Celebrating Love

Celebrating Love

urban whimsy photography

I’m a sucker for romantic couple’s pictures: the love, the laughter, the connection radiating out of the photo. When they pop up on my social media feeds, I get all the warm lovey feels.

In our society, we seem to save these professional couple’s photos for two occasions: engagements and weddings. It’s wonderful to document these two types of love celebrations. The dress, the ring, the heartbeat of the marriage = so wonderful, so valid, so beautiful.

But they are all symbols of what’s already going on behind closed doors. What about all the love celebrations that happen before “I Do,” after “I Do,” or instead of “I do”?

  • What about the fights you worked through?
  • What about the doubts you dealt with?
  • What about the hangups you let go of?
  • What about the hard work of figuring out how to be an individual in a relationship?
  • What about the hurts you forgave?
  • What about the times you apologized?
  • What about the messy work of navigating a brand new family and their ways?
  • What about the un-cute things you helped with when he/she was sick?
  • What about the monotony you kinda enjoyed together?
  • What about the the needing to brush your teeth but having sex anyway?

These are all worthy of love celebrations too. I believe in celebrating. It’s a core value of mine. Right up there with sisterhood and namaste and chocolate…

Love Photos

urban whimsy photography

When one of my dearest besties in the world (who happens to be an incredible photographer) offered to take photos of Kyle and I together – not because we got engaged or married, simply because we have partnered up in love – I knew it was perfect.

In tune with our peers (Only 27% of 20 to 36 year olds are married right now), Kyle and I are not following the well-worn traditional path of boy meets girl, boy marries girl.

We are happily blazing a new trail.

We are two individual unmarried people who just so happened to join forces for ultimate world domination joy and growth and friendship and intimacy and companionship and support.

We didn’t want to wait for an “approved” ceremony to photograph the love happening right now. These photos do not mark any life event in particular. We simply loved each other that day. And that alone was worth celebrating. After all, as the theologian Pat Benetar explains, “Love is a battlefield.”

 

urban whimsy photography

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urban whimsy photography

urban whimsy photography

Maybe we should start celebrating the pure bliss of love, the hard work of love – even the pain of love – before the “I Do” even happens AND after the “I Do” already happened AND even if the “I Do” doesn’t happen.

Hire the photographer, people. Get a cake. Buy a new dress. Go out a fancy date. Drink a little too much wine. Kiss for longer than 10 seconds. Throw a party.

Love alone is reason enough to celebrate.

I’m poppin’ that champagne top for Kyle and I today. Because our love is worth celebrating today. As it is. In it’s sometimes annoying, never perfect, always interesting, sweet glory. And I’m poppin’ it for you. Because no matter what your love looks like –  It’s worth celebrating just as it is. Love always is.

urban whimsy photography

 

Thank you Heather @ Urban Whimsy Photography for our amazing photos. Follow Heather’s work here: Urban Whimsy Photography Instagram and Urban Whimsy Photography Facebook.

A Change Of Plans: Summering

stoddard

My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, says this:

“to live in this world

you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

Is that not the most beautiful truth bomb you’ve ever read? Our original plan for Europe in 2016 is that mortal love right now.

As many of you know, we were planning on staying in Europe for 6 months before returning to the States for the holidays. Our plans have changed, and I wanted to update everyone close to us and also those who follow our journey.

Some health problems have popped up that need to be addressed with U.S. health insurance (nothing to be alarmed about). The cost of healthcare for non-citizens in Europe is extraordinary. We feel lucky that we have the privilege of health insurance in our home country, and we will be taking advantage of it this summer – starting tomorrow when we fly home.

(NO, all you eager minds trying to guess what’s wrong, I’m 100% not pregnant and do not plan on being pregnant. You’ll have to make up a much wilder story than that!)

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At first, we were understandably bummed that our plans changed. We love Europe. ADORE IT. But we know health comes first (always!).

Once the initial sting wore off, we realized the whole point to the way we live our nomadic lives is to be free, to let the wind blow us where it wants us to go. Simply because this situation is different from our plan does not make it any less of an opportunity for wild experiences to be had.

So instead of “going to New Hampshire to get medical attention” = boring story. We will be “summering in New England.” I mean, come on, that sounds hoity-toity and delicious, right? I’ve never used a season as a verb before!

We plan to take advantage of New Hampshire’s convenient location and spend time throughout New England and New York. We even plan on visiting good ol’ Canada (You know, I have a crush on Justin Trudeu).

We’re going to hike and camp and swim and kayak. I’m going to spend long afternoons reading on a porch. Summering. Meanwhile, we will have full access to health care we can afford.

We are still planning on coming back to Europe for an extended stay. No set dates yet. I guess we will just see when the wind blows us back over the Atlantic…

10 Things Worse Than Getting Fatter

10 things worse than getting fatter

I’m living in Italy right now. Nobody goes to Italy and thinks, “This is the perfect time to cash in on my New Year’s Resolution and lose 10 pounds.”

You eat in Italy.

You eat bread in all sorts of forms. Croissants, loaves, pasta, pastries, pizza. You eat cheese in sorts of forms. Melted. Sliced. Shaved. Gooey. You drink wine in one form: plenty.

I have never had a metabolism that allows me to eat all I want without gaining weight. I have never had washboard abs. Sure, I’ve never been highly overweight, but I have also never been without a little extra flesh – even at my leanest. (If you don’t believe me, know I am in control of every photo I put on social media.)

For many years, I equated shame with weight. If I lean over and my jeans created a crease where my belly flopped out a bit, that equaled unloveable. If my arm was close to my side and the flesh spread out a bit, that equaled unworthy.

Through practicing the art of self-love, self-care, and good health, I have managed to overcome these negative thought patterns… for the most part.

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Enter Italy. Italy is a gluten-free powerhouse with homemade and handmade GF pastas, breads, pastries, and deliciousness for my Celiac-y self. Everything tastes like an orgasm. I close my eyes and moan when the gluten-free bruschetta touches my taste buds, people. It’s food magic.

I eat in Italy, but I also walk and walk and walk, so I wasn’t concerned at first. Until one morning I woke up and realized, “I could get fatter in the two months here.” Then those shame gremlins (as Brené Brown calls them) started creeping up saying, “If you get fatter, you will be unloveable.”

You know what? That’s a load of shit.

things worse than getting fatter

I am in Italy. I am going to eat Italian food. Not just eat it – enjoy it. I’m over the idea that pleasures are inherently guilty and my worth as a woman is found in how well I can deny myself.

I’m gonna eat the gluten-free pizza with buffalo mozzarella and proscuitto. I’m having gelato for breakfast. You know why? There are worse things.

10 Things Worse Than Getting Fatter

1. Spending lots of money to live in Italy for 2 months, but choosing the side salad instead.

2. Allowing shame to dictate my whole entire freaking life.

3. Being grumpy because the hot man across from me (AKA The Boyfriend) is eating his 6th slice of Napoli pizza while I’m gnawing on some lettuce. (For what it’s worth, I ate the whole damn gluten-free handmade Napoli pizza myself. Except for one slice that I ate for breakfast the next morning.)

4. Letting the patriarchy determine what women should look like in order to be good enough, sexual, or successful.

5. War. War is definitely worse than getting fatter.

6. Wondering if my tummy is popping out instead of wondering how Michelangelo managed to carve David’s large… torso.

7. Not enjoying the taste of wine as it is supposed to be tasted, the Italian way: with an extra glass.

8. Getting small. And I don’t mean on the outside in pounds and fat. I mean small on the inside. Shrinking my soul into a concave wisp of unworthiness that believes I’m not strong or powerful enough to occupy space simply because I licked on a cone of gelato.

9. Being so self-involved that I think the citizens of this globe notice when I go up 4.2 pounds.

10. Missing out. On the wild, electric, mystical, transcendental pleasures of life. Missing out all all the joyous flavors life offers. Missing out on the wholeness of the human experience – including good food. Missing out on ENJOYING.

10 things worse than getting fatter

I’m not advocating obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. I’m not talking about binging or numbing through overeating. I believe in moderation, vegetables, and exercise. I want to be healthy, so I can live a long, interesting, and full life.

But.

I’m over worrying about whether or not I should pee before weighing myself. I’m actually over weighing myself.

I’m over drawing a connection between my carbohydrate intake and my lovability.

I’m over denying myself the pleasure of enjoying good food because heaven forbid I don’t adhere to the ideal weight number for 365 days x 70 years.

In case I didn’t say clearly enough that there are many things worse than getting fatter, allow Eat, Pray, Love to do it for you. This is my Italian motto:

Eat well, my friends, and love yourself.

Tay

10 Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

10 Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

About a year ago, I wrote a post on what it’s like to go through a divorce in your 20s. Honestly, I never in a million years thought many people would care much about it. I anticipated a few close friends would read it and that was it.

It is – by far – the most viewed post my blog has ever had and continues to be viewed many times every day.

Obviously, my story resonates with others. Divorce is a common experience, but that doesn’t make it any easier. People are desperate for two things: 1. Healing 2. To know they aren’t alone.

One way I fulfilled both of those desires was through books. As a bibliovore and English major, maybe I’m a bit biased to the written word, but I believe in the transformative power of sharing our stories and teaching our insights.

Each of these books helped me through my divorce, and I know they can help you with yours too (or your breakup – any time a love ends, pain is there). No matter the stage you are in – thinking about divorce, in the muck of it all, or post-divorce – it’s important to invest in yourself during this time.

10 Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

1. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

Hands down the best and most powerful book I read when going through my divorce. If I could afford to buy a copy and send it to every person who ever gets divorced, I would. But I can’t. So please buy it for yourself.

Pema Chodron is a buddhist monk. No matter your religious affiliation or lack thereof, it doesn’t matter. When Things Fall Apart goes way beyond religion and enters the land of, how she puts it, “heart advice.”

The lessons on grief, loss, and pain that I learned in this book changed my life. It’s beautifully and simply written. You will read the last page and feel grateful. Trust me on this one.

2. The Gifts of Imperfection

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

If you haven’t read Brené Brown’s work, do it now. Run, don’t walk! (Read all three in the order on this list). Brené is a shame researcher and offers easy to understand insights to her readers. While they aren’t specifically for dealing with divorce, they could not be more relatable to the subject!

In The Gifts of Imperfection, she really delves down deep into the important topics of worthiness, perfectionism, wholehearted living, and letting go of who you think you’re “supposed to be” in order to embrace who you are. She encourages us to cultivate courage, compassion, and connection.

This is foundational lessons for those who have just gone through an event like a divorce.

3. Daring Greatly

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

This is Brené Brown book #2, equally as impactful and important. In Daring Greatly, she enters the realm of uncertainy, risk, and emotional exposure (all the things you deal with during and after a divorce). She encourages to face those experiences head on with vulnerability and courage.

This book is about “stepping into the arena” and not allowing our fears to stop us from embracing our life wholeheartedly – even if that means we will have critics along the way. Let’s face it, who doesn’t find at least a critic or two when you’re getting a divorce?

4. Rising Strong

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

Brené Brown’s must-read #3 is sort of a cheat. This came out well after my divorce, but I wish I had read it during that time. It still taught me, years later, how to own my story and write my own ending.

When we are going through a divorce, we often have moments of feeling powerless. The spouse and his/her lawyers are writing our stories. We have fallen and we sometimes feel like we can’t get up. These are the issues Brené tackles in Rising Strong.

5. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

Wild is a memoir of a woman who went through a divorce, the loss of a beloved mother, and a drug addiction all at the same time. She reconnects with herself through a solo hiking trek on the Pacific Coast trail.

Cheryl Strayed is an insanely talented writer who weaves her story so beautifully that you can find yourself in the midst of her words. If you want to find inspirition in the story of a kickass, yet vulnerable woman, look no further.

(Also, watch the beautiful Wild movie with Reese Witherspoon.)

6. Codependent No More

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

I realize that not everybody who gets divorce is codependent, so this may not apply to everyone. It was a foundational book for me as a codependent. Codependent No More allowed me to realize the negative and unhealthy part I played in my relationship and helped me prevent going down that same road in my next relationship.

Talk about an eye-opener! Melody Beattie gets to the core of how to stop controlling others and start taking care of yourself in the complex world of codependency. I felt like I understood myself for the first time after reading this. It was extremely freeing.

There is also a helpful Codependent No More Workbook to go along with it.

7. Eat, Pray, Love

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

This book is like my bible. It changed my life more than once.

I originally read Eat, Pray, Love even before I was married. It opened my eyes to what it means to be yourself, the benefits of exploring the world, and the importance of sharing your story. If you’ve ever wondered why I am a writing traveler, thank Ms. Gilbert.

I re-read this after my divorce, and it brought me brand new insights. After all, this whole journey was sparked after Elizabeth Gilbert’s divorce. Reading her crying in the bathroom resonated with me deeply. I had a few of those bathroom cries myself.

8. A Thousand Mornings

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

Sometimes you just need a little beauty. That’s what Mary Oliver’s poetry is to me: sheer beauty. All of her poetry should be required reading, but this small collection in particular was balm to my wounded heart.

Just because they are beautiful does not mean there aren’t profound lessons tucked in between the words. There is plenty of wisdom for the recently divorced. I have read through each and every poem more times than I can count. Here its the first in the book:

I Go Down To The Shore

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.”

9. The Four Agreements

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

I try to re-read this book every two years. I need the reminder. The Four Agreements are simple:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

These four agreements become the guideposts for dealing with others and yourself. For a more in-depth description, I have an entire post dedicated to this incredible book and its concepts.

10. Yes Please

Books To Help You Through Your Divorce

One of the first things I did after getting divorced was start a new comedy series on Netflix. The idea was I’d have something funny to go to bed with each night as I was adjusting to being alone. My choice was Parks & Rec. Amy Poehler became my hero.

In her hilarious memoir, Yes Please, she offers beautiful advice for all women (all people, really), but she also discusses her divorce from Will Arnett with grace, insight, and humor. She also quotes Louis C.K. who says “Divorce is always good news because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.”

Remember to laugh through this time!


*Disclaimer: Some links are affiliate links. This means if you buy a product I suggest, I may receive a commission at no cost to you. As ALWAYS, I only recommend things I believe in or use myself. Nothing I am not crazy about will EVER be promoted on this blog.*

A Little Magic on a Sunday

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The first time I heard Maran Morris’ “My Church” pop up on a Spotify playlist, I knew she was my spirit animal:

I’ve cussed on a Sunday
I’ve cheated and I’ve lied
I’ve fallen down from grace
A few too many times
But I find holy redemption
When I put this car in drive
Roll the windows down and turn up the dial

Can I get a hallelujah
Can I get an amen
Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya
When I play the highway FM
I find my soul revival
Singing every single verse
Yeah I guess that’s my church

When Hank brings the sermon
And Cash leads the choir
It gets my cold coal heart burning
Hotter than a ring of fire
When this wonderful world gets heavy
And I need to find my escape
I just keep the wheels rolling, radio scrolling
Until my sins wash away

my church

When I first read Emily Dickinson’s “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church” for an assignment in a literature class, I knew she was the poet of my heart:

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I know many people find God and peace and love and freedom and joy within the walls of church on a Sunday. I would never want to diminish the positive experience they have. I’m genuinely happy for them.

But I find my Sunday magic elsewhere.

After I had slept in and ate breakfast in bed with my man, I took a little stroll in my Roman neighborhood on a Sunday late morning and discovered killer street musicians set up in the square next to a fountain.

That was church to me.

As you can see in the video, I’m sitting right outside the most beautiful neighborhood church building. Some people encounter God inside that church. I encountered God sitting right outside of it. With my short shorts and flip-flops. Listening to a man sing about gritty life.

There is just something about stepping away from the mundane and the problems and finding a spark of something beautiful and bigger than I am.

Here’s to all of us – getting up and searching for a bit of magic on a Sunday.

Wherever that may be.

Can I get a Hallelujah?


Did you manage to get a bit of your own magic this Sunday? Where did you find it? Outside in the flowers? On the couch with your kids? (At an actual church is a perfectly acceptable answer too!) Let me know below!