumes! Princess Leia and Han Solo: our version….

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Oh, and R2D2, of course! :)

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Other things we did in October: pumpkin carved two awesome pumpkins…

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And went apple AND pumpkin picking…

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Explored around town and took lots of foliage pictures…

And just enjoyed the fall! Our favorite time of the year!

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With lots of breakfast dates…

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November

Aside from lots of Christmas shopping, November was spent doing a lot of relaxing… and not-so-much relaxing at the same time. I don’t recall much standing out to me, but we did explore another new town together! Red Bank, NJ //

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Jordan got me a new engagement ring [reasoning here], and even though I have to switch ONCE more [some flaws with color and sizing is all], we fell in love all over again!

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And we did find the most perfect house to move in to with my family again! This time for long-term [hopefully forever, until we head down south ourselves!] We got the entire bottom floor, so it’s basically a mother-daughter/two family home. Basically, we’re on our own, a good portion of the day. It’s lovely and 100% cheaper than moving into a 1 bedroom run-down apartment on our own in this town and state. We basically have just that! Oh, AND we celebrated our second Thanksgiving together as well this month :) Here’s our OOTDs:

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December

December has been, well, hectic to say the least. The week of the 1st-5th, we moved into our new place. We packed up and moved and unpacked all within 2-3 weeks! Now everything is a little calmer and at peace… We are at home again!

We went to a bunch of Christmas shows [residential ones]…

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Decorated a bunch of different Christmas trees… [top left: my classroom tree at work. top right: OUR tree! bottom left: my parent’s tree. bottom right: Grandma’s tree!]

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Met with Santa once again… and he was super nice! 😛

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Took lots and lots of Christmas pictures…

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Saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens [and I fell in love with the entire Star Wars series]…

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Celebrated our second Christmas Eve and Day together..

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And now, in just a few days, we celebrate another brand new year together!

Like I previously mentioned, this year was the absolute equivalent of what you could call a roller-coaster of a year. We have had lots of new “firsts”, and I absolutely love that! We saw many new faces, hung out with many old, adventured in so many beautiful spots, and hiked nearing hundreds of miles! We really tried to focus on spending lots of time outside when the sun was shining and we accomplished that quite well! We went on a bunch of dates and threw a whole bunch of date-night-ins. Whatever we needed, we got and did ourselves; from a car to our own fridge and food. If that’s not something to reflect on proudly, I don’t know what is! :) BUT, let’s specify- just because all of these good things happened, it does not mean we didn’t have bumps. We had weeks of bumpiness in our relationship and lives. We’re best friends- we’re going to fight. We’ve bickered like a married couple and learned even more about each other! Life’s a balance, as are relationships. Healthy balances. [Sometimes the energy might lean more towards good or bad for a week, but it always fixes itself.] The couples who claim they don’t fight are the ones I see not lasting, at least come this year.

Anywayssss! This year was full of thousands of pictures, like almost 3,000, and just so much love. So, you know what? Let’s forget our worries and cheers to 2015, and every single thing it has taught us about life and compromising for things we need and of course, for things we love.

Today, we get to happily to celebrate nearly two years of pure love, loud laughter, lots of tears and buckets of newness! I cannot wait for all the adventures and pictures that 2016 will bring our way! Here’s to food, family, friends and most importantly, love. Happy end of December- it’s almost NYE celebration time! :)

Keep smiling ♥ ☕, Alissa Ellen + Jordan Hunter

A 4 Year Recovery Path || Thanksgiving 2015

4 years ago… 5 in February… marks the date of when my “official” eating disorder started. Prior, I had awful eating patterns; years of crash diets, days of starvation and binge-eating galore. You name the diet, I probably tried it… starting at 12 years old.

Almost 5 years… almost 5 years worth of not really celebrating holidays. Of not enjoying the moment. Of 5 am gym times no matter how much sleep I got, because I had to burn off whatever I ate before. Of hating myself after eating a small slice of cake. Of not knowing what I was passionate about anymore. My first year was an entire year of 700 calories or less. Maybe 1000 here and there, who knows. I worked out anyway so it never added up. A year and 90 pounds- they all said I looked so good. A year and 90 pounds and days, birthdays, holidays… all regretfully gone.

My second year seemed, well, harder. I tried to ween “junk” food back in, and my body couldn’t handle it. I maintained between 120-130 lbs- extremely underweight for my height.

My third year was the same, but ended even worse. This time I said I was “recovered”, all because I ate pizza and other crap on binge-eating days that I labeled “cheat days.” I’d workout for over an hour 6 days a week and ate a disgusting amount, thinking it made me healthy. I wasn’t. I gained half of my weight back in less than a year, and if that’s not unhealthy- I’m not sure what is.

My fourth year [this year] has been completely… normal. I eat when I’m hungry. I eat WHAT I’m hungry for. I don’t force vegetables and fruits down my throat, but eat them when I want them. I discovered a love for celebrations again… and also the gym. A 30-40 minute workout a few days a week has kept me “on track”, and I found what I truthfully love to do, too! I’ve lost a decent amount of weight, but now I am completely healthy. I found my intuitive eater, and I LOVE myself. For the first time in my life. Ever. I have my period consistently… for the first time. Ever!!!!

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Now, just because my body is “recovered” does not mean my mind is. I am not. I won’t admit I am. But, I can guarantee a few tips to help anyone out there struggling get through the holidays, as peacefully as they can:

  1. Do not binge. Yes, eat whatever you want. Eat 2, 3, 4 plates! Go back at 11pm. Whatever floats your boat for that evening. But, don’t force-feed yourself these plates just because it’s “the only time you can have it.” Just because it’s a “cheat day.” Thanksgiving may be once a year, but within that year is also plenty of other celebrations! Birthdays, holidays, etc! Don’t think this is your last meal ever. Remember, you can eat a piece of cake tomorrow, too. Without gaining weight. You can eat some turkey on a bun tomorrow. You are completely in control of this. Save a plate for tomorrow if you want! Eat until you are FULL, and wait and see how you feel later. Eat mindfully, by not just shoveling food, but by remembering you CAN have more if you’re hungry again. It will still be there, happy for your taking!
  2. Do not eat and eat just because someone is telling you to. If you’re not hungry at 12, wait until 2. Then again at 3! Whatever YOUR BODY needs. This also goes for eating BEFORE big meals. Seriously- DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF BEFORE A BIG MEAL. I know it’s tempting, but this basically enhances your binge-eating at dinner. It’s doing so much more harm than good. Unless you are on a strict diet plan by a coach or doctor, you 100% should eat whenever you FEEL hungry. Not when the Internet tells you to, and not when it tells you to stop.
  3. Remember- one or two days have nothing on you. One or two days of free-eating, or even a week of, will NOT make you gain weight. It should make you feel PROUD. It should give you memories to look back on, and new foods to love. You may feel bloated and maybe even nauseous if you’re not used to the food- but this doesn’t mean you’ve gained absolutely ANY weight. It’s near impossible to gain even a pound that quickly!! On top of whatever you’re doing/how active you are, your body naturally burns calories by just breathing and sleeping. It’s very, very hard to gain weight that quickly, so if you think you have, it’s water or salt bloat. That’s all. Stop checking the scale to make yourself feel bad!!!!
  4. Don’t listen to everyone around you! If you need to leave a conversation, LEAVE. Don’t feed into the “omg I ate SOOOO much! I can’t wait to burn it at the gym tomorrow!” talk. 1. It’s very nearly impossible to burn that much at the gym in one night, and 2. this isn’t mindful talking. It’s just blabber to make themselves feel worse. Remember that. Mind over matter.
  5. Do not compare yourself. Whether your brother or cousin lost weight or gained it, it has absolutely zero to do with you. Your body is your body, and theirs is theirs. Comparison is the #1 thief of joy. Whatever people want to do, they can do. You control YOU, and YOU know what’s right and correct for you. A girl on bikini prep is going to have a strict diet. A bodybuilder is gonna have one, too. But, a person who is recovering from an eating disorder and is struggling at Thanksgiving dinner should NOT have to compare themselves to someone following a coach’s plan!!!! Trust me, the people on those diet plans are wishing they could eat free on these holidays. Don’t let another one go to waste. Control you.
  6. Stop looking at your stomach every two minutes to see if you looked bloated or “fat.” A cookie, hell- 10 cookies, will NOT make you “fat.” It’s not about eating different for two days- it takes a consistent amount of time to gain any type of weight. Your stomach may bloat from water and salt, but I promise it’s going to feel a lot better enjoying life peacefully with your loved ones than having your eating disorder win again.
  7. Be kind to yourself. This means no hate talk as you take each bite. It means putting whatever you want on your plate, whether that means one of everything or one of one thing. Do not feel obligated to shove your face because someone is telling you to. Eat whatever you want, and as much as you need to make yourself full. Be KIND to yourself. These holidays are all about gratitude and love after all- so don’t forget to include yourself in that bunch. Remember, again- you. control. YOU. Your eating disorder is no longer invited to your meals. Only your soul is. Enjoy every single moment! That’s living. Every single celebration, go for it. In 10, 20, 30 years, you don’t want to look back and have no memories. Just invite those friends over. Eat those cookies. Eat that pizza. Eat that watermelon. Eat that cheesy broccoli. Stay mindful, and stay proud of yourself. Life is a huge balance and it’s all in our heads. Be kind. The longer you wait to start, the harder it will turnout. Recovery is different for all, but only you can start yours now.

Now, onto our Thanksgiving!

I cooked everything from the turkey to the stuffing. My new favorite turkey recipe? About 1/2 cup of butter [a GIANT spoonful on the inside after being cleaned out and the rest painted all on the outer] – an eyed-out pouring of olive oil – seasoning [I used garlic salt and spinach + vegetable powder] – Frank’s Red Hot, poured all over. Put inside a Reynold’s oven bag. Baked at 350 for about 4 hours. It was the biggest hit, and usually my family barely eats any turkey! I was extremely impressed and super happy with the result :)

I also made stuffing, my grandma’s “famous” sweet potato pie…

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Here’s the “secret” recipe! Only masters can figure out the legitimate needed measurements, though! #LotsOfThis #LittleOfThat 😉

… and Jordan made her homemade mashed potatoes [5 lbs white potatoes, boiled – lots of unsweetened plain almond milk – spoonfuls of butter to taste – seasonings] and her mom brought the best homemade mac & cheese and some ham! For dessert we had homemade brownies [by me!], Italian cookies, R2D2 sugar cookies [thanks, Jordan!], two homemade cheesecakes, cupcakes and eclairs! So much food went and I wish I got a picture, but to be completely honest- I spent 90% of the day just simply enjoying food and life for once… and that meant no pictures were taken! Well, besides these, of course!…

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I got this dress for $9 at Target. $9! I’ve been eyeing it since summertime, when it was $30! I could never get myself to buy a dress for so much, so seeing it on the clearance rack was definitely a sign! I loved it and it was extremely comfortable [especially for a holiday full of good food!]

This girl is extremely thankful for love, life, food and possibility. Life may not always be in “my” favor, but it always has a purpose behind each situation.

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So, again, today, I am feeling soooo very thankful for another day of life. Living with an eating disorder, especially post-holiday, can really freakin’ suck. But, you know what? We are in control of us, so that’s exactly what we need to do… CONTROL US! The negative voices in your head aren’t you, but your ED. Don’t let it win. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself how you’d want your daughter or son to treat themselves. A day of enjoying life freely is worth a million times more than another day of giving up and giving in! The gym isn’t a punishment, but a way to keep your body HEALTHY. Not your weight, but your organs. Your heart. Your blood. Your mind. What you ate yesterday is in the past, and today is a new day full of new food and new challenges. Do not let yesterday guilt you. Focus elsewhere. Take your anger and frustration out on paper, or music. Or a walk. Or a talk with a loved one. These urges will all pass the longer you fight through them, and I promise you- if I got this, you got this, too. Be thankful for another chance. Take each day at a time. Recovery is a long, longggg road, but it’s the greatest one you will ever take.

Today is a gift, and that is why we refer to it as the present. Open it up with joy.

Keep smiling ♥ ☕, Alissa Ellen + Jordan Hunter

Opening Up: Social + Severe Anxiety

No, I was not diagnosed by a well-paid doctor with various doctorates. But because of this, it does not make my illnesses any lesser than yours. This is something I have to consistently remind myself, for my entire life I have ignored it for this reason.

Like most people, I suffer from anxiety. It’s normal. But, my entire life, I blamed it on being “shy.” My parents called me shy, my friends called me shy, and most teachers don’t even remember my name. They remember my little sister [14 years old/Spec. Ed.] and my older brother [22 years old], but not me- the middle child who was always so, well, shy.

I couldn’t raise my hand in class, in fear of being wrong. I didn’t go to parties or school dances… even prom was a chore, and I made sure we left early. Speaking to the teacher when need-be made me sweat. If sent to the principal’s office, even for a simple question, I started to cry. No matter what the issue. I couldn’t, and still cannot, fathom talking on the phone… or even texting someone new. Walking around the neighborhood was out of question, especially if alone. Walking in a dark doorway makes me feel like I am in a real-life horror story, and I have to run room-to-room. I cannot drive far distances or on the parkway, in fear of being in a car accident, especially caused by me. Spending money makes me feel like I am doing something wrong. Thinking of snow makes my heart beat extremely fast because I am terrified of driving on ice and inclement weather [even rain.] If I am alone in a store, I don’t look up from my phone for very long… because I fear eye contact and random conversation. Speaking of conversation– I cannot start conversation or end it. Most of the time I have to have someone with me when going up to the cashier since conversation is fearsome. Answering an email is nearly out-of-question, because I fear I don’t sound “professional enough”, or that I am annoying that person. Doing a task with a higher-up in front of me makes me feel faint. Every conversation I have, I walk away with it on my mind for hours… I worry about what I did wrong, said wrong, or could’ve said otherwise. For the entire day.

Hi, I’m Alissa… and I suffer from awful amounts of both social and regular anxieties.

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Social anxiety is walking and having someone new say “hi” to you, and having your head tell you to ignore it because it was for someone different. Then as you walk away, you realize you ignored them- someone simply being nice. And you freak out mentally. You looked like an idiot, and now you stay up all night worrying about what they think of you.

Social anxiety is being told to make a phone call for someone, and worrying so much about it that you literally have loss of words or breath. You forget who you’re calling, why you’re calling, and what you know. You make your accomplishments feel close to none, all because your mind has been numbed by the idea of making a phone call.

Regular anxiety is staying up for nearly 24 hours, constantly checking on your loved ones, in worry that they may pass away that night without you saying goodbye. Because this has happened before, it CAN and “will” happen again. It’s staying up day-to-day, year-to-year with months of consistent worrying about losing someone because you have lost someone before.

Regular anxiety is looking at your bank account, and seeing a number you don’t want to see. And you blow it up into this huge happening in your head- even though it’s enough, it’s not at the same time. Mixing OCD in with this anxiety makes numbers take over more than with just one or the other. So instead of having this great number, you have less. And you feel less. You feel awful, and you have constant fits of anxiety every time you go to check your bank account. You make others do it, in hopes it went up somehow… or in hopes you’re over it.

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Anxiety as a child is quite normal. You’re worried about getting up in front of the class, or you’re uneasy about doing something alone. But, when it gets more abnormal and needs to be recognized, is when this childhood anxiety turns out to be more than just a child-like mindset. It becomes a constant day-to-day worry feeling. Because something that happened a year ago may happen again, so you may need to be prepared and all of a sudden you’re not. So instead of handling it well, you have an attack. You cry, you scream into a pillow- you just need a chest to cry on. You need a hand to hold, a person to tell you it’s going to be okay soon.

Excessive worrying is NOT shyness. If your extreme worry for life and for yesterday and for tomorrow is persistent, for no significant reasoning and for 90% of the week, it will interfere with absolutely everything. If ignored, it will only grow tougher. Life is being IN and ABOUT the moment. Not worrying about the moment and having your heart beat and make you feel like you are nearing death because of a simple thing.

I was always the “mom” of my friends. I couldn’t do really anything “not allowed” or appropriate [so to say] as a kid throughout almost my entire teenage life, in fear of someone finding out and me being known as an “awful” kid. What if someone threatened me? Or tried to hurt me? Truthfully, I’d really do my best to ignore it.. because what if I say something wrong, right? I saw on TV once that someone got beat up, or shot, or fired, or suspended for that. Because what if that person got so offended they committed suicide, and it’d be all your fault? So instead of going to a guardian of some sort, or instead of sticking up for yourself, you bottle it up inside… in hopes this will one day blow over.

I am posting this in hopes that it will open up some people to that fact that yes, anxiety is common… but severe anxiety, especially social, IS an issue. And it SHOULD be taken care of. Even if not medically, you should ALWAYS have someone there for a helping hand. My fiance is my saving grace with my anxiety. Of course it gets frustrating- it always will. But, all I need is a day to cry it out. To build myself back up. To clear my head and my eyes. To be held and told I will make it out alive and happy once again. That’s all we need. We need someone to tell us that we are normal, and okay, and allowed to feel this way. And that just because we aren’t medicated doesn’t make us lesser. Or because we weren’t diagnosed in fear of doctors and talking to people doesn’t make us “not have it.” I lie awake or have weeks of broken sleep thanks to worrying about something happening tomorrow or even 6 months from now. The thought of making less money in the summertime makes my ache TODAY… And it’s only the third month of the NEW school year! Sometimes I have broken sleep because of money, and sometimes a project the next day. Sometimes work changes, sometimes season shifts, sometimes my inability to make decisions. I lie awake and in a cloud of paranoia about so many things, that I literally subconsciously make my reality awful, and I make situations worse. I cannot even watch horror shows or movies because I turn it all into a reality in my head and focus on it for weeks. It’s painful.

I will always be the “shy girl” that no one remembers. I literally work 5 days a week with teachers I had all throughout elementary school, and so far only TWO remember me, plus the nurse. They remember me because they also had my siblings, so the last name struck chords. After almost two years of being here! It took me three jobs to finally be comfortable with talking over a speaker or an ear piece. From never talking in class, to never taking pictures throughout my school career, I regretfully admit that it was and is all my mind’s awful decisions. I suffer from anxiety and day-to-day I hurt. I am not just “shy”, I am constantly, constantly worried. Constantly thinking. Everyday I build up a wall in hopes of becoming more aware and ready, rather than worried and paranoid. But what I know now that I didn’t know back then, is that life happens, and I am okay. It always ends up o k a y. It’s okay if getting out of bed makes you nervous for the day, but try to turn your nerves more into awareness. Be present and aware, over nervous and hidden. Always remember, though- you must breathe. Breathe out the negative energy and in the good vibrations. It’s okay if all you’ve done today is breathe, because even that can take your focus off of your pain for a while.

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[Images via Google]

Happy Sunday, all. Here’s to a beautiful new week! If anyone reads this and wants a post on how I cope with my severe social/regular anxieties, I will most definitely write one up on that, too.

Keep smiling ♥ ☕, Alissa Ellen + Jordan Hunter