uncategorized

I, like most girls, have fought the lifelong battle with body-image.

And how can we not, girls? The media tells us to have a size zero waist, a Kim Kardashian rear-end, Angelina Jolie lips, Carrie Underwood legs….and the list goes on. The media tells us we need product to get the above results. If you have a Michael Kors purse, a wardrobe from Anthropologie, the whole line of Kylie whoever’s lipstick, etc., you will finally be happy.  These things are just not achievable. We really can’t have it all. We really can’t do it all. We really can’t buy it all. And we know that. Yet, we still try.

Our moms were inundated with the same hoopla from the media and, as a result, they have never been satisfied with their appearances either. So, as a result, we grew up hearing it – not only from TV, magazines, and the internet – but from our own beloved mothers as well. It’s a vicious cycle. And now, I’ve begun to wonder…how do I prevent my future daughter from having the same impossible ideals drilled into her mind? 

Here’s a little bit of my story.

When I was in probably 3rd grade, I started to put on weight. I don’t know if it was stress from both of my parents getting remarried, stress from school, stress from friendships starting to be more drama-filled, or what, but it happened. In 4th grade, I was standing in line with the rest of my class in my favorite pink dress at the time. A little boy turned to me and asked me if I was pregnant. I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say! What is a little 4th grade girl supposed to say to a comment like that?! I started to sniffle back tears and turned away as one of my friends defended me and told him how rude that was. I don’t think I ever wore that dress again. In 5th grade, I asked a few of my friends if I was fat. They told me, no, that I wasn’t fat…but that I was just “curvier” than the rest of our friend group. Then, around 6th or 7th grade, I started getting more active and following a running schedule. This really wasn’t motivated out of a desire to lose weight, although I am sure that desire existed. I had just begun to enjoy running. It was starting to become a hobby of mine.

I stayed relatively the same size until about sophomore year. That year, I was going through a really stressful and difficult breakup, so I didn’t eat a whole lot because I couldn’t.  Then, I got more serious about cross-country and track. Staying “in shape” became almost effortless. And out of nowhere, I noticed that my confidence – or rather cockiness and pride –  had skyrocketed. This is where things get difficult to admit. I would literally walk into a room, thinking silently, “I’m the prettiest, best-dressed, and most in-shape person in this room.”

Pause for a moment. That may seem  like self-confidence…but I can tell you for a fact that if a person actually thinks that way, there are some underlying issues that may, like mine, stem from the desire to cover up how they are actually feeling. Long story short…it wasn’t self confidence. It was a body image issue, even then.

Well, when I went to college, some big stressors entered my life – like leaving my whole family behind, my little brother getting diagnosed with cancer, dissatisfaction with my major, and overall cluelessness of what I wanted to do – and eating became a source of comfort. Like so many of us do in college, I gained weight.

Flash-forward to today. I have never even thought for a moment that I am a person who struggles with body-image. And then I got married. My sweet husband has heard me criticize my long hair, criticize my short hair, hate my weight, talk about the rolls in my stomach, talk about what I don’t like about my nose….and so many other things! Us girls can stand in front of a mirror and openly hate on our bodies, taking turns saying things we detest about our thighs, our knees, our legs, our chests, our tummies, and on and on without even realizing we are doing it! And then a most wonderful man comes along and says, “Why on earth are you being so mean to yourself!? You are perfect and I love everything about you!”

So…how do I prevent my future daughter from having the same mindset that I am plagued with drilled into her mind?  

  1. I have to learn to be grateful for the body I have. Ladies, our bodies are amazing.  We can run and walk and climb and write and sing and dance and laugh! We can make, carry, birth, and feed babies! We can feel and taste and see and smell and hear! What if the next time you said something nasty about yourself – out loud or in your mind – you had  to express three things you love about the very thing you just criticized? What if you had to do that every single time? Could you? I read a book that encouraged the reader to stand in front of the mirror and thank God for their whole body from head to toe. I actually tried it today and by the end, I found myself believing all of it. For the whole entire day, I was not nearly as hard on myself! What if, instead of growing up seeing us stand in the mirror, ripping ourselves apart for not being perfect, our (future) daughters watched us stand in front of the mirror and express gratitude for all that our bodies are capable of? How different could their mindset be?!
  2. I have to protect her from the world’s idea of beauty. The world’s beauty ideals are not only not possible, but they are also W-R-O-N-G, wrong!!!  True beauty radiates from within.  A girl who is “gorgeous” is a girl who smiles often, who is confident in her abilities, and who is humble about her strengths. A girl worthy of being called “beautiful” is a girl whose soul is lovely, who treats fellow humans with love  and respect,  who loves to serve others, who works hard, and who just shines with positive energy. Call me crazy, but I am considering the possibility of not having cable or satellite TV in the home in which Max and I raise our future children. Currently, all we have is an antenna that gets like 3 channels worth watching. It has honestly been so helpful to me for a number of reasons. How far would you go to protect precious little eyeballs and brains from absorbing the world’s standards of behavior, beauty, and success? We complain and complain about how the media is inundating young children with sexually explicit material (the reason I will never again go to Hardees/Carls Jr. or Burger King)…but are we willing to TURN OFF the TV? UNPLUG the computer? TAKE AWAY the smart phone? I know, I know…”I don’t have children” so “what do I know.” *rolling my eyes sassily*

In my opinion, a truly beautiful girl is one who follows after Jesus Christ, and who allows His sacrificial love and His grace to captivate her heart and change her from the inside out. And God has a lot of truth to share  about how lovely Jesus can make us simply because we belong to Him! He says that, although we are  physically wasting away, our minds are being renewed by Him every day (2 Corinthians 4:16).  He shares a little humor with us when he says that we shouldn’t fuss so much over what we wear, how we do our hair, or how we paint our faces because the flowers don’t fuss over such things…and yet they are still so naturally pretty (Matthew 6:28-29)! There’s a fantastic chapter in the Bible, Proverbs 31, about things a woman can be that really are beautiful…and guess what? Physical appearance is hardly mentioned except to say that her arms are STRONG for the work she does, her hands are BUSY, and that she is clothed in STRENGTH and DIGNITY. These  are beautiful traits! These  are things we  CAN change and achieve!

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD  is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her WORKS bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:30-31 (emphases mine)

I realize that not everyone reading this may believe the same things that I do, and that is okay. My point in sharing these verses are is to plead with you that your value does not come from your physical appearance because your physical appearance will decline. What makes you PRECIOUS and VALUABLE is what’s inside of you – how hard you work, how passionately you love, how kind you are, and the things YOU value and believe!

I know that this is an every day battle. I still wrestle with it and continue to wrestle with it until I am completely content with my appearance AS IT IS because I know that it is not what makes me special. I have come a long  way since thinking a was hot stuff in high school. I have also come a long way since crying in the line in 4th grade when a little boy – who likely didn’t understand what he was saying, but probably had been inundated with the media’s standards of beauty for women – asked if I was pregnant. Still…I must continue to fight the good fight because I have got a long way to go. My recommendation, because it is something that is helping me tremendously, is to have a handful of people who will hold you accountable to being nicer to yourself. My husband and a few of my closest friends are my advocates in this. You have to find yours in order to change!

Closing thoughts:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

(Psalm 139:13-16)

life, uncategorized

The last time I posted was over a month ago. How is that possible?! I could explain it to you, but it’s just too long a story. I can tell you, though, that in the span of four weeks, I was in 16 different beds, 13 different states, and 2 different countries. I have never been so exhausted as I was in the month of August. Thank goodness August is over. September is here! Classes have begun! I am overjoyed to be back on a ROUTINE!

Not only am I back on a routine, but I am – finally – in a (semi) permanent H O M E ! It seems crazy looking back, but I have lived in a different place every semester since sophomore year. Let’s just look back in time for a second:

May-December 2014: at home in Texas attending Texas Woman’s University during Fall Semester. Some incredible family memories were made as I lived at home again for the semester. This was also the semester that I first knew  Max and I were meant to be together as we survived many months of long-distance relationship.

January-May 2015: Frederiksen Court, back in good ‘ol Ames.

May-July 2015: at home in Texas for the summer.

August-December 2015: Kirby’s Clubhouse – the large, cozy, and very old house occupied by six lovely college ladies that sometimes feels like it is ready to fall apart at any given moment. Good times were had. Many a prank was played.

January-May 2016: Oh…Wilmoth Ranch. Sometimes when I visit my sweet friends who are still living there, it feels like comin’ home. Wilmoth is best described as a breath of fresh air. Just what my heart & soul needed in my last months as a single woman, thanks to Mikayla and Kristin. Some of my best college memories were made here (and in 6210 Willow-Bates…the freshman dorm. Love ya, Zowwy).

June-July 2016: As y’all know, Wildflower 54, New York was the summer home. A piece of my heart remains in Ellicottville.

August 2016-(most likely) Summer 2018: Grand View South, as we have affectionately named our apartment with a “grand” view of the North Grand Mall. The “South,” because my aunt and uncle live north of here on a farm called Grand View…with a for real  grand view.

I hate moving. I really, really hate it. So words cannot describe the joy I feel in my heart at not having to pack up and haul a bunch of stuff  across state lines for at least a couple years. As long as I can convince Max that, no, we don’t need a garage 😉

So, with the big move into mine & Max’s first place together come many home-improvements! If you would like to keep up-to-date on these, you can click on the  new category on the top menu bar called “Our First Place,” which I will update periodically with before & after pictures of what we do with each room and weekend projects. At this particular moment in time, all you will see if you visit that category will be a bunch of pictures of our once empty apartment and ideas/p;ans of filling it with love, furniture, and decorations. Please stay tuned for an update post including some “After” pictures, which should be coming this weekend!

One last thing. Thank you so much to those of you who shared sweet words of encouragement to keep on blogging. When school, stress, and busy-ness hit, it’s hard for me to remember to spend time on the things I’m passionate about. On top of that, I am learning A TON  about how I am not capable of giving every area of my life 100%. I actually stressed myself out SO much with trying to do it all that I made myself sick. Yup…for much of this week, I’ve been dealing with the classic body-aches, headaches, congestion, fever, and exhaustion…all because I internalize my stress and run around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Life. Sometimes it feels like one great-big balancing act. Aiming, every day, for that c’est la vie  attitude.

travel, uncategorized

Chasing Waterfalls

Sorry about the title. I had to. Speaking of Chasing Waterfalls, no offense if you are a major TLC fan, but the Six60 version of that nineties hit is (way) better.

This summer, Max and I “chased waterfalls.” You may or may not know this, but Max has an incurable obsession with waterfalls. When I joined him in New York after our wedding, he had serious plans for all of the falls we were going to see. And we saw them all! NiagaraEternal Flame, and Letchworth State Park. And it all started with the Eternal Flame.

We had heard rumors of this waterfall with a flame underneath it that never goes out. We were a little less than a half-hour drive from this one, so we made the trip during my first week in New York. We hiked a short trail along a river, which was quite busy for a weeknight. The trail was also quite slippery and wet when we went. Honestly, at one point there wasn’t much of a trail at all. It was more of, “walk along the edge of the river and hope you don’t trip and fall in.” But it was definitely an easy walk. Well, soon enough, we came upon this little guy…

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If we are being honest, it was kind of a let-down. Max and I are expecting more of a rushing waterfall like the pictures we had seen online, but it was just this little trickle. Still,  though…there was a flame…beneath a waterfall…that never goes out.

Well, that weekend – our first weekend together in New York – we decided to treat ourselves to that rushing, gushing waterfall we were hoping for….Niagara Falls!

Now that  is an amazing waterfall.IMG_1622

Recommendations to those who plan on going: 1. Bring your passport and go to the Canada side. It’s a much better vantage point as you can see the whole falls at the same time, just like the above clip. 2. Go during the week if you can, maybe even early in the morning so it’s a little less busy. …And lemme tell ya, this is the land of tourists who do not watch where they are going  because they are too busy taking pics with their selfie sticks. It’s frustrating for sure, and if you can avoid the crowd, you will be glad you did. 3. DO NOT skip Maid of the Mist/Hornblower!

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Maid of the Mist is the greatest, especially if it’s a hot and humid day as it was the day we rode. For a while, you are in this bright, white abyss that is the mist of the falls and you can’t see because the water is splashing everywhere and you are laughing hysterically because you are soaking wet and you feel like a sailor in the middle of the ocean in a giant rainstorm.

Okay, I don’t actually  know what that feels like, but it’s the best way I knew how to describe it.

Friendly tip to girls with long hair that tends to be curly, coarse, or tangly: you might want to consider wearing your hair in a braid on the day you ride Maid of the Mist. Pretty sure it took me a cup’s worth of conditioner and an hour of brushing before my hair had returned to normal.

Another friendly tip: go with your boyfriend/fiance’/husband and you get to feel like Jim & Pam from The Office.

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Last, but certainly not least, there is Letchworth State Park, the self proclaimed, “Grand Canyon of the East.” Max and I are thinking….hmmthat’s a pretty bold claim, New York. 

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But then you see the canyon and the title “Grand Canyon of the East” actually does seem quite fitting.

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That’s miniature Max & Lainey on that bridge, with the Lower Falls in the background 🙂
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A seven mile round-trip hike will take you from the Lower Falls, to the Middle Falls, and then (drum roll, please, for this unique and unexpected name…..) to the Upper Falls. Max and I made this hike once alone and once again with his sister, Elise, when she was in town to visit us. If you aren’t much into hiking, you can also drive to each of the falls.

I think I came into Letchworth with substantially lowered expectations due to the combination of having seen little bitty Eternal Flame and the incredible Niagara Falls, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think I actually enjoyed seeing Letchworth more  than Niagara partially because there were way less people and also because Letchworth came with a hike through the woods.

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The Middle Falls provided us with a rainbow on our first visit….

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The Upper Falls very well may be the best of the three…and that may be due in part to the old railroad track that runs over it. Can you imagine being a passenger in a train back in the 1800s, crossing that bridge?

This was a summer of chasing waterfalls, amongst many other things! One last closing thought. In my humble opinion, when we think, New York, we need to stop limiting those thoughts to, New York City.   Max visited the Big Apple once before I joined him in western New York, but we did not ever go to the City together. We had both been to the City before and wanted to invest more time in discovering all of the non-NYC things that New York State has to offer. Having seen both the west and east sides of New York State now, it almost seems like they are entirely different states altogether! They are so distinct from one another. I mean this in the most respectful way possible, but as someone who loves small towns, the outdoors, nature, and mountains…I could spend one day in NYC and see everything I needed to see. I could spend months in western New York and come nowhere close.

travel, uncategorized

Mudslide Madness

Good news: Max and I are back in Iowa.

Other news: I have been in three different hotels in the past four days.

Bad news: I have enjoyed – rather – survived…the complimentary breakfasts of two of those. We will see how number three goes tomorrow morning. I have high hopes.

This is the gypsy dream, y’all. Livin’ hotel room to hotel room. Melissa by the Allman Brothers is my theme song.

One more day in Muscatine for Max’s presentation, onward to Clarion, a brief stop in Ames, then Cabo here we come!!  Max and I are spending our “official” honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Seven whole days of lounging on the beach in one of the most beautiful and exotic places in the world, doing just about nothing. We are only kind of excited.

Now let’s rewind time just a little bit. Western New York….sigh.  How did I get so lucky as to spend two months  in western New York with the love of my life? We have made the joke a handful of times that it kind of felt like a two month paid honeymoon. We saw many amazing places in our stay back east, and I will highlight a few of our favorites over the course of this week. And what better way to start than with Ellicottville!

To start, the company Max interned for this summer put us up in a precious Wildflower condo, decked out almost exclusively with winter, ski, and Christmas-themed decorations. Our place was just a short stroll from the base of the ski-lifts and the Holiday Valley resort, which boasts a golf-course, John Harvard’s bar & grill, Oasis Spa (Max surprised me with a massage at Oasis on our first weekend in EVL. It was heavenly and major points were earned), three swimming pools which we had free access to all summer long, and the Cabana Bar (thanks for all of the sea breezes and cosmos y’all made me while I basked in the sun. You rock)…oh, and a PokeStop and a gym, if you care.

That’s not even half of it. (Yup, this post is about to get real  lengthy. Buckle down, dear readers!)

Let’s just start with the local businesses, shall we?

We were just about a mile walk to the “downtown,” past hundreds of adorable houses, and we made that walk often. I adored Katy’s coconut/chocolate truffle ice cream, and loved to get a cone when I had to pop into the post office for stamps or to send out thank you notes. I ate at Dina’s restaurant and wine bar five times  over the course of our stay in Ellicottville. FIVE TIMES. The Gin Mill’s burgers are bomb…and the atmosphere is so neighborhood-bar warm and friendly. I can’t wait to one day return for a hot toddy after a day of skiing. As I have mentioned, Ellicottville Brewing Company’s Black Jack Oatmeal Stout changed my life…and that most certainly was not the only stellar beer they had! Their hot chocolate stout was so yummy and unique….it was brewed with habanero peppers! Sounds strange, but it’s surprisingly tasty. Max and I even managed to sneak upstairs and give ourselves a self-lead, private tour of the brewery on our first visit. Oh, their food is phenomenal, too, but if you are a broke college student, make sure you go with someone who plans on paying for your meal 😉 Balloons’ 25 cent wing nights on Mondays meant that Max and I could eat 20 wings for about 5 bucks. Sit down, Buffalo Wild Wings. And seriously, y’all…you have no idea what a REAL buffalo wing is until you have had one in western New York…ya know…where Buffalo, New York is.

Ahh, and the shopping. I could have bought the whole store in Gado Gado. Their clothes were so perfectly hippy. Speaking of, “hippy,” I have Daff to thank for my “Be Hippy” shirt.

Among other beloved local businesses were Dom’s Butcher Block, EVL Cheese Company, The City Garage, Alexandra, Nature’s Remedy, and Kazoo II…to name a few. And I honestly didn’t even get to go into every store and restaurant I wanted because we were gone almost every weekend!

Our second weekend in New York, we actually did get to stay in E-Ville for the annual Mudslide Obstacle Trail Run on the slopes of Holiday Valley. We have mentioned to each other that, despite the many neat towns and cities we saw on our weekend excursions, this was our favorite weekend by far.

(We actually started this weekend by visiting Letchworth State Park. When we had an upcoming weekend excursion, Max would often work long hours early in the week so we could leave directly from Arcade around noonish on Friday. BUT Letchworth will come in a different post. See a little sneak peak below).

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This usually empty ski-town flooded with people who came from near and far for the race. At packet pick up on Friday, we sat on the patio at the base of Holiday Valley, watching the mess of people laugh, drink, talk, and swim as the sun set on the mountain. IMG_1497

The following morning, we drove up the mountain to Yodeler Lodge, where we hopped on the ski lift…which is a bizarre feeling when you aren’t wearing skis. The lift took us to Spruce Lake – the start line of the 5.5 mile run. We were pleasantly surprised, when we looked around us, that it appeared most of the participants were families and friends running for fun. This of course excluded one extremely muscular, shirtless, overly-tan man and his posse (yes, he had a posse) with tribal tattoos who did push-ups to warm up. Max and I nicknamed him Career, as in Hunger Games. Let us all take a moment to collectively roll our eyes.

When the race began with a maze and then jumping tire-to-tire in Spruce Lake, we understood why the overall vibe of the race was casual and fun. We cracked up the whole way through as we swam through mud-puddles, crawled under and over logs, climbed rope ladders, ran under giant misters, and scaled steep mountain trails. It didn’t even feel like we had run 5 miles until the next day when it was next to impossible to get out of bed.

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After we braved the mudslide (which we actually made the local news that night for doing) and crossed the finish line, we enjoyed free beers and hot dogs on the deck outside the mountain lodge. How’s that for a perfect day?

But that wasn’t it! After a brief snooze, we wandered out to a little lake outside town where we were able to demo Adventure Bound onthefly’s paddle-boards and kayaks, drink free beer from Ellicottville Brewing Company (I tried El Gordo Burro, a Mexican lager, as Max sipped on their famous Blueberry Wheat. Both yum as usual!), listen to live music, and eat mac ‘n’ chese & fish tacos from Dina’s food truck (so…I guess if we count the food truck, I went to Dina’s six times this summer…).

Sunday was our much needed recovery day, so we laid by the pool most of the day, reading and chatting and taking in the mountain air. Then, we made our first of many visits to Great Valley Berry Patch for the start of strawberry season. This is a pick-it-yourself place, so we marched out into the field with our quart size baskets. What we found were some of the reddest and sweetest berries we have ever had the pleasure of consuming.

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We had big plans for these berries – trying a fresh-picked strawberry ice cream recipe in Max’s hand-crank White Mountain ice-cream maker (wedding gift). As you can imagine, it was ahhh-mazingly refreshing after our active weekend spent mostly in the great outdoors. IMG_1312

 

And so goes the tale of our weekend in Ellicottville! Stay tuned for some of our out of state and  out of country excursions!

life, uncategorized

Farewell, Ellicottville

Two days ago, Max and I said goodbye to our summer home back east (I was recently informed that it is BACK east, not OUT east…who’da thought). I think I speak correctly for both of us when I say that we left a piece of our hearts in our darling, quaint ski village at the base of Holiday Valley and HoliMont. The self-proclaimed, “Aspen of the East,” didn’t disappoint. We just wish we could have stayed to see those vibrant green slopes dusted in fresh, white pow-pow.


The faces at Great Valley Berry Patch, the Gin Mill, Dina’s, etc. became warm and familiar to us, and it was impossible to notice the tightly woven community that exists in the small, mountain town. I couldn’t help but think, “Isn’t this what it’s all about? The bonds of community? Feeling connected to the people who live and work near you?”

And I don’t even know what to say to do justice to the Bible study we got to be a part of this summer. Those folks became like our family. 

Very few places have captivated my heart so dearly that it broke my heart to leave, but certainly Ellicottville, New York has joined the ranks of the mountains of Colorado; Clarion, Iowa; and Denton, Texas.

I will miss sitting on the ski lift, looking out over the mountains with Spruce Lake behind us. 


I will miss wandering aimlessly through the town with my new husband’s hand gripped tightly in one hand and a Katy’s or Watson’s ice-cream cone in the other. I will miss Ellicottville Brewing Company’s Black Jack Oatmeal Stout….oh, how I will miss that beer.


I will miss basking by the pool at the Holiday Valley Resort, with a spectacular mountain view and the bright sunshine beaming down on me.


There were days and days in Ellicottville that the pieces of the puzzle of life seemed so perfectly aligned and all was well. And even on the days when it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, this was the place that Max and I began our lifelong lesson to cling to one another. This was our first home together as husband and wife.

Without a doubt, Max and I will return to western New York one day. Maybe we will even revisit our condo, Wildflower 54, with our future children and tell them, “This is where we spent our first months as husband and wife. This is where we cooked and toasted marshmallows in the fireplace and sweated our rear-ends off thanks to no a/c and laughed and cried and learned those first exciting and difficult lessons about how to operate as one.”

Yes, Ellicottville, New York…you will be dearly missed. As we drove out and looked back, we held hands and quoted Harry Potter: “I’m not going home…not really.” 

…But then, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

(Follow my posts over the next week for a “series,” so-to-speak, on all of our summer adventures back east! To make this easier, be sure to type your email into the “Subscribe” box on the right! You will receive an email to alert you when I post.)