New Day Rising.

A little Foo Fighters quote for your Tuesday morning.
Last week was crazy. At work, we had a fundraiser, a presentation, grants and regular classes. So, as I wrote about on Friday, by the end of the week, I was just craving some alone time to work on quiet projects. And so this weekend, I did just that.

As I mentioned, I've been working with a friend on designing and making some invitations for her birthday brunch next month. It was the perfect little project for the weekend. I printed her invites, cut some envelope liners, printed addresses on the envelopes and put them all together. I love how they turned out and I cannot wait for her to send them out to friends and family.

Sunday morning, I woke up with the purging itch. Adrian and I have been thinking a lot lately that our apartment is just too small. And while there is no debating this this apartment is definitely small, I think it feels smaller because of the sheer amount of stuff we have and how we organize that stuff. Adrian and I both love things. He would have ten different collections of anything from shot glasses to hot wheels cars to helicopters to hats if I would let him. And I, well, I love shoes and bags and wallets and home decor and pretty paper.

So when I came across this one-minute video on Apartment Therapy, 
it was just what I needed to hear.

With the future always so uncertain for us, whether we'll live here or there, in a small apartment or a bigger home, Adrian and I seem to collect these items that are waiting for the next home. A set of drinking glasses for when Adrian finally gets a man cave. Boxes of craft supplies for when I get a craft room. Because I think, what if I can't find this wherever I live next? Or what if it's on clearance now and it's not then? Or what if they don't make them anymore? This is sounding frighteningly like Hoarders, no?

I realized, in keeping things for the unknown future, I'm sacrificing living space now. And I don't like that.

So I started tearing through this little home. Nothing was safe. I threw some things in boxes to donate, others in boxes for a yard sale and whatever couldn't be salvaged in the trash. I was ruthless. If it hadn't been used or worn in the past year, no matter how much I liked it, it was in one of those three piles.

We haven't finished yet so our home is in a state of upheaval, but with more time to work tonight and tomorrow night, I just can't wait to see the results. To live with less. To enjoy more. And to curate a sanctuary for my little family of two.

(If you're interested, I've been spending too much time on Pinterest, analyzing and pinning what I'm drawn to. Conclusion: bright colors and white. Check out my home board here.)

Say yes.

A quiet sunrise drive in Chicago.

I have so much to say and nothing is coming out right.

I am so looking forward to this weekend. I turned down a weekend away with friends to take some time for myself. To work on some projects quietly. To write. To take pictures. Without deadlines and be here nows. Without rush.

I've seen this change in me for a while. I used to be so carefree and social and had to be around others. All the time. Now I need quiet time to myself. I think it happened slowly over time and I think, for the most part, I'm really okay with it. But it's certainly different. And it leaves me wondering how much of change is just a natural consequence of growing older and having more responsibilities versus change caused by circumstance. I'm not sure which and maybe both. Regardless, I am loving quiet moments to work as I please where I hated them before.

So I'm trying to listen to that little voice in me that cries out when too many people are around and when too many questions are asked and when everything seems too much. That voice that says, take care of yourself, Emily. Be good to yourself.

I'm taking care of myself this weekend. Which for me means printing and cutting invitations I designed for a friend. And maybe throwing in some envelope liners because I like to. And then fixing up a promo video for work because I love figuring out new skills. And then drinking coffee and writing. All with some Pandora and sunlight.

Happy Friday, friends. Take care of yourselves this weekend and do something that makes your heart say yes.

Si se puede.

download this wallpaper here

For the first time in quite some time, I am thrilled for Monday. Given the emotional roller coaster that was last week, I am glad to be putting some distance between me and then. It was frightening to watch last Friday, as police combed a suburb of Boston that I had spent time in during college. And it was even more frightening knowing that so many of my friends were in lockdown. Add immigration reform to the mix and the difficulty of understanding an 844-page piece of legislation that even lawyers aren't totally sure on, and you have one crazy emotional week. I gave myself some time this weekend to just be sad and worried. But it's Monday and it's a new week and the sun is shining in Chicago. So I'm going to keep pressing forward, Dunkin' coffee in hand, of course.

In light of all of this, I created this iPhone wallpaper which is available for download here. Just a little reminder that we can do this. Si se puede, friends!

Simply click the link, download, email to yourself and set it as your wallpaper on your phone. Enjoy!

A mix of emotions.

Baby Emily at Boston College circa 2006. Sigh. (And yes, the doubled popped polo was a halloween costume.)

I don't have much to say today, due much to the conflicting emotions tossing around inside of me. Having gone to school in Boston and being from New England. the tragedy in Boston weighs heavy on my heart. Those first few moments when I heard what had happened left me scouring Facebook and sending texts to be sure that my friends still living in Boston were okay. In moments of crisis, I'm incredibly thankful to social media for the ability to quickly ascertain information. I set aside my phone, went back to teaching my afterschool kids because teaching never waits and then went home where I watched TV for as long as I could stand to. It's difficult to imagine that something like this could happen in a place that was once home and that will always hold a piece of my heart. I have plans to spend a few days back in Boston this summer and cannot wait to step foot back in the city that helped shaped so much of who I've become. I am proud of my years in Boston and am encouraged by the bright, strong and resilient spirit of Boston, and really all of New England. 

On the other end of the emotional spectrum is this bit of hope I feel over immigration reform. I know enough to know not to go running through the streets shouting, "It's coming! It's coming!" because it's coming is not inevitable. A proposed bill does not always a law become. So it is with cautious optimism that I approach these next few months of immigration arguments, debates, revisions, amendments, etc. But the very presence of optimism, even in the slightest amount, is itself encouraging. I hope for freedom, justice, compassion and love to prevail. 

If you are not currently following immigration news, I'd encourage you to do so. And if you're not sure how you feel about it all, ask questions. Get to know people. Hear their stories. Find out why this means so much to so many. This could be an absolute life changer for so many people I know and care about. (If you'd like to know more about my thoughts on immigration, you can find other writings by me hereherehere, and here.) For those of you in favor of extending compassion to our immigrant neighbors, please prepare yourselves to advocate for them. It will be a long fight, I am sure.

And one last note: as I sifted through Facebook status updates in search of any news on friends in Boston and there whereabouts, I could not help but feel slightly put off by the blog publicity and giveaways and what-have-yous that continued to accumulate in my feed. While we all may react differently to such events and while we are each entitled to live however we please, a bit of social media silence during these difficult times is always appreciated, particularly in cases where cell phone calls aren't possible. Compassion never goes unappreciated and contributes greatly to the sense of humanity of your blog/brand. 

I like to think of social media as an incredibly crowded auditorium in which each person is yelling their updates/tweets/etc. If you wouldn't yell "Come see me on such and such site" or "Get in your entry for this giveaway!"  in a crowded room while others are yelling "Has anyone heard from _____?? Is she okay?" then you might consider refraining from doing so on social media. Just my thoughts.

A most appropriate baby bag.

I'm sure you've all heard by now, but in case you haven't, my sister is pregnant and I could not be more excited about it! She's chosen to wait until the birth to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl and I just cannot wait to meet that tiny little niece or nephew. For the record, though, I'm convinced the baby is a boy.

Since I can't be buying anything for the baby yet, I wanted to buy something for my sister to celebrate. I came across this absolutely stunning baby bag at the Kate Spade outlet (for a phenomenal price, of course!) and I knew it'd be perfect for her. I mean, it does match her iPad case after all.

I joked with Erin that I was going to buy her a baby bag with a baby giraffe and alphabet blocks on it. I'm fairly certain my sister will never be that kind of mom. So this bag seems much more suitable for her.

I simply cannot wait to meet the little one whose belongings will fill this most perfect baby bag.

Blog Design: You Are My Color

I had put design work on hold for awhile as I tried to figure out how I could continue pursuing my love of design without sacrificing so much time with Adrian and friends. With a full-time job and a part-time job, blog design on top of my normal blogging became too much. I am glad to say that I think I have found some balance through designing blog elements rather than complete blog designs and installations. So yay!

When Jessica from You Are My Color e-mailed me, I jumped at the chance to work with her. She's a girl after my designing heart. She wanted clean and colorful, which is exactly what I love. Jessica also wanted to include some triangles, inspired by a dress she had recently bought for her daughter.

I am so happy with how this turned out. I just love how the little triangles resemble confetti. After sending over the header, about me and social media buttons, I gave Jessica a few little tips on how to pull the whole look together. She did a great job and I think we both walked away quite happy. I was able to design without stress and she has a beautiful blog that she loves. Win-win, no?

On an unrelated note, if you are of the praying and/or sending positive vibes, send them to Bree over at The Thing About Joy. You can read about what she went through yesterday. And then be sure to offer a prayer and/or a happy thought for her and her family.

Sunday drive.

Adrian had the weekend off. We spent Friday night with his family, celebrating his sister's birthday. Saturday, we slept in and he headed back to his sister's to spend time with his parents and I went out to lunch with an old roommate. Saturday evening we went to dinner and watched March Madness with another old roommate and her husband. We're quite close with both of them and are soaking up as much time with them as we can before their cross-country move in June. Sunday morning, we slept in and then headed out to Bang Bang Pie Shop, this incredibly wonderful little pie shop in Logan Square here in Chicago. Since we were on the Northside, we decided to scout out some macarons and dried lavender (for lavender mojitos, of course!).  This then led to a quick trip into CB2 for some cocktail glasses and some added goodies (hanging terrariums!).

We drove back home, mambo music on Pandora, windows down. It felt like that classic Sunday drive. Arm around your best gal, without a care in the world.

I recognize that this all sounds so commonplace. With Adrian's schedule, we have a full day off together once every six weeks. Sometimes we pack that day, or if we're lucky weekend, full of adventure. Trips out of town, etc. But more often, we jus crave some normalcy. A chance to grab lunch together. To sit down and have coffee. To discover new parts of the city. To just drive around with the sun shining. To do all those normal things that we just don't get to do very often.

I will say, it wasn't all sunshine and macarons. There were some grumpy moments in there. I am convinced that finding parking in the city brings out the very worst in most everyone. But even in those grumpy moments, we're together. On a weekend. In the sun. So how awful can it be, eh?

So if you're looking for that good old Sunday drive feeling too, type in "Perez Prado" into Pandora, roll the windows down and throw your arm around someone.  Smiles, light hearts to follow. 

Anxiety and a quietly content heart.

A few years back, I had an incredibly stressful year. It wasn't until about six months later that I realized how stressed I had been. I'd wake up each morning, do what needed to be done, always focused on the end goal. I continued because I felt I had to. It was a difficult time and I remember recognizing it as such but somehow I missed entirely the signals my body was sending me. Repeated sickness. Exhaustion. Little cries for help from my body. For me,  often it's not until the stress disappears that I realize just how much it weighed on me.

This last week in Florida was similarly eye opening. For one week, I didn't have any of my normal worries. I woke up each morning, wondering what was on the agenda and rarely thinking beyond the events of the day. I comfortably passed the days with my parents and slept easily at night without the normal barrage of threateningly anxious thoughts.

I didn't realize how stressed I had been until I remembered how it felt to be calm.

So returning, then, was difficult. I am accustomed to the normal post-vacation blues, when going back to work and no longer having free time to do as I please seems unbearable. But this was different, harsher. And I could feel it building in me.

I heard an interview on the radio the other day with the well-known blogger The Bloggess. She's quite popular for her humorous writings and was on the radio to promote her new book. She has been very upfront throughout her blogging about her struggles with a severe anxiety disorder and she devoted a chapter in her book to just that. During the interview, she commented that one of the most difficult parts to write was about what a panic attack physically feels like, that in writing about it, she experienced multiple attacks. 

I have written a few times now about my own struggles with anxiety. Though quite mild in the grand scheme of anxiety, my own encounters have left me shaken and frightened. For a long time, Adrian didn't understand. "Just stop thinking about that and you'll be fine," he'd tell me. But I couldn't because it went beyond mental. It would become a physical manifestation of all the worries and fears and terrible everythings that collected inside of me. And I could feel it. I could feel myself begin to slip below the surface, drowning under the physical weight of all my collective worries.

I began counseling two years ago to help me to understand my anxiety and to learn how to manage it. I finished my sessions about a month ago and am so thankful to my counselor for the depth of care, knowledge and compassion that she imparted to me. These last few months have been proud months for me and I am beginning to see the difference both my counselor and Adrian have already seen for a while now.

But I returned from vacation wholly unprepared. I hadn't noticed how stressed I had become until I had a week to be unstressed. And confronting all those stressors upon return was a shock. I cried Sunday and I cried Monday. I felt my muscles tighten and my teeth clench. My forehead felt like it could simply split apart at any given moment. I could feel slipping under.

Somehow though, travel had worn me out and I miraculously fell right to sleep both nights. And Tuesday I tackled every little anxiety-inducing task I could think of. Since then, I've squared my shoulders, put my head down and pressed forward, all the while reminding myself that I can do this. I've found that I need those little reminders through out the day. That I am strong. That I can handle this and that this phase of life is just that, a phase. 

And if that all fails, well, then I'll take my ticket vouchers from an overbooked flight and head back home to visit my family and to remember how it feels to have a quietly content heart. 

The middle child's dream.

Living half a country away from my family is difficult. When I'm visiting home, there are so many people to see and so many places to go. Opportunities are rare to move beyond the "what have you been up to?" conversations into just normal, everyday living. I'm constantly running from one catch-up session to the next.

So, of course, I jumped at the chance to spend five days alone with my parents in Florida. It was a middle child's dream come true. My family loves to propagate the idea that I crashed my parents' vacation, which obviously was not the case. Regardless, I love to run with a good joke so we dubbed this #moochfest2013 (check instagram for photos!). And I proceeded to receive every meal free. Though I prefer to think that those free meals were hard earned in the amount of entertainment and laughs I offer. Amiright? 

Can we all just agree that my parents are adorable??

So my mum invited me and I'm so thrilled she did. My mum and dad have differences in how a vacation ought to be spent. My dad prefers quiet, lowkey activities that involve few people or, better yet, no people. My mom, on the other hand, likes to be out and about, checking out new places and going for walks. And I am just like my mum. Together we explored and ventured out, discovering bakeries and shops and seashells.

I relished the opportunity to have enough time with my parents to ease back into normal living. Watching tv. Drinking coffee (or margaritas...) without speaking because there are no longer a million things to catch up on. We went for walks up and down the beach and then sat under an umbrella, chatting about lots of nothing.

My family is and will always be huge fans of the Red Sox. So central to this trip were Red Sox spring training games. While I love a good baseball game, I despise being cold. So womp womp. The cold won out and I complained and I am now appalled as Chicago's weather holds steady in the 40s.

But at the time, 60 felt cold. Honestly.

On my last night in Florida, my mum and I sat by the fire pit, talking as the sun set behind us. She with her iced green tea and me with a margarita. She snapped the picture above and showed me. I loved it and asked her to text it to me. She did with the words "Happy Feet." And I thought yes. Just yes.

And there's that. An umbrella. At the beach. Magical. Not pictured: Paul (my dad) under the umbrella. Equally magical. Seriously. Getting Paul on a beach is nothing short of magic.

Tomorrow, let's talk about the difficulties of returning to regular life after a vacation, no? It's about to get real honest in here.

Until then, this:

Free love: Bloom Wallpaper

When I created the "Bloom" graphic, I knew I just had to turn it into wallpaper for my computer. I love it's general cheer and reminder to get out there and make something of myself.

And of course, I love to share. So I've created two sizes for your downloading pleasure!
The first is 1600x900 and should fit most wide-screen computers. Click here to download it.

And the second is 1600x1200 which should fit all other screens. Click here to download it.

Happy Friday! Wherever you are, bloom. Won't you?

(As always, if you share or pin this, please be sure to link back to this post. And of course this file is my own and cannot be sold or included in any download pack. It is for personal use only. Thanks!)
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