What to send in a college care package

27 September 2017

First, friends, thank you for all of your kind words and stories about Jack. We are doing better than we were last week, and they mean more than you know.

Not to jump immediately to another difficult part of my life (ha), but as many of you know, my transition to college was rough, to say the least. Because of this, I will always have a soft spot for college freshmen, especially in that vulnerable first semester. It’s been awhile since I’ve known someone starting college, but when one of our sweet babysitters and family friends headed off to school in August, I knew I wanted to do something for her!

Having not been a student for awhile, I put a query out on Instagram for ideas, and y’all delivered! Yesterday, I sent off a huge box to Barbara (we got a little carried away in Target!), and I wanted to share what we included as well as the rest of your suggestions…

college care package

Here’s some of what we included:
— A white pumpkin (my Mom always used to send me seasonal decor for my dorm room!)
— Healthyish snacks like Annie’s mac and cheese, Justin’s nut butter snack packs, almonds, a P3 protein box, granola bars, and a honeycrisp apple (I wrapped it in bubble wrap!!)
Encouragement postcards for sending to friends or pinning to a bulletin board
— Sweet treats like a “perfect size” cake mix, gum, mini Belgian waffles, and gummy bears
— Hot chocolate mix and chamomile tea bags
— A sheet mask, a great Essie nail polish, and lip balm
— A pretty notebook and a Write the Word volume (I chose renewal, since college is a new beginning!)
— Fuzzy socks for padding around the dorm hallways :)
— An issue of a favorite magazine
— Two of June’s crayon masterpieces!!
— A note from us

handwritten note

Other great suggestions:
— Craft supplies
— A Target or Starbucks gift card
— Anything from the Dollar Spot
— Cute office supplies, like pens, post-it notes, or paper clips (apparently these highlighters are popular these days!)
— Seasonal pajamas
— Homemade baked goods
— A list of favorite podcasts for walking around campus
— A door stop
— Anything that’s good to share – helpful for making friends! :)
— A travel mug or water bottle
— Candy
— A wax warmer, since candles aren’t allowed
— Travel size hand sanitizer or lotion

encouragement postcard

Even though our box was indecently expensive to mail, picturing her opening it makes me so happy :)

What would you include, friends? Anything you remember receiving at school with particular fondness?

Affiliate links are used in this post!


25 September 2017

We said goodbye to our little cat Jack last week. She was an incredible, beloved member of our family, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about her today.

As I’ve mentioned before, John is known as the Cat Whisperer in our circles. Cats make a beeline for him like heat-seeking missiles (which, let’s be clear, is exactly what cats are). It was a foregone conclusion that we would add a cat to our family after moving to North Carolina, but in the name of fiscal responsibility thought we would wait until John started a job.

A few months into our new life together we started frequenting adoption events “just to look.”

Mmm hmm.

For awhile, though, that’s exactly what we did…until a sunny November day when John crouched down to peer into a carrier in the aisle of Petsmart, and Jack popped up beside him and put her paws on his knee. Out of all the cats brought to the adoption event that day, this little seven-month-old was the only one on a leash, and she amused us for the next half hour by attempting to steal food out of other cats’ cages, nearly toppling off several surfaces, and boldly investigating everything within her orbit. We were smitten, and a few weeks later, she (and her brother Oliver) were ours.

(Jack’s official name from the adoption agency was Jackal (what the heck?!?), but we decided Jack was short for Jacquelyn. She was always a tomboy, and she carried her name off with panache.)

We were looking for cats with personality, and boy did we get them. From the minute we set her carrier down in our apartment (and she promptly bounded out to explore), Jack was an energetic, fearless, engaging presence in our family. She was the first to greet someone at the door, the first to jump up on a lap, and the first to explore a new noise or object. Often described as “overly friendly,” we had to warn guests to leave their doors closed at night if they didn’t want a visitor licking their nose and pawing at their faces around midnight. She loved to curl up in the crook of my knees, under the covers, year round.

These friendly cats were the cure for our homesickness, and for that I will always be grateful. They made us look forward to returning from trips when nothing else did, and they made us feel like a family before we even were one. They’ve been a part of almost our whole adult lives, and it aches to move on without her.

Jack was a deadly bug hunter, a ferocious athlete with incredible balance (she liked to parade back and forth on our balcony railing!), and a devoted sister. One of the many reasons I’m sad she left us so soon is that she would have been an incredible role model for June. I know that might sound silly to some, but we talked about Jack often as a brave, bold, confident, independent female – the ultimate embodiment of girl power. She was also a diligent ambassador for the cat species. I can’t tell you how many times we heard “I don’t like cats, but I like this cat” after spending time with Jack.

Another quirk of Jack’s is that she L-O-V-E-D going to the vet. She was famous amongst the techs, who nicknamed her Miss P, for Perfect, early on. When she was diagnosed with nasal lymphoma earlier this summer, her love for Dr. Wendy made our every-other-week appointments much more pleasant than they would have been with another cat.

She is no longer in pain, for which we are grateful. But we are so sad. Jack’s incredible personality made her a once-in-a-lifetime cat, and eight years with her feels like a cruelly short amount of time. Because she was such a constant presence in our lives — following us from this room to that, sitting on the desk next to my laptop every day I worked from home, waiting patiently for us to go to bed in the evening — her absence is felt at every moment. There is a heavy lack in our lives right now.

The inconvenience, the expense, and most importantly, the searing heartache of her illness this summer… nothing changes the fact that given a million more chances at this life, I’d choose our sweet Jack a million times over. I count the fact that we walked into Petsmart that day as one of the luckiest strokes of my life, and I will always be so grateful that she was ours.

Of all the marvelous things I’ve shared over the years, Jack is near the top, and though it feels like my words fall flat, this place wouldn’t be true without sharing a bit about her with you. Thanks for listening, friends. xo

Five intentions for the next five years of marriage

15 September 2017

When I read this post from T.J. Mousetis last year, I immediately knew I wanted to do the same thing for our five year wedding anniversary. I love T.J.’s boldness and honesty in sharing that he thinks his marriage is awesome. I also love that he is so open and unashamed about the work that can be done within it. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. That’s not a message I hear often, but it’s one that fires me up.

One of the truest things that’s ever been said is that you can’t change anyone but yourself. If I want my marriage to be even more awesome on our ten year anniversary than it is now, that starts with me. To that end, I submit to you five things I want to work on in my next five years of marriage (I’ve already shared them in a card with John!):

1. Listen to the things he wants me to change, and actually do them. I am extremely guilty of glazing right over John voicing something he doesn’t like or wishes I would do differently, registering it as nagging, and letting it go in one ear and out the other with hardly a second thought. It’s often small things — a specific example that comes to mind is not leaving food in the sink disposal — but they matter enough to him to voice. I am committing to giving him the grace of a response (“yes, I will work on that”) and then ACTUALLY WORKING ON IT. My first thought is to start a new note in my phone so I can remember the things (baby steps!).
2. Maintain patience, kindness, and calm when faced with stressful situations. John and I are typically calm, level-headed people. (Our pediatrician even said to us, “Wow, you two seem very chill for first time parents” at June’s two week visit. Ha!) However, we have this strange but persistent habit of COMPLETELY falling apart when faced with certain stressful situations, including but not limited to missing a turn when driving and loud scenes that draw attention to us (ahem, toddler). I am committing to staying on the same team in these situations by controlling my tone of voice and not holding a grudge when things don’t go my way.
3. Respect and honor his food safety ways. Bear with me here, people. I know this might sound silly, but it is very, very real. On the spectrum of germaphobia, I am at one end (the eat things off the floor end) and John is at the other. Instead of teasing him, raising my eyebrows, or getting into arguments over whether food in the refrigerator can still be eaten (one of our most common causes of tiffs), I am committing to to respecting and honoring his preferences for how our kitchen is run without groaning or complaint.
4. Hug every day upon reentry. Simple enough :) We do this often, but I want it to be a rock-solid, never-fail, indelibly-printed-in-June’s-mind kind of thing. Home should be the best place to be, and a warm welcome goes a long way to making it so.
5. Grow in my relationship with God the Father, particularly through prayer. If I am constantly trying to be more like Jesus, my marriage will improve. If I want to be more like Jesus, I need to talk to him often and listen to him even more. This is already something I’m working on (and I’m sure it will be a lifelong pursuit until we meet face to face!) but it deserves a mention here, too.

5 intentions for our marriage on our fifth anniversary

Marriage is unique: in our case, it’s two imperfect people helping each other toward perfection. These things won’t happen overnight and they might not happen in five years, but I will try and try again (with joy and by the grace of God!) because I love my husband and I love my marriage.

Thank you for always being so encouraging, friends! It is a joy to share here. xo

P.S. Intention number six: take more photos of just the two of us?! I could not find a single one from this year without June in it…

Does your wedding look timeless?

12 September 2017

John and I are celebrating five years of marriage this week! (Our anniversary is on Friday!) I have some deeper thoughts coming your way soon, but today, I have a question for you: if you’re married, do your wedding photos look timeless?

I ask because I kind of keep waiting for mine to look dated, but at least to my eyes (and I do admit my eyes could be biased), they don’t. Maybe in another five years?

Maybe. Maybe not. After all, we made a lot of traditional choices: I wore a blusher veil. John wore a black tuxedo. I carried a white bouquet. My makeup was minimal. We were married in a chapel. Our centerpieces were in collected silver. We swayed on a black and white dance floor under a sailcloth tent, to the tunes of a big band.

formal groomsmen

Of course, there were other details that were more unexpected: we served donuts and cookies as our dessert. In lieu of favors, we made a donation to a pet adoption agency, and shared the news via watercolor portraits of our cats.

Each of those decisions, whether traditional or unique, was carefully considered, and chosen because it felt fitting for our story and relationship. Rooting our wedding in classic style was a way we honored the enduring legacy of marriage in our families. (Similarly, I love how our gold wedding bands link us to some of the treasured people in our lives with beautiful marriages — our parents, our grandparents — many of whom wear gold bands.)

Tanja Lippert

I’m pretty familiar with weddings these days, and from my viewpoint, we are certainly in a “classic moment” (having shifted out of the rustic, shabby chic “moment” that immediately preceded it!). Blame it on the Duchess or Father of the Bride (a millenial childhood staple!), but I hear people talking about wanting to have a classic, timeless wedding a LOT. No one wants to look back on their wedding photos and cringe. While I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a “classic” wedding (obviously!), I think choosing something simply because it’s classic, not because it’s meaningful to you, is a missed opportunity.

wedding vows

After all, when your kids look at your wedding photos in twenty years and laugh at your choices (because they will certainly find something to laugh at!), don’t you want to be able to tell them why you made those choices? Why they were meaningful to you, why you loved them at the time? And don’t you want a better reason than “because it was trendy”? (Even if, ironically, the trend is classic style?)

Wedding photos looking dated isn’t a bad thing — it just means you’re lucky enough to have celebrated several years of marriage! :)

Alright, getting off my soap box. Friends, I would LOVE to hear: If you’re married, do your photos look “timeless”? Is that something you were striving for when making decisions? If not, what dates them? Do you care?

P.S. I think it can’t be understated that photography makes a big difference in whether a wedding photo seems dated. A big reason why our photos seem timeless is Tanja’s crisp, clean, true color film wizardry. Certain posing styles and processing techniques could make any wedding appear dated!

P.P.S. The best kind of dated wedding photos.